Hello to all of my introvert friends! To those of you who are introverts by nature, congratulations. And to all of you who are introverts by government mandate...I'm sorry.
Yesterday was a beautiful day. All non-essential stores are shutting down today, so I took yesterday to support local businesses. Meaning I bought yarn and frozen yogurt. It's not like I haven't left the house in the past two weeks. I'm the primary grocery-getter since I have the strongest immune system in my family, and we go to the park a lot to use their walking trail. But I was so happy to be in Joanne's Fabrics. It was glorious.
Even better, after our online church service, we watched AFV as a family. Well, minus my sister, who has stolen my ex-best-friend and spent all evening FaceTiming her. But that's alright. See, when I was little, we'd watch AFV every Friday night. We stopped when we moved to Texas for some reason, but I still love that show.
And even better than that?
I finished the rough draft to Book Number Three in the Clouds Aflame series.
"Did you have fun?" God asked me when I lay back to rest my screen-weary eyes after ending the final poem. In truth, I have had fun. I've introduced a few new characters who are very fun to work with. One of them looks like me. One of them is based on a friend I went to high school with. And, of course, I get to explore new facets of the existing characters. That's always fun.
The finished product is a bit shorter than I expected. It's around 60,000 words. For perspective, Where the Clouds Catch Fire is 75,000 words or thereabouts, and Where I Stand is almost exactly 90,000. But I'm not worried. The rough draft for Where the Clouds Catch Fire was less than 50,000 words long, and I still haven't added Lukas's journal entries. For whatever reason, I always add them after completing the rest of the narrative.
I remember the day I got the idea for the story. I was probably fourteen or fifteen, in the middle of an epic Nerf war with my sister and my aforementioned ex-best-friend. I didn't particularly care for Nerf wars. I'd only participate if I was allowed to wear a cloak and fight with my toy longbow instead of a Nerf gun.
At one point, I was hiding in the bathroom. I was behind the door, still and silent, cloaked and hooded, a loaded longbow in my hands. I glanced at my reflection in the mirror across from me and thought, "This is pretty cool. I should make a book."
I paused the war, jotted down an idea, and the rest is history.
What do you hope to see in Clouds Aflame Book 3? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to look us up on Kindle Unlimited!
Who cares if the skies are gray?
The air is warm and perfect,
flowers cover the trees, the ground
and I inhale the beauty of Spring.
Dandelion flowers taste just like their leaves
only a bit more pollen-y
the softest powder known to the tongue.
Best of all are the pear tree petals
blowing down from the branches with every breeze
like rice at a wedding.
Who's getting married, God?
I just like to remind people
that Joy exists."
Life has been crazy recently. I have three papers due in the next week. I have the strongest immune system in my family, so I've been shopping a lot. And about two days ago, my seasonal allergies decided to kick in, so I'm currently sneezing loud enough to wake the dead in China. (Not really, but I just sneezed in my upstairs bedroom with the door shut and earned a "God bless you" from my dad in the kitchen downstairs.)
So assuming that you, like me, need a pick-me-up, I have just the thing for you.
It started out as a belated Christmas present from my best friend. She knows me pretty well, because she managed to buy me a book that I really enjoyed. It's hard to walk into a bookstore and buy someone a book and have them end up enjoying it. Heck, half the time, I end up not enjoying the books I buy for myself. But the book my best friend found for me was Mike Chase's How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender.
Mr. Chase, apparently, is a criminal defense lawyer. Which means he spends quite a bit of time studying the laws of the United States. And in this wonderful book, he has compiled and illustrated a list of the most unnecessary, outdated, and hilarious laws on the books.
After introducing us to the faults in the American justice system that resulted in these laws, Chase jumps right into things that can get you arrested. The eight chapters each deal with categories of mundane things that can get you arrested, starting with mail crimes. The book then discusses federal crimes that can be committed with animals, money, food, and alcohol (but not all four--that would be a fun crime). The book then discusses crimes on government land and American waters before closing out with a hodge-podge of hilarious crimes that really don't fit into any of those categories. And there's a lot of them.
Typically, I would sit down to read the book and stop when I started laughing out loud. I wanted to save some laugher for later. Trust me, this book had me laughing more than once; sometimes so loudly that my parents would holler up from the living room and ask what was so funny. And then I'd tell them about how the Supreme Court has heard no fewer than three cases about margarine or how it's illegal to import a pregnant polar bear.
I learned quite a bit about the laws of the United States through this book, to be honest. The most important lesson was surprisingly practical. I've got a dream that someday, the Clouds Aflame books will be made into movies. Keeping that in mind, I seriously entertained the thought of giving Drostan the hobby of falcon-hunting. It suits his personality, and the vambrace he wears on his right arm gives him an automatic falcon perch. But according to pages 53 through 55 of How to Become a Federal Criminal, it's illegal to use trained raptors in movies that aren't specifically about falconry. So no hawks allowed on St. Anne's Cleft.
If you look at the book's cover, you'll notice three illustrations. The text underneath them isn't very clear in the picture, so I'll go ahead and explain them. After I get some Zyrtec.
