Friday, August 18, 2017

A Friday Quote: Part 3

   Hello, delightful friends!  I am continuing my fun event.  It is called A Friday Quote, and I shall play this game every Friday from August through November.  Here's how it works:

      Post a quote of something YOU wrote THIS week.
Something you edited this week (of something you previous wrote).

    Don't make the quote too long because I don't want you to spoil your story.  Probably 5 sentences or so would be a good amount.  But that is a guideline and not a rule.

     You don't have to participate every week.  But you can participate any week that you write.

      And it will be so much fun to see everybody's quotes.

     And, for me, it will be a reward for writing this week.  :D


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

House of Mirrors

     Snow White puckered her brows.  “I appreciate your concern for me, but there is no need to kill this man without a trial.”

     “It’s not my blood they want, princess.” The prince kept his hand on his sword.  “It’s yours.”

                                                                                                                                             ~The Blood of Beauty

     Sometimes a mirror lies.  Have you ever been in a house of mirrors?  Enemies lurk around you -- but where?  The mirrors cast the images everywhere until you don't know which to trust.  Are they in front of you?  Behind you?

    The mirror for the queen has been a secure source -- the only entity that she felt she could trust, the one who would tell her the truth no matter what the consequences.  But for Snow White, the mirror has been exactly the opposite.

      Beauty is being reflected in too many mirrors for Snow White.  The Mirror of Jealousy.  Of Envy.  Of Exploitation.  Poor Snow White doesn't even care about glass reflections, or who is the most beautiful.  She just wants to be herself, to be happy, and to make other people happy.

     But somehow she got caught in this house of mirrors.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Friday Quote: Part 2

   Hello, delightful friends!  I am continuing my new event.  It is called A Friday Quote, and I shall play this game every Friday from August through November.  Here's how it works:

      Post a quote of something YOU wrote THIS week.
Something you edited this week (of something you previous wrote).

    Don't make the quote too long because I don't want you to spoil your story.  Probably 5 sentences or so would be a good amount.  But that is a guideline and not a rule.

     You don't have to participate every week.  But you can participate any week that you write.

      And it will be so much fun to see everybody's quotes.

     And, for me, it will be a reward for writing this week.  :D


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Ticklish Procedure

          I. am. terrified.

     This next scene is supposed to be big.  It's supposed to be powerful.  Climatic.  Thrilling.  Intense.  The peak for the reader.  This is my culmination of everything.

       What if it comes out flat?

     I am genuinely worried about this.  It is so big in my head, but what if I can't make other people see that?  What if my Mona Lisa looks like a stick figure when I put her on paper?


     I remember some famous author (I have forgotten who) talking about what a ticklish procedure it is to extract a story from your head and put it onto paper.  He warned that sometimes stories don't survive the transplant and sometimes he wondered if it was worth the effort at all.

        Please, please, please, turn out well!

[P.S. The picture is one of those encouraging phrases people use in birth.  I'm a midwife.  I have lots of pretty, encouraging phrases laying around.  Surely one of them will apply to writing, right?]

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Friday Quote: Part 1

     Hello, delightful friends!  I am starting a new event.  It is called A Friday Quote, and I shall play this game every Friday from now until the end of November.  Here's how it works:
      Post a quote of something YOU wrote THIS week.
Something you edited this week (of something you previous wrote).

    Don't make the quote too long because I don't want you to spoil your story.  Probably 5 sentences or so would be a good amount.  But that is a guideline and not a rule.

     You don't have to participate every week.  But you can participate any week that you write.

      And it will be so much fun to see everybody's quotes.

     And, for me, it will be a reward for writing this week.  :D


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Who to Trust?

    Imagine your dilemma if you were in my Snow White's shoes. 

     She has been warned that her step-mother is evil and plotting her death.  This is born out by the fact that her step-mother tries to poison her on multiple occasions.  (Ah-hem...Perhaps the queen should have been a little more subtle).

     She has been warned that the dwarves are evil...although they have shown her nothing but kindness.

     A friendly old apple farmer stops by her house.

     And Snow White is rendered deep into a coma.  (Who knew apple farmers were so dangerous?)

      Fast-forward an unknown length of time. Snow White is suddenly awakened.  And not only are multiple parties present at her revival, but they are all apparently on opposite sides and ready to battle.  Some faces are familiar.  Some faces are new, offering her no clue as to how they seem to be so involved in her case (...a glass case, specifically).  With so many voices screaming for Snow White to rush into the "safety" that they offer her, who will she run to?

      Who would you run to?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Red Apple. White Core.

     It's just a rough draft.  It's just a rough draft.  It doesn't have to be perfect -- just finished.  Press on.

    Snow White has partaken of the notorious apple.  Things are starting to move pretty fast.  I think I will be pretty close to 20k words when I finish the first draft.

     We can do this.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Wee Monstrous Beastie's not story least not Snow White related.  But there was a big slug on the median by Food Lion.

     And I thought you should see it.

     That is all.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Importance of Expanding and Maintaining Your Vocabulary

Please enjoy this video of John Branyon reciting the tale of the Three Little Pigs.

Happy Beta Reader

     One of the honors of being in a circle of authors is the opportunity to beta-read for each other.  Writers bare their souls, sharing their precious stories -- sometimes in raw, unpolished format -- in hopes of receiving feedback that will help them improve their craft.  And, in exchange, they will read your own hatchling tales and provide constructive criticism for you.

     My husband was not familiar with this process.  To be honest, I only learned about it when I started a blog and heard about it from other bloggers.  But the value is real.

