Tag Archives: Because I am a Girl

Reflections on 2013 & Looking Ahead in 2014

Reflections on 2013

My poor old blog got a bit neglected last year, but one of my New Year’s resolutions is to get back into a regular schedule again this year. Here is a snapshot of some of the big things that happened to me in the writing world at the end of last year that I haven’t yet shared:

1. I attempted NaNoWrimo. And didn’t hit 50,000 words. I’m not disappointed, though, as I knew going into it there was a slim chance I’d hit the 50k mark. Fitting writing around an extremely busy November calendar was going to be a push. But I got words on the page! I made a start on my novel and I know where I want it to go, so to me that is a win.

SuperHERo Tales cover

2. SuperHERo Tales. Last year I posted a story called ‘Spectrum’ on my blog. I updated the post, but never got the chance to write an official blog post to announce the story is now published in an anthology of female superheros. I’m very excited about this anthology as all the proceeds go to the charity ‘Because I am a Girl‘, which helps girls in third world countries. It is a cause I am passionate about and I implore you all to buy a copy of SuperHERo Tales or support the charity in some other way. The other reason I’m excited to be part of this anthology is because it helps try to break through the stereotypical superhero stories that are aimed a boys. My 4 year old daughter said to me a few months ago, “I want to be my own superhero.” Hopefully stories like these can encourage girls to do just that.

Jingle Bells cover

3. Jingle Bells: Tales of Holiday Spirit from Around the World. This anthology was published just before Christmas and features an extended version of my story ‘Dashing Through the Snow’, which I posted on my blog for Christmas 2012 and was a finalist in Susanna Hill’s annual holiday contest. We’re a bit past Christmas now, but it has lots of family-friendly, holiday-themed stories, so keep it in mind for next Christmas.

Looking Ahead in 2014

Some of my writing resolutions for 2014 include:

1. Subbing More. I’ve made the same resolution the past few years, but I need to keep reminding myself that if I don’t submit I won’t be published. I’ve received some very positive and encouraging rejections this past year, in some cases just narrowly missing out, which has given me confidence and motivation to keep submitting. The other day I started planning submissions for the first half of this year–just short stories at this stage, I still need to plan my picture book subs.

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2. Making Time to Write. NaNo always reminds me that I can find the time to write if I stop procrastinating and take advantage of spare moments. I want to keep using those spare moments. I have some short stories I want to write, I want to write more picture book drafts this year through 12 x 12 (I’m hoping to join again this year) and I would ideally love to finish the first draft of the novel I started during NaNoWriMo.

3. Get Back Into Social Media. I dropped off the social media grid this past year in the writing world, not just with my blog, but on Twitter and Facebook, too. I miss all those connections and friendships I make with fellow writers through social media and want to try to get back into again. Unfortunately, when life gets busy, social media is usually the first to suffer. I’m hoping to remedy this by scheduling time specifically for social media. I’ve got big plans for my blog, including continuing the Writing a Novel series, starting a monthly writing challenge and reviving Helpful Websites and Blog Posts.

What about you? I’d love to hear about some of your successes from the past year and what your aims are for 2014. 

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Spectrum (Creating a Female Superhero Challenge)

Becky Fyfe put forward a challenge on her blog: to create a short story featuring a female superhero. I love the idea of a strong female hero and decided to take up the challenge. Here is my entry into the Creating a Female Superhero Challenge:

Spectrum cover

Author name: Jo Hart

Word count: 981

Anthology: Yes

Charity: Because I am a Girl

Name of female superhero: Spectrum

Name of human alter ego, if different: Lindsay Rogers

Superhero Appearance (hair, eyes, body type, etc.): Lean physique, dark eyes, dark hair slicked back into a ponytail

Human alter ego appearance (if she has an alter ego): Long dark hair that hangs down around her face, loose t-shirt, loose pants and sneakers.

Costume: Black bodysuit, red utility belt, black mask over her eyes, black boots, black gloves.

Personality: Prefers her own company, determined, logical, observant, intelligent.

Brief description of how the superheroine gets her powers (i.e. born with them, radioactive accident, mad scientist experiments on her, etc.): Born with them as a result of alien DNA spliced with human DNA in a government experiment.

Powers: Super senses, eidetic memory

Anything else important:

Spectrum

I’m not like other people.

My mother’s an alien—an honest-to-God extra-terrestrial. I never met her; I was raised by my human father on a military base.

To regular people I appear completely human (a myth I’m happy to perpetuate), but I’m not. My alien DNA means I have incredible hearing and can see things regular humans can’t. My dad calls them my ‘super powers’. Sometimes they feel more like a curse, but I figure if I use my abilities for good, maybe they really are super powers.

