Today is the last day of November, which means that many people are either celebrating the completion of their NaNoWriMo goals or scurrying to catch up. But not me.
Why, you ask, didn't I participate in National Novel Writing Month? Well, to answer that question, I have to tell you a story that takes place back when I was a freshman in high school.
I was going to a private school for the first time since preschool. Luckily for me, this school only had 30 students in it, and the high school had five students including myself. But since the school was so small and my best friend was in 8th grade, I was able to hang out with the younger kids.
I was scared. Understandably so. I'd been homeschooled since kindergarten, and now I had to stay trapped behind a desk for eight hours a day with strange people. I was changing curriculums for the first time. (Honestly, the worst part was the diagnostic testing.) I missed the entire second week of school after I had a bike wreck and got a concussion.
And on top of all of this, my almost-fourteen-year-old self decided to do NaNoWriMo.
I had the sense to only aim for 30,000 words instead of 50,000, which was the established word count for a NaNoWriMo novel. It was tough enough trying to write 1,000 words every day. The good thing about this particular school was that if you were diligent and got all your work done before pickup at 3:30, you didn't have homework. At all.
Another interesting thing about the curriculum we used was that you decided how much work you did in a day. You set goals for yourself on a 4x6 card, which was aptly called a Goal Card. We'd pin them to individual corkboards at our desks and cross off each goal as we came to them. (Except that we didn't have corkboards, so we just used ceiling tiles covered in fabric. Mine looked like a quilt.) If you didn't finish a goal for a day, you brought it home as homework.
On one particular day, as pickup time was drawing nearer and I was working frantically to get my goals done, my goal card fell down when I tried to re-pin it to my ceiling tile. I reached behind my pencil holder to pick it up. I re-pinned it. It fell down again.
I started to cry, and someone noticed.
"What's the matter?" they asked me.
"I can't have homework today because I'm behind in NaNoWriMo and I really need to finish my word count and other people are writing 50,000 words this month and I can't even write 30,000--"
We got an adult, and I got a hug, and we found out that I'd been accidentally assigning myself too much work. So I got all my unfinished goals brought down to the next day and I was ready to go home, homework-free.
In case you're wondering, I was indeed able to write 30,000 words in 30 days. By December, I had the rough draft of Where the Clouds Catch Fire finished. (And don't worry, the final draft of the book is over twice as long.)
I'm a very task-oriented, performance-driven person. If I fail at something, I beat myself up about it. Since I don't enjoy that feeling, and since writing 1,000 words every day doesn't leave any time for church, family, or physical exercise, I might not do NaNoWriMo again for a while--at least until I've graduated college.
Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Did you succeed? And please, since I need help with a college project, do you know how to make a PowerPoint presentation? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
“Tarin, hold still,” Alynn muttered through clenched teeth. She yanked the comb through Tarin’s tangled hair again, and he jumped.
“It would hurt less if you’d stop movin’!”
“No fightin’ on Sabbath,” Rowan said. He looked very nice with good tunic and well-combed hair, but he seemed rather out-of-place. At least his forest green and navy blue plaid was draped over his left arm as it always was.
Alynn had a Sunday dress, too, but any confidence it gave her was stolen by the plain rope she had for a belt. She’d just as soon wrap herself in a bedsheet and hide in the rafters.
Tarin looked like he’d been washed, dried, and starched. “Is this a fancy church, Da?” he asked.
“It looks fierce nice, so ye’ll have to be on yer best behavior,” Rowan said. His eyes were sharper than any threat of a whipping, so Alynn and Tarin both nodded with an obedient “We will, sir.”
Alynn secretly dreaded the first time she went to a new church. There were always the sideways glances, the murmurs of “I wonder where their mother is,” and the upturned noses at the patched and threadbare clothes. The services were usually stuffy, with Latin prayers and just enough kneeling, sitting, and standing to keep people from falling asleep.
Alynn ran the comb through Tarin’s hair again before they left for St. Paul’s. The church-bells began tolling just as they walked up the grand stone steps, and Alynn was caught up in a rush of people and fancy clothes.
Every time she entered a new church, Alynn marveled at it. She would gaze at the stained-glass windows and the high ceilings that didn’t leak. She’d join Tarin in staring at the statues of saints. And finally, right as the opening prayers were being said, Rowan would hustle them into the sanctuary, and there would be whole new sights to look at.
