NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

The Difficulties of Writing a Novel

Recently I’ve been trying to start writing again. I’m now working on my third novel “Finding Home: The Pirate Princess.” It’s been awhile since I forced myself to actually sit down and write. And since I’m self-published it really is up to me to get it done. And it can be hard. It’s easy to assume that writing just comes naturally to some people, that amazing sentences just fly forth from their brains onto the paper… or word document in this case. But writing can be hard.

So since I was having trouble even thinking about what to write today for this blog post, I thought I’d share some of the difficulties I’ve found in writing a novel. Maybe it will encourage other writers out there that they are not alone.

1. Motivation. It comes and goes. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s nowhere to be found. Often when I’m just starting on a project, I’m highly motivated and excited about where the story will go and what will happen. It’s almost like an adventure. But as time goes on, and round after round of editing, adjusting, cutting, adding and tweaking the story continue, sometimes the motivation just dies. It’s just not as fun as it was when I started and it really takes some perseverance to keep revising that story to get it right. And that brings me to difficulty number two…

2. Creating an Engaging Plot. Sometimes my first ideas for a story sound really good. But as I start actually writing, what I create can be downright boring. Or I have trouble getting it to connect to the story as a whole. I end up writing some things that later I just have to delete, either because it’s not needed or because it just isn’t interesting. And it can be really hard deciding what is worth keeping and what just doesn’t add anything to the story and needs to go. Having to make those decisions is one of the hardest things I have to do as an author.

3. Keeping Track of what I’ve Written. Remembering how each little scene I’m writing fits into the overall plot can be daunting. Even just remembering details I’ve already written can be difficult and I find myself scrolling back through already written pages to figure out what was happening, or what that character’s name was, or how I described this person in the past. It’s hard to keep track of a whole book and sometimes it seems simpler to just focus on what I’m writing now and hope that when I read over it later it still makes sense within the story.

4. Sifting through Critiques. As I write, I try to get some feedback from people. But sometimes their advise or what they notice can be hard to hear. It can be discouraging or overwhelming. I once went back and changed my whole book’s point of view so that it was more first-person instead of third-person, because someone who read one chapter said it was more engaging that way. I know I don’t have to make my writing appeal to each person who reads it, and ultimately if I like it, that should be good enough. But I do want to hear what others have to say and often someone else can spot a problem much more easily than I can. And so it again is up to me as the author to choose what advice to listen to and what to ignore. And that is a hard decision to make.

I know there are many other things that are hard about writing, and I don’t even know what kind of hoops people who have publishers have to jump through. But in any case, writing isn’t easy. It is a lot of work, requires tough decisions and many people who try to do it give up.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s that even though it is difficult, it’s worth it. So don’t give up. If you’re trying to finish a book, or a screenplay, or a short story, or a poem, or whatever it is, don’t give up. Just keep writing.

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Encouragement for Writers

When I look at the journey it took to write these two books, I don’t regret the long hours of editing, the staying up late thinking of new plot points, or working on formatting. The feedback and revisions, the reading and rereading all took time, but in the end there’s an actual book that I can say is mine. I wrote it. I edited it. I published it. And now I can call myself an author.

 

Writing is hard, it’s a long journey to go from an idea to a book in your hand. Sometimes it can take so long, that people give up. That’s why it’s nice to have someone encourage you along the way, to remind you why you even started the process and to give you some perspective.

I’ve written two books and I’ve started on the final book in my trilogy but I’ve been in a rut for awhile. It’s hard to make some of those big plot decisions, especially alone, but I want to get back into it.

One of my friends at church said he’s also trying to write a screenplay, and another of my friends is trying to finish her novel. This week I had an old acquaintance ask if I could read over his book and edit it a bit. And I also got an email from a book fair reminding me that they would love for me to submit a new book for this year. All of these people in my life have reminded me that I do love writing and I do want to finish this book. I just need to start working again. It may be overwhelming, but it’s worth it in the end, and I’m not alone. Lots of people do what’s hard everyday and refuse to give up on their dream.

So I thought I’d throw out some encouragement to any other writers out there. Even if you feel stuck in a rut with writer’s block, don’t give up. Keep going and finish that project you’ve worked so hard for.

So I guess I should listen to my own advice and get back to writing now, hopefully I can post some previews of the next book soon.

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John Flanagan or Rick Riordan

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I was thinking about what my favorite book series are and that got me thinking about two authors that I have enjoyed a lot in the past few years: John Flanagan and Rick Riordan. I was introduced to Riordan’s books first by a 6th grader who was reading The Lightning Thief. It was an awesome book with lots of humor, very good descriptions, an intriguing story and great characters. I read the whole Percy Jackson series that summer and loved it. Then I eagerly awaited each new book in his Heroes of Olympus series. So when someone has asked me who my favorite author is in the past, I’ve often said Rick Riordan.

But more recently I’ve started reading John Flanagan’s Brotherband Series. I got into his Ranger’s Apprentice books several years ago but I was always hesitant to try this new series. Often with authors, I find that I like stories with certain characters but once they bridge off to new stories with new characters, I don’t like them as much. But I was surprised as I started reading Brotherband. Even though I had seen none of these characters before, except for brief mentions of Erak, I fell in love with the characters. Each book has been interesting and has an intriguing plot. It made me wonder why I hadn’t tried this series sooner.

