Well, this is it.
I was sixteen years old when my parents gave me my first year's subscription to my website platform. I, being rather short-sighted at the time, decided to name my website after my book series. And for the past--good Lord, five years now--it's worked great.
Whether fortunately or unfortunately, things don't always stay that way.
As soon as I'm done with Book 3 in the Clouds Aflame series, I'll be taking a break from St. Anne's Cleft. I have two additional books for the series planned, but I've been stuck on this island since I was thirteen and I want to branch out a bit. Thing is, though, I can't very well promote other books on a website designed specifically for the Clouds Aflame series. That's why I'm moving websites. Our new link is www.mjpiazza.com.
It's a lovely website created with the help of a lovely friend of mine. And don't worry, it's a lot like our current website. You might not even be able to tell the difference. But hopefully, it'll work a lot better than my current website. As you might have picked up on over the past several months, I've been having a few technical issues with my current website host.
Well, that's that. Sorry for the short post, but I have two papers to write and a quiz to take. Next week is finals week as well as my 21st birthday, so don't be surprised if I don't post. (Not that I'm planning on getting wasted or anything. I am, however, going to buy some vodka to make some herbal medicine with. And maybe some wine coolers.)
Speaking of which, however, I might as well tell you how my Thanksgiving went. It went splendidly. No one was in the hospital (my father was hospitalized with a heart attack on Thanksgiving in 2017, so it's something I'm always grateful for). We had new chair cushions that I'd never sat in before (this will be important later). In Texas, minors can drink under a parent's supervision, so Mom let me have a glass of a delightful sparkling rose. Anyway, I sat down on the fluffy new chair cushions and started cracking up because my feet didn't touch the floor.
Enough procrastinating for one day, unfortunately. One more week, and then one more semester, and then the hard part of life starts. I'm looking forward, though, to buying some land, starting a nice vegetable garden, hopefully getting married and having some snuggly little babies...living a nice, simple life. One with open windows and homemade cookies and yes, a glass of wine on the holidays. I'm Italian, after all.
Anyway...Weebly, goodbye (and, to the technical issues, good riddance). Welcome to the future.
Good evening, dear readers! It's been a good day in M.J.'s world today, thank God. I got to meet up with my parents for coffee, my brain cooperated with me enough to get a page of my important Shakespeare essay written, and I watched Guardians of the Galaxy in my dorm's mini theater. At the moment, I'm curled up with the late Ofra Haza singing in Hebrew on the wonderful Musi app. (If you haven't listened to "Deliver Us" from The Prince of Egypt in Hebrew...what are you waiting for? It's fantastic.)
If you know me in person, you most likely know that I love listening to music that's sung in languages other than English. And I'm not talking about mainstream stuff like Spanish or K-Pop. I'm talking Gaelic (both Irish and Scottish--apparently, the difference between them is less like American vs. British English and more like Spanish vs. Portuguese). Although Gaelic's the main one, I also have the occasional song in Hebrew, Latin, Breton (the love-child of French and Gaelic that's spoken in Brittainy) and, I think, a single song in Icelandic.
One of my favorite songs used to be "La Chanson de Mardi Gras," from the choral group Anuna. It was sung solo in French by a powerfully-voiced young man named Andrew Hozier-Bryne. I was shook for a week when I found out, several months after I'd been thoroughly enjoying "La Chanson de Mardi Gras," that my sweet Andrew has since stuck out on his own as a solo artist and now goes by Hozier. (While I don't listen to his solo stuff very often, I do enjoy "Arsonist's Lullaby" on occasion.)
I'd like to thank Julie Fowlis and the YouTube algorithm for introducing me to Gaelic music. Julie Fowlis also introduced me to the fact that Scottish Gaelic is a dying language. It is spoken, according to Siri, by less than 60,000 people worldwide. (For reference, over 200,000 people are native speakers of Breton, which is a language you didn't know existed until you heard me talking about it.)
I really, really wish I could help preserve this wonderful language. Unfortunately, for as smart as I am, my brain can't seem to pick up foreign languages. I tried with Spanish. I can read Spanish with a decent degree of accuracy, and I can speak it just fine. But, for some reason, my brain can't comprehend it when I hear it spoken. I couldn't even hold a conversation with a three-year-old on my most recent trip to Mexico. (My brain somehow refused to interpret "tres y media," or "three and a half," as anything other than "seis y media," or six and a half" when I asked the girl her age.)
