Good morning, dear readers!
Every once in a while, when I know I'm going to be very busy on a Thursday, I'll write a post beforehand and schedule its release. Since my life is fairly boring, this doesn't happen often. However, today is one of those busy days. I'm probably halfway through Oklahoma right about now, traveling north on my way to Iowa.
What's in Iowa, you ask?
Corn. Lots of corn. Also soybeans and sunflowers. Or so I've heard. Oh, and also my biological mother.
One thing that you might have picked up in Where the Clouds Catch Fire and Where I Stand is the theme of family. In the first book, Alynn and Lukas come to see each other as father and daughter. Alynn's reunited with her long-lost mother. In Where I Stand, Alynn works through some daddy issues and gets her little brother back. As a foundling, Lukas spends some time puzzling over what it's like being part of a real family. I like to think that he comes to figure it out.
What you might not have known, though, is that I have a very personal reason for putting these things in my books.
Back in the spring semester of 2000, a couple of college students forgot to use birth control. A friend of a friend of the girl's parents were struggling with infertility. I was born during Finals Week, my parents met me twelve hours later, and I can now win every game of "Never Have I Ever" by saying, "Never have I ever met a biological relative."
As an adopted person, I have a few...peculiarities. I'm extremely clingy. Not in a "you-can't-go-to-the-store-without-me" way, but in a "I-can't-function-without-hugs" way. I also have a hard time feeling like I fit in with social groups, although being homeschooled for ten years and/or suffering from a phobia for half a decade might play into that. But there are plenty of non-adopted people who are way more messed up than I am, so I consider myself (relatively) normal.
Anyway, you probably have some questions. Why have I never mentioned being adopted on my blog before? It's not really that important. Do I plan on adopting when I'm older? I don't know, I'd really like to have my own. Am I excited about meeting my mom? First off, she's not my mom, she's my birthmother. And second off--you know that feeling that's somewhere between excitement and terror? That's what I'm feeling right now.
So I bid a hearty farewell to my chances of winning "Never Have I Ever," and a hearty hello to my native Iowa. I'm on the trip of a lifetime.
Any other questions you have for me--about being adopted, my trip, or otherwise--ask in the comments, and I'll try to get back to you. It might not be until Monday or so, though. God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
"Good evening, folks! We are in for an exciting time tonight as M.J. Piazza is opening her Microsoft Word document for the first time in weeks."
"You know, Tim, in almost a decade of writing, it's been really rare for her to take so much time off. COVID-19 has really negatively affected her creative flow."
"And she's not the only one, Charley. Have you been on Instagram recently? It's been a regular mess over in the comic section. Alright, here she goes. The Word document is loaded, and she's off to Chapter Three."
"And now for the first word...oh, don't tell me, Tim. What's the hold-up?"
"It looks like she's picking up her phone, right at the get-go here, this could be a deadly mistake...but oh, it looks like we're in luck. She's opened the YouTube Music app. She's picking out a playlist as we speak."
"What's your take on the music?"
"Well, Charley, it's actually a pretty common anti-distraction tactic. M.J. here has taken it to another level, though, by typically only listening to music that's not in English! How many languages are represented in this playlist that she's opening right now?"
"Hard to say, Tim. You've got your instrumentals, of course, and quite a few of the songs are in Gaelic, actually. Then we've got some in Latin, one in Hebrew--alright, she's picked a song manually to start off with, and it's in French."
"Sounds like she's starting off with a classic. 'La Chanson de Mardi Gras,' sung by none other than Hozier before his solo days. And she is turning her attention back to the Word document, and she is writing...no, wait, she's deleting."
"Bold tactic here."
"You know, Charley, sometimes the creative juices just can't pick up where they left off."
"I know that's right, Tim. Looks like she's only deleting about half a paragraph. Mostly dialogue."
"Alright, and she's starting the dialogue fresh. Who's talking?"
"Caitriona, I think. M.J. hasn't used a dialogue tag in a while, though, so it's a little hard to tell. And we've got the first word of the day--oh wow, looks like a full sentence. 'I didn't mean it like htat.'"
"Type-o time. She's fixed it."
"So much for the hot pen method, Tim."
"You know, Charley, she's never liked that method much. Sometimes her fingers go in the wrong order on the keyboard. You remember that classic blunder back in '17, she typed 'vafroite' instead of 'favorite.'"
