A Year in Review…and Looking Forward

In 2018, I…

  • finished two manuscripts (fifth and sixth)
  • completed about half of my seventh manuscript
  • edited my third manuscript with the help of my writers group
  • published my third book
  • attended a writers conference at my local library for the second time
  • attended the Algonkian Pitch Conference in New York City
  • got feedback from an agents and editors on my writing
  • wrote my second short story in the horror genre
  • won third place with that short story in a short story contest on A Writer’s Path
  • watched several videos through Allison Lindstrom’s Blogging Business Club
  • posted a poem and an excerpt weekly on my blog
  • posted regularly on my author Facebook page and occasionally on other social media
  • promoted my books with Freebooksy and Rachel’s Random Resources
  • gathered new readers
  • read and reviewed several indie author books
  • used buffer.com for active posting on my social media sites
  • continued attending my local library’s writer group (now for 2 years)
  • deepened my friendship with several people from my writers group
  • began attending a second writers group of women
  • participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and wrote 52k words
  • am working on a book in a new genre for me: psychological thriller
  • read 48 books

In 2019, I plan to…

  • finish my seventh manuscript in February
  • focus on marketing and branding for a while
  • promote my published books
  • edit my fourth and fifth manuscripts
  • publish my fourth and fifth books
  • begin writing my eighth book
  • work on more short stories
  • enter more online contests
  • continue to actively engage on social media
  • continue to find new bloggers to follows
  • enrich my friendship with fellow writers and authors
  • keep reading

 

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Blogmas 2018 – Day 22 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

As Christmas approaches, may you see it through the eyes of a child, with the same innocent wonder as the shepherds gazing upon the Baby Jesus that first Christmas morning…

childswonder

Blogmas 2018 – Day 12 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

 
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Merry Christmas!! As a gift to you, I’m sharing with you a part of a Christmas chapter from my story, Hannah’s Rainbow, which is based on my late grandma’s life. I recreated what a typical Christmas morning was like at my house when growing up and Grandma would spend the night. While what’s below is fiction, it’s based in fact. I’ve also posted a short video of Grandma’s last Christmas with us, and you will see some parallels between the story and the real thing.

