It’s been a long month… I am behind (obviously) with some of my side projects… My family is moving on the 2nd of July, so planning and getting thrings ready has been my full time job right now.
Anyway, that’s no excuse to not write… Without further ado (and more excuses), here’s June’s short story of the month prompt…
After the funeral, I spent the next few days in the attic, reading the letters my mother had written him in the years before they were married. He had never been the sentimental type, so I was surprised to find a whole box of them, carefully bundled. Even more surprising was…
It was odd to be in a room full of people who all seemed to look up to my dad like he was some kind of hero. A part of me wanted to see him through their eyes just for a moment. I tried to picture him as one of the Followers of Merlin. The Followers were some of the most powerful magic users in the world, and they were treated like rock stars in the magical world. Was that really how these people saw my dad?
Dad was just… Dad. He wasn’t a hero or even all that powerful. He wore socks with his sandals, and he sang oldies while he washed dishes. He wasn’t anything special.
As I moved from group to group, listening to the stories being told by the Followers, I started to see my dad in a new light. He hadn’t always been Dad. Before my sisters and I were born, and before he’d settled down with Mom, he’d been an active member of the Followers.
I stopped roaming and listened to one member tell the story of how he met my father.
“He was the fastest caster there,” the story teller said to the group around him. His anecdotal evidence resulted in a lot of head nodding and smiles. Apparently, the rest of this group had similar encounters with my father at some point.
A woman standing on my left chimed in with, “His fire bolts were hot enough to burn a tree in a matter of seconds.”
Again, there was a round of nodding.
I walked off trying to understand what I was hearing and reconcile it with what I knew of my dad.
Just that morning, my father was making pancakes and he used magic to make them into scenes from fairy tales, but that was the first magic I’d seen him use in almost a month.
My mother didn’t encourage any of us to use magic for day to day tasks, even my dad. I just couldn’t understand why the person everyone was talking about would give all that up to be a dad.
Finally, the hall lights flickered, which meant it was time for the ceremony.
I stood next to my dad while the Head of the Followers gave a speech introducing my dad and his accomplishments. Throughout the entire speech, I couldn’t help myself; I kept looking at my dad trying to see him how these people did. I just couldn’t see it.
Many years ago…
He chose his battle armor carefully that day. He was leaving for the front with a conclave of users. He shouldn’t be excited about going to war, but he was. He wanted the glory. He wanted the fame. He wanted to show his meddle. This was his moment.
His grey caped billowed around him as he marched proudly down the hall to find the others. His belongings were all ready packed and waiting. He could feel it in his bones; this was going to be a great time in his life.
A few weeks after his arrival at the front…
He opened his eyes but couldn’t make himself get up. He was weary, so unbelievably weary. His bones were tired. He wasn’t sure if he had the will to attend to his watch that night. He just wanted to rest.
“On your feet,” the shift sergeant yelled.
He didn’t move. He stared at the ceiling.
The sergeant stepped closer to him and whispered so the others wouldn’t hear, “Come on. Get up. Everyone is tired. This is what you signed up for.” He looked down at the wizard with sympathy and moved on to get the others up.
A few months after that night…
“Come on men! We are finally making them retreat. Don’t lose hope now. Show me what you got. Put everything out there. Don’t try to conserve energy. Hit them with everything you have!” He was shouting as he paced in a circle in the middle of a group of weary wizards who’d been too long at battle.
This war was supposed to be over in matter of weeks, but it was trailing on and on. He’d joined for glory and fame. There was no glory here at the front, only death and blood. He’d lost count of the number of troops and wizards that had rotated through his conclave.
“The important thing to remember is that we’re winning.” The sergeant walked up behind him and placed his hand on his shoulder.
“Let me take it from here,” he whispered.
He just nodded and stepped aside. Pep talks were not his strong suit. Others followed him because his name was spreading like a wild fire. He was a war hero. A hero who wouldn’t leave the front even though he’d fulfilled his duty to crown and country. He stayed and continued to fight.
He knew what the troops were feeling. He remembered those days when he could barely move day after day. Somehow, he had managed to push through those feelings and keep going.