     It's so easy to be wrapped up in your own head when you read your own story.  You overlook misspellings.  You fan-girl over something clever that you wrote on page 9.  You weep over the scene on page 14 because it was a scene you promised your grandmother that you would someday write.  And you think everything you  have written makes perfect sense because you understand what you wrote.

     But someone else might see your story in a completely different light.  And if you are planning to be published, you need to write for the world and not just for yourself.  Which means you need to learn how to hone your craft.  A fresh pair of eyes will see flaws in your story, gaps in your narrative, holes in your plots, incongruencies in your characters, lack of logic in your motives, and complete boring flatness in your most exciting scenes.

     Which hurts.

     But you need to know those things so you can go back and make your story say what you really intended it to say.  Did you want this scene to be exciting -- How can you make it more so?  Were Sherlock's motives meant to be logical -- What clarifiers can you add to show that to the world?  Had you envisioned Juliet slowly falling in love with Romeo -- Could you add more scenes to build the progression of her affection?

       Don't get too narrow of a view, though.  Beta-reader feedback doesn't always instigate painful corrections.  Sometimes a beta-reader merely wants to express their faith in your story.  Does that mean your story is flawless and will never need editing?  No.  It just means that your writing so captivated that reader that she truly believes in the merit of the tale.  Raw and unpolished as your story may be, there was something more powerful than grammar and sentence order that captured the reader's attention and made her know that your story has great potential and that nothing fundamental needs to be changed.

     And that has value, too.  As artists, we are often tough on ourselves.  We know that we are partial to our stories, but we doubt that anyone else will be.  Or we read the story so often that it no longer sounds interesting, not even to us.  To have a fresh pair of eyes read it and recognize its potential will send us back to the story with renewed vigor.  Possibly with tears of joy in our eyes.

     I recently had the opportunity to beta-read the first chapter for one of the Rooglewood contestants.  It was indeed an honor and a privilege.  And let me tell you, folks...I was totally captivated.  I love her writing style, and I like the creative twist she put on this tale.  If the rest of the entries for this contest are like this one, you guys are going to love this next collection.

     I'm gearing up the courage to send my first chapter out for beta-readers.  I want to make this story the best that it can be, and the best way to do that is to have a little constructive criticism.  If you are interested in beta-reading for me, let me know in the comments below.

     Have fun with your writing!  And if you get a chance to swap beta-reading with someone, take the opportunity!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Story Snippet: Dwarf Song

     The sound of a mannish dwarf song began to filter through the forest.  Several voices raised in chorus, marching toward them through the forest.  Snow White’s face lit up with eager welcome.  Moriah’s thoughts spun and she reached into her pocket for the sleeping potion.

Friday, July 7, 2017

What Does a Mirror Know?

     I found it very interesting in the original Snow White tale that the honest mirror proclaimed the queen to be the fairest in the land.

     The mirror is supposed to tell only the truth -- a fact that is demonstrated by the fact that it switches to Snow White as she grows in beauty.  It was not swayed by the queen's position or power.  And I like that about the mirror.  Apparently the queen did, too, or she would have smashed it.

      But here is where I am confused.  Who is to say what beauty is?  Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder?

     How do we define beauty?  Is it a set of physical features?  Is it that attractive quality in a person?  Is it measured by inner goodness?  What is beauty?

    If it is physical features, who dictates what those features are?  Haven't the ideas of "ideal beauty" changed through the centuries and various cultures?  For me, I look at each of these pictures that I have posted in this entry, and I see great physical beauty in all of them.  But do they all look the same? No!  I love all hair colors and lengths.  I like thick eyebrows and thin ones.  I like Anne noses and Tzeitel noses and every other nose.  I like mild facial features and bold ones.  Pretty much every girl that I see, everywhere I go, is gorgeous.

So if all facial features are actually beautiful, what else can define beauty?  Is it that attractive quality?  Somebody that you admire and want to be around?

We've all seen the perfectly painted girl who was no fun to be around.  She is so caught up in herself or in her own insecurities or in her lack of consideration for the needs of others that any elements of physical beauty fade away and you no longer find her attractive.

By the same token, we've all met people who didn't look like the current supermodel standard, but they were so fun or so caring or so happy or so confident that you couldn't help but admire them.
These kinds of beauty are the most attractive to me, partly because they don't fade with age or circumstance.  I could look at a pretty painting all day long, but if I'm going to hang out with the subject I want her to be pleasant and kind.  I'd rather have the homeliest friend in the world if she was happy and confident and truly cared about me.

So maybe beauty is measured by goodness?  We've all read tales of some plain-faced old woman who was so good and self-less and kind that, by the end of the story, someone pronounces her the most beautiful woman they have ever met.

     And, I know I've been talking mostly about girls, but let me say something about the menfolk, too.  Do you know what attracts me to a guy?  His attitude and demeanor.  Does he stand tall and carry himself with confidence?  Or does he slink in like a whipped puppy (or a slimy eel, for that matter)?  Will he look me in the eye?  Or do his eyes shift around?  Does he stand up for what he believes in?  Or will he just go with the flow?  Does he treat people with respect or does he belittle them?  Is he at ease or is he full of insecurities?  Does he look out for others?  Or can he think only of himself?
     My idea of a real man -- the sort I respect and admire (and the type that I am glad I married) -- has nothing to do with how suave his hair looks and whether his jawline resembles my favorite music artist.
     And the same applies to my idea of a real woman.  I think beauty is a combination of all these things: physical features, attitude, demeanor, values, heart.  And I don't think it can be achieved by only one person at a time.

