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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Acceptance Doesn't Equal Love

Hello, readers!!

At this point, I am sure some of you are wondering if I am in fact still alive. I am. And, I still very much love this blog. I am even working on getting things organized to make it even better!! So stay tuned for that....

In the meantime, this has been on my heart lately, and while it isn't a post about writing, it is a post I have written, so it counts, right?

As I grow older, the more people I talk to, the more I am hit with the idea that love and acceptance go together. Even when people don’t mean it that way, it comes across as “because I love you, I accept you.”

And, as I grow older and talk to more people, the more I am convinced that this is completely wrong.

I crave love more than anything else. I want people to love me. I want people to want me in their lives. I want to be special to people. When my kiddoes tell me I’m the best babysitter ever, that craving is fed and it is the most amazing feeling in the world.

But that doesn’t mean I want to be accepted. I don’t. I don’t want people to simply accept me. As much as I hate it, I want to be called out when I do something wrong. I want people to tell me how I can improve.

I want them to love me, yes. But if they truly love me, they won’t let me stay the way I am.

In our culture today we are hit with this wave of thinking that if you love me, you won’t ever disagree with me. You won’t ever express that you think I am wrong, that you know I’m wrong. You won’t ever ask me to change. I am who I am. If you don’t accept that, you don’t love me. I can push anyone away, call them judgmental, because we do not see eye to eye. And that is socially acceptable.

Acceptance is equal to love, we’re told. Challenging someone, questioning them, is equal to hate.

That is so wrong.

The people in my life who have made the biggest impact on me are the ones who loved me enough to keep me from simply staying where I was. They pushed me to be a better person. They refused to accept me. One of my closet friends in high school had a way of always knowing which questions to ask to make me admit what was wrong. She never allowed me to bottle things up because she knew that wasn’t healthy for me.

But I like bottling things up. I want nothing more than to avoid conflict and I hate talking about how I’m feeling because I do not want to burden people. But that wasn’t good enough for this friend. She pushed me. Harder than I wanted to be pushed. And she made me talk about things I didn’t want to talk about because I knew once they were voiced I would have to deal with them.

And then, guess what? She made me deal with them.

I didn’t want to. Never. That’s why I kept them hidden. But this friend loved me enough to push me past my breaking point, to challenge me. That’s not hate. That’s not judgment. I don’t think this friend is capable of hating or judging me. She is the sweetest, most loving person with the biggest heart. But if she can’t accept me, she’s just a bigot, right?

Or how about my mom? She’s not a writer. And a lot of times, I know she doesn’t understand the things I say or feel or do. So she questions them. Not out of hate or malice or a desire to hurt me, but because she does not understand. And even when I can explain it, even when I make it make sense, I still have to take a step back and examine myself. If she simply accepted me, chalked up everything she didn’t understand to me being a writer, I would never have to take a closer look at myself. I would never have to wonder if my obsession with my current story was healthy or not or if I am spending too much of my time in made up places and not enough in reality. I would be accepted, yes. But is that really love?

Alternately, when I was deciding whether I should get my nose pierced or not, I asked a few moms if my doing this would cause a stumbling block to their daughters in anyway. I know the girls look up to me and I didn’t want to do anything that would cause their moms to want to take them out of contact with me or make them think any less of me (again, because I want to be loved). All of the moms were super supportive and assured me that they saw nothing wrong with it.

But one of the moms added something else. She told me she was fine with it, that it would not affect her daughter in any way. But then she asked me why I was doing it. She challenged me in the most beautiful way to think about whether I was doing it just because I thought it would be a fun change or if I was doing it because of an unrest in my soul. She reminded me that only God can fill that sort of an unrest, that my completion is in Him not a piece of jewelry. And while I simply wanted to get my nose done because I thought it was cute and have for a very, very long time, I still greatly respect this mom because of what she said. She made me examine myself, ask myself if I did need to change or if I was looking for it in the wrong places. She accepted me, yes. But then she loved me enough to challenge me to be a better person.

I could go on and on. I have so many stories about people who have made me a better person because they loved me too much not to.

Love is something that finds you in the place you are. It envelops you in an embrace and tells you everything is going to be all right.

But love doesn’t leave you there. That’s acceptance. Acceptance is saying “Where you are is fine.”

But it’s not. As Christians, we are always working toward being more like Christ, so there is always room for improvement. And, those who believe evolution believe that we are constantly evolving, so we are always changing and growing. Improving.

So, if those two worldviews make up a good portion on the population, why is acceptance so widely taught?

I don’t want people to give me positive affirmation unless they mean it. Please don’t tell me “Good job” unless I actually did a good job. Don’t tell me I’m fine where I am, when I know I am not. Don’t tell me I’m fine even if I think I am.

Positivity is getting in our way. We’re so busy trying to build people up that it becomes a false sense of encouragement. It’s like building a wall with Styrofoam bricks instead of concrete ones. They look great, they seem to be doing the job. But they’re gonna crumble under the least bit of pressure.

What if instead we stopped being positive for the sake of being positive? What if we truly built people up by equipping them to be better people? What if instead of telling people they’re fine we pushed them to be even better?

Because I’m sure I am fine. But I don’t want to be fine. I want to be extraordinary. And not in the way your teachers teach in elementary school, where everyone is special. I mean I want to be pushed to be the very best person I can possibly be.

I want to be challenged. I want to be called out on my crap. I want to be given advice. I want to be told when I do something wrong.

Please speak to me with love. Please be kind. Please be gentle. But please, please, please, don’t accept me for who I am when you know full well that I can be better.

I know I am capable of extraordinary things. I know I can move mountains, I can change the world, I can start a revolution.

But being told those things, they don’t mean anything. Stop telling me I can make a difference, start challenging me about what sort of a difference I am making.

I think my best friend and I get along so well because we can be honest with each other. When she’s being ridiculous, I can tell her. When I’m overreacting, she tells me. I don’t need to be told that my feelings are justified. Believe me, I think that without your help. I need someone to say “Take a step back and breathe. Maybe the other person was just having a bad day.”