Sometime between present day and his last day at battle…
He paced in the hallway and could hear the screams again. He wanted to help but there was little he could do in this situation.
The screaming continued, broken up by sobbing. He could hear people moving about and at one point, something metal dropped onto the floor.
After what felt like ages, a door finally opened.
The midwife who popped her head out said, “You have a daughter.”
He smiled and stopped pacing. He sat down on a bench and felt weary down to his bones, but there was something else there too. He felt hope and saw a future that didn’t ask him to be anything more than what he was.
So, like many parents in this crazy world we live in right now, I got the pleasure of “homeschooling” my child through the end of the school year. (So happy it’s over).
Here are some things I learned:
My daughter NEEDS to go to school. She is smart and learns easily, but she argues with me about every SINGLE assignment. If she doesn’t argue with me, her work takes less than an hour, two tops. But instead, it’s a 6-hour battle of her saying how much she hates being homeschooled and me telling her too bad. Part of it is that she’s an only child and needs more interaction than talking to me.
I don’t like homeschooling. (Read number 1). In addition to a difficult 11-year-old, I honestly don’t know what she should be learning. Her school was providing some distance learning, but it wasn’t enough, so I decided to add some other subjects and keep her learning new concepts. I was using workbooks, but I have no idea if they are what she needs to be focused on to prepare for middle school.
Teachers should be paid more. See 1 and 2.
My child and I should not be left alone with nowhere to go for this many days in a row. She is actually easy going for an 11-year-old, but the more I’m the only person she interacts with, the more I see her pre-teen sassy side.
Ultimately though, if we have to, we can muddle through. Some days are harder than others, but we survived!
I don’t know what next school year is going to be like, but we’ll survive that too.
May is almost half over, and I still haven’t posted a prompt. Like many of you, days are running together right now. Not leaving the house means weekdays and weekends have no difference to them. My kid never goes anywhere but to my computer desk and her room. Still, can’t complain; just a little worn down like many of us.
If you are looking for something to write about, here is May’s short story of the month prompt:
It was odd to be in a room full of people who all seemed to look up to my dad like he was some kind of hero. A part of me wanted to see him through their eyes just for a moment. I tried to picture him as…
It was different, writing on a typewriter; the clatter and noise, the resistance of the old keys forcing her to really put effort into each letter. She imagined she was writing the next best-selling novel. This momentarily distracted her from the reality of what she was really doing – writing a history paper that was all ready past due.
Meredith, who preferred to be called Mary, stopped for a moment and looked at the neat rows of black letters on the new white paper. She smiled to herself, but it quickly faded. She didn’t want her mother to know that she was actually enjoying this.
Her mother was making her write the paper the “old-fashioned” way to teach her a lesson. Mary was forbidden to use magic in any way to help. Not to mince words, but she was being punished, and rightly so.
Mary had put off the assignment until the last minute and then tried to conjure a finished project. Her spellcraft needed work though. Much like her normal school work, Mary had a bad habit of not practicing her spells like she was told to.
Making her type the paper on an old typewriter without magic to aid her was her mother’s idea of teaching her that just because you could use magic didn’t mean you should. Mary tried to point out that if her mother had let her turn in the original magicked paper, at least she might have gotten a passing grade, but because she failed to turn in anything, she received a zero. And to top it off, she would now be taking history during summer school. Her mother was still making her write the paper even though her teacher said at this point it wouldn’t matter one way or another.
Mary spent the rest of the afternoon flipping through her history textbook and various old books she’d pulled from the family library. She worked diligently at the kitchen table until her mother told her to take a break so they could set the table for dinner.
Promptly following dinner, Mary pulled out the heavy typewriter again and got back to work. She was still typing away after her mother tucked both her sisters into bed.
Mary heard her mother enter the kitchen but didn’t look up. She was in the zone and didn’t want to lose her train of thought. Her mother sat down across the table from her but didn’t speak.
Finally, Mary got to the end of a paragraph about a particularly gruesome battle. Mary was discovering that writing about history could be entertaining. She wondered how so many humans could go about their lives not realizing that magic was real, especially after they read about wars and famines and other horrific catastrophic events.