       Which leads me back to my original question: what does a mirror know?  How could it choose one set of features to be more beautiful than another?  I find its logic very flawed indeed...

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Too Long or Too Short

     I hear writers complaining about their stories being too long or too short.  Particularly when you are writing for a contest or a specific genre that has a required wordcount, this can be a big deal.
     But the funny thing is: some writers find it easier to lengthen from their first draft and others prefer to shorten.
     For me, I find it easier to make a short story longer.  I think I'm a little bare-bones of a writer in my first draft, plus there is a lot of filler that happens in my brain and doesn't make it onto the paper.  In other words, I know the motives and scenes and backgrounds so well that I forget that my reader doesn't.  So when I send my stories out to betas, they tend to be caught off guard by how quickly a relationship buds or completely confused over why my king decided to go to war.  So I come back through and fill in the missing development and, voila, I have a decent story.
     Taking my long story and making it shorter is agony.  If you think I skimmed over the plot threads too quickly in my draft, you're really going to be lost in my shortened, edited version.  The only solution is to cut characters and the extra pieces of the plot that tie in at the end.  And that is no fun at all.  I honestly don't think I'm very good at it.
     But I have heard other writers say that they would rather write a super long draft and then polish it down to a nice story.  It brings to mind some nice collection of beautiful data, all written out and waiting for you.  Then you can simply look it all over and fit together the best pieces and, voila, you have a polished, streamlined, dazzling tale.
     I just have never had that happen so neatly for me in real life.  It goes so much more smoothly in my imagination.
     So which are you?  Do you prefer to lengthen a short story or shorten a long one?  And, if you like to shorten a long one, how does it work and why does it seem easier to you?  Everybody's writing brain is a little different, and I'd like to hear about yours!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Start and End: 6/30

The Rooglewood contest Facebook page had a fun activity today. Anne Elisabeth Stengl asked us to post our first few sentences from this week of writing and our last few sentences of the same.
Here are mine:

Where I started:
     Moriah sniffed the air. Brews hung heavy on the mist. She was almost there.
     The herbalist's cottage nestled so cozily into the trees that it almost appeared to be one of them. Moriah wrapped her cloak close around her for security, but it was more out of habit than from any feeling of doom. On the contrary, there was something about this old place that made her feel more at home than any castle.

Where I ended:
     Tripping over her own feet, she staggered out of the cottage and fled into the forest. As she reached is safety, she heard cackling far behind her.
     It sounded like the fourth dwarf.

Friday, June 23, 2017

First Snippet

I am still playing with my story idea for a good queen.  One of my favorite things is to incorporate pieces from the original Grimm tale -- pieces that were proof of the queen's wickedness -- and show how they were misheard by the minstrels who passed down the tale.

For example, what if the huntsman failed in his job to protect Snow White from the dwarves because of an inopportune boar attack?  And what if my queen is so distraught that she lashes back verbally, as she is prone to do, and her words are overheard and misunderstood?  What kind of story do you think would be circulated among the common people?

      “Please, I did try to protect her!  Here!  I have the lung and the liver of the boar as proof!”  He swung a bag from his shoulder and held it out.  “There was a beast attacking, and I did kill it!”

      “Then make it into a soup, you idiot!” Moriah shouted, angry now.  “What do I care for them?  It’s Snow White’s heart I wanted!”  Moriah dropped her head into her hands.  Snow White was so tender and delicate.  What would the evil dwarves do to her?  “Leave!  Leave now!”

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Evil Seven Dwarves

     Don't count the dwarves in the picture.  There's thirteen of them instead of seven like I was trying to find.  Pinterest isn't perfect, and I'm not a master in digital photo editing.

       But here is part of my twist on Snow White, and I am having more fun with it than you can imagine. 

     I have a queen...drop-dead gorgeous...cold...reserved...tormented...but not evil.

     I have a princess...sheltered...trusting...a little na├»ve...generally believes the best of people...but not stupid.

     I have a huntsman...big...terrifying to behold...but well-meaning.

     I have a maid...tender-hearted...driven to reveal the truth and set things right...but completely mistaken on so many points.

     I have an herbalist...talented...bound to serve the dark side but resenting it.

     I have 7 dwarves...blood-thirsty...twisted...scheming...evil.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wild and Crazy...or Very, Very Ordinary

     Have you heard some of the ideas floating around for this contest?  The next 7 months of writing is going to be so much fun.

     I started my one of my own ideas for a story before I heard everyone else's.  Then the rumors started flying in: mythical creatures, play-on-words, historical or foreign settings, other worlds, sci-fi, steampunk, abstract art forms, and so on.  Everything sounds so exciting, and each idea stirs my imagination as I try to guess what sort of tale it will turn out to be.

     It's hard to not feel intimidated...or to kick myself, wishing I had thought of such a genius twist.  Some of the brilliant ideas make my story look very, very ordinary.  Others are so crazy and abstract that I probably wouldn't care for them much, but others will.

     I'm somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of the way through my first draft, which is an easy time to feel discouraged and wonder if your story is worth the effort.   The typical artist cycle has points of self-doubt, and it's easy to deepen that when you read of other's exciting plans.

     If others' stories make you feel like hiding under a rock, you may ask me, then why did you say the next several months are going to be so much fun?

     There are two ways to approach others' writing in this contest.  You can either compare the reality of your own work with your imagination of others' works.  Or you can drop all comparisons and link arms.

     Our stories are all going to be different.  Some will be wild and crazy.  Some will be sweet.  Some will be ordinary.  Some will be realistic.  Some will spin in a world all their own.  Yours will not be exactly like anyone else's.