Then I had a realization. Even though I love the Percy Jackson series by Riordan, I haven’t loved his other series. I never could get into the Egyptian one, the Norse one sounded interesting, but I never started and even though I’ve been trying to read the one about Apollo I’ve found it hard to get into. It’s like I’m forcing myself to read it, instead of getting sucked in. There are still some good characters and plenty of humor and references to modern culture, but it’s missing something. And I think that something is a connection to the characters and a desire to see them succeed. In Apollo’s series, his character is so full of himself that it’s hard for me to care if he complete’s his mission or not. Plus Riordan’s thing is to write all about other gods and that is sometimes hard for me to read as a Christian. He has also started adding more and more non-traditional relationships in his stories and that just make it harder for me to enjoy.

John Flanagan on the other hand, has a way of creating an intriguing story with diverse characters that you can still relate to. Even though I love Halt and Will from the Ranger’s Apprentice Series, I’ve found that I love Hal and his friends just as much in this new series. There’s even a girl character with my name so that makes it even better.

So even though I’ve said Rick Riordan was my favorite author in the past, I don’t think I can say that anymore. I’ve definitely enjoyed some of his books, but I can’t say that for everything he’s written. But from all that I’ve read from John Flanagan, I can say that.

So anyway, if you’re looking for a good book series to read this summer, I’d suggest Ranger’s Apprentice, Brotherband, or Percy Jackson if you’ve never read it.

Happy Reading!

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Author Visits and a Shout Out to School Librarians

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting Baranoff Elementary in Austin, TX. I feel like I’m becoming an old pro at these author visits and instead of being nervous, I was excited. As I drove in the misty morning rain to this elementary school, I couldn’t wait to get started. Just as Dezavala, I was scheduled to speak to the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. I had several boxes of books, my slideshow all ready to go, and even some fun music to play in the background while the kids found their seats.

With all of these school visits, I’ve discovered that having help from the librarian is a huge factor in how the visit goes. They know all of the kids and teachers, how the computers work, and what setup would work best. So I just want to give a shout out to all the school librarians out there. You do a great job at opening up the world of reading to students and I’m personally grateful for all the work you do.

Ms. Merriman is the librarian that I got to work with for this school. She did a great job of advertising the visit and getting the students excited. By the time I got there, they were all ready to pay attention and learn. I was particularly struck that my being a native Austinite had such an impact. I guess I’d never noticed that the other schools I’ve gone to are technically not in Austin. So this was my first Austin ISD school visit and they really made me feel welcome.

Ms. Merriman and her library clerk

Ms. Merriman and her library clerk

Several students had preordered the books and I had spent a good hour or so signing books the day before my visit. But Baranoff wasn’t done. Several more students decided they wanted a book the day I came and I ended up signing several more books while I was there. Ms. Merriman did a great job of giving me space to breathe and sign books in between each group. She also had the great idea that I would read a section of the book after my presentation and before the question time. That way the kids were still focused and ready to listen. It worked great and I was especially happy when I stopped reading and several kids made the “aww” sound because they wanted more. I hope most of them get to read the books over the holiday break.

And speaking of the kids, boy were these kids fun to talk to. So many of them were interested in writing and had great questions or wanted to tell me about their own books or stories. It was so fun to see their enthusiasm. I even had one girl say that her favorite book is Finding Home. I got pictures with a few of them and personally signed about 80 books. It was a great experience and I hope that all of the future schools I visit will be like this one.

So in honor of the Baranoff kids and in case you’re interested in the book, I thought I’d give a little preview of the section I read to the students. And actually I’ll add a bit extra since it’s one of my favorite scenes. Enjoy!

Chapter 2

The Innkeeper

“Lazy hands make a man poor,

but diligent hands bring wealth.”

Proverbs 10:4

      Ben finally collapsed in a field; too exhausted to take another step. He let the tears run freely now that no one was around to watch him fall apart. Gradually his heart slowed down and his breathing became normal. Finally Ben rolled onto his back, and stared aimlessly at the clouds.

Why God? What did I do wrong? Ben waited for an answer as the clouds floated gently in the spring breeze. After several minutes, Ben sighed and sat up. Now what? He wiped another tear from his cheek as the face of his father came to mind. He always believed in me… taught me so much, and gave me all that I needed… I didn’t deserve him.

Ben pulled his father’s sword out of the common scabbard it was stored in and studied it. Unlike the scabbard, the sword itself was very beautiful. It was double edged with an ornamented silver hilt engraved with the image of a golden eagle. I wonder where he got this. It doesn’t look like a sword that he could afford.

Ben noticed the sun was already past its zenith. I guess I should try to find a place to stay…. He reluctantly slid the sword back into its scabbard and stood up. He gazed back to where he had come from and shook his head. I never want to see that innkeeper again. He turned and started walking in the opposite direction.