There were more stained-glass windows, and a grand pulpit that could only be reached by a flight of stairs. The pews gleamed, as if their wood had been oiled as well as sanded. Everything about St. Paul’s was rich and beautiful. Alynn wished she could hold her breath so she wouldn’t spoil anything.
“Lynder, what are they saying?” Tarin whispered after the second Latin hymn. Alynn shrugged and looked at Rowan.
“I’ll tell ye once we’re home,” he promised. “Now, whisht.”
Alynn bowed her head in silence and listened to the rest of the service. There were lectors who stood and read Scriptures that no one could understand, and the priest gave a short sermon. It was the only part of the service that was in Gaelic.
As soon as the service was over, the derision began.
The McNeils were often the last to leave church. It was better than spending the whole afternoon in their hovel. Rowan would often speak with the monks, or with someone who had children roughly Alynn’s and Tarin’s ages. Today, Rowan fell into a conversation with an elderly man. Alynn and Tarin stood in a corner, waiting for disparaging comments.
“Poor little church mice,” one woman said.
“Take a gawk at those culchies over there,” a boy said to his brother. “The girl isn’t even wearin’ a decent belt!”
“State of them,” the brother sniffed.
Alynn longed for the day she could endure comments like Rowan. He’d always listen to them with his arms crossed, then politely ask them to mind their own business. Or else he’d ignore them. He was very good at ignoring things.
Alynn looked up to see Fiona. She looked beautiful in her Sabbath dress, even if it did look like a hand-me-down from an older cousin. “How are you gettin’ on, Fiona?” Alynn asked.
Fiona grinned. “I’m grand. This church is wonderful, isn’t it? Da says it’s been here for a hundred years. And there’s so many statues. Do ye want to see them all?”
“I do!” Tarin cried. “Is there one of St. Thomas and his spear?”
“There is, he’s right next to St. Mark with his Bible.”
Tarin’s eyes lit up, and he took Alynn’s hand as he pranced after Fiona.
The three went all over St. Paul’s, gazing at the candles and the windows and the vaulted ceilings. There were statues everywhere—mostly of the Apostles, and of course Mary with the infant Jesus. And afterwards, Fiona suggested they see if any food had been left out in the kitchen.
“But isn’t it stealin’?” Alynn asked.
Fiona stopped and thought, her face distorted in ways that made Tarin giggle. “Well, they just said in the sermon that it’s more blessed to give than to receive, didn’t they?”
“Then the church will be blessed if they give us their food.” And with that, Fiona popped into the kitchen and came back with a smirk on her face and a loaf of bread in her hand.
“It won’t be missed!” she said. “Here, take some!”
A pang of guilt struck Alynn, but when she watched Fiona and Tarin eating, she decided it must have been alright. So she quickly took a bite. It was worth it.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my wonderful readers! I hope you enjoy a day full of friends, food, and family—and realize how much we all have to be grateful for.
I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving—especially that time my mom made the gravy explode (I’m still not sure how she did that). We’ve never had huge Thanksgivings in our family. It’s always my parents, my sister, and my grandparents—six people—eating so much food we can hardly think straight. Dad and Papa would always watch football while I helped Mom and Grammy in the kitchen. And my sister—well, historically she’s set the table, but recently she’s been helping with the food. She’s making pecan pies this year.
Several years ago, my sister and I made Thanksgiving trees. They were just little foam trees, and on every leaf, we wrote something we were grateful for. (It wasn't this fancy, but here's the general idea:)
I was thankful for my dolls, my dog-walking business, and my books.
Nicole was thankful for Pokie (her little green stuffed porcupine), her food, and her soccer ball.
Neither one of us put “my sister” on a leaf, until Grammy told us to.
Today, I’m thankful for my family and God’s blessings in our lives. I’m thankful for my home, my church, my job at a nursery, and all the books I’ve read and written. (And I’m very thankful for you all, my dear readers.)
But this Thanksgiving is going to be a bit different from our previous Thanksgivings. It started back on Sunday, when I got a phone call at 7:15 A.M. I was still in bed, but I hardly ever get phone calls, so I answered it. And I was glad I did.
It was from my mom. She was in the hospital with my dad. He was having a heart attack.
No one was expecting this. My father is about as strong as a horse. He eats healthy, and while he doesn’t get much exercise, he’s still pretty strong. In fact, he’d just spent all of Saturday digging holes for fence posts.