There are others like me—half alien. For some reason the alien gene favours male offspring. I am one of the few females.

Some use their inherited alien super powers for villainous ends. I work with the government to stop them. My mission tonight: a half-alien terrorist. I can find him when government agents failed because I’m like him, or so they say. In my mind, I’m nothing like him. I’m no terrorist.

The sounds are extra clear without daytime bustle to muffle them. Using my enhanced senses, I separate the sounds by distance. Cats yowl in the alley behind me. Across the road, a streetlight crackles. Two blocks away, footsteps clack hurriedly against the pavement—someone doesn’t relish walking alone at night. Five blocks away, a vehicle hums along the highway. An explosion pops on the other side of town. That’s the sound I’m looking for.

A car would get me there quickly, but I can’t stand to be inside one. The engine noise, the vibration… I can’t do it. Instead I run, allowing the quiet of twilight to wash over me. I don’t fear the night. Daytime noise and crowded streets overwhelm my extra-sensitive senses. A crying baby, the brush of a stranger’s shoulder, cars whizzing by—they can cripple me.

Another pop, louder this time. A faint red glow in the sky, for just a second.

Why has this terrorist decided to threaten the human race? After all, he is half human. Is he angry at the government who experimented in mixing human and alien DNA? Does he resent what he is?

The area is secluded—empty shop fronts and dilapidated houses. My breath comes out as a white puff and dissipates in the darkness. I move with soundless footfalls. He’s bound to have hearing like mine. The black bodysuit I wear as my costume helps me meld into the shadows.

A window in the top storey of an old florist shop lights up red, accompanied by a bang that rattles the window panes.

The scene disassembles in my brain. I examine each piece. The front door is locked. I can’t smash a window, he’ll hear. The drain pipe up the side of the building is too rusted to hold my weight. The fire escape is too high to reach. A skip bin would give me a boost, but they’re too heavy and noisy to move. I could use the explosion to cover the sound of window smashing…

The scene reassembles. My point of entry decided, I make a fist, thankful my chosen costume consists of gloves. My ears pick up the initial reverberations before the explosion cracks loudly above me. I time the punch perfectly and on the next explosion knock out the remaining shards of glass with quick, sharp movements.

Using the gymnastics training of my younger years, I place my hands on the ragged sill, pull myself up and balance as I manoeuvre my body through the window. Poised, arms taut, feet mid-air, waiting. The sill shudders as the next explosion goes off and I drop to the floor, the crunch of my boots against broken glass masked.

I leap over the glass and hurdle over the counter as the whole shop shakes and rattles. The door behind the counter leads to a hallway with a staircase at the end.

Another explosion covers my ascent.

“I know you’re there,” a low monotone voice speaks from inside the top storey room. “Show yourself.”

I have no choice but to enter.

He’s more alien than I am. He’d pass as human, but his eyes are a little too wide, his limbs a little too long and thin and his head slightly too large.

“Who are you?” He doesn’t look me in the eye, rather he seems to look straight through me.

“I’m Spectrum. I’m like you.”

His face brightens momentarily, then darkens again.

“They sent you?”

“You’re too dangerous.”

“They think I’m going to blow up something. They think I’m a terrorist.”

“Aren’t you?”

He laughs humourlessly. “No. Are you a superhero?”

“Yes.”

He eyes my costume critically. “You’re like me? Do your senses overwhelm you, too?”

“Sometimes.”

“What do you do?”

“I close my eyes, cover my ears and try to block it all out.”

“I explode.”

My mouth gapes.

“I’ve been practicing controlling it.” To demonstrate he closes his eyes, grows red in the face and clenches his fists. His whole body becomes rigid. A burst of light and loud bang erupt from his shaking form. My hands fly to my ears and I turn my head until it’s over.

I stare at him and he stares back in his non-expressive look-right-through-me way. “If I can control it,” he says, “they won’t need to lock me up again.”

My insides crumple. He’s no terrorist, just a half-alien trying to control his extra abilities. He really is just like me. What if I exploded when it became too overwhelming, would the government lock me up?

“I’ll tell them I couldn’t find you,” I say.

His large eyes widen in surprise. I’m surprised at myself.

“Don’t make me regret it,” I warn.

He nods, slowly, as though he can’t quite believe I’m letting him go. “I’ll get it under control.”

Every superhero has a defining moment. This was mine. Did I live to regret that decision? That’s another story.

SuperHERo Tales cover

Now available in the charity anthology ‘SuperHERo Tales‘. All proceeds from this anthology go towards the ‘Because I am a Girl‘ charity supporting girls in third world countries.