* * * * *

      As the sun began to sink behind the horizon, Ben climbed a small hill and stopped to survey the landscape. A strange gray fog in the distance caught his attention. He was mystified as he studied the odd blending of gray into the colorful sunset. After a minute or so it dawned on him what the gray haze was. That must be smoke from a village.  Ben glanced at the sun as it dropped behind the horizon. I better hurry so I won’t get locked out of town tonight.

* * * * *

      It was nearly midnight before Ben reached a worn sign just outside the small village. The sign’s faded letters revealed that Ben had just arrived at Rosenwood. The gates were closed. However, the man guarding the gate allowed Ben in without too much of a fuss. While walking through the deserted streets, Ben felt the weight of an overpowering emptiness. All was quiet and dark, only a few scattered noises in the distance gave proof that anyone lived here. An old creaking sign indicated an inn nearby. Ben walked stealthily to the inn, feeling as if disturbing the quiet would be disastrous.

A lone light shone inside where a hefty innkeeper with graying hair was counting his money from the day’s business.

Ben walked in and studied the man’s plump nose and crinkled face, trying to decide if he was the kind of man that would let him stay the night without paying.

The man stopped counting all of a sudden and turned to face Ben with a frown of annoyance. “What do ya want?” he asked gruffly.

“I was wondering if I could sleep here tonight.” Ben replied.

The innkeeper’s small brown eyes darted up and down, studying Ben’s features. “Got any money?”

“Well no, but I can work for my stay. I can wash dishes, clean tables, serve food, or even muck out the stables.”

“Ha, muck out the stables. Tell ya what, if you clean the stables, you can sleep there.”

“Alright,” Ben answered with a faint smile on his face. “I’ll do it.”

The man grunted as Ben left, then turned back to resume counting his gold.

Ben found the musty old stable and started cleaning the stalls. He tried to focus on his work and keep the thoughts of the loving family he had lost to a minimum. However, as the night wore on, Ben couldn’t keep the thoughts from creeping into his mind. Once he had finished cleaning, he gave each of the few horses a fresh bucket of water and a thorough brushing. With all the unhindered thoughts of his family floating about in his head, Ben doubted that he would be able to sleep at all. However, around three in the morning, he finally drifted off in a pile of fresh hay.

* * * * *

      The next morning dawned bright, and the little town of Rosenwood started bustling with women doing laundry, men beating out metal, venders hollering out to shoppers, and children running around the market.

The old innkeeper closed his tired eyes and stretched his sore back. He had spent the whole morning making food for his customers and finally had a free moment to sit down.

A customer came up to pay his due. “What money do I owe you?” he asked pleasantly.

“Ten pieces of gold,” the innkeeper replied.

“Really, that seems rather generous of you.”

“What do ya mean?” the innkeeper’s eyes squinted as he tilted his head to the side. “Ten pieces isn’t cheap, at least not for the prices ‘round here.”

“Well my horses were taken care of so well, I assumed it would cost more.”

The innkeeper stared at him dumbfounded.

“You know, the clean stalls, fresh water, and they were groomed magnificently. I’d say they were the king’s horses, if I didn’t know them.”

The innkeeper wasn’t sure what to say so he remained silent.

“Well here’s five extra pieces, I think you deserve them,” the man said with a smile. Then he turned and went on his way.

The innkeeper scratched his head. “What in the world is he talking about? That stable is filthy and I wouldn’t touch a horse for all the money in the world.” He dropped the coins in his pocket and went over to the stable to make sure the man wasn’t hallucinating.

As the innkeeper walked to the stable he saw the man leading his horses out into the street. They really were magnificent; each had a smooth clean coat that shone in the morning light. Even with his fear of horses the innkeeper admired their beauty. “But how did they…? I didn’t….”

As he stepped into the old stable, he gasped.

Everything was put away, the stalls were all clean and the smell of fresh hay filled the room. He stared almost unbelieving when a thought struck him. “There was a boy last night… and I told him that he could sleep here if he cleaned up the place.” The innkeeper smiled to himself, “So that explains the fancy horses and clean stable.” The old man soon spotted the boy soundly sleeping in a fresh pile of hay. He walked over to the boy and gave him a gentle shove with his foot. “Wake up young sir. Are ya hungry?”

Ben rolled over and opened his calm blue eyes. “Huh? Hungry? Oh, yes I’m hungry.” He sat up and rubbed his eyes.

“Good, I need some way to repay ya for cleaning this old stable and those horses. Did you know I got five extra pieces of gold for your work? And a mighty satisfied customer if I do say so myself.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that, sir.”

“Yes, well, no need to call me sir… and what pray tell is your name?”

Ben stood up. “I’m Ben, what’s yours?”

“People call me John.”

“Well nice to meet you John,” Ben said as he shook his hand.

“Nice to meet you too. By the way, I’m sorry for making you sleep in the stable. I thought you were some naughty kid that needed to be taught a lesson about running away from home.”

Ben frowned and looked down at the floor. “No, I didn’t exactly run away, I kind of lost my family.”

“Well I’m sorry… is there anything I can do?”

“Not really.”

John studied Ben’s downcast face for a minute. “Alright, then we’ll just get you some breakfast.”