I have issues. Major ones. I know this better than anyone. And being told I am okay, being told it’s just who I am, it doesn’t help. It doesn’t make me a better person, it doesn’t help me in anyway. In fact, you’re hindering me when you say that.

Don’t affirm what I say. I don’t want a yes man. Don’t repeat back to me what I just said. Tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me ‘no’ if that’s what I need to hear. Tell me to calm down. Tell me to relax. Tell me to take a step back and examine myself. Challenge me. Push me. Love me.

But don’t accept me.

I never want to settle for mediocrity. And if you are someone who is okay with me settling, no matter how positive you are about it, it’s still a negativity I do not need in my life.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cinderella- The Review...? Rant...? Me Talking About It With Much Emotion

Hey look! It's Monday! And, I'm posting something! This is almost normal!

We'll see if you still love me after you read it though... I apologize if I offend anyone.

And, I've got some other posts written so be sure to look out for those. They're much... tamer than this one...

Anyway! Without further ado:



I wanted to write this review a long time ago, but when I went to see it, I went with my sister, my best friend, and my brother’s girlfriend. And they all loved it. So, I felt sort of bad because I didn’t like it and I didn’t want them to think that my dislike of the movie also meant I was disappointed with the experience.

Danielle, Allie, and Danielle, if you’re reading this, please don’t think I was disappointed that I spent time with you.

Because I wasn’t. I had a blast. I just didn’t like the movie.

Or, as anyone who knows me the tiniest bit can tell you, I don’t just dislike stuff. I obsessively dislike it. That’s how I felt about the new, live-action remake of Cinderella. I don’t just dislike it. I DISLIKE it with a fiery burning passion.

There were a number of reasons the movie just didn’t work for me. Starting with a small reason, I’ll work my way up to the biggest problem I found.

So, first, Cinderella’s dress. What was with the butterflies? Like, it was sooooo beautiful and then the butterflies along the top looked like they had been added on the whim of a five-year-old. No. They should have been left off. I don’t care about motif. Seriously. No. Take them off. The costumer inside of me was screaming. Like, literally screaming inside my head. You may be thinking it’s not that big of a deal, but it is. Trust me. It was wrong and it ruined the magical moment of the dress transformation for me.

Next, the stepsisters.

I. Want. Pretty. Stepsisters.

Or, ugly stepsisters are okay.

Just please, please, pleeeeeeeaaaaaase stop giving me pretty girls in ugly costumes and terrible hairstyles. Part of the reason Ever After works so well for me is because I’m given beautiful stepsisters with ugly personalities. Like, seriously, if they had taken two second to style their hair differently, would we have had a different movie? Would more guys have liked them?

Or, give me ugly girls. Give me girls who eat too much and complain when their mother tries to dress them up and marry them off. Or, maybe they try to be pretty but it doesn’t work. But, please stop exaggerating it. This movie was full of a gorgeous color scheme and then they plop the stepsisters right in the middle of it and it came across as more than a sharp contrast. From the pictures I’ve seen and the few second snippets, they looked as if they would fit better in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland than this version of Cinderella.

I don’t know where this tradition started, but please, people, stop it.

Then there was the story in general. I wanted something new. Anything. Now, I’m not talking about a full new story. I understand that people love it because they kept it truer to the original story and that’s great. It actually gave me a ton of hope for Beauty and the Beast because it shows Disney does actually know how to follow a story without changing everything they possibly can.

But, you can add depth to a story without making it a new story. The only character who had depth, they ruined (we’ll get to that later). I wanted the story to surprise me. To give me another layer.

As a writer, the story was very one-note for me. The dialogue wasn’t particularly witty, none of the characters had much depth, and the story was the exact one we have known since before we can remember. The only parts that grabbed my attention, truly drew me in and made me care, were ruined by the end of the movie. Everything else was uninspiring and even the gorgeous visuals of the story world weren’t enough to keep me interested.

Which leads to my last point- the real reason I didn’t like the movie: The Stepmother.

See, I loved her.

For me, she was the only character with depth. The only character I understood. The only character I truly cared about.

Look at it from her point of view- She’s a single mother with two daughter in a time when men were valued. She has no one to take care of her girls, no one to see they are found good husbands, a place worthy of respect in the world. She’s a mother who wants the very best for her daughters. How many mothers out there can relate to that?

So then she meets this man. And, he’s good and kind and just amazing. And the way he talks about his own daughter, the way he treasures her, loves her, it gives the stepmother hope. Perhaps this man could love her daughters in the same way. Perhaps he could find her girls good husbands, as a man who cares in such a way for his daughter would surely not toss another’s to the wayside. There’s a chance here that maybe this man will offer them a place, see they are cared for, see they get the very best life can offer.

And, maybe, just maybe she finds herself falling in love with him.

But her heart was broken. Maybe by her first husband. Maybe by her father. Maybe by a suitor she wasn’t good enough for as a girl. Someone broke her heart because she obviously isn’t the best at loving people. She wants it. You can see that. At least, I could. But I don’t think she knows what love is. Maybe because no one had ever showed her before.

And, now, she’d found someone who might. Someone she might be able to open her heart to. Someone she might be able to love.

But then there’s that terrible scene where she overhears the father talking to Cinderella about her. That was wrong. Think about it. How would you feel if you overheard your husband talking about you that way? Especially when he clearly told Cinderella before that that he might be in love with her. He called her a second chance at happiness. So, we know this wasn’t just a marriage of convenience. He professed love to her and then turns around and talks about her behind her back.

I’d be pretty mad too.

Especially when he dies and she’s left with the girl. The girl he loved more than her. The girl who kept him from loving her own daughters. Her plans backfired.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. SHE MADE BAD CHOICES. I am not saying she was right to do any of what she did to Cinderella. It was wrong. But, it made sense.

See, Cinderella is all smiles and sweetness, but then goes and talks about her behind her back. I wouldn’t like the girl either. I would probably be pretty ticked off if I found myself her guardian.

Especially when Cinderella’s so much better than her own daughters. Daughters she wants the very best for. Daughters she will stop at nothing to make sure are taken care of. She doesn’t want her daughters to end up like her- twice a widow, left with nothing, no hope, no future for her children.

