rushing like the spirits of
happy kids at play.
leaves are eaten and seeds blown
Flowers adorn the
prairie vast and beautiful
a princess's crown.
The sun is angry
it seeks to cook us alive
boy with ants and glass.
Timers dinging in
the distance; the race is now
I'm so sorry about forgetting to post on Monday. I hope I can offer an explanation.
I'm currently taking four college classes. One of them has a reasonable pace. Two of them, taught by the same professor, are super laid back. One of them, however, is indescribably awful.
It didn't start out too bad. "Read two short stories and make a comic strip," our teacher told us the first week of class. But then reality hit, and now I'm screwed.
See, we have to read a book a week for this class. Which, under normal circumstances, isn't too big of a deal. The first book we read was The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham, and it was a decent book. Read it in two days. And then, since I want to get a head start on next week's work, I've started reading our next book.
And, of course, it's by Ernest Hemmingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls, to be exact.
On Monday, I don't know what happened. I got busy. I forgot to write my blog. No worries, I thought to myself. I'd write it Tuesday. But on Tuesday, my dad sent me on an errand to a distant town, and I was gone the entire afternoon. I made myself dinner and adulted until, at last, I collapsed exhausted on my beanbag chair and...I don't know. Probably watched YouTube.
Wednesday, I thought. Wednesday for sure.
But school comes before blog, and I started reading that blasted book by Ernest freaking Hemmingway. I got to page 120 and, after (among other things) seven pages of dialogue about a group of people hacking Fascists to death with farming equipment, I fell asleep for forty-five minutes and woke up wondering what dimension I was in.
And then I went to church.
And that brings us, dear readers, to today. Where I still don't know what the devil I'm doing. But oh well, I suppose. Does anyone ever know what they're doing?
I've decided that a person's main responsibility in life, besides loving God and His children, is to do your best and have fun. I'm a bit rusty on the "fun" aspect of that statement. But that's what I'm going to try doing.
Good morning, dear readers! Let me catch my breath--
Okay. I'm good. I think.
My laptop battery is dying. My internal battery is dying. See, my college classes started Monday, and on Tuesday, I drove 45 minutes to another state to attend classes at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Yes, I have some experience with college classes. I have my associate's degree, after all. But all but two of my classes have been online. This semester, I'm taking two online classes and two in-person classes. I still have no idea what I'm doing.
The Southeastern campus is a lot older than the community college I went to, but in all the right ways. It has a vast lawn full of beautiful mature trees, a towering library with columns and the names of great writers like Shakespeare and Dante carved into the wall near the roof. The stairwells--oh, the stairwells! You open a door into a little vertical hallway, hear your footsteps echo as you ascend the stairs, and reemerge in a completely different room.
The classes...those, though. I'm not sure what to make of those yet.
One of my professors is an older man with grey hair pulled back in a ponytail. He wore a plaid button-down over a Grateful Dead graphic T-shirt and spoke so softly during the lecture that no one else dared sneeze for fear of drowning him out. He swore more than any of the students did and showed us a VHS. But he seemed like a nice guy. "Just write five haikus by Sunday and submit them online. You're good," he said.
My other teacher, on the other hand, was a blonde lady. "We will be reading ten books and watching the movies made off them, in addition to writing three papers and a comic strip," she said. "You have three group presentations that will each be one hour long. Start working NOW."
My classmates, fortunately, didn't seem to be terribly awful. One of my classes has two other girls with my same name in it. Fortunately, one of them goes by her middle name. In my other class, there's a rodeo boy who waltzed in late wearing a cowboy hat with a feather stuck in a beaded band that ran around the crown.
I have no idea what I'm doing. The 90-minute-round-trip drive certainly curtails my study time. On the bright side, I've already read some of the books we'll be studying--most importantly, The Scarlet Letter, which was written with rather complicated language.
That being said, dear readers, if I post late once in a while--or even skip a post here or there--don't worry about it. It's just me being busy. I'm not dead (probably). And on Mondays, expect to see some of the poetry and short stories I'm writing for class. I'm glad I'm taking mostly English classes this semester.