————-

When Hannah woke early on Christmas morning, she crossed the hallway to the bathroom and smiled at how Haley had lined up all of her personal items on the counter, completely unpacking her travel bag. After she finished her morning ablutions, Hannah made her way downstairs in her brightly-colored floral robe and fuzzy red and green slippers.
She entered the kitchen to find it empty, and hearing voices down in the finished basement, Hannah made to join the rest of the family. Haley came running up the steps, followed by Abbi.
“There are you, Grandma. We were waiting for you.”
“Did I hold you up?” Hannah asked, surprised. “It’s only 7:30.”
Abbi smirked, shaking her dark head. “You know my daughter, Mom. She was the first one up, counting the presents to see if she or her brother got more.”
“Grandma, come on downstairs,” Haley insisted.
“Wait, Haley,” Abbi said firmly. “Mom, do you want to grab a cup of tea before heading down?”
“Tea would be wonderful, thank you.”
The teapot was already on the stove. Hannah took a seat at the kitchen table to wait.
“How long is this gonna take?” the girl complained.
Just then, the kettle whistled.
“Hold your horses,” Abbi said, removing the teapot from the flame and pouring two cups, each with their own bag.
Hannah graciously accepted the cup, cradling the warm beverage between her hands. She kept from commenting on her daughter’s waste of good tea bags. Hannah had been using a single bag in the kettle for an entire week for decades now, and it had served her just fine.
“Are you ready now?” Haley asked. She looked out the window into the backyard and smiled. “Hey, it snowed!”
“What?” Abbi asked, frowning. She glanced briefly out the window. “That’s not snow, Haley. It’s just a thick frost.”
“Grandma, come here and look. What do you think?”
Amused, Hannah stood and ambled over to the window. Abbi was right about the frost, but not wishing to ruin her granddaughter’s spirit, she said, “What do you think?”
“Maybe it is frost, but it’s white, so it still counts as a white Christmas. Wouldn’t you say, Grandma?”
Hannah smiled warmly. “Yes, I think it does.”
Haley laughed. “See? I told you, Mom.”
“Yes, yes, let’s go downstairs now.”
Haley ran ahead of her mom and grandma. “She’s up, Dad! She’s finally coming, Randy!” she called down.
Hannah carefully followed Abbi down the carpeted stairs, remembering the youthful enthusiasm she once had on Christmas mornings.
By the time Hannah joined the rest of the family, Haley was already clutching a gift. For a moment, Hannah thought the girl was about to rip it open, but then Haley handed it to her.
“This is for you, Grandma. I made it.”
“Is it something you drink tea out of?” Randy asked.
“Oh, shut up.”
“Hey, can I help it if your hints are dead giveaways?” Randy teased.
Hannah smiled and said, “I wonder what it could be?”
She used her long thumbnail to undo the tape and the wrapping, careful not to rip it.
“Hurry up, Grandma. Who cares if you rip the paper?” Haley asked.
“Why waste good paper? It can be reused.”
“Mom, they don’t make wrapping paper like they used to. You don’t have to save it and iron it. It’s cheap enough to just buy new,” Abbi said.
In front of Hannah, Alan stood with his video camera. She didn’t comment on the younger generations’ lack of recycling, their tendency to rush through things, or their need to capture every minute of every special occasion on film. Wrapping removed, Hannah gazed down at the gift: a calendar.
“It’s lovely,” she said, flipping through the pages at ease. Haley had drawn a picture for every month and had written in the holidays.
“Thanks.” The girl glowed at her grandma’s praise. “I even wrote some Bible verses in it.”
Hannah pulled Haley into a hug and kissed her on the cheek. “I will hang it by my phone and use it. Thank you, Haley.”
“Now can we open our gifts?” asked Randy impatiently, his voice raw from coughing the past two weeks due to a bad cold.
“Go ahead,” Hannah said, motioning toward the tree. “They should be under there somewhere. Look for two envelopes.”
Frowning, the children darted toward the tree, digging through the horde of presents until they each came away with a red envelope. Hannah had taped a candy cane to each one, and Randy was already undoing the wrapping and biting into it. Haley set the candy aside and opened the envelope.
“Fifty dollars!” she and her brother exclaimed simultaneously.
“What do you kids say to your grandma?” asked Abbi.
“Oh, thank you, Grandma!” Haley cried, half-jumping from her seated position.
“Yeah, thanks, Grandma,” Randy said, more subdued but clearly pleased.
“You’re welcome,” Hannah replied. “This way, you can get something you want.”
“Or put it into savings,” Abbi said.
“Mom,” Haley moaned, “we put our birthday money into savings.”
Hannah was happy to see her grandkids smiling, although a part of her mind wandered to Glen’s kids. Abbi caught Hannah’s brief scowl and shot a questioning look at her mother. Hannah forced a smile, her warm countenance in place. She would see the rest of her family soon enough.
The family took the next hour to open gifts, and Haley and Randy argued over who would hold the video camera while their dad opened his presents.
“Neither of you if you can’t hold it still,” Alan said. “That camcorder is my baby, and I won’t have you breaking it.”
“You and your technology, Alan,” Abbi replied. “Two years ago, it was that VCR for six hundred dollars, and now you blow a thousand on this thing.”
“I told you that you didn’t have to get me anything for Christmas, honey.”
“Yeah, if you do come up with a list, you always go to the store and buy it before the event, anyway.”
The argument continued as Abbi and Alan walked back upstairs. The kids were putting some of their gifts away in their rooms, leaving Hannah alone for a few minutes. The tea cup sat empty on the small table next to her chair. She gazed at the lights on the tree, watching them blur, and Hannah touched her cheek to find it covered in tears as her thoughts drifted to Edward.
“Oh, Eddy,” she whispered. “I wish you could’ve been here to see your grandkids grow. We shared some lovely Christmases together, didn’t we? I do wonder what you would think of how things have turned out. Glen is so distant most of the time ever since you left us.”
Hannah gasped when something landed on her lap, and she gazed down to find Haley’s cat, Calliope, nuzzling her hand. Hannah rubbed the cat’s chin, and Cally purred as she settled onto Hannah’s soft robe.
“Were you talking to someone?” came Haley’s voice from the steps.
“Oh, just Cally here. She’s keeping me company while your mom gets breakfast ready.”
Haley scampered over to her grandma’s side and sat on the floor. “Cally only likes Mom and me… and you, Grandma. She’s such a fraidy cat.”
“She seems perfectly content right now. Is breakfast ready?”
“Yeah, that’s what I came down to tell you.”
Hannah gently picked up the cat and placed her on the floor. She followed her exuberant granddaughter to the kitchen, gazing one last time at the tree.

Hannah’s Rainbow is available on Amazon.