Who better to set your sights on than the prince? Any children you have will be looked after, even if something happens to your husband. You’ll never want for anything, never go without, and you’ll at least have money to make up for it if the prince talks behind his back about you (not a good philosophy, but one that makes sense).

But, Cinderella is standing in their way. Cinderella, with all her smiles and kindness but beneath it, she just isn’t nice to the Stepmother. They never connected and Cinderella didn’t really try. Not like she should have. It’s like Cinderella just expected everyone to like her and it’s some grave offence if they don’t.

So, the Stepmother takes drastic measures. She goes out of her way to ensure the prince doesn’t meet Cinderella, because she knows there’s no hope for her if he does. Her girls don’t stand a chance next to someone as amazing as Cinderella. They’ll be left with nothing.

You all know what happens. You know the steps the Stepmother takes. But then, Disney gives me one final scene to hate.

That scene at the end, after the prince finds Cinderella. We’re supposed to be cheering. The prince and Cinderella are united! The evil Stepmother has been vanquished.

And so, Cinderella walks down the stairs, gives her Stepmother a condescending little look and says the three words that fill me with rage every time I think about them: “I forgive you.”

I wanted to punch Cinderella. Or, at least the screenwriters.

See, this is supposed to be a great scene. But, really, of course she forgives her. Why wouldn’t she? She’s won. She gets the prince and the Stepmother is left with nothing. Her girls have even less of a chance at finding good husbands than they did before. That’s the thing that determines girls’ worth in that time, that world. And, Cinderella took it all away. She won.

Of course she forgives her Stepmother. Because this woman can never do another bad thing to her again. This woman is fully and completely defeated. And honestly, I would be surprised if Cinderella ever truly thought of her again. She has no reason to.

Forgiveness is easy when your life is perfect.

If she had said those words five minutes earlier, as the Stepmother was taking the slipper, was locking her in her room, I would have loved her. I would have written a completely different post, briefly mentioning the other things, but telling you all what a powerful movie this is. I would be writing about how much I love Cinderella and how amazing she is and how beautiful this all was.

But any effect, any power this story might have had was lost. Because she said those words just a few minutes too late.

But, on the plus side, this movie inspired a Cinderella retelling idea for me and as I was writing this post, I was inspired to write another one. So, I’m off to write that.

Until next time, faithful readers!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Short Story...

My poor blog!

It must feel so unloved...

I don't have a post, but I haven't posted anything lately, so y'all get a short story. I don't have a title for it, so I originally called this post the first thing I could think of that applied, which was "The Goodbye Letter"

Then I pictured that popping up in your inbox and all of you freaking out. Super misleading!!

So, I went with the simple "Short Story." Because that's what it is. It's just something I wrote off a writing prompt, so I hope you enjoy it!

I wrote you a letter you’ll never read. If you look closely at the pages you’ll find the stains where my tears fell as I wrote. The handwriting gets sloppier with each sentence as I became so caught up in the words I forgot to keep my mind on writing legibly. By the end, you probably wouldn’t be able to read what I wrote anyway.
                Not that it matters anymore.
                I baked a cake you’ll never eat. I set it out and the guests all helped themselves, talking in hushed tones as they ate the thin slices. Pineapple pound cake. Your favorite. I jumped every time the door opened, but you never came through it. The cake is gone and the guests left but you never came home.
                I drove past your work every day for a month, but your car was never there. I looked every time I drove by but your blue impala was never in the parking lot, in its usual space. I suppose you don’t drive it anymore, so I don’t know why I would expect to see it.
                I saw you every time I went out, saw you in every crowd, saw you in the face of every stranger I past. But they were never really you. I kept an eye out. I really did. I always thought I would see you, always expected to run into you. But it never happened.
                I still have your voicemail, but it’s not enough. I wanted to see you one last time, wanted a chance to talk, wanted a chance to say goodbye. Why didn’t you give me that chance? You really think leaving a phone message is good enough? You’d really do that to the woman you claimed to love?
                I didn’t get out of bed for days after I got your message. I didn’t eat and my sleep was fitful and full of dreams. More like nightmares. When I did start eating again, I ate my way through six pizzas, three jars of pickles, and nine pints of ice cream. I threw up three times.
                I cried for months. I cried on the way to work and on the way home, and in the shower, and while I sat alone on the couch every night. I blamed you. And then I blamed me. And then I blamed them. I missed you and I hated you. I wanted you back and never wanted to see you again.
                I had to explain it to my friends and family. Only, what was I supposed to tell them? I dreaded facing them and avoided it whenever possible. How could I explain to them when I didn’t even understand it myself?
                You left me. And, I couldn’t even call you. You left me and I didn’t know why. Was it me? Did I do something? Was I not good enough for you? If I had done something differently would we be together today? If I had done things differently would you have stayed?
                I got rid of everything that reminded me of you. I went through the house and did a complete overhaul, throwing everything away, cleaning it all out. I felt so good about myself, actually getting something done. I removed all traces of you, fueled by my anger.
                And then I regretted it and collapsed on the kitchen floor, sobbing, pleading with you to come back to me.
                I waited for you. All those parties I skipped out on, all the people I kept at arms’ length. You were coming back. And I wanted to be available when you did. I waited. I waited so long, put my life on hold, hoping, praying, begging you to come back.
                But, you never did.
                I’ve moved on now. Just like you asked me to. I don’t know when it happened, but it did. One day I realized I could laugh without forcing myself. I could walk past a couple holding hands without wanting to hurt one of them. I actually wanted to go out with my friends.
                I still miss you. There are some days when it hits me all at once and I am struck with the overwhelming urge to cry. But, it doesn’t last. I’m doing better. I can live without you.
                I met someone. He’s so different than you, it’s almost funny. But we fit so perfectly together. I felt guilty at first, like I was cheating on you. I felt like I was doing something wrong, like I was being unfaithful.
                But, you’re not coming back. I’ve accepted that now. And, I’ve forgiven you. I understand now. You didn’t choose to leave me. You chose to fight for something bigger than us, chose to stand up for what you believed in.
                It wasn’t your fault you had to leave me.
                I’m not angry anymore. My life is good, just as you hoped it would be. Just as you asked me to make it. Robert’s a wonderful guy. You would like him. And, you would be proud of me. Proud of the things I’m doing, proud of me for doing so well. But, it’s time for me to let you go. To truly say goodbye. So, here it is:
                Good bye, Ethan.