     But our path as writers will be similar.  Even the most confident, braggart of a writer has moments of self-doubt.  Even the most skilled wordsmith drops ordinary sentences on a page that will need to be edited.  We all have things we are prodigiously good at, and we all have weaknesses that we work through.  That's why we enter a contest.

     Look around at the other contest writers.  We're in this together, and we all want to get better at what we do.

     That means that, instead of feeling intimidated by someone else's dazzling plot, we should get excited.  "Oh, cool!  That is such a fun idea!  Good job!  Can't wait to read it!"  And then we contently go back to plodding away on our own tales, confident that we will be proud of them once they are finished and polished.

    So, yes, this year is going to be very, very fun.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's Elementary, Dear Watson

It's brainstorming time, guys!

     We have a story to write.  It must be based on Snow White (here is the original tale).  The rules dictate that we include the original elements of the tale in a recognizable way, even though we are given creative license in that.  So here is our brainstorming for the day:

What ARE the key elements of Snow White?

     In other words, which parts of Snow White make it Snow White?  What characters or items or pieces of story line are important to keep (even if you recreate them in a new way)?

Monday, June 5, 2017


     So I freely admit that I was not expecting the tale to be Snow White.  In fact, I had carefully laid out all my reasons that it surely would NOT be Snow White.  Clearly...I was mistaken.

     My hat is off to all of you who predicted Snow White.  Nice work!  Your validated guess, as Mr. Bennett said, "shows some greatness of mind."

     I am not a dark-and-disturbing sort of writer.  The fact that the tale was not what I expected plus the thought that contest winners would be of the dark-and-disturbing sort made me highly in favor of skipping the contest this year.  I felt disappointed and petulant.

     I called my husband to complain and fret and assure him I intended to sit this one out.  But, far from offering sympathy, he expressed only excitement of what I could do with the tale.  And I have to say his enthusiasm was contagious.

     Think of it, he said.  How much fun I could have developing the characters of the seven dwarfs?  And the story has a strong villain -- he loves stories like that.  Good.  Evil.  A country under a dark rule.  What all could I come up with in such a  tale?

     I continued to whine, throwing at him all of my reasons for my disappointment.  But he answered each one.

     And, you know...he was right.

     So, this post is mostly directed toward those who DIDN'T want Snow White.  Because maybe you don't have somebody at home to be so encouragingly contagious.  If you don't want to write for this one, who am I to judge?  I'm sure you have some other excellent writing project to work on.

     But you will come up with some good ideas for this one if you give yourself a chance.  Even if it is not the tale you expected, or not the tale you planned you really think a little twist like this is going to stop you?  My husband was right -- there are some amazing things you can do with this tale!  Think about the key elements of Snow White.  What can you build onto that?

     And so what if the judges are looking for a different tale than the sort you write?  For me, the best part of entering a contest is the process of writing and finishing a story.  I learn so much each time I do this!  Who cares if it doesn't win!  And, you know what?  Writing a story from your heart...a story that is your very has more of a chance of winning than you might think.

     So, come on, and give it a shot!  I'd love to hear about what you come up with!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cover Reveal and Contest Announcement for the Rooglewood Contest

The announcement is finally here!  Are you ready for it?  Are you ready to see the cover for the last Rooglewood fairy tale contest book?  Here it is!

     That's right!  The final contest will be on Snow White.  Did you predict that or were you surprised?  Anne Elisabeth Stengl is excited over the stories you guys will write for such a "dark and lovely" tale.  Ready to get started?  You will find the link to the contest rules below:
Rooglewood Press invites you to join the adventure of the Five Poisoned Apples creative writing contest!

     It's a gorgeous cover, isn't it?  I like covers that make me want to step into them and see what it is like there.  ;)  The design was done by Julia Popova as always (her website is here), and the cover model/photographer this time is Wynter Clark (her website is here).

      Time to get started now.  Put your fingers on your keyboard and start weaving your story strands!  And check back here.  Whether you are writing this year or just following along, we should have some fun tracing the progress together.  There's also a Rooglewood Fairytale Contest group, if you want to join in!  Because...

Once upon a time...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Eight Days to Rooglewood announcement!!!

In only 8 days, we will find out the topic for the next Rooglewood contest!!!
I will be participating in the cover reveal so... Stay tuned!!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sleep-Deprivation and Planetary Origins