Do you have any advice for a panicking college student? What was your most memorable class to be in? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to check us out on Twitter!
My college classes started today. Unbeknownst to me, I had to complete a five-hour-long orientation that included a mandatory hour-long video about sexual assault. So, needless to say, I don't have it in me to write a coherent short story.
However, I was cleaning my room yesterday and found a folder containing the rough draft of Where the Clouds Catch Fire. I'm making the decision--a horrible decision, probably--to share with you how Where the Clouds Catch Fire almost started.
Please, for the love of God, remember that I was thirteen when I wrote this. So don't judge. For my reputation's sake, I'm changing some names and spellings, and also the dialect. (My thirteen-year-old self had never heard an actual Irish person talk and just winged it.)
So, without further ado...
"Lynder! Lynder, wake up! Come play with me!"
The thirteen-year-old girl opened her eyes, brushing her red-blonde hair out of her face, and looked at her brother. "Tarin, please don't call me Lynder," she sighed.
"Fine then, Alynn. Will you play with me?" the boy asked.
"No. I'm tired."
"You wouldn't be tired if you had slept last night," the boy countered.
"And I would have slept fine last night if a certain seven-year-old hadn't been flopping like a dead fish next to me!" the girl snapped. "I can't wait to get to Scotland and off this silly ship. Now please, leave me alone."
"Aw, fine," Tarin sighed. Alynn rolled over in the tiny bed she had made out of furs and blankets, with sailcloth being used as a tent. Alynn fell half asleep. Five minutes later, the tent's door was thrown wide open.
Alynn sleepily rolled over. She didn't need to look to know who was speaking to her. "Father, my name is Alynn."
"You're being lazy, girl! Get out there while there's light to see by!"
Alynn looked up at her father, Rowan McNeil by name, and his broad-shouldered silhouette. As her eyes adjusted to the bright light, his features filled themselves in: sharp blue eyes, red hair, large mustache. She dared not disobey him. "Yes, Father."
Alynn crawled out of the tent and was quickly greeted by Tarin. "Alynn! Will you play with me?"
"Sure," Alynn yawned. She walked over to where Tarin had built a fort by leaning shields and oars against a rowing bench. The crew paid no attention to them as they sat rowing, or talking direction on the high deck.
The Darting Swallow was a Viking's cargo ship, also called a Knarr. It had two covered areas, one on each end, that were stocked with provisions for the journey. The ship rode high in the water, and the sides were just high enough to keep the waves out.
"Look, Lynder!" Tarin cried, waving a sword in the air. "I'm a pirate!"
"Put that down before you kill someone," Alynn hissed. "Namely yerself. And my name's Alynn, not Lynder."
"Aw, Lynder. The sword's got a cover on it," Tarin sighed. "I have an idea! You can be in the fort, and I can protect you from Vikings!"
"That is the best idea you've ever had," Alynn smiled. She curled up in the fort and promptly fell asleep.
Hello, dear readers! Today I decided to do something a bit different than usual...IF I can get the stupid video to load...
The books mentioned are:
We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to tell you that today, January 6, is Alynn's birthday. Since she was born in 950, she'd be 1,070 years old today. If we say she was born the year I created her, which was 2014, she would be six. But since good books are immortal, along with the characters that make them, we'll just imagine her at whatever age strikes our fancy. And I, of course, will be telling the story that Rowan told her every year--the story of the day she was born.
Alynn was born in Limerick, Ireland. Her father Rowan, at that point, was a fisherman, and so they lived in a small house near the River Shannon, where Rowan set out six days a week to ply his nets. But on the first Saturday after New Year--Epiphany Eve--a frightful snowstorm set in. Rowan put up no argument when his fishing partner and next door neighbor, a cantankerous older man by the name of Seamus, decided to head home.
And it was a good thing Rowan did head home. The storm got worse and worse, and by the time he was safely inside his own four walls, the wind was screaming like a banshee and the snowflakes were so thick that he couldn't see more than three feet in front of him.
Rowan noticed two things right away. The first was that everything in the house was spotlessly clean. The second was that his wife, Caitriona, was still cleaning.