Blogmas 2018 – Day 8 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

 

A Merry Christmas

Smiles frozen in time decorate ruddy faces1980
And stare back at me, all bundled and warm
In holiday sweaters and knitted hats.
My fingers gently grace the baby
Who was once me in the old Polaroid,
The white tree with the red bulbs
And our stockings with our names in the background.
Grandma gazes back at me with the kindest eyes,
Her knobby fingers carefully unwrapping a gift,
Her patience to save the paper for another year.
The turkey still looks fresh out of the oven,
And I can almost smell the pies on the dining room table,grandmaonxmas
As all the family is gathered ‘round,
Ready to bless each other and the food.
Pictures are our looking glasses into the past,
Along with cherished memories of loved ones.
But as I look around me now,
I see the same smiles with those rosy cheeks
And get to actually hear the laughter and tales
That come with them.
The baby is my own son,
In whose eyes I witness the magic again,
And there hangs his stocking from our fireplace.
My parents are the grandparents, so happy and proud,
Bringing with them their own traditions from times past.2016
The meal is prepared before us to enjoy,
And we are still a family, still thankful to be so blessed.
This is the present, ever-fleeting and ever-changing,
Which is what makes it so special.
Life’s circle continues to turn as I age,
But it is beautiful,
And every Christmas is another reminder
Of how precious every moment is.
But lest we forget there is Someone much bigger than all this,
Let me just remind myself and everyone here
That Jesus is the true reason for our celebration.
In Him is our past, present, and future,
And that is a merry Christmas, indeed.

–written in 2010

 

Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (WIP)

I filled two glasses and placed them on the table. We drew up mismatched chairs and drank. Tristan finished first and sighed with pleasure.

I eyed him over the top of my glass. He gazed out the back window toward his house, the line between his eyebrows deepening. I put my glass down and asked, “So?”

“So, what?”

“Really, Tristan? Do you enjoy playing these guessing games?” My mouth hitched up on one side.

“Maybe.” There was a teasing undertone in his voice, but the crease between his eyebrows was still present.

“We’re married now. I think you can tell me anything.”

He whisked his eyes away from the window and met mine. “There’s nothing I could tell you that you don’t know already.”

“I find that hard to believe,” I joked, then grew serious. “But something’s off about you today.” As happy as I was, doubt poked at me.

“To be honest, I never thought I’d be married again.”

I took his hands in mine. For a moment, I stared at his large, rough hands–hands that could fix anything, from a house to a car, but also had typed and penned thousands of poetic prose, weaving those threads into the fabric of three novels. I met his eyes. “I think this will taking adjusting on both of our parts. We weren’t exactly social butterflies before we met.” I laughed.

The line between Tristan’s eyebrows lessened, and crinkles formed around his eyes as he smiled. “That’s the understatement of the century.”

After the moment of levity passed, I said, “So, enlighten me, O Talkative One.”

“Going through all my things, it’s like digging through the past.” His eyes shifted to the box on the table. “Maybe it would be better if I got rid of most of these things and be more like you. You know, completely start over.”

The tea kettle whistled. I stood and went to the stove, turned off the burner, and added a teabag. I gave a little snort. “My house is filling up quickly, but throwing away everything from your past isn’t the answer, Tristan. You can see how well that served me.” I joined him at the table.

“My stuff is taking over in here. I’m letting go of the house. It’s time I let go of other reminders, too.”

“Of Julie?” I asked quietly.

“Yes, of Julie.” He stared out the window toward his house again, as if his wife’s ghost were looking back at him out one of the windows.

“Hey.” I placed my hand on his arm.

He slowly turned his head, but his eyes were on the table.

I moved my hand to his cheek. “You wouldn’t be forgetting her.”

Eyes so empty and so full lifted from staring at the tabletop. “I know that here.” He pointed to his head. “But here, well, that’s another matter.” He gestured toward his chest.  “Pain and pleasure mixed.”

My lips quirked. “We make quite the pair, don’t we? I can hear Macy asking now, ‘Why can’t you two just be happy? Why do you always have to complicate things?’”

Tristan half-smiled. “Your best friend doesn’t know the half of it. Messy people are like that…complicated.”

Note: Rocks and Flowers in a Box is the sequel to my second novel, Lorna versus Laura.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is for $4.99 available here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Poetry Tuesday – Friendship

There are many people

Who come and go

In our lives,

But the precious few

Who stay are real friends.

They can look

Beyond our flaws

And see the living soul

Inside the outer shell.