The next few days were rather hectic. I’d drive my sister to the hospital every morning and do school in the waiting room, because the Wi-Fi was faster there. People dropped by. One family brought pie. They are now my favorite family ever.
My father ended up having two stents put in. He never lost his upbeat personality, and God’s blessed him with peace. He’s given all of us peace, actually. I knew my dad was in good spirits when he asked me to bring his hairbrush from home.
At first, it was a little strange to see Dad lying so still in a hospital bed. But today, he might as well be at home, sitting in his red recliner, watching football. He looks great, and everyone is very thankful that he’s alright.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving day…and don’t forget to like us on Facebook!
Alynn awoke at the same time she always did, halfway between Prime and Terce, and right before the sun turned the clouds from black to grey. She could hear Rowan chopping wood outside, and she rolled over to see Tarin sleeping peacefully. She dressed quickly and ran a brush through her hair. She wanted to look nice on her first day at work.
While the stirabout was cooking, Alynn swept the floor and tucked her bedroll under the bed. Tarin woke up slowly, rubbing his eyes.
“Are we still in Barrygone?” he asked.
Alynn took Tarin’s clothes off the nail on the wall. “We are,” she said, plopping Tarin’s clothes next to him. “Rise and shine, Tarin! I’ve got work today.”
“Did you tell Da?”
Alynn bit her lip. Rowan hadn’t come home from work until well after dark. Tarin was already in bed, and Alynn had nearly nodded off waiting for him. He’d eaten his soup in silence, then halfheartedly kissed Alynn’s head before he fell asleep, murmuring about horses.
“Not yet,” she said.
Tarin yawned. “I think you should. Has he brought the wash-water in yet?”
“Yay! I don’t have to wash my face today!”
“Just because we’re poor doesn’t mean we have to be dirty,” Alynn scolded. She ran a comb through Tarin’s hair as he put his socks and boots on. “You don’t want people to look at us like they’re better than us, do you?”
Tarin scowled. “I don’t.”
“Then wash yer face.”
Rowan came inside with an armload of firewood, set it near the stove, and left for another armload.
Alynn’s eyes stayed on the closed door as if she half expected Rowan to open it again and smile and say, “I forgot to tell ye good morning, didn’t I?” But the door didn’t open, and Alynn sighed.
“Stack the firewood, Tarin, while I tend to breakfast.”
Rowan didn’t say his good-mornings until after he’d prayed for the watered-down stirabout, and he ate without hardly saying a word.
“If I come home early enough, could you mend my trousers?” Rowan asked. “I tore the leg yesterday.”
“Thanks.” Rowan gave each of his children the kiss on the head that they coveted every morning, then left for work. Alynn smiled. She washed the breakfast dishes and was at the O’Shaughnessy’s house by the time the church bells rang the hour of Terce.
“Alynn, you’re here!” cried Fiona. She was already perched on the seat of a spinning wheel, the delicate machinery whirring at her fingertips. She waited for the wheel to stop before she bounced off and hugged Alynn. “Oh, this will be grand! I’ve never worked with anyone my age before. You don’t know how to use a spinning wheel, do you?”
“That’s alright, I’ll show you. This is the distaff, where you put the fleece. And the yarn goes through here, here, and under here, and it ends up on this bobbin here.” Alynn’s eyes tried to follow Fiona’s pointing finger, but nothing worked. “Does that make sense?”
“Just spin the wheel, and the rest is like a drop spindle,” Fiona promised. “It’s easy once you learn it.”
“What do I do?” Tarin asked.
“What you’re doing, lad, is comin’ with me!” said Colum, who had just finished inspecting the wheels for damage. “It’s market day.”
Tarin beamed and skipped after Colum. “Be careful,” Alynn called after him.
“I will!” Tarin promised. The door shut, and for a moment, Alynn was worried for him.
But then, she sat down at the spindle, and excitement pushed out all her worry. She spun the wheel to get the feel of things, then loaded the distaff and started working. Fiona sat beside her and worked the wheel like a seasoned veteran, talking all the while.
“Perchance tomorrow you can eat breakfast with us,” she prattled. “Is it lonely, not havin’ a sister to talk to? My sister Agnes is only nine, but she’s still fierce nice. She understands me better than Seamus. But Seamus is six, and Mum says that if he and Agnes switched places, I’d like him better. I still can’t imagine livin’ without Agnes. And then we have Ceili. She’s two.”
