Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters


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Too Many Thoughts

Living A Novel

By Melinda Williams

I’d rather life resemble

a Steinbeck novel

I’d rather starve

or lose a house

or drive Route 66

or have an evil mother

or kill for the greater good

Than risk living the life

of a chick-lit novel

Where I’d never feel anything real

Just what others did to me

Above is my latest poem. I’ve been writing them lately. I jot down poems here and there, or little thoughts of inspiration.  A friend of mine got me this little book and it has been life changing. See? Here it is, and look how messy my handwriting is!

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My Little Notebook! I take it EVERYWHERE

I highly recommend doing something like this. It’s for life’s little thoughts. Or big thoughts… either one, really. Why not have a place where you can jot down a note or two, perhaps an inspiring quote, and maybe even journal in when it’s needed? These little books are so cheap and fit in a pocket, even!

Anyway. This blog is not an ad for tiny notebooks. It’s a blog I’m writing, pondering WHY I’ve become someone who would stay awake and write a blog past midnight. (while sitting in the hallway in front of the heater… because I am frozen. Where’s that whiskey…?)

WHY have I become a person who would stay up that late anyway? I used to be a “get 8 hours of sleep” kind of a gal. Now… lately… I’ve been functioning on far less. Mostly, this is because of fun nights spent with friends when we drink way too much wine and then all have to work the next day. But partly, and more and more frequently, it’s because I cannot sleep and my thoughts are carrying me away with them. Yes. Carrying me away. My thoughts are like little ants in a cartoon of a picnic, and I’m the sandwich, slowly getting further away from the person who prepared it…

That’s a horrible analogy! But I think it kind of works!

I’ve been trying to make quotes like these my mantras:

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amazing, huh?

OR

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I laugh out loud to myself MANY times a day. It’s awesome

Life IS too short not to try to live by these. What does the first quote mean? Well, if you haven’t yet made a few mistakes in life, this isn’t for you. AKA, everyone can probably relate to this. I love the idea that there is this constant gray area, LIFE, that lies between right and wrong. Who’s to say what is right and what is wrong, anyway? There’s always two sides to every story. There are always hearts involved… always personal feelings and actions. It’s just like Justin Townes Earle (one of my favorite singers) says in one of his songs…”Who am I to say?” Therefore, I hope we can all agree to meet up with each other in life. I hope that you and someone, or many people (maybe someone you love, maybe someone you cannot stand) can agree to meet out in that “field” and live life, regardless of blame or “right and wrong.”

The second quote is pretty obvious. And I really, truly hope that you all find a moment to laugh by yourself at least once a day. Think of a funny moment you’ve experienced lately. Read the comics! Make a funny face and then shake with laughter knowing that you are the only one who knows you just did that… (or if you have, say, a twin, make funny faces to each other when no one else is aware… that is pure joy!)

On bad days, or moments when I’m not feeling so great, it’s quotes like these that plague me:

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Ugh

OR

Exactly. Memory can be a monster!!!

Exactly. Memory can be a monster!!!

I’ve really been trying to live in the moment. Not in such a “you only live once” kind of a way… but in a “I need to quiet my freaking brain for at least a second, please” kind of a way.

Do you go over the exact same thought again and again?

Are you riddled with the if’s of your last choice?

Do you over worry about someone else’s reaction to something you’ve done, knowing full well that you are being silly?

I think we all do. I sure hope I’m not alone in this! This is WHY I’ve been trying not to let my memory monsters get the better of me. Memories can be beautiful and peaceful and filled with the best moments of life… I’m not saying that remembering is a bad thing. But hanging on to those moments can be less than helpful in your every day life, particularly when clinging to a bad memory. After all, that is NOT what is happening RIGHT NOW… whenever right now is for you. The same goes with worries about the future.

I’ve heard stress is only a reaction to something we think might happen. It’s rarely a physical reaction to something that is literally happening that moment. Which is exactly why I’m trying so hard to live in the moment. I don’t want to live in the past, whether I’m enjoying a good memory or crying over an awful one. I don’t want to stress about what tomorrow or next week might bring. I want to be present. I want to be thankful for each moment as it comes. It sounds cheesy, but I have to constantly remind myself that tomorrow is not promised. It’s not for sure that I’ll even have to face {input awful outcome of such and such decision here}. I’m trying my hardest not to worry about these things.

So for now, I’ll keep sitting in front of the heater (it’s now much later… or earlier in the morning, rather…), probably writing in my little notebook. I’ll also be trying to quiet my mind.

Oh, and I’m listening to Paper Forest by Emmy the Great. This song has some amazing lines. I listen to it over and over… I’m obsessed. Give it a listen. See if you can get the connection between what I’m trying to say here and what she says in the song.

“It’s like these days I have to write down almost every thought I’ve held

So scared I am becoming of forgetting how it felt

And these fears they will unravel me one day

But still I am afraid…”

Emmy the Great, Paper Forest

<3


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Drop Everything & Follow Your Dreams

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My second fav thing (after writing, of course)… reading

Here’s my advice:

Drop Everything and Follow Your Dreams

because…

YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE TO DO THIS!!!

One. Uno. And it could end at any moment.

Therefore…

Do what James Dean said: “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”

It sounds very cliché. I know this. But I can say that I am living proof that sometimes it is the way to go. Take my story:

I was an English major with no real goal in mind as to what I would do someday. As a little kid I never had a concrete answer. The kids around me spouted out “veterinarian!” “doctor!” “lawyer!” “fireman!” and I sat there and thought… hmm…. I have no freaking idea.

It wasn’t until I decided that a degree in Secondary Education in English would be a little bit easier to justify to myself than plain old English that I made my way toward what my life is today.

I got into the College of Ed, took a ton of classes, and along the way took one very life changing class called Books for Young Adults, taught by the amazing Elaine Daniels. In said class we had many great assignments, but the very last one, due May 9 of 2011, was the one that would change my life as I knew it.

The assignment was this:

Write a first chapter of a YA book. It must be at least 8 pages long.

So I wrote my “first” chapter and titled it “The Zooks Ruined My College Plans.”

(I wrote it in the middle of the night… the night before it was due. Somehow, that always worked for me.)

No joke. The first fiction I EVER WRITE and the word “Zook” is in the title. Zooks, by the way, are aliens. Who I later called Troiqas. And the “first chapter” I wrote is now the beginning of Part 2 in a manuscript called Liberty (which I’ll post at the end of this blog… just a sample), which is 131,000+ words long. (too long for any agent to trust, sadly! Also… a first book usually isn’t the best book a writer comes up with ;) thank goodness )

VERY INSPIRING CLASS.

I showed this eight page assignment to my sister, Emily, and my husband, Greg. Emily encouraged me to keep writing. She said I had something good going. Those were amazing words to hear.

Greg, however, said, “Man, it just got too serious. You should make the Zooks turn people pink or something.” I was not about to make the Zooks turn people pink. But he did say that it was good and encouraged me.

If it weren’t for the college of Education I never would have started writing. And I hated student teaching. Hated, hated, hated it.

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My teaching outfit, which I ONLY ever use for Halloween nowadays…

As it turns out, LOVING to read does not directly correlate into the classroom. I may have dived right into Lord of the Flies (again!!!), but my sophomore English class did not. I am so glad that there are people who are meant to teach. I am not one of them. I was nervous as hell and I never quite got my point across, no matter what I tried. Again- so glad that there are awesome teachers out there!! My bad experience wasn’t all bad, though. I tried to look at the bright side in the end.

I take things like that as signs. I feel miserable student teaching, therefore I must not be destined for a long and happy career teaching. However, I have this book I’m writing and a ton of other ideas as well…. yes, that felt meant to be. It still does.

So I went with writing. I graduated with a degree in Education without certification (which might be even less useful than an English degree) and decided that I would be a writer. In the meantime I also became an assistant chocolatier at a local truffle company, Cocopotamus.