“You can’t turn this in to your history teacher,” her mother said while skimming through the pages stacked neatly on the table.
“Why not?” Mary asked.
Her mother had to suppress a smile. “Mary, be serious. You cannot write a paper about how magic was used during the civil war and then hand it in to your normal school teacher.”
“Why not?” Mary countered with all the smugness of a rebellious teen who didn’t care what the world thought. “It might do Mr. Hunt some good to read some real history for a change.”
Her mother just shook her head. “Dear, remember something I’ve told you over and over again. Humans believe their own version of the truth.” She paused and smirked as she read about how witches placed curses on cannonballs and muskets. “This is the world we live in. We keep our secrets for our safety and for theirs.”
Mary was sitting back now with her arms crossed firmly over her chest. This was not the first time the battle line was drawn between mother and daughter, and it wouldn’t be the last.
“Maybe it’s time we stop keeping secrets.” Mary didn’t want to say something else, but she couldn’t help herself. “Maybe it’s time we stop being scared.”
Her mother just shook her head. “We’ve been over this. If humans knew we had magic, bad things would happen to our kind. Very bad things.”
“You say that, but the world is changing, it’s 1990. This isn’t the middle ages. We have power, and we basically can’t use it. Think of the good we could do for this world if we stopped hiding.”
“Enough.” Her mother stood and slammed both hands on the table at the same time. “If you want to know why we live the way we do, you are looking in the wrong history books.” Her mother worked a spell and the table was covered with books open to horrific drawings and paintings.
Each one depicted a scene from various times in history when witches were persecuted. There were women being burned alive and others being held under water by men laughing. The truth was that most of the women who died during witch hunts weren’t even true witches. Real witches were better at hiding their powers, but they had stood by and saw what would happen to them if people knew the truth.
The books open before Mary were handmade books that had been passed down in her family. One of her ancestors had been at each of these terrible events. They had witnessed the cruelty of living with no secrets.
Her mother picked up the history paper Mary had spent all day on and with a deliberate snap, the papers turned to ash.
If you didn’t know, I wrote a book! It is available to purchase from Amazon.
Since I’ve finished my book and have started the second one (yippee!), several people have asked me “how” I did it. The snarky part of me wants to say I typed it on a computer and then uploaded it to Amazon, but that’s not what they’re asking. They want to know what my process was.
I am happy to share that with some people, (those who are actually listening and not just being polite).
So, here’s the process for my first book (book two has been a bit different and maybe when it’s done, I’ll write about what changed):
How I started writing a book and why?
My book started as one of the short story of the month posts on my blog. Even as I wrote it that month, I knew I wanted to do more with it. It was just screaming for a bigger story. So, I wrote a second story, and then those led to my novel.
This is not the first time I’ve started writing a book. I actually have two other books that were started before Unicorns Are Really Vampires. Those two remain unfinished, but who knows, maybe one day….
In addition to feeling like I wanted to work on the story some more, my sister invited me to try something called NANOWRIMO (I’m sure many of you are familiar with it). Basically, the idea is that every November is National Novel Writing Month. During that month, if you participate, you are to challenge yourself to write a novel. Most people actually aim for 50,000 words (which is a bit short for a novel). The idea is to get as much writing done as you can in a single month. No editing, just keep pushing forward till you get that word count.
The First Draft
I used that initial short story as my idea. And if you are wondering if I had an outline, the answer is no. I am not a planner; I am most definitely a panster. I won NANOWRIMO that year, which means I wrote at least 50,000 words.
After that, I put it aside till after the holidays, then I just kept writing a little every day until I felt like it was finished. The first draft was the hardest part but also the most fun. I was building a world, creating characters, and it felt at times that it was writing itself. I enjoyed every painful moment of it (if you have created anything, you know what I mean).
This is the hard part. Spending so many hours creating something and then cutting and changing it is very challenging and almost impossible to do on your own. If you get anything out of my post, this is what I want you to most remember:
HIRE AN EDITOR
(By this, I mean, pay someone to edit. An unbiased opinion that is not just checking your grammar. My editor told me things about my style, overall pacing, and character development that was immeasurably helpful when I was editing.)
