NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Life Changes

So a lot has happened since my last post and I have a feeling I won’t be posting as frequently in the future. On May 10th, I left my house to go to an interview for a new job with a ministry that my dad has been involved with for years. They were wanting to hire a new administrative assistant and it sounded like a good fit for me, so I went to talk with them about working there.

When I drove back to the house, I saw several other cars besides our family’s at the house. I wondered if something had happened. I walked inside and found my parents and sister praying with a family friend and our hospice nurse filling out paperwork at the kitchen table. My mom told me my grandma had passed away around 10:15 am, right as I had gotten to my interview, but she had wanted me to go ahead and do the interview, so she hadn’t called me.

I hadn’t necessarily wanted to be there when my grandma passed away, so I wasn’t upset. And in some ways there was a joyful atmosphere in our home. We were glad that my grandma was home with Jesus. And my mom pointed out that an encouraging song had started playing right as she passed that reminded her that everything would be alright. And she also told me that is was exactly 40 days after Easter, or ‘Ascension Day’ when Jesus returned to heaven after His Resurrection. So it seemed appropriate that my grandma would go home on the same day.

When relatives came later, we cried some. And at her funeral and burial this past weekend there were tears shed. But overall, I’ve felt God’s peace and presence throughout these past couple weeks. And I’ve seen how perfect His timing has been.

I’ve known for awhile that my part time jobs of helping my family would be temporary. My dad is planning on retiring at the end of this year and with my grandma passing, I won’t have my job of taking care of her either. So at just the right time, God opened up this opportunity to serve in a ministry.

I’ve always thought an office job would suit me well and I’m especially excited that it is connected with a ministry that I’ve known about for years and that I know the staff personally. It’ll be good working in that kind of environment, and be a way that I can serve God and His kingdom, but also provide for myself financially.

So last Thursday May 24th I officially said yes to a new full time job as an administrative assistant for the God of Hope Ministries.

I’m just so thankful for God being with me through all these changes and that He has the best plan for my life.

On that note, because this is a full time job, and I have already started training for it, I won’t have as much free time for writing blog posts or novels. So I will still try to write posts occasionally. But I’m not as determined to write a blog post every single week. And my next novel is not as high on my to do list as it once was. I would still like to finish my 3rd novel in the Finding Home Series, but it will probably take longer. I’ll post updates on it as I get closer to publishing.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

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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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Sneak Peek #2 of The Pirate Princess

I’ve been working on my third novel off and on throughout this year and I think it’s time for another preview. Now keep in mind that this book is still in progress. This scene in particular is new to the story and I’m not sure if it will end up in the final version or not. But I enjoyed writing it and I thought y’all would like to see what I’ve been working on, so enjoy.

 

Serina had hardly slept for the past four nights. She climbed to the highest tower once again and looked out over the rolling hills. Still no sign of him. Oh I should have just gone myself. Serina crumpled to her knees and tried to reason with herself. I shouldn’t have expected him any earlier, it is such a long way to travel and who knows what the weather’s been like. He’ll be back by tomorrow for sure and… She forced her mind to think positive. And he’ll have a letter from Adrian, a long explanation for the silence and probably a gift too, something to console me. Serina sat back against the hard stone and pulled her knees up to her chest, settling her head on top and folding her arms over to shield her face from the sun.

She didn’t know how long she’d been sitting like that, she could have drifted off to sleep for all she knew, but her muscles were cramping so she untangled herself and stood up slowly. She stretched and scanned wearily towards Linden again. She froze. Is that… could it be? She leaned over the battlement and shielded her eyes. It is! She hopped and rushed down the winding staircase and out to the stables. As she fumbled with the tack she wished for the hundredth time that she had learned to ride bareback. But her father wouldn’t hear of it, and hardly anyone in the castle knew how anyway. Finally she had managed to secure the saddle and bridle and she threw open the gate and climbed on hurriedly.