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at good ol’ Cocopotamus!

I am a chocolatier and writer. I’m making money from the first, hoping to someday make a career out of the second, and life has never been better.

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2+ years ago…writing “Liberty” (which took me an entire year to finish!)

Moral of the story? Even if something seems like a disaster, something good might come out of it. I don’t necessarily believe that everything is meant to be, but I think that we can turn a bad situation around. I definitely shifted gears and took a chance in doing it, but I’m so happy I did.

Share your dream with me! Tell an inspiring tale of your own… what did you opt out of in search of something greater? Or have you known since day one you would be ___ and you are ___ today. I want to know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCERPT FROM LIBERTY:

 

 

Part II: Present Day (150 T.A.)

My life was perfect. I had no sob story to speak of here on Trajectory. Sure, I had experienced some rough times, but I had good friends, and one best friend, to get me through and a typical older brother who caused me neither grief nor great joy. Everything was normal, mediocre, but to me…perfect. That all changed the day the Troiqas came.

Chapter I
‘There are many mysteries.’ -Mrs. Stillwater
The panic all began while I was sitting in my first class, on the first day of school. I was seventeen and just starting my 15th term. Most kids my age were at that point in their schooling. It was a fairly new system and set up by terms that lasted sixty Lights. This was supposed to be the time of my life, considering I was going to move to Objectify in the fall in order to finish out my upper school requirements. Objectify wasn’t really where I wanted to go but I had no other choice. The moment we were informed of the attack, I knew that was all just a dream which would never come true.
Mr. Pine, the most boring teacher on the face of Trajectory, was teaching our small class the history of our town and making quite a snore of his lesson. His voice was high pitched in a nasally way and his head was always tilted slightly back as if he were peering out at us along the end of his nose.
“Nnn-now class,” he began as usual, “today we are going to learn about the Shuttle Life and the Landers that are our ancestors.”
The lesson might have had a chance at being interesting if we all hadn’t known the complete history our whole lives already. Each one of us had been told the stories since we were old enough to understand words. They’d been around since life began on Trajectory.
“Nnn-now, you may have noticed the shuttle in the middle of town.” Only every time we walk outside, Mr. Pine. It was a massive object, sleek and dark blue. I imagined it had been much shinier when it landed, but now it just looked old.
“It is the one and only shuttle that made it here as planned.” He looked around at us, as if sniffing out who he should target. We were all seated in rows. There weren‘t many students in the class but apparently there were enough of us in order for it to take a lifetime to look at us all.
“Who can tell me the name of the other two shuttles?” Nobody leaned back or averted their eyes in order not to be called on. It just didn’t matter. Only two girls raised their hands. Everyone else was far too offended at being asked such a stupid question and stared back at the teacher with a dull silence. Someone yawned. Continue reading


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Proud Mothers

Proud Mothers 

By Melinda Williams

 

GABRIEL

He’ll come home,” my mother said. She nodded her head. She whispered it again. “He’ll come home…”

“He has no choice, Lilly. Too much work to be done for him not to come back. He’s got to.” My father patted mother’s shoulder and went outside to start chopping wood to warm the house. I stopped in the hallway and watched them from the shadows. I already had my bag in my hand. I heard the screen door slam open and slowly creak its way back closed.

“Already got too much to worry about, what with Beth sick in bed most days. Daisy coughing up a storm. And what in the world will we ever do with Emma…” My mother’s voice continued on softly as she started heating the water. It was one of her greatest wishes in life, that my sister Emma would know how to keep a house the way she could. The task was a difficult one. Emma often daydreamed. Sometimes we couldn’t even find her. Only I knew why.

I stepped into the kitchen and tried to step lightly as to not startle her.

My mother turned and saw me when I cleared my throat. “Gabriel. Good morning. I’ve, well, I’ve just now started fixing some coffee. You’ll need some, won’t you…” Almost everything my mother said trailed off in this way. Sentences were rarely finished because the work to be done was never finished. My own tired eyes stung and I blinked.

 

It was the year 1776 and I’d done what every boy my age wanted to do once they became a man. I turned 18 and signed up. I sure felt like I was still a boy, no matter how grown up it had felt to pick up the pen and write my name down.

I stood in line, nervous, and waited my turn. Once I got up to the front I squared my shoulders, set my jaw and did what was expected of me. In shaky and unclear writing that would have had my mother cringing, I wrote Gabriel Tanner down in black ink. The choice was made. I couldn’t take it back. Not a minute later, right beside mine was the name Ephram Lee, which made me feel better at the time. We would protect one another, I thought, keep each other safe.

“’Bout time you caught up to me,” Ephram said and shook the top of my head with his hand. He was a few weeks older but had waited for my age to catch up with his to do this. We were like brothers.

As we walked away Ephram took off his hat, shook it out, and put it back on over his curly hair. He was always tan, always had longer hair. I kept my light hair short and my skin burned easily. We didn‘t look alike but somehow, growing up, people got us confused. Maybe it was the way we moved or the way we talked. Our words were always very different, though. I watched him while he kept his eyes on the road in front of us.

“I mostly just want to be a hero,” Ephram told me. “Come back here, get some respect.”

“It’s not about us, Ephram,” I felt the need to remind him. He may have been older but his ideals were often far from selfless. “It’s about the country. It’s about being a Patriot.”

“Well, either way, it would be nice to come home a hero. Just think of all that the world would offer us.” We were walking home and he kept pulling at thin tree branches, picking at the bunches of leaves, kicking dried up brush in our path. Ever since we were kids he had a kind of restless energy. His words were animated and his eyes shined with excitement. Once he looked at me I kept mine down on the road in front of us.

“You have to see something awful in order to become a hero, Ephram.”

I knew he wanted to get away from White Plains. I was content with what I called home, whether it be the field or the actual structure of the house my father built. Ephram’s house was smaller and his family was poor. They lived on the same hillside as us but were always wanting. Ephram was an only child. I was the oldest of four. That gave my family six extra helping hands, but also made for three more mouths to feed. I don’t know how or why, but my family never did without a meal. Ephram rarely had all three meals in a day. There were times when I saw the resentment in his eyes. Heard the bitterness in his words.

When I arrived back at the house the day we signed up I could see Emma had been crying. Ephram’s dad stopped him on our way back and already, he was out chopping wood. It was probably a good thing, because if Ephram had walked in by my side Emma would have completely lost it.

“Don’t be sad for me,” I told her. She was only a year younger and we’d grown up together, too.

“I’ll miss you both,” Emma told me before turning way from me and back to the food she was preparing. Her shoulders shook but she controlled her crying. I already knew she would miss Ephram. My entire family would. His parents would miss me, too. He and I truly lived on the field in between our two homes. It was where we played and fought and spent our time growing up.

 

As I stood in the kitchen and drank my last home brewed coffee I thought of the day before. So much had changed in such a short period of time. My two youngest sisters had held on to me and cried at the thought of me leaving. I’d be gone before they awoke. I woke up this morning to a different life and I knew I wouldn’t be waking up safe in bed again for a long, long time. Before making it to the kitchen I entered their rooms without my boots on and kissed their small foreheads. I would miss them just as much as they would miss me.

My mother sounded eerily calm. “Shall I go wake Emma? She wanted to say goodbye…” At the words, my heart pounded and my palms grew sweaty. I couldn’t face her; my closest sister.

“No.” I shook my head. “Let her sleep.” She needed it.

“Come back home, Gabriel,” my mother told me as we said goodbye. She kept from weeping. She gave me one short embrace and kissed my cheek.

“I’ll come back home.” I was entirely confident in what I said. I was a survivor. I had Tanner blood in me. Every grandparent, aunt and uncle had lived a long healthy life. I’d help win the war and even come home with something to my name, just as Ephram wished for.