 

 

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NaNoWriMo 2016

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Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. This little author has gotten quite busy in the past month. One of the main reasons is that I’m attempting to join in on NaNoWriMo this year. The National Novel Writing Month is a great way for anyone to jump start their writing. And since I finally finished and published Finding Home: The Lost Brother this year, I thought it was time to start writing the third book in my Finding Home series. I’m planning on this being the last book in the trilogy. But who knows what could happen. A fourth book could end up popping into my brain at some point.

For anyone interested in what this next book will be about, just know that a lot of things still need to be worked out. I’m in the very early stages of writing. But because of NaNoWriMo, I have almost 20,000 words written so far. This book will be focusing more on Princess Serina’s perspective and the working title for now is Finding Home: The Pirate Princess. From the title it’s easy to see that there will be some swashbuckling adventure in this book. I hope any of you out there who have read the other books will check this one out when it is finished.

And if there’s any aspiring authors out there, this in the month to start! Join in with NaNoWriMo and start writing. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you have a goal and a lot of other people helping you stay focused.

Sign Up For NaNoWriMo Here

I may have fewer posts for the rest of this month, due to all of the writing for NaNoWriMo. But maybe that means I can post some sneak peeks of the third book when this month is over.

Also, I’m very excited to be speaking to the students at DeZavala Elementary next week. So you can expect a post about the school’s Author Visit in the future.

Hope all of you are having a great week!

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I was going to write that

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In the course of being an author and constantly coming up with new ideas for books, there tends to be a misconception that what I’m writing is original and no one has ever thought of it before. And though that could be true, sometimes it just so happens that someone else thought of the same thing before you and already wrote their story. Now it’s not wrong to have similar stories out there, and there are bound to be similarities between almost any book and any other. But this past week I was surprised to find a youth trilogy that lined up so well with an idea me and my sister had come up with.

Alicia and I were inspired one day while driving to create a story involving time travel. There are plenty of books out there that use this concept, so it’s not surprising that I stumbled across one of them in a Thrift Store this past Saturday. But what did surprise me was all of the ways its story lined up with our plan.

We hadn’t written anything down yet, but we were thinking of having two kids traveling to the past, maybe even to different countries and then one of them getting stuck in the past. My sister would write from the perspective of one of the characters and I’d do the other. One would be living in the past and having to adapt and the other would be searching for a way to reunite with their lost friend. We thought that there could be an age difference that is significantly changed by the time they meet each other again.

So when I found a book called The Time Travelers The Gideon Trilogy and read the description of two kids getting transported to the past, I looked at my sister and said “It’s our book!” We promptly bought it and I spent the next couple of days reading. It was so cool to see the basic idea we’d come up with fleshed out in a complete book, and not only a book but a series. I ended up getting the next two books in the trilogy from the library and I’m deeply engrossed in book 2 at the present.

I was particularly excited when I discovered that our two heroes do get separated in the series and one has to travel back to the past to find the other. There also happens to be a mistake so that they have very different ages from each other. I can’t wait to see how this series ends.

Even though it seems like the book we wanted to write has already been written, I think my sister and I might still write our own version one day. And perhaps this book will inspire some of our creations.

So if you like youth fiction and are looking for a new series, check out The Time Travelers, or check out my Finding Home series if you want to. And if you’re an author, just know that even though your work may not be completely original or unique, it can still be your own and a lot of fun for someone out there to read.

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How I Became An Author

I’m excited to announce that I will be visiting a school in Giddings, TX! Immanuel Lutheran School has graciously invited me to come speak about writing and my new book Finding Home: The Lost Brother on September 8th. I’m so excited to talk with kids about my experience with writing and publishing books that I just had to share.

I know most people who read this blog will not be able to come to this school, or any of the school visits I get to be a part of, so I thought I’d share a little bit of what I will be talking about while I’m there. There’s a lot more to my speech along with some questions for the kids, but I thought y’all might like this little glimpse into my life and how I became an author.

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My sister after she won NaNoWriMo for the 1st time

How I Became An Author

When I was younger I always loved to make up stories by playing pretend games. I’d imagine that my backyard was the Oregon Trail and I’d pull my little wagon around it like I was really traveling to Oregon. I’d pretend I was a horse or a dog with my sister and I’d pretend I was a mermaid or a dolphin while I was in the pool. But as I got older, I started to write down some of the stories I imagined. And I always wanted to make up new ones. I got into the habit of trying to think up a good story whenever I went to bed and hoping that I would end up dreaming about it. That didn’t work very often, but one time, when I was trying to fall asleep, I started thinking up a really great story. Usually if I liked the story enough I would try to write it down so I wouldn’t forget it, but this story was so good, I didn’t want to just write it down, I wanted to share it. So I started writing.

Now writing down the basic plot points of a story is one thing, and actually writing out the dialogue and what the characters do and say is very different. I worked really hard on making my story a reality for a few months, but eventually I started focusing on other things, like school and friends. By the time I went to college my idea of finishing this story and actually publishing a book was still something I thought would be cool, but I didn’t know if I ever would.