A friend accepts another

For who she or he is

And loves every part

Of that person,

Even the parts

That remain not understood.

True friendships prove immortal

Because their legacies live on,

And even in death,

Two friends share something still:

Universal, unconditional love.

So, if you ever wonder

What a friend really is:

True love.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST A POEM EVERY TUESDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Chapter 4 of A Laughing Matter of Pain

With the release of my newest book, A Laughing Matter of Pain, I’m going to be sharing the first four chapters with you in the month of October! Check back every Saturday for the next chapter. The book is available on Amazon here.

Chapter 4

As the summer wears on, my brother continues to be an enigma. He used to be so easy to understand because he was just like me in many ways. If I’m honest with myself, I don’t even understand why I do or say half the things I do anymore.

In August, Amy surprises us by saying she’s dating someone.

“How did you meet this young man?” Ma asks over dinner one evening.

“I’d like it if you brought him by. I’d like to meet him,” Pa says. The twinkle is out of his eyes, his mouth a firm line.

“We met through a mutual friend from work,” Amy says. “I’m twenty-three, Pa. Really, don’t you think I’m a bit old to be bringing my boyfriend around for my parents to meet? It might not even be anything serious.” Her face flushes. She’s probably twiddling her hands under the table like she always does when she gets agitated. I keep my eyes on her, taking a bit of pleasure in her discomfort, wondering how this conversation will go.

“You’re still a young lady,” Pa says.

“Erik gets tons of calls from girls,” Amy says. “Why should this be any different? I’m five years older than him. Ma, you were my age when you met Pa.”

“Hey, don’t bring me into this,” Erik says.

I smirk, trying not to chuckle at this free entertainment.

Ma sighs. “You’re right. I was, but girls–women–were more mature back then than they are nowadays. The way they flaunt themselves–those flapper girls with their bobbed hair and too-short dresses. All that jazz nonsense, dancing, and illegal drinking. People are wilder than ever.”

I try to imagine Amy dressed as a promiscuous young lady, smoking and drinking. It’s damn near impossible.

“I’m hardly a flapper, Ma,” Amy says. “How often have I told you times change? When will you realize that things aren’t going to just go back to the way they were thirty or forty years ago?”

Ma harrumphs and digs into her food.

One point for Amy.

Pa shakes his head. “Can we please not argue at the table? Amelia Rose, despite your opinion on the matter, you still live under the roof of this house. Your mother and I wish to meet this young man because we want what’s best for you. The matter is closed.”

Oh, the full name. My gaze shifts from Pa to Amy.

“Father,” she groans, removing the napkin from her lap and setting it on the table. “I’m suddenly not hungry.” Amy walks away from the table and leaves through the back door.

“Enough,” Ma says. “Let’s eat before dinner gets cold.”

“Well, I think it’s awful that Amy has a boyfriend,” Hannah states. “I agree with Ma and Pa that it just isn’t right. Next thing you know, she’ll be wanting to get married and moving out.”

I chuckle. “Good one, Hannah-panna. You took the cake on that one.”

“What?” Hannah asks, scrunching her face up at me. “It’s the truth.”

“I believe I already said that was enough,” Ma said.

“But–”

I keep my mouth shut as Hannah’s silenced, but I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who causes tension in this house. I don’t bother Hannah the rest of the evening, although it’s tempting. I’d love to see Amy have the gumption to keep dating this mystery man, but as the day gives way to the next, her bad mood doesn’t lift. At breakfast, she hardly touches her food. She’s out the door for work by the time Hannah comes down.

“You just missed Amy,” I say to Hannah in between bites of oatmeal. “She was in a wonderful mood this morning.”

Hannah rolls her eyes as Ma enters, Irma right behind her. “What did she say?”

“Not two words,” Erik says. “No ‘good morning.’ Nothing.”

I’m about to add my two cents when Ma says, “Amy went to work like she’s supposed to. The rest of you would do well to finish up in here and be about your business. Your father has plenty of work for you boys outside with harvest time upon us and won’t be too pleased if he comes home and it’s not done. Hannah, you’re going to help with the laundry.”

Erik and I get done in the kitchen. I don’t complain too much today about the chores. It’s a nice day–not too hot. Besides, this story ain’t over with Amy, and Hannah’s disapproval of the whole situation adds another layer to it.

While Erik pulls weeds and I pluck lettuce and cabbages, I say, “What d’you think of all this?”

“What?” Erik keeps his back to me.

“Don’t play dumb. C’mon, brother. You gotta admit–this is new for Amy.”