     Forty-six.  That's how many hours I had just gone without sleep in the past two days.  I was surprised I was still standing.
     Two births, back to back, had the team exhausted.  Now we were done -- free to go home as soon as we put clean sheets on the bed. Ruth, with her blonde hair and modest, white headcovering stood across from me, helping me spread the sheet over the bed.  Tiana, with her fun "hey, you know, whatever it is, I can take it" attitude, was beside me, stuffing pillows into fresh cases.
     Conversation, naturally drifted to the two things most on all of our minds: food and sleep.
     "I get very angry at everybody when I haven't eaten," Ruth closes her eyes into little fake-angry slits and pretends to glare at imaginary figures.
     "Oh, yeah, I'm totally like that, too," Tiana confirms, smacking a bit of fluff into submission with one decisive blow.
     "My husband, on the other hand, is surprised that food and sleep are so important to me," I begin.
     Ruth huffs in exasperation.  "I know people like that!  I always look at them and say..." (she picks me as substitute target, raises her eyebrows at me, and clearly and pointedly enunciates each next word) "...'You were born on Uranus.'"
     I instantly understand that she is accusing them of coming from a different planet.  And my mind praises her for picking a more unique and remote planet than Mars.
     ...At least...I THOUGHT she was talking about a planet.  Oh, my!  What if she wasn't talking about a planet?  Does she have any idea what she just said?!
     I cast a glance over at Tianna and see the uncertain look on her face.  She's thinking the exact same thing I am.
     Ruth sees our expressions.  "What?  What's the matter?  Did I say something...OHHHHHHHH!"  Her face turns bright red.
     It's too much for me.  I haven't slept in days.  I spin around and keel into the wall, unable to breathe for laughing. Ruth and Tianna do the same thing.  Somehow the fact that such a phrase accidentally came out of Ruth's mouth makes it even funnier.  And I'm just thinking about what would happen if we actually repeated this elsewhere.
      Soon, Ruth and I are howling with laughter, tears pouring down our faces. 
     Tianna, by this time, has recovered from the initial humor and has settled into just an amused look on her face.  To be honest, the fact that Ruth and I have lost control of ourselves has probably surpassed the humor of the planets.  From the other room, I hear our senior midwife calling out "You girls are punchy!  You need to finish up and get some sleep!"
      "I didn't even think of how that would sound," Ruth gasped through her laughter.  "I was just trying to think of a cool planet."
      "Uranus is not even a planet." Tianna says.
      "Yes it is!" Ruth protests.
      "It's not a cool planet."
      "Yes, it is!"
      ", Saturn is a cool planet.  Saturn has rings.  What does Uranus have?" Tianna says.
      I lose it again.
       Tianna throws a glare at me.  "Don't answer that."
       I recover from my latest outbreak and shake my head in wonder.  "You mean you just randomly thought of a planet in this very minute and popped out with this one?"
      She looks sheepish.  "Yes."  She still can't believe she said something so easily taken the wrong way.  She's still laughing, and she presses a hand into her abdomen.  "I think I just grew two new abs with all that laughing."
       I gasp and shove a thumb into my side.  "Yeah, me, too."
       We look at each other and shake our heads.  I still have tears running down my cheeks from laughing so hard.  "We really need to go to bed."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Less Than One Month to Contest Announcement

    On June 1st, the Rooglewood Contest will be announced.  I am definitely looking forward to this!

    These past 5 months have been so full for me that I haven't had time to fret over how slow time passes or to work much on story ideas.  But the contest has been there, lingering around the back of my mind, adding a little bit of excitement to daily life.

     Today, I had a little bit of time to work on a story.  I have an idea for Little Red Riding Hood and another for The Little Mermaid.  Today, I worked on the Little Mermaid story.

      My Little Mermaid story is about the other woman -- the one the prince was falling in love with instead of the Little Mermaid.  You see, the Little Mermaid rescued the prince from a shipwreck, carried him across the sea, and floated him into the shallows.  But there was a woman on the shore who saw him and helped to nurse him back to health.  Since he was unconscious during the Mermaids rescue, he thinks of the shore woman as his rescuer -- the one who pulled him from the sea.  This, of course, complicates the Little Mermaids hopes and dreams, and she hates this other woman with a passion.
     However, there is some strange connection between the Little Mermaid and the Shore Woman.  The Shore Woman dreams scenes out of the Little Mermaid's life.  And when the Little Mermaid loses her voice, the Shore Woman is the only one who can hear her thoughts.
     Such a connection might be the best chance the Little Mermaid has for a friend, so far from her home.  But it's a little hard to make friends with the ultimate rival for the man of your dreams.

      What do you think? 
      And how are your stories coming?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Reason They Came

      Her gnarled fingers shook as she tapped the photograph.  "I remember this day!"  The wrinkles around her eyes deepened with pleasure and she patted her mouth with an unsteady hand.
      "This little girl?  That was you?" The investigating high-schooler leaned forward, her curly brown hair falling over her shoulder in eagerness, though her voice was gentle and patient.  "You were adorable.  I'm surprised the soldiers didn't pick you up and take you home with them!"  A little bit of teasing crept into her voice.
      "I think they almost did."  The old woman chuckled.  Then her face grew serious.  "My mama..." She stroked the edge of the photo.  " mama was so frightened.  But she was so afraid of EVERYTHING.  She was afraid when Hitler came to power.  She was afraid when the Nazi's invaded.  She was afraid when the laws started changing and people started disappearing.  She was afraid when the Allied Forces arrived.  When we heard the trucks and friendly soldiers marching, she made me sit in the dark and be quiet.  Then she pulled a blanket over her head."
       "Why was your mother afraid of the good guys?"
       "I didn't understand it then, either.  I wanted to see who was coming.  My papa always said I was the fearless one."  She cocked her head at the picture and shook her head.  "I trembled in my little boots, though, even as I crept across the floor to look out the door.  What if my mama was right to hide this time?" 
     "But you kept going."
      "Aye." Her eyes widened, "and then three of them saw me!"
      "What did you do?"
     "I froze! It was too late to run. I hoped they would walk on and ignore me. But they didn't. They walked right over to my house." She tilted her head as if listening. "Their voices were strange. They spoke words I didn't understand. But I liked it...There was no anger or bitterness in it. I remember I ducked my head so my hair covered my face, but I peered sideways so I could watch them."
     "Didn't they speak your language?"
     She tapped the photograph, pointing at the man squatting in front of her. "This one did. He knelt down to talk to me." Her face softened with a faraway look. "His eyes were kind and brown like my papa's."
     "What did he say?"
     "Oh, bits of this and that. The beautiful day. My pretty hair. His little girls who were my age. And then I asked him the question I had been wondering since I first heard the big trucks rolling in."
     The high schooler swept her pen across her notebook, cautious to not lose even one piece of the story. "And what was that?"
      "I wanted to know why they came. Do you know what they said?" The old lady's chin quivered. "They came for me! For me and for all little girls like me."
       "Then what happened."
       She straightened up, leaving the memory world and returning to the business of the story. "I saw tears in this one's eyes." She tapped the photograph again -- this time indicating the standing soldier. "But then​ he laughed and shook his tears away and offered me a piece of candy. And the third man stepped back to take a picture." She lifted the photograph to her lips and kissed it. "But I don't need a picture to remember. Till the day I die, I will never forget those soldiers or the reason they came."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Time Traveler Letter from 2016