Buttercup danced around the small enclosure, picking up on Serina’s excitement.

“Shh,” Serina coaxed as she patted Buttercup’s neck. “Come on girl; let’s see what George has found out.”

Buttercup took off towards the open gate with a kick from Serina and after clattering down the drawbridge, lengthened her stride in the open road.

Serina could hardly see as the wind whipped her hair into her face and tears filled her eyes, but she didn’t care she just had to get to George as fast as possible. After some time, she could feel Buttercup slowing and she pulled back on the reins and let her trot for a bit. She took the opportunity to get her bearings and see how close George was now.
George was nowhere in sight, so Serina guided Buttercup to a small hill and pulled her to a stop. She glanced behind her and could still see the castle and a few guards riding out in pursuit of her. Then she turned back to the road and looked for any sign of the rider. Maybe it wasn’t him; maybe it was a farmer headed home… But Serina wasn’t ready to give up. She clicked her tongue and sent Buttercup into a steady canter as she kept a look out for George’s familiar figure.

The rolling hills hid parts of the road and Serina kept scanning the next place where the road vanished for a sign of the rider. Finally, after several minutes of tortuous waiting, the rider appeared. He was sunk in the saddle, only traveling at a slow trot and not even looking up, but Serina recognized him right away.

“George!” she called and urged Buttercup into a gallop.

George looked up and gave a short wave. He picked up his pace, but it was clear that both he and his horse were exhausted.

“I didn’t think you’d make it today,” Serina said excitedly as she pulled her horse to a sliding halt. “You must have traveled all night, but I’m so glad you did. You don’t know how worried I’ve been. Please tell me you have got a letter from Adrian.”

George nodded wearily. “I do.”

“Well, hand it over.”

George fumbled with his jacket and pulled out the letter he’d been given. He held it out to Serina.

“Is there anything else?”

George shook his head. “Sorry, no. But after you read the letter, I have… to um tell you some things.”

Serina raised an eyebrow. “Alright.” She studied his face trying to figure out what that meant. “I suppose you should go report to my father.”

George dipped his head. “Of course. Won’t you accompany me back to the castle?”

Serina held the letter tightly. “Well I was hoping to read this in private.”

George nodded and glanced at the guards who had followed Serina. “I doubt you’ll be able to read the whole thing before they get here. You sure you don’t want to just find a quiet room in the castle?”

“Can’t you just tell them to leave me alone for ten minutes. I promise I’ll come straight home once I’m through.”

George gave her a sympathetic smile. “Alright, I’ll see you back at the castle then.” He kicked his horse and rode towards the approaching guards.

Serina smiled. Sometimes George can be quite the gentleman. She nudged Buttercup into a trot and hurried off towards a copse of trees where she used to play when she was a child. She dismounted and quickly tied Buttercup’s reins to a branch. Then she settled into a soft spot of grass in the shade of the largest tree and opened the letter.

Serina,
I was so glad to receive your last letter. They always make me laugh and it keeps me from feeling so lonely. I keep thinking about when we’ll next get to be together. It’s only been a few months but it feels like years. I know you’ve asked if I could come down for the Spring. I’m trying to convince Richard that it’s a good idea and I believe it’s almost been decided. You keep reminding your father as well.

Caleb doesn’t want me to tell you this, but I knew it would make you laugh. He’s started taking dance lessons and I’ve caught him staring at Susan three times now. I think our joke has turned into a real possibility of romance. I’ll make sure to keep you updated.

I’ve also received a letter from Josiah. He’s really enjoying his time with Kalim. If he ever stops by your castle, be sure to tell him I miss him. So few Unguls travel during this season that any letters I send him are often retuned and never delivered.

Oh and you might find this interesting. You remember that little village we visited where Martin’s mother lives? Well he’s had word from her that something’s going on. We’re not sure what it is yet, and I may not have a chance to send this letter till after we get back. But now that I think of it, I’d rather wait to send it. I want to send you a little gift and I bet Martin’s mother will know just the right gift for you. I hope you enjoy it!

-Adrian

Serina looked over the letter once more and noticed the date. But why hasn’t he written anything since then? And where is the gift he mentioned? I guess I should go talk to George. She folded the letter and stood up with determination.

When she had returned to the castle she asked a servant where George had gone and soon found herself waiting outside the King’s throne room. Apparently George had wanted a private meeting, so Serina was not allowed inside until they were through. She paced in front of the door, ignoring the guard who was blocking the door and coolly watching her.

I don’t like this. First Adrian doesn’t send the gift that he clearly intended to send me, and now George wants a private audience with my father. Something’s not right. Oh why did I insist on readying the letter first? I should have just asked George what’s happened. She was reminded of all the times she’d had to wait as a child. She wasn’t very good at it. A particular moment when she had a longing for cherry pie and had to wait two hours for the cook to finally finish it came back to her. She had been too impatient to wait for the pie to cool and when no one was looking she had pushed her finger through the crust for a quick taste. Unfortunately, the pie was still piping hot and she had ended up with a burnt finger. Serina stopped pacing. I just need to be patient. This meeting can’t last forever.

And right as she had the thought, the door swung inward and a guard gestured for her to come inside.
Serina smiled and marched into the large throne room. Though the crystal decorations glistened like always, and the intricately woven murals hung on display, Serina ignored them all and focused all of her attention on George, who was standing next to her father’s throne.

A servant quickly brought a chair for Serina, it wasn’t a throne, but it was nicer than anything else and she always liked pretending it was her private throne. She made herself comfortable next to her father then put on her most diplomatic smile. “It seems that something has happened that I am hitherto unaware of, would you be so kind as to inform me of the development George?”

George gulped and looked at her father.

Charles waved his hand. “Go ahead; I’m sure she’ll have too many questions for me to answer. You might as well just tell her.”

George looked uncomfortable. Serina hoped that was because he was tired from the journey, but she had a nagging suspicion that it was something more. “Go ahead George,” she said with a smile, hoping to put him at ease.

George smoothed his mustache. “I assume you read the letter?”

Serina nodded. “Yes, I was surprised you didn’t give me the gift he’d mentioned. Although maybe you just forgot it, you do look rather tired.”

George shook his head. “I’m sorry Serina, there was no gift. You see…”

Serina waited as a thick silence filled the room. She glanced at her father.

“Oh just spit it out,” Charles said. “There’s no way around it.”

“Spit out what?” Serina asked.

“I’m afraid the plague has returned in Linden. Glenton was the first village affected and Adrian journeyed there to help with…”

The rest of George’s words faded from Serina’s mind. Plague… Adrian. She didn’t know what George was saying, but she blurted out. “Is he alright? Tell me George is Adrian—” She couldn’t finish the sentence.

George looked at his feet. “He has the plague. I’m so sorry.”

Serina’s heart stopped for a long second, then beat with an intensity she had rarely felt. George was saying something, trying to be comforting. Everyone was looking at her, her father, the guards. But it didn’t seem real, none of it was real. She closed her eyes. I’m dreaming, this is just a dream. Wake up Serina. She felt a hand on her shoulder, more words that didn’t penetrate the fog in her brain. I can’t lose him.

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Sneak Peek of the Pirate Princess

So I’ve been working on the next book in the Finding Home trilogy and I thought it was high time for a preview of the newest book. So, if you’ve read any of my books or you’re interested in adventure stories for young readers, I hope you enjoy this preview for Finding Home: The Pirate Princess.

Serina stared out at the violent waves, as they finished their job of wrecking the small rowboat to shreds. It felt like the sea was mocking her, arrogantly destroying her last shred of hope. How could it have gone this wrong? The sand felt hot against her bare feet, but she didn’t move, she couldn’t. Her whole world had crumbled and there was nothing she could do about it. Why? What did I do to deserve this? She clenched her fists and tried to keep the tears from coming but they came anyway, adding to the saltwater that already covered her trembling body. Now that she was alone, she couldn’t hold it together anymore. Why couldn’t it have been me? Why did they have to take Adrian? Why does it always have to be Adrian? Why can’t God just give me what I want for once in my life? She pulled on her hair, tempted to rip it out in frustration. But instead she fell to her knees and sobbed.

She didn’t know how long she’d been crying but her eyes refused to produce any more tears. She was dehydrated, drained and she felt like giving up. She looked up at the sky. “Alright, fine. I give up. Are you happy now? I’m sick of trying to do things my way. It never works and I’m tired of it. I don’t have anyone else so I’m giving You a chance. So help me save Adrian, please. He’s the last person to deserve this.”

She waited, silently hoping for a thundering voice to speak. But the roar of the waves and the cawing of seagulls was all she heard. Then in the distance she spotted a dark spot on the horizon. What is that? She stood up and put her hand to her forehead to block the sun and help her see clearer.

She stared for so long that her eyes began to hurt, but she didn’t take them off of the small dot. The wait was almost unbearable, the heat stifling, her clothes were already almost dry as the sun beat down on her. But the dot continued to get bigger and a flame of hope had lit in her chest that she held onto with everything she had left. Please be a ship. Please!

Finally the mast and sails took shape and Serina jumped with excitement. “Yes! A ship! Thank you God!” She didn’t care about anything else, not her torn dress or parched throat, or empty stomach. She just kept staring at that lovely ship. It was the most beautiful thing in the world to her. Thank you God!

Caleb stumbled out of the trees. “I heard you yelling, what happened?”

“A ship!” Serina said excitedly and pointed. She stopped as she realized Caleb was alive. She turned to him and gave him a big hug. “We’re saved!”

Caleb indulged her hug for a moment then stood back and blushed. “Do you still happen to have that spyglass?”

Serina wondered how she could have forgotten about it as she had watched that small dot getting closer. I really must be tired. She reached into her damp jacket and fished out the spyglass. She gave it to him with a smile.

Caleb took it and stared out at the ship. After a minute he mumbled sarcastically, “Oh great.”

All of the excitement drained out of Serina in an instant. “What?”

Caleb handed her the spyglass. “Take a look for yourself.”

Serina hurriedly pulled the odd contraption to her eye and tried to focus. Her hands were trembling too much and she had to take a deep breath to calm her nerves. Finally she found the ship among the vast blue ocean. She couldn’t see anything wrong with it. It looked sturdy and large enough to fit two extra passengers. But then she spotted the flag. The ugly red with a black X chilled her to the bones. “Oh no, it’s the pirates.”

“No, really? Ya think?”

“What are we going to do now?”

Caleb threw his hands up in the air. “I have no idea! But they’re headed straight here. It’s probably one of their bases of operation.”

“Maybe we could hide.”

Caleb shook his head. “I searched the whole island and besides a fresh spring it’s worthless. There’s nowhere we could hide where they wouldn’t spot us. It’s just not that big.”

Serina felt her chest tighten as the ship came nearer and nearer. And I thought things couldn’t get any worse.

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NaNoWriMo in April

So apparently there are writing camps and all sorts of fun things that NaNoWriMo does throughout the year. I’ve only ever done the write 50,000 words in November contest before. But this month my sister was thinking about joining a cabin and writing for the month of April. When she told me about it, I suggested that we use the month to start writing our co-authored book together. You see, we talk about story ideas all the time. Usually we keep our writing separate, but we’ve talked for years about writing a novel, or even a series together. So I figured, why not try it this month?

Our story idea revolves around a middle school student getting the super power of teleportation and then learning how to use his powers and become a hero all while keeping his identity a secret and keeping up with normal teenage life. It’s been a blast so far, though I still have very little direction for where this story is going. But I figured y’all might like getting a glimpse of what I’m working on, so here’s a section that I wrote.

Keep in mind that this is unedited and subject to many changes.

Our working title is:

Tales of a Middle School Superhero

This is the story of how I became a middle school super hero. It’s pretty crazy so be warned. You might not believe me but I’m totally telling the truth.
It all started when I was sitting in history class and my teacher, Ms. Robinson was talking on and on about the Great Depression. Which I think is such a bad name, like how can a depression be great or even good? They should have named it something else like the horrible depression. But anyways I’m getting off topic. So I was trying my best not to be depressed listening to her talk about all the horrible things people had to deal with, like dust tornadoes and living in cars instead of houses. And I started thinking, why couldn’t everybody just go to Disney World and be happy? Or better yet why can’t everyone go to Six Flags Fiesta Texas for free? I mean they have so many good rides and like the best water park. Why can’t we all just be happy? And I started thinking about my favorite ride at Six Flags. It’s totally the Superman Krypton Coaster. I love when the first drop makes you feel like you’re really flying and then spins you in the giant loop. I started imagining that I was on the roller coaster instead of stuck in my boring… and depressing classroom. This is a normal thing for me, my mom says I have trouble daydreaming. But I really don’t have any trouble with it. I do it so well that I could actually call it my special talent. I can actually picture that I’m there and not here. But well, this time felt different because, I didn’t just see it. Like I heard it. People were screaming around me and there was wind in my hair and I could feel the twists and turns of the coaster pulling me out of my seat. And that’s when I realized something. I was no longer in my class. This was NOT a daydream, or even a dream dream. This was real! Somehow, I had left my class, traveled over a hundred miles, and landed in a an empty seat on the Superman. I let out a surprised scream, but no one else seemed to notice me. They were already screaming anyway. I realized the restraining bars were a bit tight. I guess the guy who closes the empty coaster seat put it as tight as it could go, since no one was in the seat when the coaster left. Lucky for me, I’m small for my age. I haven’t quite hit that growth spurt yet. So the coaster sped me on my way and gave me a great look at the park. I noticed that there weren’t many people around, which makes sense. It it a school day. Even though summer is definitely on it’s way, most people aren’t going to the theme parks yet. The brakes squeaked loudly and jolted me to a stop, then we coasted slowly into the terminal. The fat guy behind the controls looked at me and blinked a couple times. I froze, wondering if he realized I hadn’t been there when the ride started. Then he pressed a button releasing the locks and our restraints lifted. I unbuckled mine and stepped out of the seat.
“You want to ride again? There is no line.”
I looked up at the operator but I felt a bit unsteady from the coaster. That or reality that I had just teleported.
“No thanks, I’m good,” I said, then quickly got up and hurried past the worker, following the walkway into the Superman gift shop. I sat down at a bench and took a deep breath. Before I could decide what to do next, my phone buzzed in my pocket. I fished the phone out of my cargo shorts and promptly dropped it on the concrete sidewalk. The phone kept buzzing though, so I picked it up and saw the picture of my best friend stuffing an entire slice of cake in his mouth. It was the profile picture I had assigned him. It matched his personality quite well. Sam was always hungry, especially for anything sweet. We joked that he didn’t have any normal teeth, only sweet tooths. I managed to swipe my finger across the touch screen before it went to voicemail and put the phone to my ear.
“Nick? What happened to you? Did you ditch without me?”
“Hey Sam, I uh. I don’t…”
“Dude, that was not cool. Ms. Robinson grilled me like crazy. She said she never said you could leave for a bathroom break. I had to tell her you were about to throw up.”
“Actually, I might.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, you’re never going to believe me Sam, but I think I just teleported.”
Sam cackled. “You’re right, I’m never going to believe you. So where did you go?”
“I uh, went to Six Flags. I just rode the Superman.”
“Are you tripping man? Seriously, do you need a doctor or something?”
“I’m serious. I was imagining riding it while Ms. Robinson droned on and on and then suddenly I was riding it.”
“Okay, you can stop with the joke, it is way too late for April Fools.”
“I’m not joking Sam. I don’t know what happened. One second I was there and the next I was here.”
“So you didn’t sneak out of class?”
“No, I didn’t mean to leave.”
“Wierd. I didn’t even notice. No one did. Ms Robinson just asked me where you went and then I noticed that you weren’t there.”
“What’s wrong with me Sam? People don’t just randomly start transporting places!”
“I know, I know, chill. We’ll figure this out. Where are you now?”
“At a bench, next to the Superman Coaster.”
“I wish I was there, I still have two more hours of torture before school ends.”
“What do I do Sam? I can’t walk home from San Antonio!”
“I know, I know. Just stay calm. Maybe you should call your mom.”
“And tell her what? Hey mom, I just teleported, could you come pick me up please?”
Sam giggled. “Yeah I think she might not believe you.”
“You do believe me though, right?”
Sam didn’t answer.
“Sam?”
“Look I know you like playing jokes–”
“This is not a joke! I’m really in San Antonio. You want me to send you my location on my phone?”
“Sure, do that.”
I hung up and opened up my maps app. I took a screenshot of my location and texted it to Sam. I waited till the text went through then called him back. The phone rang twice before he picked up.
“So did you get it?” I asked.
“Yeah, how’d you do that? This is a pretty elaborate prank.”
“It’s not a prank Sam, I’m really at Six Flags. I can send you pics if you want, or a video. But I’m not lying. I’m really here.”
“But you were in class ten minutes ago. You couldn’t…”
“I did.”
“Okay you’re totally scaring me now. If this is a joke you’d better tell me right now.”
“For the last time, it’s not a joke.”

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Word Wrangler 2016

Sorry I didn’t post last week, I just got too busy with life to even think about a blog post. So now that I have some time, I thought I’d write about how my 2nd Word Wrangler Festival went. This year I went to a different school: Immanuel Lutheran School. The school has kids from Kinder through High School I believe. So instead of speaking to the whole school, I was with smaller groups of kids. I had a series of 3 talks. The first was with some delightful 4th graders who had great questions and a lot of energy. We ended up eating lunch with them in the cafeteria after the presentation, and I got to answer more fun questions, such as what’s your favorite color. I discovered that I not only shared the last name of their teacher, but also her favorite color. It’s yellow by the way. So that was fun!

Then after lunch, I met with 2 more groups. The first was 5th and 6th graders. These kids would probably enjoy my book the most and a lot of them were engaged, had questions, and were excited about reading and writing. And finally I got to talk with the 7th and 8th graders. You can really tell a difference with the ages as kids get closer to high school. They tend to be quieter and not as enthusiastic, which is fine. I tried to adjust my talk to engage each group, and I think they all had fun and learned something.

I also had the great pleasure of sharing the time with the kids with another author, or as he liked to refer to himself, a poet. Wayne Edwards has been writing comedic poetry for several years and he reads it to kids often. It was cool to see how someone else engages with kids and gets them to laugh. I enjoyed hearing the humorous poems as much as the kids and I think it was cool for the children to learn about the different types of writing. Because Mr. Edwards read a lot of his poetry to the kids, and the principal asked if I would read some of my work, I ended up adding to my presentation and reading the first page of my first book. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so a lot of the kids were interested after I read it.

Here’s what I read:

The tension in the room was thick. Ben looked steadily at his father. “I have to ask you a question” he said determinedly.
“Alright” his father replied.
“Who am I?” Ben asked with emphasis.
“What? You know who you are. You’re Ben, my son,” Thomas said with a small chuckle.
“No I’m not,” Ben insisted. “I don’t look like anyone else in this family. If I’m your son, then why am I the only kid with blond hair?”
“Is that what this is about? Ben just because you look different doesn’t mean you’re not my son. Things like this happen sometimes; it’s one of life’s mysteries.”
Ben wasn’t convinced. “Well how come me and Joshua are the same age but have different birthdays? That isn’t a mystery of life, it’s impossible!” Ben crossed his arms and waited for an explanation.