Alynn smiled. “Do you like havin’ a baby sister?”
“I do, but she’s loud and she cries a lot still. It was fierce terrible while she was teethin’. Mum says she’s spoiled because she’s the littlest, but I still think she enjoys actin’ the maggot.” Fiona finished spinning all the wool on her distaff, and she looked at Alynn. “Do you wish you had a sister?”
“Do I count?”
Alynn smiled. Her eyes were focused on her work, but she could still see Fiona’s eyes sparkling. “We’ll see.
For many people, a love of words starts early. I was one of those people. When I was just three years old, my mom would sit with me in a big, red armchair and read Little House in the Big Woods to me.
It wasn’t long before I was old enough to read the books for myself. By the time I was seven or eight, I’d read the entire series—and I didn’t stop. I continued with Roger Lea MacBride’s tale of Laura’s daughter Rose in Little House on Rocky Ridge. I remember idolizing Rose’s friend Paul Cooley. In my eyes, he was fifteen. He could drive a wagon all by himself, and he was practically a grown-up. I was surprised to look back a few years later and realize he was only ten.
I recently picked up one of the Little House books again--On the Banks of Plum Creek to be exact—and I realized just how much they’d shaped my childhood.
I loved the Little House series because it was simple. There were no fancy gadgets or devices. People talked with each other instead of texting friends. And on the cozy winter evenings, they’d sit in front of the fireplace, and Ma would sew and Pa would tell stories and play his fiddle.
Yes, they had their share of problems—and then some. But with hard work, sacrifice, and determination, they got through them.
I’m far from being a pioneer. I enjoy using electronic devices, I can’t knit, and I’ve never played volleyball with a blown-up pig’s bladder. But I learned some things from the Ingalls. I learned that families who stick together can get through anything. I learned that it’s okay to take responsibility and do more than your fair share of work. And I learned that even pioneer siblings didn’t always get along, either.
It took me a while to realize how much I’d actually gleaned from the Little House series. In Where the Clouds Catch Fire, I describe a blizzard. Have I ever seen a blizzard? No, but Laura has. She described them in great detail, and I was able to give that much more authenticity to my own writing by learning from her.
Laura was a great describer of details. She probably learned that from describing things to her sister Mary after she went blind. In the books, she describes sunsets and kittens and so many dresses that I got tired of reading about what everyone was wearing. I didn’t understand most of the words for fabric—words like “cambric” and “fawn-colored” and “gingham” and “muslin.” In fact, I always read the word “cambric” as “ceramic” and figured it must be a very stiff material.
But alas, all good series must come to an end. I moved on—I read The Chronicles of Narnia and Charlotte’s Web and The Crittendon Files, and more recently I’ve read The Scarlet Letter. But one of these days, I should dust off the old set and start off at the beginning, with Laura introducing us for the first time to Ma and Pa and Mary and Carrie and Jack, the brindle bulldog.
Have you read the Little House series—or do you prefer the TV show? What’s your favorite book series! Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers—and don’t forget to like us on Facebook!
“When’s Da going to come home?” Tarin begged. His face was blackened with soot from cleaning the fireplace, and the rest of him wasn’t much cleaner. “I’m hungry.”
“We’re all hungry,” Alynn sighed, closing her eyes. She’d lie down on the floor if it wasn’t still so dirty and wet from the leaking roof. Three days’ worth of cleaning hadn’t made too much of a difference on the tiny hovel. She’d spent four hours scrubbing the walls, and she still couldn’t see much of a difference.
“I want cheese,” Tarin said. “And bread and soup and carrots and a big cup of milk!” He spread his tiny arms wide, smiled, and looked up at Alynn. “Can I have some cheese?”
“We don’t have any.”
Tarin’s face fell, and he went back to cleaning the fireplace. “Is this good enough, Lynder?”
Alynn looked at the fireplace. Only half of the fireplace was noticeably cleaner, and streaks of soot were everywhere. “Let me touch it up,” she said.
“You never let me finish!”
“You’re not old enough yet,” Alynn snapped. “Go pick dandelions.”
“But it’s rainin’!”
“You said you’re hungry. Go outside and pick dandelions.”