                Rest in peace.

And, there you have it!! Let me know what you thought in comments below!!! :D

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Books I've Read Recently

Greetings, faithful readers!!

To ease back into this blogging thing, I thought I would share with you some books I have read more recently that I enjoyed.

Okay, actually, these are the only books I have finished recently. And, the first one I finished this August... so, that says something about how little I read anymore.

I really need to get back into it.

But, in the meantime, here are some books I've read and enjoyed, along with my thoughts on them. Because I can't not tell people my opinions about stuff. Not on my blog.

Anyway!! Without further ado, my book list:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Where to begin.

I do not think I have the words to express how much this book meant to me. It moved me and made me laugh and cry and scream with rage and open my eyes to just how horrible people can be while also giving me hope by showing me just how amazing they can be.

Seriously, words cannot express the amazingness of this book. I picked it up cheap at a bookstore because I’ve been trying to branch out in my reading. I tend to read the same sort of stuff and have seriously read no adult books that don’t fall under classic or Christian Romance. So, I thought I would give it a try, take a risk. So. Glad. I. Did.

There are a few major concerns with the book. Due to content, I would recommend not reading it until you’re an adult, an older teen if you’re not super sensitive to content. Aside from some of the language, it’s all necessary and nothing is done without a reason. It’s not bad stuff, just serious. It’s mostly language and thematic elements. Nothing inappropriate just heavy themes.

But yeah, if you are old enough and haven’t read it, you need to. You. Need. To.

Savvy by Ingrid Law
I read this one for book club and had no idea what it was even about when I started it. But, then the
more I read, the more I loved it.

On the surface, it seems like a super simple fantasy story about a girl in the modern world whose family holds a secret- on their thirteenth birthday, each member of the family gains a savvy (a special talent).

But, if you dig deeper, it’s a coming of age story about finding your place in the world. It’s about how scary growing up is and how you need to learn to embrace the changes that come to you. It also sparked some really awesome discussions about relationships that showed me just how mature my girls really are.

I adored this book. And, I need to read the sequels. Because this book is wonderful. And, the best part is that while it deals with such serious themes, the way it’s told, in it’s beautiful, lighthearted way, it’s totally appropriate for its target audience. So, there’s no need to be concerned when giving it to a middle grade reader.

In Between: Book One of the Katie Parker Series by Jenny B. Jones
I have read two books by this author. I adored her There You’ll Find Me beyond words. But, her So, Not Happening just wasn’t my cup of tea at all. But, this book is free on Kindle so I figured I might as well give it a try.

It had me from the opening line. Told from Katie’s perspective, the book starts with a perfectly snarky line that is enough to make me love her right from the get go. There You’ll Find Me is still my favorite book by this author. But, this book did not disappoint me.

It’s very realistic in terms of how it’s told. Katie is the typical foster kid- she wants so desperately to be loved, to be accepted, but she’s terrified and has no faith whatsoever that it will happen. So, she pushes people away. At the beginning of the book, she is trying to do everything in her power to get sent back to the group home. Better to get it over with now, instead of getting comfortable.

I also love how Katie is sent to live with a pastor and his wife but she doesn’t accept what they’re offering right away. It’s not your stereotypical Christian fiction book. She doesn’t jump right on it, there’s no “magic moment” where everything falls into place and she’s suddenly a model Christian. I firmly believe that people have those moments. But, not everyone does and I think it’s dangerous to portray that as being the be-all-end-all in terms of experiences with God. What Katie feels is real. It’s relatable. And, it also leaves it open for her to grow and experience more in future books.

Future books that I can’t wait to read!!

The Mercenary’s Marriage by Rachel Rossano
I have been waiting years to read this book. Every time I went to buy it the time just wasn't right and I
never got ahold of it. I finally bought it on Kindle yesterday and plowed through it in an afternoon. And, loved it so much I bought a copy of Duty on Kindle as soon as I finished it and promptly started to read that. I can't believe I'm only just reading these now. I might have a new author to add to my long list of favorites.

This book is so sweet and beautiful. It's also very short so it can be read in a sitting or two. The main characters are very sweet and their romance it adorable. It's very tame, so if you're looking for a bodice ripper, I would suggest looking elsewhere. The world is also only based on the medieval era, so don't read it if you are a die-hard medieval fan looking for 100% historical accuracy.

But, if you're just looking for a sweet, gentle romance with a medieval setting, you need to read this, because it is amazing. It reminds me so much of the stories I want to write and it inspired me so much. And, also made me just really happy and excited and yeah, I loved it.

Duty by Rachel Rossano
As I mentioned above, I bought this as soon as I finished her other book. I however did not realize what I was getting into when I started it. Unlike the last book, this one is not short. I was hoping to read it that same afternoon and ended up giving myself a headache from reading too long (yes, that can happen- when you’re reading on a Kindle. Which is why print books are superior)

Anyway! Aside from it being much longer than I expected, the book was amazing. Even better than her other one. Her couple was possibly sweeter in this one than the other and her guy was so well written. He was everything you would want from a guy in a romance but at the same time he was so believable it almost hurt. Like, one minute he was telling her that he was glad he married her because she was so strong and amazing and the next he was forgetting to tell her super important details because they slipped his mind or his didn’t think she needed to know them right that second.

And, the main character, Brielle was also so good because the author did a great job making her super strong and independent while also keeping her very organic to her story world. She was every inch a medieval woman while at the same time she was far from a simpering miss who cowered in the corner and could not protect herself. And, as you know from my Here's to Heroines Series I have very strong opinions about that sort of thing.

I will definitely be reading more of Ms. Rossano’s work in the future. This book has a sequel that just came out and I’m opting for the print version this time so as to avoid any headaches. But, I plan to plow through it just as quickly as her other works.