Before I sent it to the editor I hired, I did “shop” around. I sent samples to multiple editors and then compared their feedback. I went with the one who was the toughest on me. Hiring someone to edit your entire novel is expensive, and I wanted the most bang for my buck.
In total, my book actually went through four rounds of editing.
First round: me reading through and making changes. I’m pretty good at editing grammar mistakes and small things.
Second round: hired an editor. She suggested a lot of small and big things I didn’t see myself.
Third round: following making the changes the editor suggested, I did one more round of editing. (I have a list of things that I look for. For this stage, I used an online editing program called Autocrit.com. It’s only a computer program, but still very valuable as a tool).
Fourth round: By this point, I considered the book done. I read it out loud to the living room (my daughter set up a stuffed animal audience for me). I found small things at this point. I call this my final read through. My living room seemed to like it.
Done and Done
At this point, all that was left was formatting and creating a book cover. I did both of these things myself. Maybe I’ll write more about this part later; it’s not super exciting.
And then I uploaded to Amazon the print edition and kindle version.
And that’s how it was done. All in all, it took me a little over a year and there were a couple of months in there where I didn’t work on it.
Hope this helps for anyone working on their own novel.
I am behind this month because the world is crazy! I’m sure many of you are feeling the same way. Days are running together… no one ever leaves the house… my child is never more than a few feet from me… but overall, life is still good.
We have been working on cleaning out extra unused items throughout our whole house. It’s kind of amazing what you accumulate over time and stash away out of sight and then it multiplies and before you know it, you have a basement of old household goods that are usable but dusty.
But the real reason I’m writing today is that I only just realized that I haven’t posted a writing prompt this month. Without more rambling, here is the April short story of the month prompt:
It was different, writing on a typewriter; the clatter and noise, the resistance of the old keys forcing her to really put some effort into each letter. She imagined she was…
Complete the Story
This should be an interesting one… writing about a writer, but it still needs to fit into the “world” I’ve all ready created this year.
If you’ve missed my stories this year, I’m trying to link them all. Here are the stories so far:
To call him stubborn would be polite. Not that politeness mattered to him. Malcolm would probably describe himself as principled. Those closest to him would probably use different words, like jack ass. He never broke the rules. He made the rest of us uncomfortable. We never asked him to tag along when we were going to use magic because he was worse than having our parents around. He NEVER allowed us to use magic within a five-mile radius of a non-magic user, and when we did, he would purse his lips and tap his foot. Then the second we got home, he ratted us out. He was my least favorite cousin.
This summer his family had spent an inordinate amount of time with us. Something was going on – something the adults didn’t want us to know about. As much as my sisters and I had tried to discover what the meetings were about, Malcom had thwarted us at every attempt. The grown ups must have told him to keep an eye on us.
Today though, we had a plan. Two of us were going to take him on an adventure. The other would pretend to not feel well, and then after the others were out of the house, the “sick” one would be free to nose around and find out what the grown ups were up to.
The problem, however, is that we all wanted to be the one to stay home.
“I’m the best at sneaking,” said my youngest sister.
“Mom is more likely to believe me,” said our middle sister.
I looked at both of them and realized quickly I would need to pull rank because time was running out and the two of them could argue like this for ages.
“I’m the oldest,” I said. “And I’m staying. You two find a way to keep Malcolm busy for as long as possible.”
Their collective groans didn’t stop me. I returned to my room and got back into bed.
Not long after that I heard feet running down the hall and then one door opened. I heard the murmur of their voices. My sisters and Malcolm were talking. Then the door opened again and they came to my room where I lay with the blanket pulled up to my chin.
I peaked at them through squinted eyes. “Turn the light off,” I said barely above a whisper. “My head hurts. The light.” My voice trailed off as if I didn’t have the will to finish.
Malcolm took a step nearer but my sisters stayed behind. Even with my eyes barely open, I saw one of them roll her eyes.