Two tears slid down Tarin’s soot-streaked face, and he stormed out of the house. Alynn sighed, then scowled as water dripped from a leak in the ceiling down the back of her neck. If Tarin were older, she’d send him up on the roof to patch it. It was almost as rainy inside as it was outside.
Alynn took all the buckets, mugs, and bowls she’d placed under leaks and emptied them into the soup kettle. “At least we won’t be fetchin’ water for a while,” she muttered.
Someone knocked on the door, and it creaked open. The latch was broken.
“Can I come in, Alynn?” asked the voice of Fiona O’Shaughnessy.
“Sure, you can,” Alynn sighed.
Fiona had visited the hovel only once before, but she skipped inside as if she was visiting an old friend. She looked up at the leaky ceiling with a wry smile and found a dry patch to stand under.
“You’ve done a grand job of cleaning,” Fiona said. “How can you stand not havin’ a fire going?”
“Can you help me finish cleanin’ it?” Alynn asked.
“Sure, I can. I should have brought my brother Micheal with. He’s eight, and what he’s got is more energy than the rest of us put together. He doesn’t enjoy cleanin’ much, though. He likes runnin’ errands with Da. What is it you like to do?”
“I don’t know,” Alynn said.
“Of course you know. Everyone likes somethin’, don’t they?”
“I suppose I like gardening,” Alynn said. “But we haven’t had a garden since I was nine. We’ve moved too much.”
“That’s a fright.” Fiona scrubbed the stones deftly. There seemed to be magic in her touch that made dirt fly away. “I like cleanin’, but it’s cookin’ I like best of all. I’m still terrible at it. I can spin, though. Da pays me sometimes to spin for him. Do you like spinnin’? I’m sure Da could pay you, too.”
Spinning yarn wasn’t Alynn’s favorite chore, but she didn’t mind it. She enjoyed watching the fluffy rolags of wool turn into soft yarn. And she was willing to do anything to get out of the hovel and earn an extra shilling for food.
“I’d love that,” Alynn smiled. “Do you truly think he would?”
“Of course he would! As long as yer da’s alright with it, that is. I can teach you to use the spinnin’ wheel.”
For the first time in a long time, Alynn felt hope and excitement. It was Christmas and Easter and the first day of harvest all wrapped into one. “I’ll tell Tarin,” she said, “and I’ll meet you at yer house!”
“A job?” Colum asked quizzically, letting his spinning wheel come to a stop. “You’re a wee bit young for a job, aren’t you?”
“But she’s my age, and I’m twelve, and twelve is a grown-up, right, Da?” Fiona asked. She looked at Alynn. “You’re twelve, aren’t you?”
“She’s not!” cried Tarin, who had tagged along.
Alynn shrugged, trying to look unconcerned. “I’m close enough.”
“Is yer father alright with it?” Colum asked. “You’ve talked with him?”
Alynn nodded, and her conscience stung for lying. “I have—I mean, I will tonight. If he comes home for tea, that is. Sometimes he doesn’t get back from work until after Tarin’s gone to bed.”
“And he’s always too tired to play with us,” Tarin said.
A friendly look came into Colum’s face. “Well, lassie, you can work from Terce to noon, every day except Sunday, and I’ll give you five shillings a week. Tarin, you can come and help me run errands, and I’ll give you yer own shilling if you’ve earned it. How’s that?”
Alynn’s face lit up, and she gave Colum a hug. “Thank you, Mr. Colum,” she smiled. “Thank you so much. When do I start?”
“Come on Monday, if you’ve a mind to.” Colum smiled, and Alynn skipped off to make dinner. Hopefully, it was the last time she’d have to make do with oats and wild greens
Good characters are vital to any story. Think about all the TV fandoms—“Game of Thrones” comes to mind, as does “Supernatural” and the Star Wars franchise. Why do people go absolutely crazy over these shows? They love the characters. And so I’m here today, dear readers, to tell you how to create a multi-dimensional, heartstring-pulling, compelling fictional character.
There’s no way I’m getting this done in 500 words, so I’m just going to cover the basics.
Every character, be they the hero, the villain, or the guy who gets honked at for cutting someone off in traffic, needs three qualities. They are:
Everyone is good at something. Your character’s strengths are the things they’re good at or admirable qualities they possess. They might be smart, athletic, kind, funny, or attractive. They might be good at making friends or sword-fighting. Everyone character needs strengths—even the villain. The truth is that even the most despicable person has things you can admire about them—even if it’s simply their determination to reach their goal.