And, there you have it! Comment below with your thoughts on any of these books. Or with things you would like to see me write about in the future.

Until next time, dear readers. Stay awesome!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Greetings, faithful readers!

I am sure many of you have been wondering if I am in fact still alive.

I am, as I’m sure you assumed.

Otherwise, me updating my blog right now would be suuuuuuuuuper creepy…

Anyway! I am alive and I know I totally dropped the ball with this whole blog thing.

Honestly, ever since I started working this summer I’ve been really torn about my purpose in life and I feel like the creativity has been sucked out of me. I’ve been going through a really dry spell. While I was working I was just too exhausted to write my posts. And, now that I’m not I have too much time on my hands and I start wondering things like: If I can’t write, am I really qualified to tell others how to?

But, I’ve been teaching a writing class every week and a good friend of mine just emailed me recently to ask for my advice. And, I realized I can still in fact write about writing even if I'm having trouble writing. I also realized how much I miss this.

So, I’m back. I’m not promising a return to the normal routine, not right away. But, I’m going to start writing and updating again.

And, you can help me out. Drop a comment below about something you would like to see me post- be it a topic you want covered, a question you want answered, a book you want reviewed, a story you want written, details about my life, anything at all. Just drop a comment below and then I’ll have somewhere to start with this jump back into blogging.

Also, before I go, just wanted to say I appreciate all of you. Knowing that when I update this, people are actually going to read it is the reason I’m doing it. Without you, I wouldn’t have a reason to update.

Love you, peeps!


Friday, August 28, 2015

Mrs. Malcolm's School for Aspiring Housewives- Another Blast from My Writing Past

I really wanted to call my book the title above. But, people convinced me that didn't represent my book well enough, so I've decided to change it. To what, I have no idea, but change it I shall.

This story is a mix of western, boarding school, and medieval. Three very different genres, but I hope to make it work.

This is from my old draft. The first one. Somewhere along the way, Piper has changed drastically. Her story, I realized, is a "Man Who Learned Better." So, because I wanted her to change for the better, I had to change her for the worse first. So, she's not nearly as nice in the later drafts than she is here in the original.

But, the other characters are the same. Essentially. There might be a few small changes for them, but at their core, they're the same as you find them here.

Chapter One
On Friday, August eleventh, one-hundred-and-seven girls arrived at Mrs. Malcolm’s School for Aspiring Housewives. Here they would spend four years of their lives learning to keep a proper household and to assist an upper middle-class husband in running a business. A sort of college for those seeking to pursue a “useful education” as most folks saw it.

When Mrs. Malcolm sent Delmar Slade- the school’s odd jobs boy- down to the gate at five-thirty to open up, he found someone was already there; a girl, sitting against the gate post on a worn carpet bag.

Her clothes were a tad too shabby for an Aspiring Housewife, her ginger hair a tad too wild, and her air not quite affluent enough. And, her shoes were in too sorry a state, as worn and scoffed as they were. Del figured she was a wanderer who needed a rest and decided to take it in front of the school.

“Get along with you,” he said, trying to sound tough and failing. He was small for his age- which was sixteen- and had never been very intimidating.

“I will,” the girl said amiably. “Just as soon as you open the gate.”

“And what do you need me to open the gate for?” he asked.

She stood up then and faced him, a hand on her hip, and eyebrow cocked. This impressed him; he’d never seen a girl cock just one eyebrow before. He’d seen boys do it plenty of times, but, never a girl.

“How do you expect me to get in if the gate’s locked?” she replied, a hint of amusement in her voice. Del wondered what she found so funny.

“I’m only supposed to let in students,” he told her.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a rather wrinkled and slightly grubby piece of paper and handed it to him through the bars.

“What’s this?”

She grinned wryly. “If you read it, you’ll find out.”

So, he did just that. And found it was an acceptance letter, signed by Mrs. Malcolm, herself.

“Guess this means I can let you in,” he said, unlocking the gate and returning the letter to her. She stuffed it back in her pocket.

“I reckon so,” she said, picking up her carpet bag and stepping inside. “Am I the first one here?”

Del nodded. “Except for a few returning students who arrived early.”

They started up the walk to the front door. He thought he should offer to carry her bag but, somehow, it didn’t seem right. Besides, she was busy taking in her surroundings and he didn’t want to interrupt.

When they reached the door, he opened and held it for her. “Mrs. Malcolm’s office is the first door on the left. You register there and she’ll assign you a room and get you settled in.”

She smiled and her green eyes shone with excitement. “Thanks-” She paused. “I don’t believe you dropped your name.”

“Del,” he said. “I’m the odd jobs boy ‘round here, so, if you need anything, just holler.”

“Will do,” she said. “I’m Piper Maxwell, by the way,” she added, offering her hand.

Del wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, as a student had never offered him her hand before. But suspended in the air like that, he figured he ought to do something with it. So, he shook it, which was the first thing he thought of. Apparently, that was what she intended because her smiled widened.

“See you around,” she said and went inside. He closed the door behind her and headed around the back to see if Cook had enough wood for the breakfast fire.

Chapter Two
Two to a bed Piper thought as she put her bag on one of the room’s two beds. It was more of an observation than a thought as she was used to sharing a bed- first with her siblings and then with the other girls at the orphanage. She wondered if the other girls had ever shared before. Somehow, she doubted it.

Mrs. Malcolm had made it very clear that she hadn’t known Piper was an orphan. And, if she had, Piper never would have been accepted. Piper had expected as much, which was why she’d been careful to keep it a secret. And, the only reason she’d come clean was because Mrs. Malcolm had been most probing with her questions.

Apparently, most girls didn’t arrive alone, first thing in the morning.

Oh, well, I’m in now, so what’s it matter? she thought as she opened her bag and began putting things into a dresser drawer. It was a large drawer and it looked rather empty, even after she had finished unpacking. She tried to remind herself of something her mother had always said: It’s not belongings a girl needs to her name, it’s character.

You obviously never attended Mrs. Malcolm’s, Mama. I don’t think they care a bit about character. It’s all about money and knowing the right people. She sighed. Classes haven’t even started and already I’m getting lessons in middle-class politics.