 

Ephram and I were to meet outside by the tallest pine outlining the field. Regardless of coming home a hero, I’d known enough to be certain that the fight we were headed toward was a good one. I’d heard our fathers speak of freedom. I’d never been to England and couldn’t fathom the thought of someone sitting on a throne. I could, however, imagine a home where there was no more fear and anticipation. All we wanted to do was farm in peace and keep what we earned, which wasn’t much to begin with. Still, I couldn’t help but fear. The war I fought in my own head raged on stronger than the one I was about to go join. Ephram was more energetic than I’d ever seen him.

 

 

EPHRAM

Remind me again why we only have one son?”

To that, my mother looked over at my father, Ephram Sr., and sighed. The sun had yet to rise. I was in the next room starting the fire to keep the house warm. They must have known I could hear them but it didn’t matter. Our family wasn’t one to take precaution of feelings. We were truthful, even when that meant saying something unpleasant. I remained crouched down, listening intently.

“Because two of them died after they were born. One of them died in me. We should be thankful to have one. Ephram is brave.” She paused and continued through the silence, “He’s strong. He’ll come home.”

“Our record on keeping kids alive isn’t so good, Gale,” he said before going outside for the day’s work. It was the first time I didn’t join him.

I walked the small distance from the fireplace and into the kitchen to stand beside my mother.

“Don’t worry,” I said, touching her back. “This is one kid who won’t die.”

“I can only pray, son.” She said, turning to the pot of oats she’d made for breakfast. I only had a few minutes before walking outside and onto the grass.

Ever since I signed up I smiled even when I knew she’d be looking at me. She wanted me to be sad for this day. My parents didn’t want a son to die in battle. I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear, thinking of how I’d come back and make them proud. I wanted my mother to see me brave. I could save another man, perhaps. Kill fifty redcoats on my own. How hard could it be? No way winning this war would be harder than chopping wood every day since before I could remember, carrying hay across a field, or pulling the weight meant for a horse in the heat of the day.

Though I was glad to be given the opportunity, finally, to prove myself, I was too tired to do much thinking. I’d spent all night with my eyes staring at the ceiling above my bed. My eyes watered not from crying, but with the healing tired eyes must put effort into. Few days ago all I wanted was to prove to everyone in this town I was made of something. I wasn’t afraid.

I just hadn’t planned on having a reason to stay. But I had one now. All my life, and we chose this week. Of all weeks.

 

 

EMMA

When I woke up this morning my older brother was already gone. I thought I’d wake in time to say goodbye. I was angry at my mother for letting me sleep. I was even more angry at Gabriel. How could he? He and I were best friends. We’d spent our entire lives being almost inseparable. I needed to have a chance to speak with him. I wanted to tell him everything before he left. But suddenly it was too late. Time passed and in the moment of blissful ignorance that is dreaming, I lost my chance. Now I could only wait until he returned home, for I would not be able to write a letter that did justice to my thoughts.

“Emma, come help me peel potatoes…”

I was glad to have the interruption. I would need to keep myself busy working. Otherwise I’d be far too busy worrying.

My eyes were glazed over, staring out the window in front of me at the pines out on the field. All my life I’d spent running through those pines. Chasing Gabriel. Gabriel chasing me. Ephram joining in when he could get away from the chores that forever kept him apart from us in more ways than one. Now it was only Gabriel and Ephram…walking away through those same trees while I slept in my bed, safe and sound and dreaming of a different life.

 

 

GABRIEL

I had only the coat my mother sent with me to keep me warm. I couldn’t help but wish I could go back. Back home. Back in time. I tried and failed to imagine what it was like to sit inside by a warm fire rather than sitting on the ground with frozen fingers. I was surprised how certain memories faded so quickly. I wasn’t sure what colors were on the quilt my mother made me; the one left behind on my bed. There was no longer a definite shape to the rocking chair beside the fireplace in my memory. Even my father sitting on it was but a shadow of what I could once recall. Out here we had no chairs. We rarely had fire. This coat was my only source of warmth. A blanket would be heavenly.

Despite myself, I could only remember growing up with Ephram by my side.

We’d just gotten word that tomorrow morning we may run into the British.

I bit my tongue when Ephram was around. He hardly noticed my chilled silence. He spoke with a smile as if nothing was wrong with the situation we found ourselves in.

“Can’t wait to see how many we can kill. I wonder if it’ll be like my dreams, with them as close as what I imagine. No, maybe they’ll be further… I don’t know.”

I kept my eyes down, unable to accept his smile, and mumbled, “I imagine we’ll find out sooner than we’d like, Ephram.”

He opened the small booklet I noticed him keeping in his breast pocket. Opened and closed it and seconds later sliding it back into its place. The motion was automatic. I’d been noticing the habit for weeks now. I shook my head and rubbed my hands together.

Ephram ignored my comment. Instead he sat back and breathed into his hands.

“Can’t believe that for once I’m actually wishing there was wood to chop!” He laughed. A few men around us looked up. Laughter was rare. Ephram confused everyone with his behavior, including me. I kept waiting for him to tell me the truth. Patience was a virtue and lately, I’d been more virtuous than ever before. And as for the war, I was no longer afraid. Since Ephram and I walked away from our homes my fear had subsided. When another war begins, the other seems non-existent.

I found myself with an excited nervousness at the thought of battle. I imagined the dusk that would make the scene dark and cool with dew. I could already hear the thunder, the cracks of it that sounded with each and every pull of a trigger. I saw the light that would come with each blast. In war, storms came this way, with the thunder and lightning as a simultaneous pair. My war would be a silent one. It would be hidden by the darkness of the morning and the shouts of soldiers fighting on a field.

We marched on through the night, cold and unsure of what lie ahead. Ephram grew quiet. It took him the longest of all the men to realize that his was the only voice to be heard. Hours later and we stopped in a thick patch of trees. We marched on. We stopped again.

It took me a few more miles to realize where we were.

 

 

EPHRAM

Gabriel and I used to play soldiers. I’d grab the largest stick I could and he would try to find something, anything, to use as a shield. When it was time to trade Gabriel would chose his own weapon and make it something light and sharp. One time he even poked me by accident and it punctured my skin, causing my shirt to stain with blood. The battle wound was impressive. He felt awful.

Occasionally Emma would want to join us. She would put on one of Gabriel’s hats and come to play with both hands out, her fingers in the form of guns.

“I just shot you. You’re dead!” She told me once.

“Girls can’t even play this! I’m not dead, you are.” I shoved her to the ground and she ran home crying. Gabriel didn’t want her hanging around, either, but he did warn me to never push his sister again.

Eventually she stopped playing soldier and started playing nurse. If I fell to the ground, claiming my leg was shot, she’d rush over and pretend to bandage me up. She patted Gabriel’s forehead. Somehow, she got us to lie down on the grass and listen as she sang, which she told us was the only truthful way to play soldiers.

“Soldiers always get hurt,” she said. “They always get sung to, too. Now lie still. Or it’ll hurt more.”

We weren’t older than seven when I was afraid for the first time in my life. We’d allowed hiding in our battle, which was a new thing. I hid so well, Gabriel never found me.

“Ephram!” I heard Gabriel and Emma both shouting off in the distance. Their voices grew softer and I grew more smug because of my cleverness. That was until it grew dark. Then I actually was scared no one would ever find me. I had traveled so far into the woods. I can still remember the panic surging through my body. The gasps of air I breathed in roughly as I cried and cried and walked through the night, sure that I would never make it home. I called their names. Emma and Gabriel. Finally I heard Gabriel in the distance.

“Ephram!” He was calling my name. Once I heard him I didn’t want to yell back. If I did, he might hear the quiver in my voice and know I was crying.

“Ephram!” I could tell which way his voice was coming from. I ran toward it. I saw his lamp in the distance.