A quick word of warning: your characters should not be good at everything. There are three general categories your character’s strengths will fit into: intellectual, physical, or intrapersonal. In other words, they can be smart, athletic, or social butterflies—but never all three. Pick one, or two at the most, because perfect characters are boring.
To counteract your character’s strengths, they also need flaws. Thanks to a YouTuber (Ellen Brock, I believe), I now know that your character’s main flaw should be something rooted in their backstory. For example, Alynn’s character flaw is her extreme workaholic nature. She developed this after her mother was kidnapped and she basically had adulthood thrust upon her at the age of nine.
The flaw can be anything—pathological lying, a bad temper, depression—as long as it can be linked to something that happened in the character’s past. In most books, the character flaw is resolved as part of the book’s plot and/or the character’s arc.
Obviously, your character is going to have more bad qualities than just their flaw. They’re human, after all, and humans have bad qualities. Be it slouching, procrastinating, swearing, or constantly tripping over things, your character will have little things wrong with them that are called quirks.
Not all quirks are bad. I twirl my hair a lot. This is a quirk, and the only negative consequence to it is split ends. Another word for a quirk would be peculiarity, or something that makes that character unique. Quirks can be useful. My mom has the habit of clearing her throat, and it came in handy when my child self would get separated from her in Walmart.
Well, there you have it! The three things any character needs to be well-rounded and emotionally compelling, in less than 500 words! If you were a fictional character, what would some of your quirks be? And if you belonged to a fandom, which one would it be? Tell me in the comments below! (Also, feel free to ask questions, be they about the blog post or Where the Clouds Catch Fire in general.) God bless you, dear readers—and don’t forget to like us on Facebook!
Even though Rowan rarely accepted charity, he took up Colum’s offer to spend the night. Perhaps it was because a gentle rain had set in during dinner, or because the woods were too wild for camping in, or because the O’Shaughnessy family was simply too friendly for anyone to decline their offers of hospitality. However this miracle happened, Alynn was glad of it. She awoke the next morning to the smell of Kiva making breakfast.
Alynn pulled her dress on over her undershift and draped her plaid over her shoulder. She pinned it in place with a horseshoe-shaped pin, then tied it at the waist with a rope. Her belt had worn out two houses ago.
“You’re awake early,” Kiva said, stirring the stirabout. “Did you sleep well?”
“I did,” Alynn nodded. She dug through her family’s trunk, careful not to make too much noise, until she found her comb. She worked it through her strawberry-blonde tangles.
Rowan entered through the back door with a bucket of water. He smiled at Alynn. “I can’t thank yer family enough,” he told Kiva softly. “We’ll be leavin’ as soon as Tarin wakes up. I need to hunt for a job.”
“You’ll stay for breakfast,” Kiva said.
Rowan gave a smile that he didn’t mean. “I’d hate to intrude.”
“And I’d hate for the black pudding to go to waste. You’re stayin,’ Mr. Rowan, if there’s anythin’ I can do about it.”
Rowan hesitated, and Alynn smiled. He’d never turn down black pudding.
Tarin sat up, his hair as wild as a rat’s nest attacked by a stoat. “Lynder, where are we?” he asked.
“We’re still at Mr. Colum’s house,” Alynn said. She brushed Tarin’s hair while he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “In Barrygone.”
Tarin looked around. “Something smells funny.”
“It’s black pudding that Miss Kiva’s makin’ for breakfast.”
Tarin made a face, and Alynn gave a sympathetic smile. She wasn’t terribly fond of black pudding, either, but it was a welcome break from stirabout.
Alynn helped put breakfast on the table. Rowan ate quickly, then left to find at least a decent day’s work. Alynn ran her fingers over her rosary necklace and breathed a silent prayer that he would find a job. But she didn’t have time to worry. She helped Kiva wash the dishes, then went with Fiona to weed the garden.
“Do you like gardens?” Fiona asked.
“I don’t mind them, but I prefer spinning. Da’s got a spinnery. Sometimes, he lets me work with him. Wool makes yer hands soft, and it smells good.”
Alynn smiled. Not everyone enjoyed the distinctive barnyard odor of wool, but it reminded Alynn of her grandparent’s house in Limerick. “My Granddad was a shepherd,” she said. “He and Nan always had soft hands.”
