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.
Give me five seconds to scream into the void.
And now I'm back. Thank you for waiting.
Writing books is fun. Going to college is fun. Taking care of a dozen boisterous middle schoolers is somewhat fun. But doing all three at once? I'm running up and down a flight of stairs every half hour to check on my science experiment, I have a book cover to retouch, I have to be at work in three hours, I have church this evening. I had church yesterday evening, too. At least I had Monday off. I was too busy eating ribs and swimming with friends to post a blog, so you have my heartiest apologies for that.
But, on a cheerier note, I got my first look at Where I Stand yesterday.
The proof came in the mail. I got to stroke the matte cover, smell the soy-based ink, thumb through the pages. And see all the little things wrong with it.
Most things I don't necessarily care about. Drawing something? I'll lose interest in half an hour, so whatever I do in that time is going to be the finished product. Writing a sign for something? The letters aren't the same size. Good enough. But when I'm writing a book? Everything had better be perfect or I won't be able to live with myself.
I stopped school early yesterday and nit-picked the cover design. I spent most of the morning with Microsoft Paint zoomed in at 800%, manipulating every single pixel until it was satisfactory. And then I showed a picture of my failed proof to a co-worker, and she smiled.
"You're upset because there's a little bit of orange on the spine? It's not that big a deal."
Maybe you're right. But that was just the cover. Now, I have to go through every page and take note of every missed comma, confusing phrase, and instance of incorrect formatting.
When you're a writer, you're not just a writer. You're a graphic designer, editor, salesman, and expert in thermonuclear astrophysics. And a historian. Sometimes also a costume designer, stunt choreographer, and accent coach. Writing itself turns you into a perfectionistic, overthinking, and occasionally sadistic human being.
I might wear a thousand and one hats. Not all of them fit right. But by golly, I'm going to balance them all and enjoy it.
Now, dear readers, I have a special opportunity for you. If you have enjoyed reading Where the Clouds Catch Fire, or amused yourself by stopping by my blog twice a week, you might be interested in a free copy of Where I Stand. And I'll give you one. The only thing you have to do is drop by Amazon on September 14 and leave a review. It doesn't have to be a thesis on symbolism and hidden meaning. Even a sentence or two, along with four or five stars, would be awesome. And I can't thank you enough. Comment below to get your free copy! God bless you, dear readers!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.