Then when I was a senior in college my sister did something amazing, and well it kind of brought out my competitive nature. She decided to do NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month and write 50,000 words in one month. I didn’t think she could do it, I mean I had been working on my book for years and hadn’t written that much. But she did it, she wrote a whole book in one month. And I decided, if my little sister can do this, I can do this. So I set to writing my book and actually finishing it. And the next year when she decided to do NaNoWriMo again, I joined her and wrote the first draft for my sequel.

And that’s how this book got it’s beginning, from a little bit of competition.

 

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Release Date

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Hey everyone, I’m trying to be more intentional about my writing. So all of you can hold me accountable. The next book in my Finding Home series is almost done. I’m setting the Release Date for June 30th 2016! If you read the first book: The Orphan’s Journey, then you’ll like the continuation of the story in: The Lost Brother.

Thank you to everyone who’s supported me through this long process of writing and editing. I hope y’all enjoy the new book! And as a gift to you, here is a sneak peek of the newly revised 1st Chapter!

 

Chapter 1

A Lost Home

“The rich rule over the poor,

and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

Proverbs 22:7

The small town of Hampton was full of life as the salty air rushed by in the afternoon breeze. The stalls of vendors reeked of fish and mollusks from the day’s catch. The sounds of haggling mixed with the shouts of children who were playing hide and seek amongst the crowd.

War, it would seem, could not touch this place. This rural fishing community with its squat little cottages spread across the rolling hills was too far removed from the rest of the country to get caught up in any of its recent excitement.

Unlike the other children playing hide and seek, Josiah was neither smiling nor laughing. He set the heavy water bucket down for a minute to catch his breath. It was a long climb from the village well back to the breezy hillside where he now lived. He studied the imposing stone structure for a minute, so different from the home he had grown up in. He tried to remember instead the old cottage, with the kitchen fire bringing warmth and light to the whole family. He could still picture each of his brothers’ smiling faces. That’s how he remembered them; always smiling, always having fun.

Josiah shook the image from his head and found himself staring at the full bucket. No, I shouldn’t be thinking about them. Everyone says I can’t change what happened and I should be thankful for what I have. A sigh escaped his lips. It wasn’t that he was ungrateful for the family that had taken him in, now that he was an orphan, but still things would never be the same.

“Josiah? Are you going to dawdle all day or are you going to fetch me that water?” a loud voice echoed down to him.

“Coming!” Josiah replied, trying to sound respectful. He flexed his fingers and again took hold of the rough handle.

The large woman with dark brown eyes who met him at the door could have been pleasant to look at if she wasn’t constantly frowning. She glared down at Josiah with her permanent frown planted squarely on her fat face. She crossed her arms, “What took you so long? A grumpy old donkey could move faster than you.”

Josiah’s eyes fell to the ground. “Sorry, Margaret.”

“It’s Lady Margaret to you!” she said with a huff. “How many times do I have to remind you? You’re such a dunce. Now hand over that water bucket.”

Josiah handed the bucket to the waiting servant and reluctantly took another empty bucket from the floor. “Yes, Lady Margaret.”

“Now be quick with this one. No more lollygagging, got it?”

Josiah nodded and turned back down the large hill. He hurried along, willing his legs to move faster than he felt was possible.

An hour later, Lady Margaret, finally satisfied with the amount of water Josiah had collected, released him from his chores. “I shall be indisposed for an hour, but I expect you to be back here when I am through. Do you understand?”

Josiah nodded. “Yes, Lady Margaret.”

“Good.” Lady Margaret shut the door.

Josiah sighed and turned to face the sea. This was his favorite time. Lady Margaret, for all her faults, also had a love for long baths that allowed Josiah a precious hour of freedom. He skipped down the hill’s worn path toward his best friend’s home.

A sturdy little cottage covered with flowers came into view. The woman of the house loved to garden, and the sweet scents overpowered the salty sea air around the home. Vines covered with little purple flowers climbed all over the stone walls, while window boxes overflowed with yellow and pink blossoms.

Josiah smiled to himself and called out, “Alex?”

A woman’s thin face popped out from behind a bush teeming with little pink flowers. “He’ll be out in a minute Josiah. He’s washing the dishes for me.”

Josiah grinned back at the woman’s kind face. “You need any help Holly?”

Thin strands of her brown hair swayed as Holly shook her head. “Not today. I’m almost done.”

Josiah nodded and began to wander through the various flowers while he waited. As he watched the bees hum from one bloom to the next, he finally felt a sense of peace. Compared to the dark stone mansion where he now lived, this place felt like heaven. Why couldn’t Alex’s family have adopted me? We’re already like brothers.

Josiah sighed because he knew why. Though Alex’s family was generous, there was a limit to the help they could give. They could barely keep up with feeding their own children. In comparison, Lady Margaret and Lord Gregory had a surplus and no children to care for. Even though Josiah felt more like a servant than a son in their home, he couldn’t complain. He had food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and a roof over his head.

“Hey Josiah!”

Josiah turned to see Alex wipe a wad of soap bubbles out of his tangled brown hair. “You done with soap duty?”

“Yeah, you done with bucket duty?”

Josiah rubbed his calloused hands. “Yeah, for today anyway.”

“You want to go to the beach?”

“Actually, I was thinking of… you know.”

Alex shrugged. “Sure, we can go there today.”

“Well let’s go then! I only have an hour you know,” Josiah said as he sprinted toward an old dirt path.

Alex picked up a smooth walking stick and swung it over his head. “I’ll get ye yet ya slippery eel!”

“You’ll have to catch me first!” Josiah called over his shoulder. He darted through the forest, ducking under low limbs and jumping over thick tree roots like a wild animal. Then he dived behind a bush and waited for Alex to catch up.

Five minutes later Alex came up the path poking his stick into several bushes. He stopped and called out, “Alright, you can stop hiding now Josiah. I’m tired of this game.”

Josiah grinned as he watched Alex and mimicked a bird’s sharp whistle.

Alex sat down and crossed his arms. “I’m not playing anymore Josiah. You always win.” He waited for an answer and poked his long stick into the thick foliage. “At least give me a hint!” Alex searched a bit longer than threw his stick down. “Ugh, you’re no fun. I’m going home.”

Josiah suddenly sprang out of the bush he had been hiding in and tackled Alex to the ground. “Got you!” he said triumphantly.

Alex pushed him off. “No fair! You didn’t even give me a hint that time.”

Josiah sat up with a grin. “Sure I did. Didn’t you hear the bird calls?”

Alex tilted his head to the side. “That was you?”

Josiah winked.

“It’s not fair,” Alex pouted. “I never got special lessons about being quiet in the woods.”

Josiah frowned. “Yeah, well, just be glad it wasn’t you.”

“Come on, tell me about it.”

Josiah shook his head to dislodge the image that had popped into his brain of a man with feathers sticking out of his dark hair.

“Please,” Alex whined.

“Cut it out Alex. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“But I’m your best friend! You can share your secrets with me.”

Josiah stood up with a grunt. “Come on, let’s go to the house, I don’t have much time left.”

Alex got up reluctantly.

The two boys scurried through the woods and soon broke into a clearing. They raced up the familiar path that led to a well-worn cottage in the distance.

“Are you still planning on living here one day?” Alex asked.

“Of course, we’re going to be neighbors. I’ll live in my cottage, and we’ll build you another one right… there.” Josiah pointed to an uncommon spot of level ground.

“I wish you could live here now,” Alex sighed. “Then we could play all the time… like before.”

“Like when we were kids.”

“What are you talking about? We’re both ten. We are kids,” Alex said, a bit confused. Then he laughed. “Except when I’m doing dishes, then I’m just like a real adult.”

Josiah shook his head and laughed. “Yeah, you’re a real grown up now.”

Alex hit Josiah in the stomach playfully. “Hey, it’s a start.”

“Yeah well, don’t be in a hurry. Being an adult isn’t that great. Trust me.”

Alex stared at his friend with concern. “What do you mean?”

“Never mind.”

“One of these days Josiah, you’re going to tell me what happened to you.”

Josiah studied the ground and kept silent.

Alex sat down with a huff and stared out at the ocean. “It is a nice view though. I can see why you like it up here.”

Josiah nodded, but he turned to look at the cottage instead. He closed his eyes and imagined his family standing there with him.

“Guess you have to go home now,” Alex muttered.

Josiah’s eyes snapped open and he glanced at where the sun was in the sky. “Oh no, I’m going to be late,” he groaned.

“Well, guess I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Alex said as he stood up and wiped dirt off his hands and onto his pants.

Josiah nodded glumly but didn’t move; he didn’t want his hour of bliss to end.

Alex headed for the worn path that led to his home and turned to wave. “You better hurry Josiah!” he called.

Josiah lifted his hand in farewell and watched as his friend disappeared into the trees. “Bye,” he said under his breath. He took one last look at the snug little cottage then took off at a sprint, heading for the cold stone manor that he now reluctantly called home. He arrived out of breath and as he suspected, late. He could hear Lady Margaret mumbling to herself through the door. He couldn’t make out the words, but she sounded irritated. Part of Josiah wanted to turn and run away. I could just leave, never look back. I could just live on my own…. But something held him there, for though the situation was almost unbearable, being alone seemed far worse.

“I can hear you breathing,” Lady Margaret said loudly. “Get in here now!”

“Too late now,” Josiah muttered to himself. He pulled the door open and walked into the dimly-lit manor.

“You’re late,” Lady Margaret said with quiet impatience.

“Sorry,” Josiah mumbled.

“You don’t even have an excuse this time?”

Josiah shook his head.

“Gregory is not going to like this.”

Josiah cringed.

Lady Margaret smiled with satisfaction. “Go wash up now, dinner is ready.”

Josiah nodded and sulked over to the washbasin. He rinsed his hands slowly, his mind racing, wondering which punishment Lord Gregory would inflict on him this evening.

Just then, Gregory’s oversized body squeezed in through the door. “Ah, it’s good to come home to a warm meal,” he said happily. “What’s this I smell Margaret? Could it be lamb?”

Margaret laughed. “No, guess again.”

Gregory’s heavy footsteps caused the stone walls to echo with loud thumps as he made his way to the table.

Josiah frowned at the large muddy tracks scarring the freshly polished floor. Great, guess my punishment will be cleaning that floor again.