I’m so glad there were people giving me suggestions and advice as I’ve visited more schools and book fairs. So, my day at the school was fun, but a little different than I expected. Last year I had tried to get the kids to preorder the book, so I could give it to them at the school. This made for some cool conversations as some of the kids had started reading the book when they came to visit the Public Library the next day and could tell me what they liked so far. But this year a missing email meant that the kids didn’t know they could preorder the book. So instead I printed the flyer at the school when I got there and my mom handed it out to the kids after my talk. I wasn’t sure if any of the kids would actually buy the book, but I thought it was better than nothing and I told them they could still get the discounted price if they brought the sheet to the library the next day.

K-5th was scheduled to come to the Library, so the next day I looked forward to seeing some of the kids again. The first several hours of the book fair were a little discouraging. Most of the kids visiting walked through but didn’t buy anything, and some sounded interested but didn’t have money or wanted a different book that someone else had written. I took an early lunch and while I was eating, my friend Mrs. Morris came and asked me to sign 2 books for a kid and told me another kid had also bought both books. I was so excited!

And when I got back to my table, one girl who had bought the first book last year came to my table and got the sequel! I’m so glad at least one kid wanted to read the next one. Then as kids from Immanuel started coming through I was overwhelmed with how many wanted to buy the books. It was so encouraging and I decided it might have been a better idea to have the flyer than the preorder, because then kids had met me, were excited, and immediately had a chance to buy the book. I got to see several 4th, 5th and even a few 6th graders who had to come with parents. Then at the very end of the day while I was packing up, one last lady stopped by to get the books for her granddaughter who was in 8th grade. I sold even more books than last year, probably because several kids wanted both books. It was such a great experience and I’m so thankful to the people who organize this book festival every year and for Mr. Shaefer for having me come to his school.

Here’s what he had to say about the experience:

“Lydia Hill can help inspire young authors to follow their dreams. She shares her story of assembling thoughts for adventures in an understanding, easy to follow presentation. Her pleasant demeanor and Christian conscience makes her a delight to invite for any age student to be filled with incentive to write.” – Dan Schaefer, principal, Immanuel Lutheran School, Giddings, TX

And here’s the awesome Thank you Card I got from the students:

I’m hoping to go to even more book fairs and visit more schools in the future.

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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

BookCoverPreview1

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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Writer Resource

Typewriter, Book, Notebook, Paper, Writing, WriteImage Source

I thought I’d share something helpful I found for getting feedback about your writings. I know I’ve posted some sections of my work on blog posts before and most feedback that you get is a ‘like’ or maybe a short comment. Though these can be encouraging, they don’t really help your work improve.

When I was in college, I was a part of several workshop classes, where we all had to do an assignment, but we also had to critique each other’s poems, short stories, or whatever we were writing. It was very helpful, and my work significantly improved from that feedback.

Since college, I haven’t really had a good place to get feedback about my writing. I’ve asked a couple friends or relatives, but let’s face it, everyone is busy and most of the time someone else’s project doesn’t take priority. But, luckily, I have another writer friend who I met at a Book Fair and she told me about this great website! I decided to try it out for myself before mentioning it to others, and now that I’ve used it, I’m a fan.

So the website is http://www.scribophile.com/ and it’s great. How it works is you have to read other’s works and give them critiques to get points, the more detailed and helpful the critique, the more points you get. When you get 5 points, you can post your own work for critique. It motivates people to actually read your work and give feedback. And it’s free, if you want it to be. I haven’t switched to the paid version, which has a few more perks, like having more than 2 posts of your own work at a time, and some fun features to get more detailed feedback. But I’m liking the free version just fine for now.

So if you’re a writer, and you’re struggling with getting feedback, check it out! Or if you would like to read more sections from my own novel, feel free to join so you can read them.

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