Anyway, I might not be able to become fluent in Scottish Gaelic. But, assuming I can learn how to pronounce the darn language, I can sing it. I can mumble in tongues along with Julie Fowlis until I can wrap my tongue around the phonemes. I've got the "ch" sound down; now for the rest of the language. You thought French was hard to pronounce? In Scottish Gaelic, "ann" and "an" are different words that are pronounced with different vowel sounds. (The first rhymes with "down" and the second with "sand.") Maybe once I get out of college this spring and have the mental energy to devote to such things, I'll sit down with Gaelic for Dummies and figure everything out.
People care so much when animals go extinct. Where is the same concern for languages? I'll be singing "Ann an Caolas Od Oddrum" to the babies in the church nursery until I can sing it to my own children. I will not sit idly by and watch a language die.
If you could learn any language, what would it be? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
Sorry for not posting last week. I was isolating (again) because my mom had Covid. She's fine now, thank God, but I'm beginning to think that isolation is a form of psychological torture.
I consider myself an introvert. Unfortunately, human beings are social animals, and turns out that no one does very well when they can't be around other people. After a few days of not being able to leave my house, my brain just sort of...stopped working.
At first, you think that everything's going to be fine. You stock up on tea and hot chocolate and plan on baking those fall treats you've been looking forward to all year. (For me, it's apple cider donuts.) But then you come back from your last grocery run, you lock the door behind you, and all of a sudden...nothing matters.
I unplugged my digital clock because the bright green numbers made it hard to sleep. It didn't matter. Time meant nothing. My schoolwork was uninteresting. I spent my time daydreaming, or else doom-scrolling through Twitter. I tried to crochet. It worked to an extent. But slowly, everything came to mean nothing. I was waiting, waiting, waiting, my heart rotting in my ribcage, my brain puddling around my spinal cord.
It got me thinking, though. If a single week of isolation is affecting me so severely, what would Lukas realistically be like? He spent thirty-nine years, after all, alone in St. Anne's Monastery. Of course, when my thirteen-year-old self started developing Lukas's character, I had no idea what loneliness did to a person. I thought that he would be a bit socially awkward--homeschooled, if you will. I love Lukas the way he turned out, but I wonder how my books would be different if I made Lukas a bit more realistic.
First off, he wouldn't talk much, and he sure as heck wouldn't be as eloquent as I portray him. Sure, he would have read a lot. But I read a lot, and reading doesn't translate to conversing. He would be silent--people would ask if he was mute, and he'd nod, grateful for the chance to be ignored. He probably wouldn't say more than a word or two to Alynn for--weeks, probably. Unless he was reading out loud. His voice would shake.
And when he finally gets to know Alynn--faith, the things I'd change. His statement of "Don't ye know how wonderful it is, to have someone to keep company with?" in Where the Clouds Catch Fire would be something more powerful, more desperate. Something like "My God, all my life I've wanted someone, anyone, just to--just to be with. Fer the first time in my life, I'm excited to wake up in the morning, because I know ye'll be there."
And when Alynn hugs him for the first time, he won't start praying. He'll freeze for a moment. Then, slowly, he'll start crying. This is the second person in his too-long life that he's received physical affection from. He hadn't realized he'd been starving for it. From then on, he'd keep trying to touch Alynn, trying to relive that feeling--a hand on her shoulder, on the top of her head. He'd twirl her hair while they sat together on the hearth on the long winter evenings, Alynn sewing and Lukas reading. Always innocent things that mean the world to him.
But, alas, Lukas is too far gone to be changed. To be honest, I love him the way he is. And I'm not the only one--I've had several people say that Lukas is their favorite character, and I'm inclined to agree with them. (My birthmother, strangely, prefers Rowan.)
I really hope that I don't have to isolate again. But just in case, what are your tips for staying sane when you can't hug or interact with people? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
On Sunday morning, my pastor prayed for my employment status. At ten o'clock on Sunday night, I got a text asking if I could work on Monday. I also worked today, meaning I've got fifteen hours of work in for the week and I also have a crap ton of schoolwork to deal with tomorrow and Friday. I've been having mild but frustrating issues with my computer. On top of that, my grandmother has been in the hospital (she's at home now and perfectly fine), so...I haven't exactly had the chance or the mental energy to think about writing in general this week.
I should also note that it's ten fifteen at night, and I spent seven and a half hours wrangling small children. So this post is going to be a bit disjointed.