“You’re not coming with us?” Malcolm asked.
I grunted. “Not today.”
I saw him doing some mental calculations. He was definitely meant to spy on us. How could our parents put him up to something like that?
“It’s okay,” my youngest sister said. “Come on Malcolm. We’ll tell her all about our fun later. Wait till you see where we’re going.” She was doing her best to sound enthusiastic, and she elbowed my other sister to chime in.
“Yep,” the other said. “It’s going to be super fun.”
If there was ever a contest for vaguest description, my sisters were winning it.
“Maybe I should stay here,” suggested Malcolm. “Your sister might need someone to entertain her and bring her drinks.”
“No,” I said a little too loudly. I fell back and shut my eyes acting like the sound of my own voice hurt me. “It’s just a headache. I’ll be fine alone.”
“It’s related to her woman time,” said my youngest sister.
Malcolm went white. “Okay, then. Let’s go.”
After they left I rolled my eyes. I don’t know how my youngest sister knew that would work, but it did. She was quick.
I didn’t get out of bed immediately. I let the house settle. I heard other people moving about downstairs but everything was muffled.
Then I felt it. The house went absolutely silent. Our house was in the country; it was never this quiet. You could always hear animal sounds outside, and my parents had several windchimes along the porch beams. I couldn’t hear any of them. The house itself often creaked, even during the day, but not right now. Everything was still.
One of the grown ups had cast a spell. Maybe they didn’t know I was still here, but I was definitely inside the bubble. I would need to move about without making any noise. They were sure to hear even the tiniest of noise with everything else hushed.
I turned on the bed and placed my feet on the floor one at a time. I didn’t stand up but let my weight gradually slide that way. As soon as I was standing, I wanted to run down the hall and slide down the banister and get to the kitchen as quickly as possible, but I didn’t want to risk it.
The only way I could think to get down there without them noticing me was to use magic. My mother would be furious if she knew, and luckily Malcolm wasn’t around to rat me out. I cast a flying spell on myself. I wasn’t great at them. My spells didn’t last long, but I had pretty good control over my movements.
I flew out my room slowly and looked around the hall. No one was around and I didn’t hear any movement in the house to indicate someone had felt my spell being cast. My sisters and I were always casting small things around the house, so hopefully I could continue to go unnoticed.
I floated down the hall past empty rooms and headed for the stairs. At the landing, I did another quick search to sense if my movements were being noticed – nothing seemed amiss.
Uneventfully I made my way down the stairs and through the foyer. I was floating outside the kitchen door when my spell began to waver. I tried to recast but I didn’t work it out in time. I fell flat on my face just outside the door and smacked my face into the kitchen door that was being held firmly closed.
It took about two seconds for the door to open. My mother was on the other side. She didn’t even say anything; she just pointed toward the front of the house. My charade was at an end.
I went outside to join my sisters and Malcolm. I sat on the front porch and waited for them to return. Hopefully their adventure was more exciting than mine.
Life is super weird right now! I’m sure many of you feel the same. For me, this “stay at home” situation hasn’t changed my day to day too much. I’m very introverted anyway, and I’m a stay at home mom who works part-time from home.
The biggest change is that my child now doesn’t have school for the rest of the year! And she is always here. Always. I love her but I’m used to some part of each of my day being quiet. We’ll get through this though. 🙂
In addition, because I’m now with her all the time, I haven’t found as much time for those things that I do when it’s quiet — including writing.
I’m going to try and carve out some time each day starting next week that is my “work” time. She is 11 and can spend time in her room.
I hope everyone is okay. Stay safe! Try to stay healthy! And try not to lose your minds!
It’s March! I’m sure you’re aware. And it’s time for a new writing prompt!
Here is this month’s prompt:
To call him stubborn would be polite. Not that politeness mattered to him. Malcolm would probably describe himself as principled. Those closest to him would probably use different words, like…
Complete the Story
This is part of my ongoing goal this year to write 12 stories that are connected. So far, January and February has been great. This one might require more effort though because the prompt creates a character with a name! HMMMMM….
Here are the two stories I’ve written so far if you haven’t read them: