Sorry about not starting a new short story on Monday. I can explain.
So I have approximately three friends. I say 'approximately' because I only ever see one of them outside of church. (Have you ever seen that triangle chart that says "Good grades, enough sleep, and a social life: pick two"? You can guess which two I picked.) Anyway, I had a couple days off work this week, and I decided to get together with my good friend and have a Star Trek marathon.
We built a fort in the upstairs loft and watched 8 episodes. We also walked my dog and cooked dinner together. It was amazing.
I recently saw an Instagram post that said something along the lines of "Americans are so obsessed with romance because they think it's the only love they're allowed to have." And you know, that's kind of true. Outside the love of parents for children and vice versa, both of which are sort of deteriorating in today's culture, any sort of affection is frowned upon.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have irrational likings for various things. Hugs, ice cream, instrumental music, hedgehogs, Latin, leather notebooks, sunsets--and books by C.S. Lewis. I've enjoyed his work since I first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I have no intention of stopping. Recently, I read his nonfiction book The Four Loves. Did I understand all of it? No. (I had the same problem with The Abolition of Man, but they're still both worth reading.) But I understood the important bits.
Essentially, Lewis says that there are four types of love--affection (like that of parents for children), friendship, romantic love, and Christian love. Of the four, Christian love, he says, is the most important, because it transforms the other three into something even more beautiful. But of Friendship, Lewis has much to say as well. "To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it," he writes.
Our pastors will preach sermons about why it's important to live in community. I'm the type of person who will readily ignore those sermons. I interact with others. I eat lunch with my mom every day before I go to work. I engage in small talk with people at church and snuggle with my family while watching TV in the evenings. But none of those things help me grow as a person.
Those of you who have read Where the Clouds Catch Fire are familiar with Lukas's backstory. He lived in isolation for thirty-nine years--no friends, no family, and very few encounters with strangers. He had only his animals, his books, and his God. Unfortunately, too many of us live in a similar situation. We live in our own little bubbles with smiley faces painted on, posting pictures of avocado toast on Instagram while ignoring the pile of dirty dishes and the baby crying in the background. We smile and say we're fine, how are you, and keep everyone at an arm's length away. I'm guilty of this too. We need friends to whom we can say, "You know, I'm not alright, and I need someone to talk to about it"--or, even better, "I'm doing great, and I need someone to share my joy."
C.S. Lewis says that friendship "has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival." Perhaps, in a world as depressed as the one we live in, a few good friends could help cheer things up a bit.
Who's your best friend? What's your favorite thing to do with them? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to check us out on Amazon!
Ah, autumn is finally here! I can wear long pants without feeling like I'm dying, I'm able to open my bedroom windows, I can wear my new brown boots with the cool yet pointless buckles on the side...praise God, life is good.
That being said, I'm here to teach you how to properly insult someone.
The art of verbal abuse has a long and glorious history. Some of Shakespeare's insults are legendary--"They have a plentiful lack of wit" is outstanding. Also, as I learned from a book called Encyclopedia of Swearing while researching for an essay on hate speech, the Norse engaged in a game called flyting. Basically, two teams would take turns drinking and insulting their opponents. Whoever was able to produce the best insults while drunk was considered the winner.
Surely you're thinking, "Wait. You're a teacher. Insulting is a form of bullying, you should be completely against insults!" And I am. Mostly. There are very few circumstances in which you should insult someone; most of them are in fiction. But invariably, you will come into a situation in which you will need some sharp words. Normally it's when some fool who doesn't fully understand a situation decides to throw in their misguided two cents' worth.
1. Be careful. When you insult someone, you risk incurring their wrath. If they're prone to violent outbursts, it's best to leave well enough alone. And, almost certainly, the receiving end of your insult will try to fight back. Either have a comeback ready or be ready to surrender. If you're insulting a friend, make sure you know they're teasing. If they aren't taking it as a joke, then stop.
2. The best insults do not use profanity. Remember, whatever you say reflects on you as a person. Insults laden with curse words make you appear common and vulgar. Remember, anyone can swear, but not everyone can make a proper insult.
3. In a similar vein, have some class. "You just pretend to be sick so you don't have to come into work" sounds much better when rephrased as "I do hope your imaginary illness doesn't come back. You must be nearly out of sick days." Best advice, pretend you're British. Look up Blackadder on YouTube; Rowan Atkinson does a wonderful job of insulting pretty much everyone and everything.
4. Call out the other person's inadequacies--especially ones you know exist. Jesting about their appearance, lack of intelligence or social skills, etc. is usually a good idea. "Your incompetence is legendary" works well. If you can't find an inadequacy, just call them annoying. "I'd rather do taxes than continue this conversation" is a good way to make sure no one ever talks to you again. It might earn you an enemy too, so be careful.
5. If your insult is in response to someone else's insult, try to turn their insult back on them. For example, someone commented on my social media post and said that I should practice feigning Interest in someone besides myself. I replied, saying I meant the post and a joke and that they should practice feigning a sense of humor. If you want to end the insult exchange, a simple "I don't argue with (insert final blow here)" while walking away works wonders. For example, "I don't argue with people who don't know the difference between 'your' and 'you're.'"
Well, that's it! What's the best insult you can come up with? Post it in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to check us out on Amazon!
Hey guys, guess what?
I have two science tests and an essay due this week!
Also, it's currently in the 70s outside, which is very nice. My window's open. I got to snuggle with my comforter while reading my Bible this morning. I'm listening to Avicii and Ed Sheeran while writing my essay. Life is good.
But anyway, due to the tests and the essay and all that, I don't have a short story for you today. Hopefully next week.
Where I Stand is now available on Amazon! Even better, it's available on Kindle for $.99 until this Sunday!
Alynn, Lukas, and all your other favorite characters are coming back with a bang! Alynn receives word that her beloved little brother Tarin might still be alive. However, there's a few small problems with her plan to find him. The great Norse parliament of Althing is being held on St. Anne's Cleft, and thanks to it, Alynn can't leave the island. Worse, the bloodthirsty tribe of Darsidia is making its way across the Scottish coast, raiding and kidnapping and getting ever closer to the town Tarin's in.
A local author mentioned that, in Where the Clouds Catch Fire, he wanted to see more relationship development between Alynn and Drostan. Of course he did. I read his book--well, part of it--things got a bit steamy for me. But for those of you readers who like a good old-fashioned courtship, the sort where chivalry is alive and well, you'll enjoy the romantic bit.
There are some new characters, too. Alva is the kind but eccentric woman of cures, credited with saving Drostan's life once. Alynn's best friend is Maggie McKenzie, a Scottish girl with fiery red curls to match her personality. Althing brings with it a host of new faces, like Nokkvi Hrodolfson of Darsidia and Einar Shattersword, a good friend of Lukas's.
Oh, and we can't forget about the inner demons. There's plenty of those, too.
Jen Brown, a lecturer from the University of Iowa read and reviewed Where I Stand, and her feedback was overwhelmingly positive. She reviewed the book, saying, "I really love the care and attention Piazza puts into making the reader feel like they're sitting by the fire in a monastery's refectory, or galloping over the grassy hills to Althing, where you can practically smell the rain and hear the clang of swords. I also deeply appreciate the fact that, for both Alynn and her mother, the scars of the past have present consequences, and a nice amount of the story is devoted to the long, hard healing process after the events of Book 1....Piazza pays off all the conflicts with highly satisfying conclusions. Where I Stand is a good read, a good message, and a good book."
I hope that you enjoy reading Where I Stand just as much as Jen did. You can read it for free if you have a Kindle Unlimited account, or buy it HERE. And there's also a paperback version, which is eligible for Prime shipping.
Once you've read Where I Stand, do me a huge favor and leave a review. Preferably a five-star one, but hey, I'll settle for four. But seriously, I need your help. I'm currently at #34 in the Children's Medieval Fiction Books category, and my goal is to break the top 5.
Thank you so much for your help, and God bless!
Finally, our rescuers arrived! It was a family, a man and his wife and three children who had tagged along for the ride. Not a moment too soon did they come, for the storm clouds gathering to the north were ominous, and the wind was picking up. Our boat was tied to theirs, and we began our slow crawl home, travelling at a mere fraction of the speed at which we had first forayed into the unknown.
It was late--half past six or thereabouts, and many of us began to contemplate the evening meal. My mother had thought to bring plenty of snacks, and so we shared popcorn and beef jerky and finished the last of the beverages. Though I have the good fortune to not be nauseous on watercrafts, I will rarely eat aboard one. I made an exception for the popcorn.
The clouds chased us. I was glad that we were going away from them. A sunset peeked through the bilious clouds, made all the more brilliant by the tinting effect of the sunglasses I'd scarcely removed since the start of our voyage. I gazed at the sunset, I gazed at the sparkling waves as they rose to meet us, I gazed at the verdant beauty of the lakeside forest. A beautiful time of year it was, late summer, nature resting in its glory of deepest greens and tiniest flowers and steadfast branches before autumn's chill. I absorbed it, for this is the stuff that books are made of.
Looking at trees and sunsets is well and good, but after forty-five minutes, it became dull. I suppose moving five miles per hour on a boat, especially when one has been stuck on said boat for seven or eight hours, is not an altogether interesting activity. So boredom peaked in the vessel, and I led my sister in an interminable camp song. "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea," it was called, and my mother lent us her extravagant vocal ability.
"There's a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea," we said as we passed a patch of pine trees, darkening the forest ever so ominously. "There's a bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea," we chanted as the storm clouds drew closer to us. "There's a fly on the frog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea," we recited as we rounded a small peninsula and found that we were no longer running from the clouds. "There's a wing on the flea on the fly on the frog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea," we said as the smallest raindrops began to fall.
But we arrived at our dock, alive and uninjured, just before the storm truly began.
The boat came alongside a pier, and the women collected their belongings as the men saw to the technical aspects of the boat. My sister stayed behind with them, but my Uncle Joseph came back to the house to get his truck and trailer with which to tow the boat to the store from whence it was purchased. It was still under warranty.
And so, with gleeful hearts and shivering bodies, we clamored into the ATVs and flew down forest paths, just as the heavens let loose their fury and rain came down in torrents. I was glad to arrive home safe at my uncle's cabin, even if I could still feel the boat moving beneath me.
I took a shower, I consumed a sandwich, and I retreated into my bedroom to steady my nerves after the long and tedious day that had befell me. And then I thought to myself, "What a story today would make!"
Good morning, everyone! Or afternoon, or whatever time you happen to be reading this blog post. I always say "good morning," even when I arrive at work at 1:30 in the afternoon. I don't know why. Mornings are happy and fresh and beautiful, and even if I'm stressed out by breakfast, I wake up calm and refreshed.
I've had family in town this week--my aunt from Chicago and my great-aunt from New York. I've been out to dinner twice. Between that and church on Wednesday and the fact that I was on my church's worship team last weekend, I'm worn out.
I've also had two moments of complete dissociation this week. The first occurred on Tuesday, when I was given a 2020 calendar and realized I'll turn 20 next year. Two decades of my life gone! And probably the best two decades out of the lot...part of me wishes I'd taken a bit more time to just relax and have fun, but oh well.
My second dissociation came around ten o'clock last night, when I was exhausted after doing school and going to work and being at church until 8:30 and I was trying to get some writing done. I was trying to figure out how much hair Lukas actually has. I know he's mostly bald, but does he have hair on the entire back of his head or just a little bit at the very bottom?
And then I started tripping on exhaustion and brain chemicals.
Lukas isn't real. How do I know what he looks like? How do I know what his voice sounds like? No one else does.
The waiting was torturous.
The skies threatened rain, and our craft listed back and forth as the choppy waves pushed it to and fro. My mind could not settle into my book, so I imagined; I took myself on flights of fancy. On the fair isle of St. Anne's Cleft I began my journey, following my beloved characters through the woods and the village and echoing monastic halls. I witnessed a birth, a death, and a wedding, only the latter of which shall find its way into print. And when I tired of the island life, I teleported to Wisconsin--an area similar in which I now was, only a hundred and seventy-five years ago, with some of my oldest and best-loved characters.
When I again lost interest, we were no closer to being rescued.
Our supplies were running low. Due to dietary restrictions, my parents (and, presumably, my aunt and uncle) could not drink soda. So I took it upon myself to save for them the water and drank the Coca-Cola. I was on my second can. O, the horrors that ran through my mind! Diabetes and tooth decay! In my job as a tutor, I beseeched my students to abstain from carbonated beverages. I had become the very thing I had sworn to destroy!
"There's so much sugar in here that there's no hydrational value," I muttered to my mother. "I may as well not drink it."
"That's not true," said my mother. And, with a slightly-comforted spirit, I sipped my Coke again.
The boat knocked against the pier to which we were tethered. I rearranged the foam cushions that were tied to the boat, and the knocking lessened. Eventually, someone thought to tie the cushions around the pier itself rather than onto the boat, and this helped us considerably.
I opened my book of tales concerning Sherlock Holmes. None of them could hold my interest.
My sister lay nearby, using data on her cell phone. I had neglected to bring mine, reasoning that I might drop it or otherwise damage it. My sister seemed to have no such concerns. At one point, she engaged in a FaceTime chat. I was livid.
The marina at which we found ourselves was part of some sort of residence--condos, perhaps, or high-quality apartments. At any rate, there was a pool located a considerable distance from us, and at that pool there was a restroom. It was the only restroom available. Reaching it required navigating the pier, climbing a steep hill with stairs built in, and following a road for several yards, past a speed bump and a pair of dumpsters. Having been at sea for several hours at this point, taking this walk seemed profitable, even if only to stretch my legs and appreciate the solid ground.
But, as luck and Murphy's Law would have it, my sister soon came clamoring after me, disturbing my peace of mind. But at least she bore good news.
Our rescuers had arrived, and we would soon be home safe at last.
I love book signings.
First off, it gives me an excuse to dress up like a Viking. Even if it's just my homemade frock over an oatmeal-colored shirt because this is Texas and it's still in the 90s, it's so much fun.
I've been to four book signings. Two of them were in a smallish odds-and-ends shop that I won't exactly call an antique store. One was last year at the Dia los Muertos festival, and, obviously, this last one was at a fall festival. This was definitely the best out of the four so far.
I saw so many people, and I talked to most of them. "Hey, do you like to read?" I'd ask them. And then their responses would vary. Two older men said that they couldn't read. One of them said they were teasing. I'm not sure about the second; this is Texas, and while the stereotypical uneducated redneck type is very rare, they still exist.
An unfortunate lot of people said no, they didn't like to read. This was maybe 60-75% of everyone I talked to. In which case, I'd ask them if they knew someone who liked to read, as Christmas is right around the corner. Every once in a while, a family would come up, and the grandmother would point to someone--normally a teenage girl--and say, "This one likes to read, though."
And then I'd tell them that my book was about a girl who had to help a monk fight off a Viking invasion, that it was on sale for $10, and that I'd sign it for them.
I had several memorable encounters. The first was when a good friend of mine dropped by unexpectedly. Now, this friend lives in Dallas, which is a good hour or two drive from here depending on the traffic. And I had no idea she was coming. Here's us (I, obviously, am the one dressed like a Viking):
I started chatting with one of the ladies who dropped by, and she asked where I'd gone to school. I said I was homeschooled, which she said she'd guessed, and that she homeschooled her kids and they went to a co-op. The very co-op I'd once babysat for.
"Oh, then you'll know Sophie," the mom said, and I walked around the table to see a toddler who was very familiar and unreasonably grown-up.
She didn't remember me. She didn't like me. I'd held this baby for an hour at a time while she slept, and she hid behind her mom's leg! The mom bought a book, though, so that was nice.
I started talking to an older biker-looking guy who said that no, he didn't like to read because he was dyslexic. He bought a book anyway because Alynn is Irish, and he was into genealogy and had found out that he was mostly Irish and Scottish. I hope the dialect doesn't trip him up.
And then I saw one of the nurses who had taken care of my dad when he'd had a heart attack almost two years ago. I'd emailed her a copy of my book, but she bought a hard copy anyway. I told her that my dad's doing great now, going to the gym and eating right and probably in better shape than I am.
I can't wait for the next book signing! I'll certainly let you know when the next one is. Have you ever seen an old friend of acquaintance in a unique circumstance? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to check us out on Amazon!
Sorry for the late post, guys. As a full-time college student with a part-time job, I'm not always available to post on Thursdays. I had a science test yesterday, plus I had to watch a documentary about babies for my childhood development class.
I wanted to give you guys a quick update. You might have seen on social media that the release date for Where I Stand has been pushed back a bit due to technical errors. If so, I have some good news for you. The official launch is going to be October 1. But, since the book has to be available on Amazon so I can design and run advertisements, you will be able to buy it earlier than that. I'll call it the friends-and-family special. The paperback is already on Amazon, and the eBook should be available sometime tomorrow.
At first, when the boat refused to start, we did not panic. Surely, we thought, the problem was easily fixed. So my father and Uncle Joseph stood knee-deep in the lake, fiddling with pipes and blades and various other boat parts.
As I have before mentioned, I know nothing about boats. I should; my calling as a writer necessitates my knowledge of most subjects, seamanship included. I can differentiate between port and starboard; I know that one ties the halyard to the bitt and that the yard holds the sail in place. But the innards of a modern vessel? God have mercy! My mind is not mechanically oriented. Taking my car to get its oil changed taxes my knowledge of such subjects. So as the menfolk fiddled with pipes and such, and my Aunt Lily stood ready at the helm, I sat silently, praying for the repair of our vessel.
Low thunder rumbled to the north of us. A pontoon boat raced past us.
"Joey, we should get a tow," Aunt Lily said.
"Nah, we got it," Uncle Joseph said. "Call Timmy. He had the boat out this weekend. He might know what to do."
So a message to my cousin Timothy was duly sent, and I continued to wait, helpless and useless, in the luxurious seating in the prow.
A second boat passed us, and this time my mother took notice of it. "We're going to run out of boats to flag down," she told my father.
"We got it. Don't bother."
Nevertheless, when a third pontoon boat passed us, we managed to attract their attention by waving our arms and shouting. They came in close, a merry party surrounded by a cloud of cigarette smoke. The woman who addressed us had a gravelly voice; I wondered if smoking had damaged her larynx.
"We need a lift," my mother hollered to our rescuers. "There's sand in our jets."
A rope was quickly secured to the prow of our vessel, and soon, we were moving at a snail's pace through the brown waters of the lake.
It is at this moment that I learned an important fact about aquatic vessels. Whenever one boat tows another, they must travel slowly--at five miles per hour, so as not to leave a wake behind the craft. Doing otherwise can damage the engines of the crippled boat. So we went slowly, very slowly, painfully slowly, and we finally arrived at the marina where our helpful cigarette addicts docked.
"You good here?" the friendly captain asked us after helping us tether our craft to a
"Oh, yeah," Uncle Joseph promised. "If all else fails, we can call an Uber from here."
And so we settled in, the men at the aft fiddling with the motor, the women at the prow. I opened my compilation of Doyle's tales, but a sprinkling of raindrops prompted me to put it back on the Ziplock bag I'd stored it in.
It was past four. We should have been home by now.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.