Gregory inhaled deeply, moving the thick brown hairs of his mustache. “Hmm, perhaps venison is our treat of the evening.”

Margaret shook her head. “Come now, stop being so extravagant.”

Gregory frowned and rubbed his scruffy beard. “We’re not having chicken again, are we?”

Margaret nodded. “Unfortunately, when we have more mouths to feed the delicacies give way to the practical.” She eyed Josiah accusingly.

Josiah avoided her gaze and took his seat. It’s not like I wanted you to take me in either.

Gregory sighed. “I was hoping for something else, but at least it’s not fish.” As he sat at the head of the table, his massive chair gave a groan.

A servant rushed in with a platter of steaming chicken and another followed with a platter of rolls. The two servants rushed in and out of the kitchen, carrying dish after dish of delectable food.

Gregory began tearing into a chicken leg and several rolls before the whole meal was even on the table.

Margaret sat delicately in her own chair and began picking out several choice berries and a slice of chicken breast.

Josiah sat still as a statue, waiting for them both to begin eating. He had come to the understanding that the more his presence went unnoticed, the better. Once the two had finished serving themselves, he grabbed a few leftovers and nibbled at them quietly.

As Gregory started on his second helping of food, Margaret cleared her throat.

Gregory ignored her as he kept eating.

A servant refilled Margaret’s glass, but she cleared her throat again, more loudly this time. When her husband still ignored her, she raised her voice. “Gregory.”

Gregory made eye contact but refused to stop eating.

“We’ve had another unfortunate mistake that needs correcting.”

Gregory rolled his eyes and swallowed. “What is it this time?” he moaned.

Margaret locked eyes on Josiah. “Our dear little boy has refused to follow directions again. He needs to be disciplined.”

Gregory glanced at Josiah with annoyance. “Can’t you go one day without getting in trouble?”

Josiah’s eyes dropped to his plate.

“Apparently not,” Margaret said with distaste. “It’s a pity that we have to deal with all his childishness. His parents really should have done a better job of raising him.”

Josiah glanced up at Lady Margaret, stunned. He felt like crying and yelling in rage at the same time, but nothing came out of his dry throat.

“Margaret,” Gregory said calmly. “There’s no need to bring that up. It’s not like he could help it.”

Margaret sniffed and went back to cutting her chicken into bite-sized pieces. “Well, he still needs to be punished. I won’t allow his uncouth behavior in my house.”

“Fine,” Gregory said quietly. “Then he won’t sleep in your house tonight, how’s that?”

Margaret gave a quick nod of approval and went back to eating.

Josiah glanced up at Lord Gregory. “So where will I sleep tonight?”

Gregory’s face softened; he almost looked apologetic. “In the barn.”

Josiah stared back at his plate of food.

“What do you say?” Margaret said with an air of satisfaction.

“Yes, sir,” Josiah said with as little emotion as possible.

* * * * *

Josiah stepped into the weather-beaten barn. The small lantern in his hand illuminated the damp quarters, revealing several stalls where quiet animals stood staring back at him. It was more unnerving in the dark than it ever was when he had to feed the animals in the light of day. Josiah clung to the thick blanket in his other hand and took a deep breath. “Alright, nothing to be afraid of in here,” he tried to reassure himself.

The wooden panels creaked as a sharp gust of wind came in from the sea. Little streams of air whistled through the cracks in the siding.

Josiah gulped and took another step inside. He jumped as the wind slammed the door shut behind him. Calm down. It’s just wind, it can’t hurt me. He settled down on the damp hay of an empty stall and snuggled in his thick blanket. Josiah wasn’t sure he’d be able to fall asleep in the dark barn, but he tried to get comfortable anyway.

* * * * *

Josiah’s was running through the forest but his legs began to give out. Then he stumbled over a rock and tumbled into a shallow creek bed. He landed on his back and before he knew it, a boot had pinned him to the soft wet ground. Josiah stared helplessly at Harold’s terrifying face, and knew nothing he could say would deter this monster.

“You’ve done it now,” Harold gloated. “I gave you a chance, you know I did. But now it’s too late. I really shouldn’t have let you live this long.”

Josiah closed his eyes.

Suddenly the pressure of Harold’s boot lessened. “What the?”

A twang reverberated through the forest, and Josiah opened his eyes to see Harold with an arrow sticking out of his chest.

Harold stood with a surprised look on his face for a second and without another word tumbled over, dead.

Josiah was too stunned to move, he stared at the arrow, then slowly sat up and looked around the woods frantically.

It wasn’t until the stranger was ten feet away that Josiah saw him. He was a young man who wore odd clothing and had two feathers sticking out of his dark brown hair. He approached Josiah slowly, barely making a sound. He was neither smiling nor frowning but was studying Josiah with keen inquisitive eyes.

* * * * *

Josiah’s heart was pounding as he opened his eyes. He sat up and looked around the shabby barn. It was just a dream, it’s not real. He tried to breathe slowly. It was just another stupid nightmare. Gradually his heart’s quick beats began to slow. He lay back down and tried to get comfortable but he couldn’t fall asleep. So he did what he always did; he started picturing his father, then his mother, and proceeded to each of his brothers, finally ending on the one person who wasn’t dead, but had left him anyway. He visualized the man with the feathers again. Why? Why did you leave me here? Why does everyone have to leave me?    