       I think it is kind of interesting the way a blog morphs over the course of it's existence.  Do you ever look back over your blog and remember the way you felt when you first started writing it?  Maybe it's just me, because I attach memories to things.  But I pull up my early, early blog posts and I remember how excited and apprehensive I was -- so full of ideas and plans for what my blog would become and at the same time nervous that it wouldn't succeed or that it would fall into the category of "boring" for all my readers.  And there's more emotions that I remember -- ones that I haven't really learned to put into words yet.

     Why am I reminiscing today?  Because today, for me, is actually May 3rd, 2016.  That's right -- 2016.  This is another one of my time traveler letters.  I write a post and then arrange for it to be published a year later.  You should try it -- it's kind of a fun exercise. ;)

     One of the things that has been bugging me for the last year or so is my own difficulty in putting things into words.  The Penslayer unwittingly pointed this out to me because she wrote things that called out thoughts and emotions from deep, deep inside of me.  And the fact that she could put my most hidden feelings into words was thrilling.  But, at the same time, it was also frustrating.  Am I not a writer?  Are not words -- and the ability to use them to call out the deep parts of people -- part of my chosen vocation?  Then why could I not find the words to express myself?  Why could she speak my own thoughts better than I could?

      But I've built some deeper relationships lately, with people -- one in particular.  And he makes me think.  He makes me take the time to actually look deep inside myself and stumblingly put those soul-swellings into words.  He asks and asks and asks again -- questions like "what are you thinking?" and "what's going on inside your head right now?"  And, as I try to communicate with him, I begin to notice a difference in my writing.

       Eh, it's too soon to tell.  But, just maybe, this is the beginning of being able to write those deep things so that my writing calls out to the deep part of other people.  Maybe you, reading this a year later, can attest to that.  We'll see, right?

      In my own writing, I'm mostly stomping around in the world of ToP, trying to get to know it well enough to tell the world about my adventures there.  

     Below are the stats updates on my blog.  I don't know that such information is really interesting to my readers, and I'm not remotely offended if you skip this part.  But I do like being able to look back on it, myself, and this is a good place to store the info.  So, if you will permit me, I will list out a few here:
Pageviews all-time history: 18,814 
Highest viewed month to-date: November 2015 (1,527 views)
Lowest viewed month to-date: still January 2015 (158 views) because I'm not counting that first half-a-month when I started my blog in October 2013.
Number of published posts: 534
Five most popular posts of all time:
     Rooglewood Contest Countdown: 14 days
     The Countdown: 8 days
     Short Story: Becoming a Daddy
     I Done Told You
     Guest Post by Emily!
Number of Published Comments: 871 
Number of Followers: 24

     Ideally, I should write about my greatest weaknesses and my greatest improvements and my goals for this coming year.  But, honestly, my goal for the coming year is simply to write.  To write well and to write the deep things without fear.  And with that, I don't feel the need to fret over weaknesses and improvements.  Ladies and gentlemen, I am just going to write for all I am worth.  Even if that means that I don't further my writing career at all this year.  I am ready to take a breather and pour my heart out through my fingertips.  And we'll see where it takes us.'s to another year of blogging, online friendships, and writing comradery.  May your writing be full of Light and point people to our God and Savior.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

New House

I'm moving again! What a weekend! First, I bragged to Garrett about how much fun it is to move. Because, where I'm from, moving is like a party. All your friends get together, especially the hard workers with witty comments and awesome senses of humor. And you scrub walls and floors, refrigerators and stoves, crack jokes, tell stories, and exclaim over all the fascinating things you find in the new place. Then everybody jumps in and hauls boxes. Before you know it, you're done and you feel like you've just been to the best party ever.
After telling Garrett how moving is supposed to be, I contact my friends. And several say that they are either coming or MIGHT come. Great. Step one to the best moving day ever.

Except they don't show up.

Ah-hem. So much for bragging to Garrett.
I ran through all the reasons in my head. I'm just too far away -- it's not reasonable for them to come this far. Or maybe I didn't word my invitation right. Or maybe I'm just not popular enough. Or maybe it just happened to be really bad timing for EVERYBODY that I know. Or maybe God knew how much fun Garrett and I would have doing it ourselves.
And we truly did. It was an absolute blast doing it with Garrett all week. And both his parents and my mom and sister came to help. So it wasn't a big party, but God still sent the help we needed, and it turned out fabulously.

And now I'm sitting in my new house, which is halfway cleaned, surrounded by a mountain of boxes, absolutely delighted. More writing to come... Preferably after I find my computer. :D

Friday, January 27, 2017

Five Something Something IS coming!

      Anne Elisabeth Stengl posted on her blog this morning.  Rooglewood Press will be hosting ONE LAST CONTEST!!!!  Information will be forthcoming in her March newsletter, and the big announcement will come in June.
      What think ye, my compatriots?  Shall we finish with a hurrah?  Let those who never entered before, try so they may say they were a part of it.  Let those who have done it many times before, join again to further hone our skills.  And let all of us write our best!  I would like to see a perfectly beautiful collection for the grand finale.  Anne says she thinks this will be the most exciting one yet!