“You really hid well,” Gabriel told me once we found each other. I wiped my nose and eyes and still said nothing. I didn’t trust myself. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and thank him for not giving up on me. At the time I felt I would have died, had it not been for Gabriel. We walked toward our houses and there was Emma, too, waiting for us.

“Soldiers can freeze at night,” she told me. “Let me warm you up so you don’t lose any fingers.” Emma grabbed my hand and I didn’t protest. She rubbed my hands in between hers, looking down with intention. “That’ll do. Now don’t get lost again.”

“I wasn’t lost!” I shouted and ran home, leaving Gabriel and Emma in the darkness.

 

EMMA

Come here, kids, come here…”

My mother led my sisters away and I followed behind. They crawled into their bed and I watched from the doorway as my mother tucked them in and pulled the covers up tightly.

Prayer was automatic; a ritual for every night. Daisy and Beth took turns and they never forgot to pray for Gabriel.

Beth, the youngest, began tonight.

“Lord,” she said, “watch over Gabriel. I- I know he’ll do a good job. But even strong soldiers must feel lost sometimes. I wish he were home. God, please let him find his way home, even if it has to take a while. Thank you for his letter. I liked hearing about the pretty sunset he saw. Amen.”

My mother covered her mouth with her hand and I put the back of my head against the door frame, holding back tears. Beth whispered again. “Oh ya! And bless mommy, daddy, Daisy, Emma and me. But especially Gabriel. Amen.” Daisy laughed at hearing her own name and the girls gave kisses and my mother met me at the door.

“Girls, don‘t be afraid if you hear a storm tonight. It‘s just the thunder…”

I wondered how it was so easy for my mother to lie. She had always taught me to tell the truth, but a lie was permissible in this case. She didn‘t have to tell me why.

“We’ll go on down now…it‘s time…”

My mother stood at the front door now and I watched on from the window seat across the room. Hours passed. We waited and waited. It was dark, but morning approached sowly. My father’s boots were soft against the floorboards and the door opened and closed with hardly a whisper. I knew without looking that he had his rifle. I knew he was out on the porch, just in case.

The three of us silently watched what was before us. Down on the field, just behind the trees lining the bottom of the hill, was the war. One of many, many battles. The men were there. No one had fired a shot but they were there, waiting, biding their time. My heart yearned to know if my loved ones were down there, too. Was Gabriel there? Was he alive? And Ephram…the thought of death took my breath from my throat. My forehead pressed against the glass and I closed my eyes. I kept thinking I saw them. Each silhouette looked like Gabriel. Every man was Ephram.

I couldn’t sit there and wonder. My heart raced, but I knew what I had to do. I stood up and covered my face. If my mother noticed me leave, she would only think I was retreating to my room. She would believe that I couldn’t stand watching. The truth was, I couldn’t stand watching from such a far distance. I had on my night dress, which wouldn’t do at all. Not in this cold weather. I walked barefoot to the hall closet and pulled out my father’s long coat. Then I slipped my feet into his boots and grabbed his dark brown hat. I was gone out of the house in moments. Out the back door, around the back yard and shed, and out of sight of my father who was keeping guard. I hid behind each tree I passed, stopped and breathed. I could feel my heart beating in my neck. My fingers were frozen but I kept moving. I kept walking down the hill, thankful that the fresh snow made for soft steps rather than crunchy, as it often is with the morning frost.

I was closer to the field than I had planned. That’s when the thunder and lightning began.

 

 

GABRIEL

My home,” I nodded up the hill, through the pines and toward the old wooden house we could barely make out in the distance. Another soldier, Tommy, stood beside me while we waited. He nodded his head in understanding. You see, every man wished he were home. No man wished home to be that close. It was the having it near and not being able to be there that made the longing worse. I knew my family was watching; knew my dad would be on the porch. Knew Emma was most likely alone. I knew that no matter what, my mother was proud.

The first shot fell upon us. I heard the shouting. I felt the men marching toward us. The morning was still dark and dawn was breaking over the field. We were still silhouettes. I could hear my own breathing, almost hear my own heart beat all through my chest and up into my neck. I still had time. I needed the noise and chaos as much as I needed the shadows.

I saw Ephram. He was trying to find me. I knew he’d be making sure I knew where we were. Our homes were just up the hill. We were just in front of mine; his was further down the field.

 

 

EPHRAM

My neck ached from looking over my shoulder. My small house might be looked over in the night, but I grew up there and knew every tree and every curve of the field. Of course I knew exactly where it was, and we hadn’t reached it yet. Instead we were almost straight in front of Gabriel’s house. I tried to imagine what his family might be doing. What Emma might be doing. I knew my parents would be in bed, unable to move or speak, and still in the silence until the noise of war began. Yet my mother would be lying there, proud with what she knew lay beyond the home. Gabriel’s family would most likely be watching. His mother wouldn’t be able to look away. And Emma…surely, she would be watching, too.

It was still too dark to see the outline of my own small house, but the shadows were coming and with the slowly rising sun I knew I’d see it soon.

 

 

EMMA

Adrenaline began to surge through me when I saw that Ephram was close by. I could see the curve of his shoulders and the way he stood there, observing the area. He was being patient with this battle. He wouldn’t rush into anything. I wanted to run away but I was trapped there with legs that would not move. Eyes that refused to blink.

A mind that would always remember.

An Ephram who took his time with me, too. Why either of us waited, I now wondered. I could hardly believe that the Ephram I grew to know was the same that I grew up with. At one point in time I resented his confidence and proud stance in life. I thought he was too far gone and would never be humble. But I was wrong about him. Ephram turned out to be a strong man; a man who could take care of a woman he loved. Gabriel was always wrong about him, too.

“He’s a great friend, but a no good soldier. He’ll get himself killed with the arrogance he has. I’ll go. I’ll keep him safe.”

“You don’t think he’d even make a good husband?” I asked my brother. At the time I had no thought of Ephram as my husband. I was simply curious.

“Never.”

And now, as I held onto the branch in front of my face and the freezing wind whipped the hair around my neck and across my cheeks, I wished Ephram and I could run away together. The dream of running to him, telling him to come with me, and rubbing his cold hands was too much. I watched with tears that threatened to turn to snowflakes, a man who could be a husband. A man who would be mine, should he return home safely. I shuddered, but not from the shivering in my bones. I shuddered from the way my heart beat watching him. He pulled on his neck, looking up at our homes so often. I wondered if he was thinking about me. I wondered if a small part of him could sense my presence so close.

Then I saw Gabriel.

 

 

GABRIEL

My first instinct was to save Ephram. I’d been saving him all our lives. I saved him from being lost in the woods. I wanted to save him by coming and joining the Militia with him, knowing that he shouldn’t go without me. He’d get himself killed. Even as a young boy I had the inclination that I would someday save him from a man angered by Ephram loving a girl he shouldn’t. I knew I’d have to. I could see it. What I was blinded to was the man I’d have to save him from. I hadn’t expected it to be myself.

I had my chance, there in the field. In the midst of the first cry of battle and the terror surrounding us.

Because I came across Ephram with her. I heard him kiss Emma. I encountered more than I ever wished to. It was obvious all along wasn’t it? She always warmed his hands up first.

It was the night before we left. Now, so long ago. I heard voices coming from the shed out behind our home. It was my job to kick out anyone who might have stumbled in drunk or homeless. I stood outside the shed, listening to make sure I’d be safe in entering. Then I never did enter.

“You’ll be leaving tomorrow. Why did you have to sign up so soon? Both of you?” I heard my dear sister ask. I almost fell over when I heard the voice which responded.

“It’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s expected. What would people think if I hadn’t-”

“I don’t care what people think.”

“You can’t understand. It’s not as if you and I have the same expectations.”

“You don’t have to be a hero,” she said, parroting what she had heard me say about Ephram so many times. “I just wish that you and my brother hadn’t written your names down at all.”