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My Adventure in Irving

This past weekend I had the privilege to go to Irving, TX with several girls to see Marissa Meyer, author of the Lunar Chronicles Series.

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It was quite a drive, but several fun stops along the way and some good company made it fun.

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My sister introduced me to this futuristic fairy tale series several months ago and I got hooked. So even though I decided not to dress up in a cosplay outfit, I did enjoy the excitement of the fans and all of the cool activities they had set up.

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My sister even got interviewed on TV with her friends and was able to make friends with people all over Texas who also enjoy the series.

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I particularly liked seeing my sister give several pieces of a puzzle to Marissa from fans all over the world. By the end of the tour she will have all the pieces to make the picture collage.

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I even got a photo with Marissa.

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But one thing Marissa said while she was speaking that stuck out to me, was her advice to young authors. My ears perked up, since that’s what I consider myself. She said to enjoy the writing process and where you’re at, at this moment. And I could see what she meant. She was at the library signing for hours, we left at 6:30 pm and there were still about a hundred people who wanted books signed. I can hardly imagine what it would be like to have to fly from one event to the next and talk with so many people. I’m sure it’s fun, but also exhausting. And I’m glad that for now I can just enjoy where I’m at in my writing career, and keep working on my own projects and encouraging others in their own.

Well I hope you enjoyed the pictures and if you haven’t had a chance to read Marissa Meyer’s work, I highly recommend it.

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Famous in a Small Town

Word Wrangler 2015 (2)

Like I promised, I wanted to write about my experience at the Giddings Word Wrangler Festival. It was my first time going and actually my first book fair too. It was quite the adventure and I thought I’d share some of the highlights from the trip.

On Thursday I headed out early to get to the Intermediate School with plenty of time to spare. I’ve had a few experiences with speaking to elementary age students, so I was excited to talk to the 4th and 5th graders about my book and the story of how I became an author. I had a slideshow all set up and a few little giveaways for the kids. Several ladies helped me with setting up the powerpoint and getting the preordered books all ready for pick up. We even got to put gold stickers on the front covers that said signed by the author. Then the first group of kids filed in, and the excited chatter began. One kid asked if I was going to show them How to Train Your Dragon, since I had the music playing. I said no, but it made me smile and I did tell him it was one of my favorite movies.

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The rest of the talk was a blur, with kids making comments, answering my questions, and asking their own questions. The funniest question I got was “What would you do if you saw a bug?” I said “I’d probably just leave it alone.” But the whole experience made me feel like a famous person. All these kids wanted to shake my hand, give me a hug or ask me a question. Luckily my mom was there keeping track of all the books and cash for me. Every once in awhile she’d hand me another book and tell me the name I was signing it to. Then it was back to more questions.

I remember this one girl who didn’t get a prize asked to see the extra giant pen I had with me. I let her hold it and told her it was broken. She asked to keep it anyway and I decided, why not, it’s broken. So she rushed back to class all excited. Then a couple minutes later she came back with the most distraught look on her face and said sadly, “I fixed the pen.” I assumed her teacher told her to return it. So I smiled and said, “You fixed it, you keep it.” And she left happy once more.

The couple hours at the school concluded and I packed up and eventually made it my next book fair destination: The Public Library. We had a Gala scheduled for Thursday evening, so I got there a bit early and began setting up my table, with a nice cover, some business cards, a few books, and the painting I had made for the cover art. It wasn’t the most extravagant book table but it was something. Then I joined all the other authors and sponsors of the book fair for a delicious dinner. I even got a little gift bag with all kinds of goodies! It was great to be treated so well.

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The next morning, the real Book Fair began, I barely had time to look around at the other tables before it was time to start. But I managed to pick out a few books I wanted to buy. The whole morning was taken up with busload after busload of students pulling up and hurrying through the library. Most of them had a sheet of paper to try to get autographs on. It felt like I was a celebrity the way these kids scrambled for autographs. I tried to make them a bit special by writing “Happy Reading,” before signing my name. But unfortunately my brain autocorrected to “Happy Birthday” a few times. A few kids got confused and asked why, but one little boy said, “How did you know it was my birthday?” So I guess it wasn’t a bad thing.

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Several of the kids, whose school I had visited the day before told me they had started reading the book. One girl said she was on chapter 8 already, which was very surprising. And I also had some kids who hadn’t gotten their book, come over and buy one. It was a wonderful experience and I’d love to be able to do it again.

And lastly, the Book Fair gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of other local Texas Authors. In fact I shared a table with one close to my age. Jamie S. Foley has already published 2 books, the first of which I’m reading now. And we got to give each other so much encouragement and tips from our own experiences. It was priceless! Plus I have a new friend now.

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And before I finish, I wanted to make sure that if anyone is reading this post, who picked up my business card and was hoping to read some of my book for free, you know how to do it. Just search in the categories for “sneak peek” and you’ll find all the sections I’ve posted form my two books. Happy Reading!

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