And I'm back. Anyway, in the first picture, we see a man pouring concrete into a toilet. He's showing one of many ways to clog a toilet in a national forest, which is illegal. The second illustration shows a man trying to import a pregnant polar bear, which is also illegal. The last shows a man destroying a mailbox. All of these laws, while hilarious, are honestly not the best ones in the book. My personal favorites were the margarine laws.
Get this book. Read it. Laugh at it. And, of course, don't do any of the things in it unless you want to end up as a federal criminal. I'm probably already on a watch list somewhere thanks to my Google search history.
On second thought, maybe I shouldn't be reading this book. Oops.
So today's post is a bit different than most. See, we're studying invective in class, which is basically a fancy way of saying we're learning how to insult people. Don't ask me why. Apparently, Shakespeare was really good at insults.
Anyway, I had to come up with five insults. I posted six below for good measure, and I want you to vote on which one is your favorite. If you have a better insult, post it in the comments below! (Don't worry; I've already submitted the assignment and won't steal your insult.)
I was going to post a video about the musical instrument I've managed to make out of cardboard and fishing line. And don't worry, I'll still post it eventually. Today, though, in light of recent events, I figured I'd make something a little different.
I was homeschooled for ten years. When you're homeschooled, you learn how to entertain yourself. And with the President requesting that everyone stay home for the next two weeks, I figured that my skills as an introvert homeschooler might finally come in handy. And so, without further ado, here's a list of things you can do to keep yourself occupied.
First off? Books. Obviously. I'm a writer. I'm going to suggest that you read a book. The Bible is the best Book out there; you might enjoy it. If you're more into fiction, make a fake email address and get yourself a free trial of Amazon Prime so you get fast shipping. Or, if you're on a budget and are okay with a longer shipping time, check out www.thriftbooks.com or www.abebooks.com. Or, you know, look over all those books you bought three months ago and have sworn you'd read but haven't yet. Or reread a favorite. Heck, you can get yourself a free trial of Kindle Unlimited so you can read Where the Clouds Catch Fire and Where I Stand absolutely free.
The average person, myself included, can't sit around and read all day. I've got two books in progress. The Island of Dr. Moreau freaks me out and The Scarlet Letter is boring (I'm only reading it because of school). When you get tired of reading, try a craft. Use that trial of Amazon Prime to buy yourself some yarn and a crochet hook or knitting needles, or maybe some embroidery thread and Aida cloth. Dig around for those colored pencils or acrylic paint. Pull up a YouTube tutorial for something. Crochet. Knitting. Nalbinding. Tablet weaving. Lucet cord making. Sprang. Sketching or painting. Cross stitch. Embroidery. Get yourself a latch hook kit or a pottery wheel. The possibilities are endless!
Let's say you're tired of sitting around all day. If the weather's nice enough, take a walk. If it's raining, do some jumping jacks. Sit ups, push ups, burpees, really anything to get your blood flowing. Your body will thank you. Heck, I'm sure all the social media fitness gurus are coming out with Coronavirus Fitness Routines as we speak. YouTube probably has something you can do.
And now for the fun part. Clean something. Bake something. Organize your closet or go through your dresser and pick out some things to donate to charity. Plant some seeds for a windowsill garden. Do some laundry, how about? Vacuum the guest bedroom that hasn't seen a human soul since 1997. (But send me pictures before you do; a room like that would make for great story inspiration.)
And you know that weird thing you like to do? Do it. Practice juggling. Study beekeeping. Invent that fictional language--that's what I've been doing between episodes of Buzzfeed Unsolved. (It's for a fantasy novel with an estimated release date of 2037. Don't hold your breath.) Oh, and don't forget to call or FaceTime a friend. That's sort of important, too.
What are you doing to pass the time? Let us know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers--or, as the speakers of my fictional language say, "Tokh dotori le gav Dev alishah"--may God light your path.
I dawn with laughter
Flying feet dancing on the sunlit dust
Inhaling the dirt, the familiarity
And I sing to empty dressers and patched, unpainted walls
My skirts swirling, dust whitening my hem
For joy delights the soul and medicines the heart
While my spirit flies beyond the clouds and into worlds
Where nothing bites and no one dies unless I will it
And laughing, I create beauty.
The dark, the hate, the sourness.
Disease and chores and Life According to Jean-Luc
Where nothing works despite my efforts.
The dust settles, skies darken, chill sets.
I smile regardless
The candle within me refuses to be silenced.
Spring Break is upon us! A week of doing nothing! A chance to balance my checkbook and sleep in and read The Pilgrim's Regress! I might even get to have my friend over to watch Star Trek...
That being said, let's talk about what's on everyone's mind right now. Plagues.
Obviously, I'm no doctor or scientist. I'm just a nineteen-year-old college junior with contact lenses and a fidgety disposition. I don't even have very much life experience. What I do have is common sense and the entire internet's worth of facts.
My conclusion? Coronavirus is not what everyone's making it out to be.