The Mountain Top

(This is a second response to my location challenge, because I needed to do a cheerful one, too)

     A surge of eager welcoming washes over me as I reach the peak.  This is a place I love, and it makes me happy to be here again.  And the thought that I get to show it to Garrett makes me even happier.
     But there's another feeling in my heart as I throw a glance over my shoulder.  I nearly walked straight into a bear about 200 yards back.  As brave as I was in the moment, now I'm worried that it's going to sneak up behind me and corner me on this peak.  And for a few brief seconds, the fear blocks the beauty of the peak from my view.  Funny how fear does that.
     But it is beautiful up here.  On either side of me, tower two huge rocks that are each probably almost half as big around as my house and are at least as tall if not taller.  Between them is a third ledge that I can climb down to.  I run my hand over the stone like greeting an old friend.
      Energy bounds inside me, and I start my scramble up the stone on the right.  I always do this one first.  Garrett follows.  The rocks up here are more of a brown and pink and cream color -- not gray.  I like them.
     Disappointment fills me when I reach the top of the rock and realize that the view is completely masked.  The fog that wrapped the forest in soft tendrils has created a solid wall of white around the rock.  If I look straight down over the edge, I can see the tops of the trees so far below me.  But nothing else.  Sigh.  I love the fog but I wanted to share the awesome view with Garrett.  And now I can't.  There's nothing to see but the mineralize rock and the remnants of people's scrawls on them.  "Ashton was here."  Who cares?
      (Garrett has his own plans for the peak, fog or no fog, and the wall of white doesn't slow him down.  This is when he proposes to me and I say yes and all that mushy gushy stuff.  But this isn't a post about the proposal -- it's supposed to be a practice run for describing a location.  So I'll skip ahead to the part after I said yes.)
      Suddenly the fog parts.  Right down the middle.  I am not kidding.  The wall of white separates directly in front of us, half moving off to the left and the other half moving off to the right.  Light started to filter down through the clouds in long, brilliant, ethereal beams.  And suddenly we could see the valley below us, stretching out for miles.  The forest and winding road of the national park, and, beyond that, the little farms of the valley making a quaint checkerboard of homesteading across the rolling hills.  Far in the distance we could see the next mountain range...Garrett said it was thirty miles away.
     And it was beautiful.
    High up around us, the fog had broken into bits, caught swirling in a wind current that curled and teased around us.  It was one of those moments so perfect that you could hardly believe it was real.  And I hoped that the glimpse of grandeur through the fog was like a brief allegorical glimpse into the beauty that my life would be in the future.
   Because the mountain-top is a great starting place for your new life.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Hospital Room

(This is in response to my own location challenge from last week)

      It's not my first time in a room in Labor and Delivery on the 8th floor of the hospital.  We're the highest floor in a top medical hospital.  Which means that I can hear the choppers landing on the roof right above me, carrying patients that were too complex for smaller hospitals.
       I don't hear the choppers now, though.  The room is too quiet.  Outside, in the hall, I hear nurses talking -- normal chatter, like "Hey, Rach!  Did you get the IV in room 6?"  I hear deep moans from a mommy getting ready to birth her baby.  And most cruel of all, I hear the fetal heartbeat monitor in the next room.
      There's no such monitor in our room.  Our baby's heart stopped beating a few days before, and no one knows why.  Now we're here, hooked up to drugs and monitors, waiting to birth a baby that we don't get to take home.
     And that's why it is too quiet.
     Something clicks and then a humming sound starts.  The blood pressure cuff starts to inflate around the mommy's arm.  Numbers click on the monitor as it releases.  Then the machine makes a satisfied beep.  All is good.  Or so it says.
     It smells like cleaners in here.  And latex.  And hand sanitizer.  And sweat -- faint but present -- from one of us.
     The mommy sits on the hospital bed, covered in white sheets.  The side bars that keep her from accidentally rolling off have buttons.  The bed can fold into all kinds of positions -- which is cool if you're here for a normal birth.  There's a computer on a rollable desk by her bed, and the monitors wrapped around her belly and arm are hooked to a machine under the desk.  An IV pole with bulky square pumps has bags hung at the top; and the tubing lines run from the bag, through the pump, and into the mommy's arm.  There are two rocking chairs in here -- a nice touch in a sterile room -- and a daybed and a stool.  There was a baby-warming tray but they rolled it out of sight.
      Sinks and counters.  Cabinets.  Nice furniture with blankets inside.  Trash cans.  Biohazard boxes.  Trays of equipment. A giant water jug full of ice for the mommy.  A little Styrofoam cup of ginger ale for the daddy. A big window.
      The walls are pretty and patterned.  There are elegant paintings on the wall.  At first we don't notice them.  Then we ignore them because they can't help our pain.  But a stillbirth can be a long process, and after we've sat there for two days, we find ourselves silently staring deep into the paintings and thinking faraway philosophical thoughts. Life.  Death.  Beauty.  Pain.  What do they mean?
       It's funny what grief does to your senses.  It separates you from them, but also makes them stronger.  You are surprised to see that everything is far away.  You feel it, but it's from a distance.  You hear the nurse speaking to you, but it's as if you are not in the room.  You stub your toe on the corner of the hospital bed and you look at it curiously as if pain is an interesting sensation.  Your finger rubs the smooth wood of the rocking chair, over and over, with an infantile fascination with the smoothness of it.  Nothing in the world is so captivating as that smooth feeling.
      And this is a hospital room at the birth of a stillborn baby.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Location Challenge

       One of the background pieces of our stories is the location.  When we build the setting as if we were there, it helps the reader feel like THEY are there.  And it's easier to do that if we use places where we have been (or studied) to build on.