The carpet bag was into another drawer and Piper stretched out on top of the bed. She’d been told the other students probably wouldn’t arrive for a while yet and it was possible that her roommates might not get in ‘til late. Besides, she felt just plain exhausted.

Pushing aside all her troubled thoughts, she made mind go blank and focused on her breathing.

In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In.

In no time at all, she was fast asleep.

The door flew open and Piper woke with a start. “I’m sorry, Mrs.-”

She cut herself off as it all came back to her. She wasn’t at the orphanage; she was at Mrs. Malcolm’s School for Aspiring Housewives. It wasn’t Mrs. White; it was her new roommate.

“I’m sorry t’ frighten you, Sugar,” the girl said in a thick southern accent. She was a curly-headed blonde, with large, hazel eyes and rosy, white skin. She wore a cream-colored blouse and a little jacket with belled sleeves. Piper guessed she had a least five petticoats on under her skirt.

Piper hoped the other girls weren’t quite as dressy. Two more of her won’t fit in here.

“I’m Abbie- Lee Cutler,” she said.

“Piper Maxwell,” she volunteered.

“Well, Piper, honey, it’s a pleasure t’ meet you.”

“Likewise, I’m sure.”

Standing behind her, in the doorway, was a rather disgruntled looking Del. He was holding a trunk and, judging by the look on his face, Piper guessed it was heavy.

“Where should I put this?” he asked through gritted teeth.

Abbie-Lee laughed. “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. Just put it over there. And, just put the others next t’ it.”

“There’s more?” Piper asked, alarmed.

Abbie-Lee looked surprised. “Why, o’ course, Piper, honey. I’m gonna be here four years.”

It was Piper’s turn to laugh. This girl is crazy. “You go home for breaks. And you get the summer off.”

Abbie-Lee smiled, but didn’t say anything. Del returned with the second trunk and set it on top of the first. Piper began to wonder how everyone was going to fit in the room. Too much stuff was never a problem she’d had to deal with before.

Abbie-Lee opened the first trunk and began piling dresses onto the bed. “Piper, honey, be a dear and give me a hand?”

With a sigh, Piper climbed from the bed and began hanging dresses in the wardrobe. It’s not like you haven’t got two hands of your own.

They were such pretty dresses. Piper had never touched such fine things before. Normally, girls who wore clothes like that shrunk away from a grubby little orphan like Piper. Not that Piper really was grubby; ‘cause she wasn’t. In fact, she always paid the utmost care to her appearance. But, when you’re an orphan, people don’t pay much attention to your appearance.

She ran her hand over the rich fabric. “It’s beautiful,” she breathed, forgetting momentarily that Abbie-Lee was still in the room.

Abbie-Lee laughed. “That ol’ thing? Why, that’s just something I-” Her gaze fell on Piper’s dress and she cut herself off. “Thank you, Sugar. That’s sweet of you t’ say.”

Piper smiled feeling completely embarrassed. She hurried to hang up another dress.

“So, Piper, honey,” Abbie-Lee said, braking the awkward silence. “Which class are you most looking forward t’ takin’?”

Piper shrugged. “None of them, really. I already know how to do a lot of the stuff we’re supposed to learn. The only reason I’m here it ‘cause it’ll increase the chances of me finding a more well-to-do husband.”

Abbie-Lee nodded. “My uncle thinks my bein’ here will increase my chances of makin’ a good match too. He says it’ll do me good to be away from home too.”

Piper didn’t reply. No, you don’t understand. Any husband you find’ll be rich enough to keep you in diamonds and silk. I’ll be lucky if I don’t get stuck with some dirt-poor farmer.

Abbie-Lee laughed and Piper began to think she did that a lot. At least it was a pretty sound and not one of those annoying, grating laughs. “Of course, Sugar, if you want a boy to look at you, you’re gonna have t’ do better than you are now.”

Piper turned from the wardrobe and looked at her with one eyebrow cocked. “How do you mean?”

She looked Piper up and down. “Well, for starters, that dress,” she said. Piper opened her mouth to tell her that not every girl could afford the prettiest things when she added, “The color doesn’t suit you a’tall.” She shook her head. “Sugar, yellow just isn’t your color.”

Rummaging through her trunk, she pulled out an airy green dress with tiny print flowers. She held it against Piper. “See, this is more your style. It matches the color of your eyes and compliments that ginger hair of yours.”

Her grin was so wide that Piper couldn’t get mad. So, maybe she had insulted her dress, but, Piper guessed that it never crossed her mind that she couldn’t afford anything better.

“Go ahead, try, it on,” Abbie-Lee coaxed. Piper shook her head. “You know you want t’.”

Del came in just then, his arms loaded down with traveling bags. He dumped them on the floor next to the trunks. “That’s the last of it.”

“Thank you dear,” she said. “Now, do tell Piper here just how cute she’d look in this dress.”

Piper felt her face grow hot as Del looked at her. He shrugged. “Sure, you’d look great. I got work t’ do.” He left.

Abbie-Lee sighed. “See what I mean?  If you were actually wearin’ the dress he’d’ve noticed you.”

Piper shook her head. “I’m plain,” she said. “And I have freckles. Boys don’t like girls with freckles.”

“Those lil’ ol’ thing?” Abbie-Lee said. “Why, I bet he didn’t even notice ‘em.”

“Miss Cutler, I appreciate the gesture,” Piper began.

Abbie-Lee cut her off with a laugh. “Miss Cutler? Piper, honey, if we’re gonna be sharin’ a room for the next four years, we might as well call me Abbie-Lee.”

Piper smiled. “All right, Abbie-Lee. Look, I appreciate what your trying to do, but I know I’m not gonna catch a man with my looks and I’m fine with it.”

Abbie-Lee rolled her eyes. “Piper, honey, this school is gonna guarantee you get a man with money. This dress will help see that he’s a good lookin’ man with money.”

Piper laughed. “When you put it that way, I can’t refuse. Shut the door and I’ll try it on.”

With a grin, Abbie-Lee handed Piper the dress and moved to shut the door.