“I know. But it’s a war. It’s always been a war.”

After a short pause Emma said, “Why did it take you so long to tell me?”

“I didn’t know it. I’m sorry to say it, but I honestly didn’t feel this way until recently. You were the girl we didn’t want playing in our shadows. The pest. Now? Oh, Emma, now you are the only one I want. You are the one I want to live my life for.”

Great, powerful words. The only problem was, I’d heard that before. Ephram had said the same thing to Amy. To Becky. To Carol. Trying to win over my sister in the same fashion was too much.

Ephram continued, “We’ve been able to spend so much time together. It’s all I could have asked for…”

All those times we couldn’t find her.

Emma must have thought his words genuine and unique. For she was speechless. The silence was filled and I was glad I hadn’t found a way to look inside. I didn’t want to see.

“Ephram…” I could hear Emma cry.

“I love you.”

I don’t know if Emma said it in return. She could have said it too softly for me to hear.

Then I did hear what she said.

“It hurts. Ephram… don’t…” She cried out but this time it sounded as if she were in pain. The anger I felt toward them both, but especially Ephram, shot through me and I was rendered helpless. I couldn’t save anyone.

How could he? What he was doing then, and what he‘s doing now…I should be able to defend my sister. But I heard her words, too. She’d been sneaking out to see him. Behind my back, both of them.

When I heard more than I could stand, I wanted to get away, and get away fast. Once I found my legs again I ran. I ran into the woods, trying to get myself as lost as Ephram was when we were so young. I felt like a coward. But that night, walking back toward the house alone, I came up with my plan. I figured I could do something. I could defend my sister the way I was too shocked to do that night.

Now, on the field, my thigh ached from where I was shot weeks ago. I could hide my pain from everyone, even myself. I’d even laughed with Ephram from the morning we left until today, pretending for the greater good of my own personal war, that we were still best friends. Instead of the pain or the memory of that night when I heard his attack on my sister, I kept my mind on other things. But I always kept my eye on Ephram. I knew his habits and the way he was. I knew he’d stay out of this battle for as long as he could. He’d wait and cower until a moment came for him to be the hero like he’d always wanted. Which meant I had to be ready at all times, too.

I found him in the hazy dark morning. I made my way toward him and before I was close, Ephram turned around to find me. His eyes searched and I shouted his name, but there was no way he could hear me. For a long moment I watched him, fumbled through the crowd to get to him, and I saw the look of the boy who was lost in the woods. The muscles in his face were tight with worry, then relaxed as soon as his eyes found mine. We held eye contact for what felt like an entire minute. I shouted his name again, the same moment he shouted mine. Our mouths opened, moved, but the sound didn’t register. I saw dirt fly up in front of him. I saw someone fall out of the corner of my eye. When he looked away it was to turn his gaze toward our home. The realization that he might be thinking of my little sister only gave me more enthusiasm for what I had to do.

 

 

EPHRAM

Before the battle began a younger soldier with blond hair and an upturned nose looked to me and asked, “What day is it?” He was shaking.

I knew exactly what day it was, for I had been counting the days spent apart from Emma.

“October 28.”

“I need to date my letter to my mother. I need to put a date on it. I- I need a pen…” He looked at me, the men and boys surrounding him and each one looked away out of courtesy. I looked away, too. Any man should be given space when a weak moment falls upon him. This boy needed us to look toward something else. I hadn’t seen Gabriel all morning, but I figured he was close enough. I wasn’t worried.

I didn’t think it was possible for time to pass so quickly. Before any of us knew it, we were about to embark upon battle. It was my moment. I could shine. My adrenaline surged. I smiled to myself. I knew I would not be able to stay out of the thick of battle for much longer, which was fine.

Until a man fell beside me. Blood splattered on my cheek and the man grunted as he slumped onto my shoulder before falling onto his face in the grass. I frantically looked for Gabriel again. I couldn’t find him.

“I need a pen,” I could hear someone yell over and over. “I need a pen!” Suddenly the voice was silent. But so many grew louder, making it impossible for me to hear my own shouting. The morning was still too dark to see clearly.

I knew I was still shouting Gabriel’s name, and then I finally saw him. He was making his way toward me. We’d save someone together. I could do that- share my glory with him. As long as Emma knew I’d done something worth being proud of, I’d be okay. I touched my pocket and imagined her face. Gabriel was almost close enough to hear. I turned to look at our home. Men ran past me, someone bumped into me, and I saw a shadow of Emma, there behind a tree. I wanted so badly for it to be her. It wasn’t the first mirage I’d seen in war. I watched for too long. I kept my eyes up the hill.

Then I felt the pain surge through my own stomach. Down, below my rib cage, and at first I thought it to be a bullet. When I looked down I saw the bayonet sticking out the front of me. Watched it pass through me further with wonder. It was sharp and red. Dark red. I choked, and the world moved slowly around me. I looked up to the house again. Again, I imagined Emma sitting at the window looking down and seeing me, too. I was afraid for myself, but also afraid for Gabriel. If they could get me, they could get him. If I couldn’t be a hero, there was no way he could be one.

In an instant I thought of Emma. The last night we spent together. I touched her jaw with my fingers and she kissed me…every part of me. She was delicate. I had to learn, as I was prepared to do with such a girl, someone I truly loved, to be patient and gentle. We held onto one another. We promised marriage.

Emma’s face left my head when I saw Gabriel again. I saw his lips move, but I couldn’t hear a sound. His hand was under my head and the further I fell into him, the further the metal stuck out of my chest.

Then he fell, too. Without Gabriel’s support I landed on my side, eyes closed and hearing the noise grow faint around me. Something strong fell over me and I opened my eyes one last time. There in front of me was Gabriel’s face. His eyes bore right into mine. The hole in his head was the reddest thing on the whole field.

 

 

EMMA

I watched from behind the tree as the battle grew and grew. I saw men fall, I saw blood all around, making the snow red and pink and purple with the thickness of it. I watched as Gabriel, with a look I couldn’t recognize, made his way toward Ephram with his bayonet held in front of him. I knew it was Gabriel, even though I couldn’t make out his face. The morning was still too dark, for not much time had passed. Though it felt like a lifetime.

I will never know if I was truly close enough to hear their words. I may have imagined it out of my own guilt, knowing that I had kept something so important from Gabriel, my best friend and brother.

“You should have left her alone,” he said through gritted teeth.

I watched as he shoved his bayonet into Ephram. Watched Ephram’s shoulder crumble and fall. Watched his feet move, and then grow still in a moment as he fell to his side. I watched as Gabriel held him for a moment, with the tortured look of realization in his eyes.

I watched a Redcoat aim toward Gabriel. I may have called out. Again, I will never know.

I saw the boys die. I stood helpless, unable to be their nurse, the one to help save their lives. I saw my love, my brother and best friend, die. I watched as the man I wanted to marry died as well. I would never speak of what I saw that night.

 

 

Both families sat in church. We all wore black.

“Mr. Tanner, I’m so sorry about Gabriel. We loved him.” My father nodded his head and remained silent.

“Mr. Lee, Ephram was quite a boy. Quite a boy.” The man who would never be my father-in-law nodded his head in silence.

“Lilly?” Ephram’s mother asked my mother as she sat beside us both.

“Yes, Gale?”

I watched as women looked wearily at one another through their black veils made of lace.

“At least they died as heroes.”

My mother agreed. “Yes.”

 

 

 

 


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Pull the Band Aid Off

Why Listening to Your Gut is the Way to Go

I’ve always been an impulsive person.

My sisters still tease me about the day I texted them all about my boyfriend (in high school) and said, “Guys, I need to break up with him STAT!” Most likely, the day before I was naming our future kids. I just woke up one day, realized that he really wasn’t the one and that I shouldn’t waste my time or his, and broke up with him.