      So here is my challenge to you. 
--Write a description of a place you have been. 
--Keep it small -- I don't want a description of all of Italy, I just want a view from one Italian portico.
--It doesn't have to be somewhere exotic.  We all live in different places, and your normal is fascinating and new for me.  Your grocery store.  Your backyard.  Your living room.  Your classroom at school.  Your seat on the bus.
--It can be somewhere exotic.  The cool thing about writing something that you're seeing for the first time is that you NOTICE EVERYTHING.  So, if you've taken a trip recently to somewhere cool, tell me about it.
--Try to use multiple senses.  How did it look?  What did you smell?  Was there a feel to the place?  Is your chair smooth or course to the touch?  Can you hear anything?  Taste anything?  How does this place make you feel?  Are you excited?  Comforted?  Afraid?  Bored?

      Then, either write it in my comments, OR write it on your blog and put a link in my comments.

      It's good practice for you to write a description of a place you have been, and it is good for the rest of us to see each other's places because it expands our ideas of settings in our stories.

     Ready, set, GO!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Secrets of Gladys

     The Archcaptain brushed past me, his face both bored and annoyed with my application to the guard.  My hopes came crashing down around me.  I had sold everything and faced the perils of 400 miles to come to the great city of Airengard and become a member of the Archcaptain's elite force.

     "I am an excellent warrior, Archcaptain." A mixture of protest and desperation in my voice.

     "Yes, yes.  That is what they all say."  The Archcaptain paused his retreat, one foot already on the stone steps leading down from his portico.  "I don't need another cocky brawler."  His eyes caught mine, the piercing blue intensity almost making me quake on the inside.  "If you want to be an Elite, you must use your brain.  Find me the answers to the secrets of the palace, and I will give you a bed in our barracks."

     "The secrets of the palace?"  What sort of demand was that?  How was I to find such secrets?  The Archcaptain turned away from me, striding down the steps with his cape fluttering behind him.  I could feel my future slipping away from me with each step he took.  "Where shall I find them?"

      "They are all to be found in one enigmatic girl known as Gladys."  His voice carried back to me, though he didn't turn his head.  "When you have solved Gladys, you will have solved the palace."

     A girl?  Surely the entrance to the Elite guard could not be so easy as that!  I expected some type of gladiator trial in which a dozen men tested my metal as a warrior.  Or to be submitted to a torment chamber which would push my mind and body to the breaking point.  What sort of elite force required nothing but delicacies from their applicants to prove their worth?

      But just as I thought this, an Elite strode up the steps to the portico.  The muscles in his chest bulged against the leather band he wore, and he snarled under his breath as he past me.  I threw my shoulders back and raised my chin.  Yes, this was the force that I idolized my entire life.  Who was I to question the Archcaptain's judgment.  I carelessly tossed a glance at the passing Elite, as if recognizing him as nothing more than a fellow soldier - my equal.  By nightfall, I expected to find myself in a bunk next to his.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Suspence in Dialogue post in Go Teen Writers.

This was a fun challenge.  I wrote a comment.  You might enjoy doing this exercise, too!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Writing Again

     So I haven't written anything since my wedding.  Which means my husband has never seen me lost in another world.

     Until now.

     First, I run away and hide with my computer.  I don't want anybody around.  I'm thinking.

Apparently, I look disturbed or moody at this point in time.  My beloved husband came up to see what I was doing, and he kept asking me if I was okay.

Of course, I looked at him with eyes that saw right through him into another world far away and told him I was fine.  Which, perhaps, was not terribly reassuring.

But my thoughts are storming through my mind like a stampeding stallion, and no part of my writer brain wants to slow it down.  Let it run!  Let it be strong!  Let it be powerful!  This is the stuff epic plots are made of.

I wave him away and stare into my computer screen like I'm drawing my bow and taking aim at a faraway world.  In truth, I feel like I AM taking aim as my imagination starts to formulate a landing spot.  And when I release my arrow, it will carry me with it, soaring through the night sky and landing me smack in my story world.

Soon I'm pounding away at the keys like a madman.  Swirling bits of story plot and character arcs flutter around me in disarray, but it's coming together.  I can do this.

My husband wanders away, hoping that my behavior is perfectly normal and not a sign of inner turmoil.  Ha!  Of course it is a sign of inner turmoil!  Are there not giants to be slain and worlds to set aright!  Turmoil is the stuff stories are made of.  But this sort of turmoil is not damaging.  This is chaos that will be spun into order like a beautiful tapestry, and I delight in the feel of it through my fingers.

How long I stay up there in my hideaway, I do not know.  But weariness hits.  This is normal.  This is part of my process.  I know what is next but my fingers do not want to write it.  I am discouraged.  Is this story worth the effort?  I know what I need to do.  Step away from it.  Let it stew in my brain.  Come back tomorrow.

There's a way out of this tangle.  The chaos I've created will come to a grand finale that ties it all together.  But how?  I close the computer and wander downstairs, my mind still spinning with my tale.   My husband asks me how it is going.

I don't know.

But this is apparently how I look when I write.  I never thought of it as strange until now.  My family has been used to me.  And now I see myself through fresh eyes, and it seems almost as strange to me as it does to others. works for me.

 I presume he'll get used to it...?