"Caitriona, for God's sake, will you sit down and rest a bit?" he said, shivering as he took off his boots. His feet would be cold, he knew, but he'd rather be cold than see Caitriona dry away every footprint he left on the dirt floor. She seemed unwilling to welcome her first child into a home that had a single speck of dust in it.
The moment he'd finished doffing his boots, Caitriona was in his arms. "How long do you think the storm will last?" she asked.
"Can't say, as of yet. Why? What's wrong?" Rowan, like any decent father-to-be, had a healthy sense of panic.
"Nothing--we've hours yet until anything happens, but I'm just frightened--I hoped my mum could be here--Rowan, don't you dare--"
Rowan opened the door, but Caitriona grabbed his arm and pulled him back inside. "If you're going to fetch the midwife in this weather, Rowan, you'd best put your boots back on first. And make some sort of mess for me to clean up. I need to keep my mind off things."
"Shouldn't you be resting?"
And with that, Rowan put some wood on the fire, making sure to toss soot and sawdust everywhere, and left to fetch help.
The storm, somehow, had gotten even worse. Rowan ran face-first into Seamus's hut before he saw it, and he realized what he was doing. In this weather, it would take him forever to find help, and forever to get home--if he got home at all! So, against what he would have normally called his Better Judgement, he went into Seamus's house and stood shivering for a moment, too cold to speak.
Seamus must have recognized the look on Rowan's face, because his usually stony face softened a bit. "Bad weather for the stork to fly in," he said. "Go back home. I'll fetch help for you."
"You're certain?" Rowan asked, shivering.
"I was in yer boots once, laddie. Go on."
And so Rowan went home, where the soot and sawdust was already cleaned up. He finally got Caitriona to sit down, and together, they waited.
The storm kept raging. Caitriona squeezed his hand until his fingers curled inward from lack of blood, and still, no Seamus. Her water broke, and still, no Seamus. Time ticked on until Rowan was sure it was midnight, and still, no Seamus.
Finally, heart hammering and mouth as dry as an overcooked chicken, Rowan caught the baby. He had just enough time to announce "Cait, it's hideous" and hand the thing to its mother before passing out cold on the floor.
It was half an hour before Caitriona noticed. As far as she was concerned, her new baby girl was the most beautiful thing in the world.
By the time Rowan woke up, it was seven o'clock on Epiphany morning. The storm had stopped, Seamus was there, the midwife was there, and Caitriona was half-asleep. The baby was wrapped in blankets and pillowcases and held tight against her mother's chest to keep her warm.
Of course, when Rowan told the story to Alynn and all the siblings that followed her, he claimed the first words he'd said upon seeing his daughter were, "Cait, she's beautiful." Caitriona would smile and shake her head every time she heard the story, but she'd never correct it. Rowan's version suited her well enough.
Happy New Year, dear readers! I can't believe another decade is over. And so is another family vacation--we spent the holiday in Galveston, and even though I debated staying home, I actually enjoyed it. My family enjoyed some quality time together, I got five books for $20 from a wonderful used bookstore, and my dad finally caught a nice-sized fish. But I'm glad to be coming home. In fact, I'm writing this in the car right now (I'll post it once I have WiFi). I have about four more hours of sitting in the car, listening to Mom have her own not-quite-private breakout worship session along with the radio. My earbuds are at maximum volume, which I know is terrible for my ears, but I can still hear her singing. It's frustrating.
Anyway, I had some time to read this week, and I got some new books for Christmas, so naturally, I have a book review for you. No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens.
(We're driving through Houston right now. It's foggy, and the tops of the skyscrapers are hidden. It looks like they just materialize out of thin air. It's beautiful and haunting and very ethereal. Back to scheduled programming.)
Nowadays, I don't read many books written by authors who are still alive. No Less Days is an exception, and a beautiful one at that. (I'm getting bounced around back here pretty good. Texas isn't known for its high-quality roads. My hands are jittering on my laptop keys, and my screen is bouncing back and forth. If it gets much worse, I'll have to hold off the blogging until later. Sorry.) Anyway, I'm not sure what genre to place No Less Days into. It's not quite a fantasy, not quite a thriller, but a good book nonetheless. So I'll get right into a description of the plot.