(if you know me then you’ve definitely heard me say this:)

My motto: Pull off that band aid. FAST!

It might hurt A LOT, but it’s sure as hell better than pulling it off slowly, taking hair and skin and time in the process. Just pull the damn thing off. Get it over with. It only hurts for like a split second, I promise. Listen to what your gut is telling you. It’s the strongest instinct we have and we were given instinct for a reason.

I listened to my gut:

-when it came to a boyfriend in high school.

-when it told me that I was not meant to teach, but I was meant to write.(def. more blogs about that…yikes)

-when I bought that awesome scarf at Forever21.

-when I added more butter to the recipe and it turned out to be even tastier….

-when it told me that Greg was the one to marry.

new writer, writing, wedding

My dad and me… I’m hyperventilating …

new writer, writing, marriage, regrets, impulsive

Mr. & Mrs. Williams AKA Lou & Lou

-when I quit my first job, and then was asked to work at the same bakery as my sister.

new writer, writing, regret, bakery

I think I’m still in my TEENS in this picture :) ahh.. back in the day

new writer, writing, short stories, bread

Meredith holding up a yummy berry bar!! Great Harvest is awesome!

And again when I chopped off all of my hair AND dyed it for the first time ever (you got me, that wasn’t such a great success story, but still… I got past it. It was okay in the end. It grew back.)

new writer, hair cut, mistakes, regret, writing

Yikes times a million. But Greg still loved me!

You get the picture. I’ve lived a life of hardly planning for a thing. When something pops up on my road, I decide whether or not to take it. I decide quickly, too.

OUTCOME:

I may not have tons of money. (yet)

I may not have a job with benefits or retirement plan. (which I NEVER will, if I can help it… and I’m sure as hell happy this way, so it’s all gooood) (also, I quit the bakery in order to become a chocolatier -watch the product video!-… and that was also an impulsive decision!!)

I may have a touch of guilt when it comes to that boy I broke up with because he cried more than I did for no good reason. (but I think we are both happy today- I know I am)

I wake up every day to an existence that I chose and that I’m okay with…that I LOVE, actually…with this guy:

new writer, writing, happy

We’re at a high school football homecome game! Talk about memories!! And regrets!! And being happy we never have to return! ha

I’ve learned from many a mistake, and that’s okay, too

BUT I DON’T REGRET VERY MUCH.

Where does this fit in with writing or reading or anything, really? Well, I guess it comes back to characters again. Think of your favorite character of all time. It can be from a movie, book, tv show, comic strip… anything! (of course, mine is Owen in A Prayer for Owen Meany!) I’m guessing he or she had some sort of life struggle that they went through. I’m guessing something happened in their life that they wound up regretting. Isn’t it an inevitable part of the growing up process?

The thing we can control is how we respond to that regret and how long we let it last. I’m not saying I don’t have guilt. I keep that guilt tucked away until it comes out at the worst times, actually. But at the end of the day, I think that feeling of regret is even worse. Guilt can come along even when you know you did the right thing. Regret often comes from a time when you know you did the wrong thing.

Regret and guilt are often what propels a character forward.

Where would Hester be without the mistake that changed her entire life? The one that led to a daughter and a willpower stronger than she knew? (The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Where would Captain Ahab be if he didn’t regret the day he let the whale get the better of him? (Moby Dick by Herman Melville)

And where, oh where, would Rachel be if she hadn’t made a huge mistake… one that left her feeling guilty for a very long time, but ultimately changed her life for the better? (Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin)

As the main characters in our own lives, it moves our stories along. It’s the mistakes in someone’s life that can really be a part of who they become.

So I hope that if you have any regrets, you are quickly letting them fade.

I hope if you have any guilt, that it passes and your heart is peaceful!

I also hope that if you haven’t read A Prayer for Owen Meany, you so do ASAP!! ;)

 


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Gone Girl, Marriage & Being Cool

GONE GIRL

By Gillian Flynn

a sort-of book review :)

I read this on the back porch with the cutest tea pot ever :)

I read this on the back porch with the cutest tea pot ever :)

This book is CRAZY, GIRL!

Let’s talk about marriage, sex, psychos, manipulation, murder, psychologically damaging parents, children’s books, failed expectations, anniversaries, media…. And more. (or at least accept that these topics are in the book, interesting, but far too many to talk about in one simple blog post!)

We finally had book club and now I can finally write this blog. I wanted the perspective of my fellow Book Ends Book Club members before I wrote away on this one.

This is the kind of book that doesn’t make you want to turn the page… but forces you to turn the page.  I was so filled with worry, tension, stress, hate, and sympathy for different characters at certain points in this book. When a novel can do that, you know you’ve struck gold. I yearn for a book to speak to me. I crave a good ending (not “good -happy“ but “good-slam-the-book-down-and-yell-OH-MY-GOSH-when-it-ends”). I’m always hungry for that next book that will affect my entire week. Literally… it affects my everyday life, reading a book like this one. When I was at work I kept thinking, “What’s going to happen to Nick? Did he do it? I’m awfully suspicious, but no… he is a nice guy.” And then eventually… “I HATE HER!”

Being that Nick and Amy Dunne, in Gone Girl, are celebrating their five year anniversary, I began contemplating my own marriage. I underlined many of the sentences. The insights, I thought, were very keen. They were well said through both Nick and Amy. She was similar to me, though much more disgruntled. But when she was happy… it sounded as though it could be me talking. When the two characters remembered arguments or less than perfect moments I wondered, “Wow, am I treating Greg as well as he deserves?” “Am I encouraging Greg to do enough ‘guy things?’”

{Let me just say here, I hate the word “Let” when referring to a couple. As in: “My husband didn’t let me go out that night…” or “I never let him do that. It smells bad.” As married couples, we don’t “let” each other do anything.  We are not each other’s parents. We support, motivate, and keep each other in line when it’s needed. :) }

Mr. and Mrs. Dunne faced normal issues and dealt with them in realistic ways, at least at the beginning.

QUOTE FROM THE BOOK:

“Because isn’t that the point of every relationship: to be known by someone else, to be understood? He gets me. She gets me. Isn’t that the simple magic phrase?”  -Amy

Yes, I thought. Greg gets me. I’m fairly certain no one else would want to spend this much time with me. He gets everything about me. It feels nice. There’s no pretense. No act. There hasn’t been for five and a half years, and there never will be!

This is one of the lines I so naively underlined, thinking it said it all. Thinking Amy was so sincere.

Now…Nick Dunne- whew. What a guy, right?  (CAUTION: spoilers!! Don’t read past here if you don’t want the ending to be ruined!) What a stupid, sad, careless, cheating, messed up, but ultimately kind of great guy who makes you feel sorry for him.

Even though he cheated. That’s one thing I kept thinking, after book club was over: “We didn’t spend as much time as one might guess, discussing how awful it was that he cheated. We didn’t give Amy any credit for getting him back for that particular mistake. Because isn’t cheating the ultimate bad thing? Is it worse than what she did? No…but it happens much more often and doesn’t take nearly as much brains to pull off. Whoa…”

Anyway.

As much as I take a stand against all cheaters, I felt sorry for the dude. Who wouldn’t feel sorry for someone who’s had this big of a prank pulled? Even if the meanest girl from high school was set up for murder she didn’t commit… I’d feel sorry for her! (well, maybe…)

Author Gillian Flynn did an excellent job with Nick, in my opinion. Even when the reader finds out what Nick’s secret cell phone is all about… why he hasn’t put much worry into his missing wife of five years…is told the truth that he has been cheating…well, it’s still hard not to love him. At first we are angry and feel fooled. Then we realize that he has done almost nothing in comparison to what Amy has just pulled on US as readers. She wins… she did the worst thing.

Then comes the big question (girls, it’s true), the one we are ALL asking ourselves after reading this book:

Am I guilty of trying to be “cool girl?”

Well, answer yes only if you truly can’t stand your husband having a life of his own. I felt defensive of how I live life, reading the “cool girl” part. I thought, “I do a few of these things. I don’t do a few of these things… but I do this, and this…does that make me a phony? Does that make me guilty of trying too hard to be a good wife?” Thankfully, the answer I came up with was NO.

QUOTE FROM BOOK:

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)”  -Amy

Here’s a mini check-list:

–          I like to think I’m funny

–          I heart a good dirty joke

–          I can eat way too much, but rarely do anymore

–          I love the comics, F-Minus is my fav!

–          I don’t play poker

–          I HATE burps and burping

–          As to the x-rated part…. Um, NO

–          I get angry. I do.

I don’t know what kind of guy she is referring to, but I know that it surely isn’t the guy I married. I know I am far too lucky, having married the opposite of a “bro”…of a “frat guy”…I married someone who’s biggest concern in life is laughing and getting others to laugh with him (and brewing some really great coffee!) There’s nothing put-on when it comes to us. In fact, if Greg and I had tried to go on an official date and made these fake conversations that are really from movies happen, we never would have dated in the first place. Our first dates consisted of spending time on the back porch for an entire summer. In fact, other than a wedding, our first date happened thanks to a gift certificate his brother gave us! (Thanks again, Chris!) But enough about that.

Being someone who allows your spouse to enjoy the things they want to do, even if it means being out late or spending time without you, doesn’t have to mean putting on a show. Hell, I could even want some alone time in exchange for his. I like to get in a good sweaty workout and grunt my way through it. If he’s home for that, cool. If he’s not, even better.

Here’s another scary quote that I think we just need to all agree… is terrifying. It’s not okay to treat ANYONE like this, but especially your husband. As long as the communication remains intact… this will not happen!!!!!!!!

QUOTE FROM BOOK:

“Wear this, don’t wear that. Do this chore now and do this chore when you get a chance and by that I mean now. And definitely, definitely give up the things you love for me, so I will have proof that you love me best. It’s the female pissing contest — as we swan around our book clubs and our cocktail hours, there are few things women love more than being able to detail the sacrifices our men make for us. A call-and-response, the response being: “Ohh, that’s so sweet.” -Amy

I truly believe that without trying, I don’t do this!! I’m not just saying that, either. Neither do any of the married women in my book club. :)

Another thought on marriage: Giving up what you love is the last thing you should do. I love Greg the MORE he plays music and talks to me about different keys of harmonicas, while I listen in blissful ignorance and nod. He loves it when I write and read for hours and can’t even hear what he says to me.

Why?

Because these things keep us sane. Would things go well if I stopped reading, just so that we could sit and talk during that precious time? Probably not. If I bitched at Greg that his [awesome] band took up too much time and I can’t take the late nights anymore…. Well, that would be awful. What in the world would he do with his time? Come home just so that he can kiss me goodnight at nine pm? Come on, right? That’s just silly. It doesn’t take a “cool girl” to know it, either.

At the end of book club, after we all talked about how crazy Amy was and how disappointed we were in Nick and how her parents scared us more than we’d like to admit, the discussion came to the topic of how well a married couple has to know one another in order to be happy.

I was fascinated with the end of the book. As Amy points out to Nick, they knew each other better than anyone else. Even if they knew the worst in each other, they would never meet another person who understood them better. I wondered if this was so important. Aren’t there happy couples who, at the end of the day, don’t really know each other that well? Can’t people survive with a smile, a laugh, a kiss, and a comfort in knowing what to expect each day? Do people have to have an absolute knowledge of one another in order for their marriage to really succeed?

I think that’s unanswerable. Everyone is so different. I’ve never met another couple that thrived in the same way. I’ve never met a single person, out there on their own, who was looking for the exact same things in another person as the single person across the room.

Read Gone Girl and come up with your own opinion… and hopefully you won’t have any nightmares!


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Living Deliberately

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…” Excerpt from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Yes, I went to live deliberately for two and a half days, and I didn’t even have to screw over an Irishman in order to do it. (if you don’t know what that means, take a closer look at Walden…)

short stories, new writer, outdoors

Raglan’s Roost!

I wish I could live out in the woods deliberately, as Thoreau so beautifully stated. I came close this week when I had the opportunity to spend time at a cute cabin, complete with a name carved on the outside, “Raglan’s Roost,” with friends. The two nights spent there were great. I felt full of energy, even with the two pounds of bacon (and who knows how many pounds of cheese…) consumed by only four people. I felt inspired the entire time. What is it about watching the bird and squirrels eat peanuts from the comfort of a rocking chair? The air smelled sweet and fresh. The sunlight woke us up.

short stories, new writer, trees

The View!!!

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.” Walden, too…

I really did feel this way. Cheerful… like Mother Nature was inviting me to have a great day with her. I like living simply. I tried not to use my phone, which was easy because we had no service. I didn’t have my Kindle, but a real book of short stories. I wrote… on PAPER!! Let me tell you, I have a love/hate relationship with that. It’s nice to get an entire paragraph out quickly by typing fast. It takes time to write and the thoughts need to come out more deliberately. I think twice before each sentence. It was a good thing to get back to, if even for only two days. I rarely think to write with a pen and paper at home. It struck me how this all of a sudden made sense. Why not write on a real sheet of paper? I’m up in the mountains, after all. It simply felt right.

This is where I did that writing!

short stories, new writer, cabin

Coffee on the Porch :)

I drank way toooo much coffee.

short stories, new writer, coffee

Coffeeeeeee

We took two hikes total and walked along a river bed!

new writer, short stories, river

Lou and Lou standing by river drop off

I wound up with two small scratches on my left ankle. NOT BAD!!! Greg and I were both worried I’d come out with way worse.

About to Hike….

The uphill hike… WORTH IT!

Beautiful. Simply stunning.

Did I ever mention that I love cows? I do. Happy cows make my day. Unhappy cows make me cry.

When we were out by the cabin we heard a loud “mooooo!” and little did we know, the cows were just down the hill from where we were. The dog we were with chased after them and so we hiked down the small distance and saw not one, not two… but a FAMILY of cows!!!! They’re honestly a little bit intimidating. I knew they wouldn’t charge. But I still ran away from them.

Some Cows….

The whole family! This is where I got nervous. They came much closer!!!

At the end of the day we played games. Thanks to Misty and Mackenzie (who invited us to the cabin in the first place) we now have a fun game called Chicken Foot under our belt. Get some dominos and have a ball! Call us for a fun night playing this! We’ll teach you how!!

Chicken Foot

And we played some scrabble…. Which I have never won in my life. I did score a 22, though. My highest scoring word yet. We were using a dictionary from the 80’s that didn’t yet have the word “Qi” in it, so my real glory moment was dashed to smithereens. It’s okay. I got over it.

What I had to work with…

The big question is this: Does being out in the wilderness really make a big difference creatively? I think in some ways, yes. I had peace and quiet, along with plenty of time to sit and ponder life. Being there made me want to be healthy so that I could keep up with what nature had in store for us. It’s not easy to climb a mountain or keep your balance in a river. It’s so fun to do it, though! When I sat down to write I wanted to look at the birds instead of my paper, truth be told. Nature is quite distracting, but in a great way. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted. We need to let our minds clear out of work and stress. I had to focus on the pine scent that came with the breeze and the sound of a raven in the distance, which was a great break from the constant rambling in my head. “Have I written enough today? Will that agent send me something other than a rejection letter? Should I self-publish? I’m hungry.” It calmed my nerves to simply settle down and notice the simple things in life, like a huge ground squirrel being chased by a tiny squirrel half its size. I find that I live more “deliberately” when I have something to do. I think of my ideas when I’m at work!