When I came home from work today, I crashed. I'd scraped by on a protein shake for breakfast and a student-sized portion of cafeteria taco salad (at the ungodly hour of 10:45 in the morning). An hour and forty minutes of my morning was simply scheduled as "Library." Was I supposed to guard the books to make sure they didn't escape? No kids came in, so I read the last two acts of "The Duchess of Malfi" in which literally everyone dies and is pretty much a mirrored version of "Edward II."
Anyway, I crashed. I laid in bed for three hours straight. Not the best way to spend my time, I know, but college is the perfect time to make stupid decisions. (That's also why I'm writing this blog really late on a Wednesday night.)
I didn't sleep, and I didn't spend the entire time on my phone. Instead, I daydreamed. I saw my characters, heard their voices, saw the ways they interact with each other. It was nice. I've got a nice group of imaginary friends that I can spend time with and vent my feelings through. It's a nice outlet. Not as cathartic as actually writing, but as soon as the words get put on the page, the fantasy is partially destroyed. Nothing I write will ever match the glory of what goes on in my imagination.
Anyway, one of those computer problems I mentioned earlier involved my keyboard, and I think it's starting to act up on me again. I'd better go before the problem gets worse. Plus, I'm exhausted and still need to shower off all my child-germs. With everything going on this week, I could use a laugh. Hop on my Twitter (I'm @MJPiazza2) and tag me in your funniest meme. God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
Where the Clouds Catch Fire
She vows to fight off the Norse alongside him. If they win, she gets the home she's always wanted. If they're defeated, she faces death--or worse, slavery.
Alynn doesn't have much of a chance. But if it means a forever home, it's a chance worth taking. Don't miss this stunning tale of faith, courage, and the power of family.
Where I Stand, Book Two in the Clouds Aflame Series,
Alynn has lost one family. Can she kill to protect her new one?
Change is the only constant in Alynn's life. Every few months, there's a move to another house, another town, another church. Finally, her father runs out of Ireland to wander through and takes what's left of his family to Scotland.
They never make it.
Alynn, the only survivor, ends up on a small island. She's taken in by Lukas McCamden, a monk and soldier trapped in a damaged body.
Alynn doesn't have much of a chance. But if it means a forever home, it's a chance worth taking.
Don't miss this stunning tale of faith, courage, and the power of family. Where I Stand, Book Two in the Clouds Aflame Series, is now available on Amazon.
A faint voice was vying for Alynn’s consciousness, but she brushed it away.
If she woke up, she’d be cold again. Her arms and legs would burn with a cold that felt like fire, and she would shiver until she was nauseous.
But the voice refused to go away. Something shook her shoulder, and she cried for it to stop.
“There ye go, lass,” the voice said. “Open yer eyes. Look at me. Ye’re safe, ye’re out of the water. Ye need to look at me.”
The man’s voice was calm and comforting, with a brogue that was neither lilting Irish nor the type of Scottish that Captain McMahon spoke. Alynn knew she’d heard it before—she’d spent the night at an inn when she was moving from Corgrigg to Kilteery, and she’d lain awake listening to a man telling stories. A Highland Scot, he’d been.
“Come, now. Look at me.”
Alynn tried to open her eyes, and the first thing she saw was a ribbon of red racing across the horizon. It was nearly dawn.
A blurry figure was kneeling in front of her. Warm hands were shaking her shoulders, touching her face and pressing two fingers into her neck. Alynn felt as if he were trying to choke her. She cried out again.
“Yer pulse is strong, lass. Ye’re going to be fine. Be quiet, now, and we’ll get ye out of here.”
A strong arm slipped under Alynn’s back, and suddenly, she was lifted into the air. She shrieked.
“Shh! We can’t let them—just—don’t say anything. I’ve got ye, lass. Ye’re alright.”
Warmth seeped through Alynn’s soaking clothes as the stranger carried her down the pier. She started to relax.
“Ye need to stay awake.” The stranger sounded like an adult, someone at least as old as Rowan or Captain McMahon. “Talk to me. But quietly. We can’t let them find us.”
“Who’s trying to find us?”
Alynn’s voice sounded so slurred to her, she wondered how the stranger could understand her. But he answered her in a comforting tone. “No one ye need to worry about, so long as ye say a prayer fer us.”
Alright, then. Saint Mary, protect us.
“What’s yer name?” she asked.
“Where am I, Mr. McCamden?”
“Just call me Lukas, if ye don’t mind. We’re on the outskirts of a village.”
“Alright, then….Where…what kind of village is…is this Scotland?”
“Not quite. We’re on an island, north of—”
A new voice rang through the air. “Excuse me!”
“Say that prayer now,” Lukas whispered.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.