So the death rate right now in the United States is about 6%, and that's pretty high--and pretty inaccurate. Here's the thing about statistics: we don't know how many people actually have the coronavirus. We haven't tested very many people, and I can 100% guarantee you that there's a bunch of people who have the disease and won't die from it who weren't included in the statistic above. South Korea, which has actually tested way more people for the disease, is showing a mortality rate of about 0.6%. That's six out of every one thousand people. That's barely worse than the flu, which people get and recover from every year without raising too much of a fuss.
You want to stay healthy? Pick water or herbal tea over soda. Wash your hands. Try to avoid sugar and exercise more. Go to your nearest health food store and pick up an echinacea tincture to help boost your immune system, or take a Vitamin C supplement. Oh, and avoid crowds.
If you decide to stay inside, what should you do? In five short days, you can start reading Where the Clouds Catch Fire absolutely free. Yep. On St. Patrick's Day only, you will be able to download the Kindle eBook free of charge off Amazon. (Or if you'd rather buy it now and support emerging authors, that would be awesome, too.)
And if you already own Where the Clouds Catch Fire and Where I Stand? Going for walks is still okay. The fresh air will do you good, and the weather is beautiful (at least where I live). Bake something. Do crosswords. Let YouTube tutorials teach you a new craft--crochet is tons of fun. Cut words out of a magazine article and arrange them into a poem. That's similar to what we did in class today. I'll give you the results on Monday.
What's another fun thing to do without leaving your house? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
It comes with the dark and it hunts in the night,
Its two teeth are shining like knives in moonlight,
Its evil eyes see you with evil delight.
The monster will vanish, and out you will call,
For someone to help you, anyone at all,
But no one will heed you, for you are too small.
Let sleep come and bind you with fetters and chains,
To dreams with no meaning may you be a slave,
And when the dream fades, child, the fear will remain.
One hour and fifty-three minutes ago, my teacher walked into the classroom and asked, "How is everybody today?"
"We're here," we said. This was the only appropriate response to a teacher who made us read eight novels (two of which, fortunately, are graphic novels), do group reports on all of them, and write three papers and a comic strip all before Spring Break. I stopped talking to my friend and picked up my crochet. Half the kids in class were on Facebook or doodling in their notebooks anyway; I might as well be productive. I finished one side of a sunflower-shaped hot pad and started working on another.
The professor went over the syllabus, which she did every class, and changed a couple of due dates. Typical. She went over the assignment which she said was due today but the syllabus said was due next Tuesday. I already submitted it. Turns out the syllabus was right. Oh well.
I was halfway through with my hot pad. My foot was tapping; I was anxious for some reason. It might have been stress. It might have been the new medicine I was taking. It might have just been excitement for the first properly sunny and warm spring day we've seen this year. Crochet is good for relieving anxiety. I worked faster.
A guy turned around to look at me. He was probably in his twenties, but he looked thirty-five with a stagnant office job, a drinking problem, and two kids he only saw on weekends. Unruly brown curls, rumpled shirt, an energy drink can as well as a water bottle on his desk. I didn't know his name.
"Is that croquet?" he asked, interrupted one of the aforementioned group presentations.
"It's crochet," I corrected. "Croquet is...dainty golf."
This made the class giggle. My friend beside me said something about tea. I had a flashback of playing croquet with my friend who lived in the cul-de-sac across the street from my childhood home in Illinois. We had to stop eventually, when her dad decided he didn't like the holes the wickets left in the front yard.
The office-working-divorcee-with-a-drinking-problem-looking student nodded. "I have a grandmother that crochets. She was a retired writer, but she had arthritis and Parkinson's Disease. She took up crochet, and it really helped her hands get steady again. She's able to type again now. And she made me this sweet blanket." He spread his arms. "It's huge."
I nodded. I've made a few blankets myself. "Those take a long time to make," I said.
The boy in front of him turned around at the mention of arthritis. "Have you heard of poke salad berries?"
I certainly had. We'd spent forty-five minutes discussing herbal remedies after class one day--I love how college is so full of nerds--and he'd mentioned that his father took poke salad berries for arthritis. They cleared it up, apparently.
Class resumed. I kept crocheting. I had almost finished the second half of the hot pad by the time I put it away. Honestly, I'm so glad that exchange happened. Class is boring. The people in it, though? They're golden.
What's one of your favorite college memories, or a funny conversation that happened recently? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review our books on Amazon!
(I wrote this piece for my creative writing class. I had to make a story containing twenty idioms or figures of speech. It's based off a piece by Christopher Dewdney called "The Dialectic Criminal," which is a confusing but fun read. Anyway, without further ado....)
I haven’t been in this much hot water in a coon’s age. I had to screw my courage to the sticking place and keep on keeping on. I knew I ought to lie in this bed I’d made from an open can of worms, but I didn’t want to rise up with fleas. I had my head in the clouds, commented the peanut gallery. I decided to get out of Dodge even though I was standing on a hole.
I thumbed it to high heaven and burned the bridges as I crossed them. I wanted to drown in a sea of faces, but I kept getting saved by the bell. I knew I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too, but I couldn’t go back to the ranch. So I high-tailed it to hell and back and came out worse for the wear.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.