Piper pulled off her dress and shoes and slipped into Abbie-Lee’s dress. The fabric felt soft and cool against her skin and made her feel distinctly more proper. She giggled with delight.

Her roommate grinned. “Why, Piper, honey, you’re simply stunnin’! Let me put up your hair?”

Piper shrugged, feeling quite pleased with herself. Abbie-Lee rustled through one of her bags and pulled out a brush. “You just set yourself down here,” she said, motioning to the room’s dressing table.

Piper did as she was bid and Abbie-Lee set to work. In no time at all, the ginger curls shone. “Well, there you are,” Abbie-Lee said. “You’ll be the belle of the ball, Miss Piper Maxwell.”

Piper smiled as she admired herself in the mirror.

“You have a gorgeous smile, honey,” she added. “You ought t’ try smilin’ more often.”

Piper’s smile widened.

“There now, if that don’t get that handsome young handy man t’ notice you, nothin’ will.”

“I thought I was after handsome young men with money?” Piper teased.

Abbie-Lee frowned. “Oh, yeah, that’s right. Oh, well, you’ll have t’ break his heart then. When Piper looked at her, her eyes wide with horror, the girl giggled. “I’m teasin’, Sugar.”

Piper burst into laughter. The door opened then and a young, dark-haired woman entered the room. Something in her air made the girls suddenly stop giggling. She looked so serious they couldn’t help feeling a tad serious themselves.

“Hello,” Abbie-Lee said. “Are you another of our roommates?”

The girl nodded. “I am Millicent Paige. And you are?”

“I’m Abbie-Lee,” the girl said. “And, this is Piper.”

Millicent nodded gracefully. “It is a pleasure to meet both of you.” She didn’t exactly sound like she meant it but rather like she was saying it because it was the thing to say.

Piper smiled, feeling a tad embarrassed to be wearing a borrowed dress and looking so different than she normally did. Del came in carrying the girl’s trunk.

“Where do you want-” He stopped as his gaze fell on Piper. He stared at her for a minute and once again she felt her face grow hot. He finally gained enough composure to say, “Ah, w-where do you want this?”

Millicent surveyed the room. “Over there would be best, thank you.”

Del did as she instructed. “Is that all you’ll be needin’?”

She winced. “Yes, thank you; that is all that the assistance I require.”

Piper giggled to herself, wondering how this girl was going to survive with Abbie-Lee and herself for roommates if she couldn’t stand a bit of an accent. Poor girl. It’s going to be a long year.

Del turned his eyes back to her. She blushed again. Abbie-Lee giggled and Millicent tsked disapprovingly. His face reddened and he made a quick escape from the room.

Millicent tsked again. “I wonder if Mrs. Malcolm realizes that she has a boy in her employ who makes lovesick eyes at her students.”

“Oh, not at all her students,” Abbie-Lee chimed in. “Just Piper.”

Piper’s face grew even redder. Millicent gasped. “Well!” She turned to Piper. “And, you do not have any problem with that? A hired boy making such obvious love to a girl like yourself?”

“What do you mean, ‘a girl such as myself?’” Piper asked.

Millicent was obviously taken back by the question. “Well- well, I mean, a girl such as yourself.”

“So you said,” Piper replied, keeping her expression as deadpan as possible. She found a little pleasure in the way it seemed to unnerve the girl.

“I mean a girl with your social background,” she finally settled on.

Piper tried not to laugh. Honey, if you only knew. “Naw, it doesn’t really bother me. Sure it’s a little embarrassin’, but, he doesn’t mean any offense by it.”

“Are you sure?” she said quietly, almost to herself. Piper decided to ignore it.

“I’d better-”

Del appeared in the doorway again, a large trunk in his hands. “One last girl and then y’all’ll be rid of me.”

He set the trunk down and turned around. He sighed. “There’s no need t’ be afraid, Miss Dorn. You can come on in.”

A small, pale face, topped with pale- almost white- blonde hair, peeked around the doorway. Her pale blue eyes were filled with a timidity that cut into Piper’s heart. She reminded her of shy little Meg Fletcher from the orphanage. That same hollow expression, making her look so lost. That expression that somehow made her look so little and yet a whole lot older than she really was. Piper couldn’t have cared if she was the crown princess herself, she still wanted to take her in her arms and hug her ‘til she knew everything was all right.

She gave the girl a big smile. “Hello, I’m Piper Maxwell.”

The girl gave a shy smile and stepped cautiously into the room. “I-I’m Annie Dorn.”

“Hello, Annie,” Piper said. “I’m Piper and this is Abbie-Lee and Millicent.”

Del dropped her trunk on the floor and lit out of the room as fast as he could. Annie watched him, her eyes wide and frightened.

“Don’t mind him,” Piper said. “He’s just a bit jumpy today.”

“And, he’s embarrassed because he thinks Piper is pretty,” Abbie-Lee added.

Annie smiled at her. “You are very pretty.”

Piper blushed even redder and got up from the dressing table to cross to the trunk. “Why don’t you start unpacking?”

Annie opened the trunk’s clasps. “Where do I put my things?”

 “Well, since Piper and I are sharin’ a wardrobe, you an’ Millicent here can share the other one,” Abbie-Lee put in, motioning to the other wardrobe with a dainty wave of her hand.

“We’re… sharing…?” Piper said.

Abbie-Lee smiled. “Yeah, and that reminds me, I think you ought t’ put on another petticoat. The way you are now is close to indecent.”

She opened the wardrobe, pulled out one of her own, and held it out to her. Piper shook her head. “Abbie-Lee, I can’t-”

“Oh, you might as well get used t’ changin’ in front of all of us. Otherwise, it’s gonna be a long four years.”

Piper was at a loss. This girl sure had a way of being oblivious to the real issue that it got her what she wanted. She wondered if she really was that na├»ve or if she was just acting to get her way. Either way, she’s very effective.

She took the petticoat and slipped it on under her dress.  Abbie-Lee nodded approvingly. “Very nice.”

Annie smiled and nodded in agreement and Millicent frowned disapprovingly. “That is a good amount of fuss over a dress when there is work to be done.”