I’d like to know if people feel their best, creatively, or otherwise, when they venture out into nature. OR is it your comfort zone, like being at home, that makes you produce your best work? Does it depend on what the goal is? Does in depend on the day? Week? Year?

Let me know! :)

 

TRIP MADE POSSIBLE BY THIS AWESOME FAMILY!!!!!! We love the Bishops!!! :)

Misty and Mackenzie and of course… Jenson!

 


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Bringing Characters to Life: Habits, Quirks & Key Phrases

I absolutely adored the way Oskar Schnell, in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, said “Anyway” every time he felt uncomfortable or uncertain. I loved it so much I started saying it all the time.

My husband, Greg, would say, “Lou, you can’t just leave your underwear on the bathroom floor as if you disappeared into thin air.” (The fact that he calls me Lou is another story – you can read about it here.)

I would say, “Anyway.” And then possibly walk down the hallway, picking up the underwear later. Or if I spaced out and went on a tangent about whatever happened that day, I’d eventually realize what I was doing and say, “Anyway,” before changing the subject and coming back to Earth.

I loved this habit of Oskar’s. This catch phrase of his, if you will.

And there are moments when you realize that someone you’re reading about or writing about has something they often do. Perhaps it is why we can relate to what we read. Maybe it’s why we wish we were more like a certain character, or even relieved that we are nothing like them. Reading can be so personal and it’s often because of a character quirk. Is it a nervous habit? A word he or she often says? A way they glare or roll their eyes when spoken to? (think teenage years)

Think of quirks we have as humans. And don’t even think about saying that some people are quirk-less. That is impossible.

I have too many quirks to count. Call it OCD, call it spazzy, call it whatever you want, but I have plenty. (Ask Greg, he could tell you all of them!) Here are a FEW:

-I hate it when anything goes counter-close wise. I’m all about the clockwise.

-I don’t step on cracks with my left foot.

-I never, under ANY circumstance, open my eyes after turning out the light for bed. It’s way too scary. I know… I’m a wimp. (I made the huge mistake of watching Darkness Falls in high school. Now you know I’m even more of a wimp than you thought just seconds ago.)

In each manuscript I’ve written the main character always has some very interesting qualities. Some are subtle. Some are obvious. I wrote a girl named Virginia who can’t keep her hands still and runs five miles a day just to remain calm (Don’t you wish that was YOUR habit? Me, too…) I wrote a futuristic guy named Mason who never gets worked up about anything (believe me, this is a quirk) and a “tough” guy named Dane who is moody and keeps secrets… even ones that might not be necessary. Then there’s Ezra with the ultra potty mouth (F**K!) and cigarette addiction he claims is something he can control (F**K again). The list goes on, but someday you’ll just have to read all my stories in order to meet EVERYONE.

What is your quirk? Comment and tell me about it!! Be warned, however, that it may spark an idea for me to write a character with that same habit ;) I will change the name ;) ;)

FIRST SHORT STORY POSTED TODAY!!! {READ}

After reading take time to listen to the songs that inspired this story. #8 and #9, especially!!


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Birthdays, Harry Potter and Characters

Characters and Empty Nest Syndrome.

new writer, short stories, twins

my twin!

Let me first say happy birthday to myself, my twin sister, Meredith, and most importantly, Harry Potter. Yes, I share a birthday with Harry. On July 31st,1989 we were born and I think Harry started existing in J.K. Rowling’s head somewhere around 1991. It’s crazy to think that at one point in time H.P. didn’t even exist.

Yup. I know. It’s hard to even visualize, but there was a time.

Being that Harry is one of the most well known characters ever written, sharing a birthday with him is awesome. It’s one of my favorite facts about myself. That, and the fact that I also have a matching scar on my forehead (shaped like a crescent moon rather than lightning, but still!)

I turn 23 today. If you listen to music you might be aware of how profound this age really is. It’s mentioned too many times to count. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing has yet to be determined. I’ll try my best to make that decision by pointing out the honorable mentions of the age here:

Blink 182: What’s My Age Again?

“Nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three….”

+1 because this suggests that we’re still young enough to be annoying…at least that’s what I want it to mean

Coolio: Gangsta’s Paradise (listened to this song a lot in my eighth grade ‘cussing and rap phase’ ay yi yi!)

“I’m 23 now, but will I live to see 24, the way things are going I don’t know…”

-1 because I am so embarrassed to have been such a wannabe white middle school girl listening to what I thought of as gangsta rap

Yellowcard: Twenty Three

“We’re almost twenty-three and you’re still mad at me…”

-1 just because this is sad

Tristan Prettyman: Simple As It Should Be

“I am almost 23, confused with all the lines in between…”

+1 because it’s so cute, my husband Greg and I did long distance for two years and it was one of the songs that helped me, and she makes 23 sound not so bad

Justin Townes Earle: Yuma

“So he was just 23 when he stepped out on that ledge…”

-1 because this is flat out depressing. (Although it’s one of my all-time favorite songs by one of my all-time favorite artists!!! check it out!!)

Blitzen Trapper: Furr

“On the day that I turned 23, I was curled up underneath a dogwood tree…”

+1 because why not? I don’t actually know this song well enough to judge, Meredith just told me about it!

So it comes out even.

I guess I can count how many songs talk about the age. SIX. If you know of more please let me know!

I’ll get out of my rant about my own age and focus again on Harry Potter and characters in general.

So.

Okay.

As fiction writers we do one main thing…we tell a story about a character (or many, many characters). They didn’t exist until we made them.

But are we writing a story about some new person we’ve created or a story about ourselves? I’d argue on both ends. I have written more than 60 different characters. Some are very minor, some are major. It hardly matters. I’ve mothered them, given them the means to exist, coaxed them off into their own world until they could function without me, and then wanted them to return home. I MADE YOU. WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I’ve felt like saying this before. There is a quote that has really stuck with me.

“The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn’t thought about. At that moment he’s alive and you leave it to him.”   -Graham Greene
When a character becomes no longer “mine” and does this exact thing, it’s a very emotional process. They’re real now. They have lives of their own. It’s as if they’re alive and walking around inside my very own word document (because none of them have made it past manuscript, which is okay for now) and have slightly rebelled against me, but done nothing that can constitute a grounding. I’m not their parent. Some of them I don’t even like. In fact, isn’t that another part of writing?

hate some of the characters I’ve written.

With a passion. As I type their next action I think to myself “Gosh, they are just awful! How could they do that?” And as much as I hate a few of them, I especially love a handful. They are my pride and joy. I am proud of what they do and what they say. They learn from their mistakes. They are loyal. And even if they have some major flaws, I love them anyway.

new writer, short stories, characters

just to name a few…

And last but not least, I am devoted to them all because in a way, they all hold a part of me. Yes, even the ones I hate. Because often times they say something that someone once said to me. Or they hold the same name (yes… many characters are as real as the coffee mug sitting in front of me, whether they are kind, evil, funny, desperate, or …anything else…) as a real life person who I knew in, say, high school. Some of them are family members with names too cool to pass up. I can’t think of characters unless I have had some life experience that has lead to me writing the words that created them. And so many characters exist simply because of a song that I’ve heard.

One example:

Travis in I Looked Over Jordan {will share on blog soon, too!} exists solely because of three songs on a murder ballad CD called Seven Curses  by Jeffrey Foucault and Mark Erelli. Especially songs Ellis Unit One and Sonora’s Death Row.

I was obsessed (and still am) with this murder ballad CD and listened to it for three weeks straight. This story became obvious, as if it had already happened and it was simply my job to tell the story… hardly create it.

When I get to typing I feel as if I am a medium for something that is already there. Writers block is rare, I’m very lucky to say. As long as my fingers are moving the right words seem to come out.

I’m excited for anyone reading this to get to know characters I’ve written…one short story, manuscript excerpt and rambling idea at a time!