We meet our main character David Galloway, a man who should be dead. Not because he's done something stupid or has miraculously escaped some scary situation, although he has. He's over a hundred and sixty years old, but he's eternally stuck in his thirties. There's actually a decent explanation for his longevity, one that involves microscopic organisms from a backwoods lake getting into his bloodstream and preventing its host from dying. But as far as David's concerned, he's the only immortal out there.
Until he meets a man who, like him, should be dead.
David seeks out Zac Wilson, a daredevil stuntman who fell into the Grand Canyon and miraculously survived. Zac introduces David to three other immortals--grouchy Simon, quiet Colm, and eventually the adventurous Moira. But when one of the group turns out to be a less savory character than anyone's comfortable with, David finds himself faced with decisions he never thought he'd have to make.
No Less Days is a very engrossing book. I had a hard time putting it down. I found myself laughing aloud on a few occasions and sharing memorable moments with my family. It talks about God without getting preachy, and it deals with complex issues. David and his employee Tiana are complex and well-thought-out characters. And--I've been reading too many self-published books, apparently--but there were no grammatical errors, and I'm glad.
(It's raining now. Thank God there aren't many people on the highway. I think. It's still too foggy to see very far.)
Onto the negatives. The first thing I noticed about the book was its formatting. It's a weird thing to complain about, I know. But the average novel has the author's name and book title on the top of the page, right? No Less Days has it on the bottom, along with the page number. And the page margins were really small. It's no big deal for most people, but it sort of irked me for a while.
The supporting characters all sort of ran together for me. Perhaps it was just because I read the book too fast--I wanted to finish it before our return trip so I could put it in a less accessible place and instead bring with one of my new Cadfael Chronicles. But I got Simon and Colm confused at first. (Ooh, a taxidermy shop! I've never seen one of those on a road trip before. And there's the second karate academy I've passed today...) Also, there's a plot point at the end that isn't explained very well. I feel like it was just put in there to help introduce a possible sequel. Simon jumps into a scene with no introduction or warning--he just starts talking, and I didn't even know he was in the state, let alone the room. Unless, of course, I was just reading too fast to catch it.
It's a good book though. I enjoyed it. Almost as much as Mom enjoys singing--I think she's finally stopped after an hour and forty-five minutes. Four more hours to go, I guess...are we still in Houston? Gosh, it's a big city.
If you need help spending a Christmas gift card, hop on over to Amazon and get a copy of Where the Clouds Catch Fire or Where I Stand--or both! And if you were gifted with a subscription of Kindle Unlimited, you can read both those books for absolutely free. (I still get paid though, so don't feel bad.) God bless you, dear readers, and Happy New Year!
Okay. Let's try this again.
Alynn woke up to the church bell ringing to Prime, the six-o'clock prayer service. The wooden pew was hard underneath her. Her arm was asleep from using it as a pillow, and her ears were cold. But she'd slept well. Of course she'd slept well; the priest, Father Columba, had invited the McNeils to share his dinner the night before. The soup was thin and the bread didn't have butter, but it was more food than Alynn was used to, and she had enjoyed it.
The ringing of the bell paused, and when it began again, the sound was uneven and even skipped a peal or two. Alynn knew why when Father Columba climbed down the ladder that led to the belfry before helping Tarin down.
"Lynder! Father Columba let me ring the bell!" he cried, running to his sister's arms. Alynn hugged him and made his tousled hair look presentable.
"That's grand," Alynn said. "Did you thank him?"
"Thank you, Father Columba."
"You're welcome, lad," the priest said. "Now, Alynn, would you make us some oatmeal? Tarin can help you."
"Of course, Father." Alynn gathered the plaid she'd used as a blanket, gathered it over her shoulder, and belted it around her waist. Then, taking her brother's hand, she went for the small refectory where they'd eaten the night before.
Rowan was nowhere to be found. Alynn wasn't surprised. He was probably out trying to find a job, or the hovel with the cheapest rent and the leakiest roof and the draftiest walls. Alynn didn't know where he would get his breakfast from, but his absence at the breakfast table was nothing unusual.