Piper blushed. “You’re right. I already put all my things away, so can I help one of you with your unpackin’?”

Millicent shook her head. “No, thank you. I do not require any assistance.”

“I’m good, thanks,” Abbie-Lee said, grinning.

Annie looked down at her feet. “I-I’ve never put my own things away before.”

“Then I can show you how,” Piper offered. “It’s really very simple.”

Annie smiled a little. “Thank you. I’d like that.”

They set to work unpacking her things and hanging them in the closet while the other girls did the same with their own luggage. When the bell rang for supper they set the unpacking aside and went down to face the other girls.

Now the lessons really begin Piper thought. I hope I survive.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Nollie Benson- Another Blast from My Writing Past

I started writing this just after I wrote The Crimson Banner. I never finished it (obviously) and I honestly only really like this scene out of everything I've got written.

I hope to write more someday, because Nollie's actually kind of special to me. And, her story is different from what I usually write (I can't say how, because SPOILERS!). Plus, she lives on a sheep farm and sheep are really cool. I like sheep.

It's a bit like The Crimson Banner in that it's set in a made up kingdom, but the world is realistic enough it's not really a fantasy. Her country is slightly based off of Australia in the 1800's, except the whole deal with there being a king who lives in the country instead of the country being a colony thing thrown in.

And, you should know before you even start reading it that Riff and Nollie are not a couple. They're like siblings, basically, except with the fact that she's his employer to complicate things the tiniest bit. But, only a tiny bit. They're basically brother and sister. So, don't try set them up with each other, because then when I write more your hearts will be broken.

And, I'd rather not break your heart over something so silly.

So, I'll stop talking now and let you read. Here you go, Chapter One of Nollie's story:

“Nollie, come on!” Riff’s voice came up the stairs. I could hear the annoyance that tinged it and felt sorry for having risen a little later than usual. Riff’s father- who was also my foreman, Brahms- was away at market, selling our sheep and wouldn’t be home for another few weeks. Riff had taken it upon himself to see that Benson Heights thrived in his absence and, nobility or not, I had my fair share of work to do, from which he wasn’t about to let me slack.

“I’m coming, Riff,” I called back. “Hold your horses.”

“Stop worrying about the horses and get down here!”

I hurriedly plaited my dark hair into a simple braid. “Come up and get me,” I challenged, tying a scarf over my head.

“Don’t tempt me,” he grumbled.

I grinned as I moved quietly toward the casement. I heard Riff’s boots on the stairs as I eased the window open. Swinging my legs over the sill, I climbed onto the lean-to roof and slid the window closed. I heard Riff pound on my door as I moved across the roof.

“Nollie, come on. We haven’t got all day, you know.”

The pounding and pleas grew quieter and died as I eased toward the roof’s edge. Thankful that Brahms saw fit to let me wear jeans, I grabbed the edge and slipped over. I dangled for a second before I let myself drop and fell with a small thud.

Rising to my feet, I dusted myself off and went inside. Riff wasn’t in the kitchen or main room, meaning he was still up trying to coax me from my room.

“Riff,” I called up the stairs. “Are you coming or not?”

I heard his boots on the wood as he came down the stairs, each step making a solid, ringing thump.

His stern green eyes took me in when he reached the bottom. “How?”

I grinned impishly. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Nollie Benson, I’m going to get you,” he muttered.

I darted out the back door toward the barn and he followed.

“You can’t catch me,” I called over my shoulder, as I rounded the corner of the barn. I stopped in my tracks. In the short time it had taken me to go into the kitchen and tease Riff, the yard had filled with men on horseback. There were about fifteen of them, all of who save one wore blue uniforms with yellow sashes tied around their waists. Royal Guards?

The other man was dressed richly in clothes of deep red with golden trim. He wore a thin circlet of gold around his head.

He couldn’t be who I thought he was.

Riff came around the side of the barn and his grin faded. He moved to stand beside me and tower over me protectively. That’s what I loved about Riff- one minute he was chasing me, intent on making me pay for my tricks, and the next he was my gallant protector. Yes, Riff Ramsey was definitely the ultimate older brother figure.

 “Can I help you?” I asked.

The lead rider stepped off his horse and gave me a judgmental sniff. I suddenly realized how terrible I must look in my jeans and t-shirt. “A female laborer,” he said. “How… modern. Please inform your master that His Highness the king of Stratus is here.”

He was who I thought he was. The king. In my yard. I felt a little faint.

“I’m Lady Magnolia Benson of Benson Heights,” I told the lead man. He eyed me again and raised an eyebrow skeptically.

“I really am,” I felt the need to add.

The un-uniformed man dismounted and approached us. I curtsied as best I could in pants.

“Your Majesty.”

“I’m very sorry, Lady Benson, if this is an inconvenient time,” he said. “I was passing by and I thought perhaps I might trouble you for a drink of water.”

Seriously? The king stopped by for some water? Wow…

“I am very sorry to have bothered you,” he continued. “This is obviously not a good time and I apologize for-”

“Oh, it’s fine,” I hurried to tell him before considering that perhaps it was unwise to interrupt one’s king. “That is, it’s no inconvenience at all, Your Majesty. The- the well’s just over there.”

Riff looked at me like I was insane. “You don’t offer a king well water,” he hissed. “At least, not like that. You could at least offer him a cup.”

But, it was too late. King William had already moved to the well and had his man draw a bucket. Unlatching the dipper from the well’s side, he dipped it in the bucket and took a swig before handing it to his man.

“That was the very best water I’ve had in years,” he said, coming back to where Riff and I stood. He smiled a very charming smile. “Thank you most kindly, milady.”

My heart did a strange pitter-patter and I smiled back shyly. “You are most welcome, Your Majesty.”

He took my hand and kissed it. “Good day, milady,” he said, before turning and remounting his horse.

We watched him and his men ride away before Riff turned to me and said, as if none of that had just happened, “So, where did we leave off?”

With a squeal, I darted for the barn, Riff close behind.

And there you have it! The only decent scene of the whole book. I hope you enjoyed it because, as I said, I would love to write more about Nollie someday. Especially Riff. I adore Riff.