Getting back on track…

I am running terribly behind with just about everything.

We are mostly unpacked with just a few lingering boxes of things I’m not sure if I’m going to unpack floating about. Things are starting to settle for my family. We enrolled our daughter in school, and we’re starting to learn the lay of the land. That being said, it’s time for me to start getting back on track with things. I need to write three short stories at this point (June, July, and August’s).

With that in mind, I’m going to try and get caught up in the next few weeks so that by Septemeber, I can get back to my normal posting schedule.

I’ve already posted June’s prompt, but it was so long ago, I will re-post it now:

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…

Complete the Story

For July, here is the prompt I never got around to posting because of the move:

It felt uncanny, but oddly good, to hear kids running through the house again. I wondered if I could handle being a father, or at least a father figure, after all these years. I thought about the times when…

Complete the Story

And finally, the story prompt that I should be writing for August:

Always the same old lines whenever she came home for the holidays, like her parents were rehearsing a play over and over and never could get it right. Yet they didn’t seem to notice how much they repeated themselves. Her father would sit down to dinner and say…

Complete the Story

It’s a lot to write in the next few weeks, but here we go…

Happy reading and writing everyone!

Still Struggling

Since my last post, things have not gotten any better. This has been the worst move that my family has ever been through.

Today, as we were unpacking one of the last boxes we found my coin collection archival box, but it was empty.

The movers/packers opened my archival box, which just looks like a black cardboard binder, and took my coins.

My coins don’t have that much value — maybe between 20-40 dollars. The coins have sentimental value though. I have been collecting them since I was a child. Most of them are not even US currency. I had coins from all over the world in there.

But the ones that hurt the most are the one dollar bicentennial coin that belonged to my great-grandfather, and the coins we gave to our daughter when she thought we were the toothfairies. They’re gone. The dollar value isn’t what was important. They were important to us because they were tied to memories. And someone stole them.

So, to the mover who took my almost worthless coin collection — SHAME ON YOU.

Moving

It’s been a while since I’ve posted because my family is moving. I’ve had little time for writing and reading.

The move isn’t going to plan. In fact, nothing is going according to plan lately. Instead of being able to make thought out choices, we’ve had to just go with options that we really don’t care for. Our plans for where we were going to live didn’t work out, and now we’ll be living (for a year at least) in a townhouse that is half the size of what we had before.

Not only that, but moving is a lot of work and we will be doing it again in just one year because our plans fell through. I don’t enjoy moving.

And, other things have gone wrong and ended up costing us a lot of money that we were saving for other things. We suddenly had to ship a car, and it cost over a thousand dollars. The car was damaged and it’s going to cost over a thousand to fix it.

It just feels like nothing is going right for us. In addition to all of the stress of moving, my anxiety is getting the best of me. I am losing my mind. I don’t like the way things are working out, and I’ve never been good at making the best of things. I like things to go to plan because that means I had time to prepare.

So, I’m cranky. Extra cranky. And when I feel that way, I want to go home, to my safe space. Instead we will be living somewhere that we’ll have to put a lot of our belongings in storage. It won’t be home. It will be temporary and it will feel that way for an entire year.

I know there are bigger problems in the world right now, but I’m just tired and would like one thing to go right.

Hope everyone else is having a better summer than me.

Happy reading and writing.

June’s Prompt

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…

Complete the story

Now, get writing!

Only kidding; you do you.

Happy reading and writing this month!

Dad, Follower of Merlin

May 2020’s short story of the month

Present day…

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.

What I’ve Learned About Homeschooling My Child…

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Teachers should be paid more. See 1 and 2.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Back to writing!!

Happy writing and reading this month!

May’s Prompt

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…

Complete the Story

Happy reading and writing this month!

Lesson Learned

April 2020’s short story of the month

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.

How My First Book Came to Be…

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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Editing
    • 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.
  4. 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.

Happy reading and writing this month!!!

April’s Prompt

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:

Turkey Dinner Stalemate

Canned Memories

Adventure

Happy reading and writing and whatever else you are up to this month!