After Prime was chanted, the meal was eaten, and the dishes were washed, Alynn approached Father Columba. "What else would you have us do, Father?" she asked.
"In exchange for staying here, I mean."
Father Columba laughed. "Am I an innkeeper, that I should charge for hospitality? Keep your brother out of trouble. You can go explore the town, or stay here--try not to bother me too much, now--"
"Of course. Thank you, Father."
Alynn, however, was unused to having free reign. She slept a bit more while Tarin played with his beloved wooden ox and cart, and then she mended the rip Tarin had sustained in his trousers the day before. When Rowan finally came home, wet with a cold rain and still without a job, every bench in the small church had been wiped clean.
"Are we going wassailing tonight, Da?" Tarin begged, soap on his chin and dirt on his nose. "I want cookies!"
Rowan sighed. "Not tonight, my heart."
Tarin's eyes grew wide, and he hugged Rowan's leg. "Please, Da? I'll give you some of my cookies." When there was no answer, Tarin hugged tighter. "Pleeeease?"
"Yay!" Tarin bounced away to help Alynn and Father Columba make a pot of soup.
After dinner, armed with candles and Rowan's timpan and a legion of songs, Alynn and Tarin went door to door, singing. Sometimes they were invited in for a drink. Sometimes they were given bread or cookies, and some of the wealthier houses gave them coins. Tarin's eyes grew wide as an owl's when he was given a whole penny, and he jumped up and down thanking the generous homeowners.
And when Alynn went to bed that night, full of bread and cookies and milk with even more saved for the next day, she prayed a special prayer of thanks.
Oh, crap. Did Monday's short story not work? I hate technical difficulties. I'll repost it Monday...after I rewrite the entire blasted thing, since I wrote it at work...
Anyway. Christmas is less than a week away. You, like most other people on the planet, are busy. You're going to Christmas parties where you pretend to enjoy talking to people even though you'd much rather be at home watching the live-action Grinch movie in your pajamas. You're helping your kids memorize lines for their school Christmas play. And all of a sudden, you realize you've forgotten to get Christmas presents for a particular bookworm in your life.
Fear not! Here are some gifts that every bookworm will absolutely love.
"What do you mean?" you're probably asking. "They're a bookworm. I'll just get them a book and call it a day." Oh, nope. Not so fast. See, most people have particular tastes in books. I like historical fiction novels--depending on what time period they're set in. I like action novels and thrillers, assuming there isn't graphic violence or too much profanity involved. I like a good mystery, but not one that involves ghosts. In fact, half the time, I don't know if I'll like a book or not until I pick it up and rifle through it.
If you know your reader well--say, if they're your child or spouse--you can probably pick something out for them. Maybe. But even then, you're best going with one of these other options.
Best option? Gift cards. Oh, we readers love gift cards. An excuse to go to a bookstore and touch the soft covers of books and thumb through the pages and ogle at collector's editions! Your favorite bookworm will absolutely adore a gift card.
If you decide against a gift card or want to keep your gift under $20, reading accessories are always appreciated. I just bought myself a clip-on reading lamp so I can read in the car when it's dark (and I'm not driving). Bookmarks, shirts that say "Need More Books," or merchandise from a favorite series are always appreciated. Or even stickers with quotes from a favorite book. I have a sticker on my laptop right now that says "Courage, dear heart," which is taken from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
You still want to get them an actual book? See if there's a particular author they like. I'll read anything by C.S. Lewis, for example, although I still need to struggle through That Hideous Strength. What about classics, you ask? Be careful. Mark Twain said that a "classic" book is something you wish you had read. Past tense. It's like saying that Illinois is a good place to be from, after you're safe and secure in nice, sunny Texas.
However, a few of the classics are actually enjoyable to read. I'm currently reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and I'm enjoying it. I've laughed aloud multiple times. The Sherlock Holmes books are safe bets, usually. Don't bother getting The Scarlet Letter or Moby Dick or anything by Shakespeare unless you know your reader friend is into stuff like that.
And what about your writer friends--like yours truly? Hopping on www.amazon.com and getting yourself, or a friend, a copy of Where I Stand or Where the Clouds Catch Fire
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.