“That must be grand. My Nan, she’s got claws like a banshee.” Fiona made a face, and Alynn caught herself giggling.
“Fiona, are you workin’ or talkin’?” Kiva demanded. She’d been working in the patch of dye plants. “It’s nigh to noon. What have ye finished?”
“The watercress, parsnips, and onions, and we’re halfway through the garlic,” Fiona announced.
“Grand job,” Kiva said. “Alynn, where’s yer brother?”
Alynn’s heart skipped a beat as she stood and scanned the yard. “Tarin!” she shouted. She saw nothing, she heard nothing, and fear started mounting within her. “Tarin, where are you?”
“Lynder!” cried a faint voice. Alynn spun around to see Tarin, followed closely by an unusually cheerful Rowan. Alynn gasped.
“You found a job?” she asked.
“I did!” Rowan said, taking Alynn into his arms as she ran to hug him. “And I found a house, not too far from here.”
“Where are you workin’?” Kiva asked.
“Harald Otarrson, the horse breeder. We’ll be livin’ on his croft.”
Kiva nodded. “I wish you luck.”
Rowan kept talking—probably thanking Kiva for the hospitality—but Alynn tuned out. Harald Otarrson was a Norse name, Norse just like the man who had kidnapped her mother. Part of Alynn was frightened, and part of her was livid. She squeezed Tarin’s hand until he squirmed, gave her thanks to Kiva, and clung to Rowan’s hand as they left for their new home.
The croft itself was beautiful. Horses grazed on grass greener than any dye, and stone walls kept them inside. But the hovel Rowan led them to was falling down.
The door hung precariously from one hinge as Rowan opened it. It reeked, as if dung had been used instead of mortar between the stones. The wattle-and-daub roof was still dripping from last night’s rain, and part of the wall looked as if a tree had fallen on it. Leaves and trash were strewn across the straw floor.
Alynn took a deep breath and blinked. Perhaps, if everything was cleaned and the bed was made up, and the roof was repaired, it would look more like a home.
“Tarin, fetch some firewood,” she said. “I’ll see if I can’t borrow a broom.”
Pen or pencil? Screen or paper? Coke or Pepsi? Writers have to make a lot of choices. And while people are curious as to what's best when it comes to platforms, writing utensils, and the great paper/screen debate, I can only answer their questions with what works best for me.
I started writing my first book in a notebook. I was ten when I started, and I remember sketching the single illustration at my sister's kindergarten graduation. I also remember walking dogs and saving money to buy my own computer, because my notebook was a pain in the butt. My grandmother actually bought me my first computer--a purple HP Pavilion which faithfully served its purpose for six years.
I prefer writing on computers for multiple reasons. It's faster to type than it is to write, it's a whole lot easier to edit your work, and it's easier to share with others. I'm not picky when it comes to my choice of computers. I currently use a Dell Inspiron. It's nice, and I like that it's a touchscreen, but you have to remember to turn it off periodically or it goes a little crazy. It also doesn't have a DVD drive, but I'm pretty sure they aren't standard anymore.
And as far as writing programs go....Word really is the best. I'm still using Office 2010 because my dad bought it a long time ago. OpenOffice is a good alternative, but for novel writing, I'm actually starting to use yWriter. (You might have heard of a similar software called Scrivener. yWriter is basically the same, just free and more dated.)
All this isn't to say that paper doesn't have its place. I use paper for outlining plots, character development, and drawing things like maps and timelines. I also store random notes on sticky pads. At the moment, I have a sticky pad listing the full name of a Welsh character (their patronymics go back five generations).
And when it comes to paper--pens or pencils? I had someone ask me this question on Quora once. I typically use mechanical pencils. I can't stand not being able to erase things. But pens have their place. I actually have a pen with a llama topper sitting in my pencil holder right now. I probably named it Kuzco. I watch too many movies.
I personally listen to music while I write. I don't know why. Instrumental music is supposed to boost creativity, but at the moment I'm listening to Thousand Foot Krutch, which doesn't exactly fit into that category. It still does a good job of masking the sounds of my sister playing with her friends out in the loft and my dog whining outside.
And for the age-old debate, Coke or Pepsi? Forget it. I don't do caffeine. (So don't even bother asking me if I drink coffee. I don't.)
What's your favorite writing medium? Do you drink Coke or Pepsi? Tell me in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.