“I say good for her. She’s old enough. I kept wondering when she might marry and move out. She’s well into her twenties, and if she waits too long, her prospects will be all dried up. No man wants to marry an old maid.”

I laugh. “You planning on marrying young?”

“Marriage?” Erik asks incredulously. “I have college first, then find a job. By then, I’ll be Amy’s age. That’s years away.”

“Well, I never know with you, since you have at least a half dozen girls calling you at any given time. Who’s the latest catch? Maybe you should bring her around.”

“We’re not talking about this anymore.” Erik’s neck reddens and I’m sure it’s not from the sun.

I shake my head and return to picking vegetables.

By evening, Amy returns home with none other than her boyfriend. He’s a good-looking guy who’s easy to talk with. He introduces himself to Erik and me in the living room.

“Jack Banks,” he says, his handshake strong.

“Hi, Jack. I’m Harry. So, my sister says she likes you. Lucky you.”

Jack grins and wraps an arm around Amy. “I’d say I’m the lucky guy, but she is quite the doll, your sister.”

Amy’s practically glowing. If it were dark, she could light up the room.

Erik and Jack exchange introductions, and Großmutter, our grandmother who moved in with us a few months back, is saying something in German, but if her smile were any wider, the wrinkles on her face would crumble off.

Irma comes down the steps quietly and enters the room, and Jack gets down on one knee. “And who’s this little sweetheart?”

“Irma,” my littlest sister says shyly.

“What a beautiful name.” Jack picks her up and tosses her up in the air. Irma giggles as he catches her.

Conversation flows naturally, and the lighthearted jokes are in full swing when Pa joins us. For a moment, I wonder if he’s gonna kick this charmer out on his backside. Pa’s taken with him the moment Jack approaches him. For Amy’s sake, I’m relieved. Unlike Erik, I never imagined her as an old maid–not that I’d tell her that.

Before I know it, we sit down for dinner. Everyone seems to have taken a liking to Jack, except Hannah. All through the meal, my little sister sends little-concealed glares at Jack and strikes Amy like a question-firing squad. After dinner, she plays for us, and maybe she’s a bit happier.

As I’m off to bed, I wonder what’s been going on with Hannah and think of teasing her in the morning to get an answer out of her. It’s not like I’d want her to think I’m really concerned or something.

* * *

Weeks pass, and Erik packs for Ohio State. It’s September by now, and I’ve started tenth grade. I’m already being compared to my brother by many of my teachers, and I tell Erik that I have some big shoes to fill.

“It’s true,” I say the night before he’s to leave for Columbus. “Do any of those girls you talk to know just how big your feet are?”

Probably in spite of himself, Erik stops in his tracks as he’s about to put a stack of shirts in his suitcase and looks down at his feet. “You’re exaggerating.”

I roll my eyes. “Don’t you get enough sweet talk from your admirers?”

Erik doesn’t answer for a while. Instead, he resumes packing. When his suitcase is stuffed to the brim, he has a hard time shutting it and resorts to sitting hard on it to get it to close. “You might wanna start shaving, Harry, if you want a girl.”

I smirk. “Maybe I’m trying to grow a beard.”

Erik laughs. “That would be one pathetic beard.”

I shrug. We fall silent and focus on everything in the room but each other. The sun is setting, casting an orange glow on the walls and furniture. The floor is well-worn from years of us tracking mud and sprinting across it to see who could make the most noise. On the dresser–Erik’s stuff in the top two drawers and mine in the bottom two–we share a picture of us from probably ten years ago, our smiles reflecting our innocent mischief.

“Yeah, well…goodnight,” Erik says.

“Goodnight, brother.” I go for nonchalant, but my voice cracks a little at the end. How embarrassing.

The next day, Erik doesn’t say much. Our sisters are crying, of course. Women. It’s not like they’ll never see him again. Ma’s a mess. Pa’s driving Erik down, and I’m still not clear on why Ma is staying home, other than her need to keep the house clean and the rest of us kids fed.

I stand out in the driveway, watching Erik load the last of his things into the trunk.

“Well, don’t do anything too stupid,” he says to me, a smirk on his lips but a plea in his eyes.

“Stupid? Me? Nah. You got the wrong guy.”

Erik half-steps toward me like he’s about to hug me, but he stops and nods. “See ya around.”

“Yeah, see ya.”

I keep my eyes on the back of his head as he gets into the car. As it pulls away, my head’s filled with all the things I just couldn’t say, and I ain’t sure why.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.