"She was sleep-deprived at that point, I thought--and she's off again--look at those fingers flying, Tim. Nothing like it. She's got a whole 'nother sentence out already."
"'Alynn made herself smile as she clutched Elsie tighter to her chest.' What emotion is being conveyed here! What depth of--"
"Oh no, what's this?"
"Bad news, Charlie. M.J.'s getting called downstairs to feed the dog. This has happened before, and it normally destroys her train of thought. Will she or won't she leave the keyboard--"
"Oh, she's left! Two sentences, eighteen words, not even one song finished on her playlist. What a disappointing turn of events, Tim!"
"Oh, don't worry, Charley. She'll come back. She always does. Tune in next time to see if Chapter Three ever gets finished."
There are a lot of things I can do in life.
I can vote and drive a car. I can crochet, sew, knit (to a small extent), latch hook, tablet weave, lucet, cross stitch, and nalbind. I can write books and poems and dramatic monologues. I can play a few songs on the piano. I can even tell the difference between yarrow, Queen Anne's Lace, and poison hemlock.
There are also a lot of things I can't do in life. I can't swallow more than one pill at a time. I can't sing well or play the guitar. I can't run a mile in less than eleven minutes. I can't pronounce the word "ration" for some reason. I can't sleep unless the room is completely dark and I can't watch the new Star Trek: Picard series without having a panic attack. More frustratingly, I can't keep plants alive.
There are exceptions. By some miracle, the plant my mom gave me for Valentine's Day is still alive. It doesn't have any flowers and I really need to get around to picking off the dead leaves, but the plant itself is still vibrant green. I've got a pepper plant in the front yard that produced a single wrinkly red pepper, and I've got a few herbs that are barely producing. But mostly, my plants die.
My crowning inglorious moment was when I managed to kill an aloe plant. Aloe Vera is supposed to be notoriously hard to kill. I forgot to water it for about three months straight and then overcompensated.
So finally, I bit the bullet and got me a plastic plant.
Hobby Lobby has a vast array of fake plants. I love it. They have flowers and leaves and everything in between, in all the colors you can think of. The plant I purchased looks sort of like oregano--it has lots of small leaves arranged on creeping stems. It was either that or a fern. I have an irrational love of ferns; they're right up there with yarrow and wild fruit-bearing plants on my list of favorite flora. But the fake oregano was cheaper.
You know, everyone has things that they just can't do. And that's okay. The modern world has done a pretty good job of supplementing our inadequacies. If you can't bake your own cupcakes, store-bought is fine. If you can't grow your own houseplants, plastic is fine. If you can't raise your own chickens, trade a pot of chili for a dozen eggs. If you're nice, you'll get your Tupperware back.
Well, I have to go don a little black dress with a white apron and grab my feather duster. The house isn't going to clean itself, and I've already been procrastinating. How's your luck with houseplants--or, if you're lucky, a vegetable garden? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
"You're not normal," I'm told, "because you don't care about clothes."
I care about clothes. I care that they're comfortable. I care that they're durable. I care that they cover everything they need to. That's why I lounge around in Bermuda jean shorts and T-shirts whenever I can help it.
Fashion? Hmph! My last reincarnation made dresses out of flour sacks. Talk to her about fashion!
But then I think back. Back to the eras that even my old soul has never seen. Back to those eras of history relegated to books and legends and historians and the nerds ostracized by today's society even though they rule it.
You see, back in the high off and far away days of the Vikings, there was a man. Don't ask me his name. My brain is full of more important information, like the population density of an island that doesn't exist.
Let's just call him Fred.
Fred, like any decent Viking man, got into a fight. Perhaps it was a war. I don't remember the particulars--my brain is full of more important information, like the eye color of a character who died seventeen years before the book starts and is only mentioned once in the sequel.
Anyhow, Fred gets injured in this fight. So terribly injured that he's carried off the field of battle and tended to by a doctor. Now, just like today's physicians, this doctor liked to work on naked patients. He tried to take off Fred's pants to assess his injuries.
His pants wouldn't come off.
The doctor rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. "Fred, you're too worried about fashion. Your pants are far too tight!"
Fred groaned. "I don't care about fashion," he said. "Not one bit!"
The doctor looked at Fred's leg a little closer.
"Oh! I'm sorry, Fred! There's a spear through your leg. No wonder your pants won't come off! Nurse--nurse, fetch me that axe over there. Sorry about this, Fred. You'll do great with a peg leg."
In other words, Vikings wore skinny jeans. They also wore eyeliner and tweezed their eyebrows and bleached their hair with lye. But don't ask me where I learned all this. My brain is full of more important information, like the fact that the first functional prosthetic was a wooden toe used by an Egyptian.
Well, it seems that this generation isn't the first to care about fashion. And it seems that I'm not the first weirdo to question the clothing choices of the majority. Which is good. It's always fun to realize that people share your peculiarities.
Before we get into today's blog post, I would like to announce that we have a book signing on our hands! On July 25th (this Saturday), we'll be at 410 Collective in Denison, Texas from 9:00 to 3:00, or until we're sold out. This is the first time Where I Stand will be available for purchase, so I'm super excited. See you there!
I, generally, believe that a fair amount of human beings place way too much emphasis on music. Why must you always have noise in the background? Are you afraid of being alone with your own thoughts? Nevertheless, music certainly has its place in the world. I listen to it while writing in order to stay focused. I've been known to listen to Weird Al parodies while crocheting. I sing to the babies while volunteering at the church nursery, and I play piano on worship team.
Yesterday, I stumbled across a YouTube playlist I'd made a while back. It's full of songs by Twila Paris, along with a few by Selah and Sierra. But mostly Twila Paris.
For those of you who haven't heard of Twila Paris, you're in for a treat. She made Christian music back in the 90's and early 2000's. I'm especially fond of her because, when I was very young, my mom would play her True North or Where I Stand album every night while I was falling asleep. Listening to her music today provides a very nice calming effect.
Additionally, Hillsong released a song not too long ago called "Jesus Loves Me." Everyone's heard the original nursery rhyme. Mom would sing it to me every night, right before she turned on my Twila Paris CD. I even have a memory of my grandmother singing "Jesus Loves Me" while rocking me in a rocking chair, then carrying me through the living room and the hallway and into the nursery.
My sister played Hillsong's rendition of the song the other week. I almost fell asleep listening to it.
Interestingly, Irish myths tell of a fairy timpan (a lyre-type instrument) that was able to put people to sleep. Its peaceful songs were said to soothe wounded soldiers and mothers in labor. Since fairies aren't real, the songs aren't real either, but perhaps there's some truth to the notion that songs have a calming effect. In fact, there's a scene in Where I Stand to that effect....
"Leif had brought with him a three-stringed lyre, and Rowan tuned it after dinner. He played the reels and jigs Alynn had grown up with, plus a few more he'd learned in Scotland, and everyone sang along. Caitriona pulled Alynn out of her chair and danced with her while Drostan watched with shining eyes. When Caitriona was out of breath and Rowan was running out of songs to play, the lyre's melody changed. It was calmer now, like a glassy starlit sea, and under its spell Lukas fell asleep.
"They were blessed. They were so very, very blessed."
Book signings are so much fun! They are for me, anyway. I get to dress up like a Viking and bring a plastic sword. I get to smile and talk to people and sell my books.
You know how life works. Murphy's Law does indeed seem to be a law of nature--anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment. There needs to be a less severe version of that rule that states that anything that can cause a minor inconvenience will indeed cause a minor inconvenience. Let's just call it Murphy's Second Law.
This Second Law hit me this week. I ordered some books online, placing two separate orders. The first order consisted of textbooks I need for the upcoming semester. The second contained two books for my own personal enjoyment--C.S. Lewis's On Stories and a collection of writings by the ancient Greek doctors Hippocrates and Galen. Yes, I ordered both these books of my own free will. Yes, I know it's strange. I don't honestly care.
Anyway, on Monday, I got all of my textbooks. I got On Stories. The only book out of both orders I didn't get is my Hippocratic Writings. The only one I actually needed for research. Of course.
Anyway, I got the Greek book today.
The Greek medical textbook, I ordered for research. Lukas has access to the writings of both Hippocrates and Galen, and I figured I'd better know at least a little bit of what he knows. I only understand about a fourth of what's going on. And not because it's written in Greek--thank God for translators. (I actually have a cousin in Chicago who's fluent in Greek, but I doubt she'd be willing to spend hours on end talking about medical stuff.) It's just...weird.
"Mortification or suppuration upon erysipelas is bad," says Hippocrates on page 142 of the book. I don't know what that means. Does anyone know what that means? Okay. Let's Google some stuff...
Just got back from the internet. You don't want to know what that means. Let's just say that "mortification" doesn't mean "embarrassment" in this context....
And that's not the only weird thing about these guys. They're obsessed with bodily fluids. Mainly pee. There's a section of the book called "Of the Epidemics" that simply doesn't shut up about pee. Why? Just why? What does it tell you? Why do you think it's important?
Looking back...why did I buy this? How am I going to incorporate it into the Clouds Aflame series? Since (spoiler alert) Alva's death, Lukas is the best and only doctor on St. Anne's Cleft. And honestly? I don't think the Greeks helped him much. This humoral theory is driving me nuts. Something about fat people needing to be purged in winter and thin people needing to be purged in summer or vice versa and when do the leeches come in? I understand leeches. I saw a jar of them once. They remind me of the algae eaters we used to keep in our aquarium.
Anyway, I'd better get back to...something. Reading about pee. Writing about sleep deprivation. I don't know.
Dear readers...I don't even know what question to ask you at the end of this post. So go ahead, make fun of me for my nerdiness in the comments. If you're meaner than my sister, I'll feature your comment in my next blog post (with your permission, of course). God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
Hey, guys! I've had a couple of people tell me that they really loved the poem I posted on Monday. I'm glad, of course. But I fear that a few of y'all skipped the introduction and missed the fact that Henry Holcomb Bennett, not M.J. Piazza, wrote that poem. I don't mean to plagiarize and wanted to clear up any misunderstandings real quick.
There's a comedy sketch on YouTube that I watched the other day--"The Restaurant of Life" by Studio C. One of the characters in the sketch is a writer and, at one point, contemplates getting a hobby. One of the other characters says, "You have a hobby. What you need is a job."
He's wrong, of course.
Every job has its challenges. When I worked at Domino's, I had to work in a fast-paced environment with customers who didn't always like me and coworkers who smoked pot in their spare time. At my after-school tutoring job, I had to get middle schoolers to listen to me. I'm currently getting paid to do my grandparents' laundry, which unfortunately means folding underwear that's a few decades older than I am.
But writing? Sure. Inventing worlds, people to live in those worlds, researching everything from thermonuclear astrophysics to Aztec fertility rituals, stringing words together in such a way that people laugh and cry--none of that's hard at all.
That was sarcastic. I enjoy it. Really. But it's hard sometimes.
I'm going to be twenty at the end of the year. I started my first novel when I was ten. That means I've spent a whole decade--half my life--pursuing a career in writing. I haven't really benefitted financially from it. I've sacrificed my social life and, at times, my sanity. And, recently, I've been sort of discouraged.
Fortunately, I'm doing what I'm pretty sure God wants me to be doing with my life, which means He's got a few tricks up His sleeve to keep me going.
It started off last week, right before the Fourth of July, at my church's baptism service. A lovely woman who recently read Where the Clouds Catch Fire came up to me and said that I encouraged her to finish the children's book she's been working on for years. I was honored. Encouraged. But God wasn't finished.
At the same baptism service, I overheard someone talking about needing a babysitter. I quickly injected myself into the conversation, as I need the job. The next day, I was contacted by a woman at my church who needs someone to watch her two boys every Wednesday. The youngest boy shares a rather unique name with one of my characters. It's even spelled and pronounced the same.
I watched him last night. He has contagious giggles, a sweet spirit, and the most adorable little face. He likes sharks and dinosaurs and playing Ninja.
When God wants to encourage you, He knows exactly how to do it. And I, for one, am grateful. Extremely grateful. I'll keep at my job, unrewarding as it is at the moment, and trust that I'll have my moment of breakthrough in due time.
When was the last time God encouraged you? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
Sorry about not posting this week! I've been busy being patriotic. To make up for lost time, here's a poem I had to memorize back in eighth grade: "The Flag Goes By" by Henry Holcomb Bennett. Enjoy!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A dash of color beneath the sky:
The flag is passing by!
Blue and crimson and white it shines,
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
The colors before us fly;
But more than the flag is passing by.
Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State:
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;
Days of plenty and years of peace;
March of a strong land's swift increase;
Equal justice, right and law,
Stately honor and reverend awe;
Sign of a nation, great and strong
To ward her people from foreign wrong:
Pride and glory and honor,--all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;
And loyal hearts are beating high:
The flag is passing by!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.