Hi! Yes, I'm a day late. Yesterday was too busy, and today and tomorrow look like more of the same. (Except for this hour right now, where I'm typing this quick update, this hour I can do my post.)
Personal update: sick kids, sick me, hubby's working 12 hour night shifts for six days a week, mental health is spiraling but my therapist is back from holidays and helping a bunch, and things generally feel overwhelming. So... regular September? Lol :)
Writing update Number 1: I'm working away on my big manuscript and WOW is it ever a story I love. The overhaul of book one left me short on words for the genre, but opened up a chance to add in all the little bits that will lay foundations for books two and three without over-filling the word count. It's just all a big bunch of great in that manuscript right now.
Writing update Number 2: I submitted to PitchWars this past week! Not with the big manuscript, because now that I'm revising that one it's not query ready anymore. I submitted with the space opera novella I wrote this summer. (The one that was supposed to be a short story and then got out of control? That one.) The cool part is that if the space opera gets selected, I'll get to work deeper with it and share it with you as a traditionally published book. The other cool part is that if the space opera doesn't get selected, I'll get to post it up as a serial in my blog and then share it with you as an indie published book. There was no down side for submitting. Good luck to everyone who sent in their books! There were over 3500 submissions, and I can't wait to see which books will be out for query next year!
No short story today, I'll be starting my Halloween short next week on October 4th. You can see the teaser for it over on my Short Stories page.
That's all I've got this week. Hope you have a great weekend!
Hi all! Happy Friday!
This week I had a huge breakthrough in revising the manuscript I'm querying and, as seemingly everything else in my life is going insanely busy or falling apart, I'm focusing on that as proof that things aren't all bad. Things really aren't all bad, but the bad stuff is pretty big and there's a lot of material there for depression and anxiety to feed on. So, dear depression and sweet anxiety, you can suck on the good news of that major revision being awesome and shrivel up a bit, now and thank you.
In case you've ever wondered, I do actually have a writing process. It typically involves having a word prompt – either on purpose or because it got stuck in my head – which my imagination 'remembers' is part of a story. Usually the story is short because it's only a part, and other times the part becomes a world and the characters grow into personalities who tell me whole sections of their lives. For both long narratives and short stories, my process is the same and starts with the first sentence of the event which my imagination remembered: sit and type.
Long winded way of telling you that your writing process is as personal and individual as you are, I know, but the more I write and the greater number of Writers I interact with, the more I see this is true. It might take a few failed attempts to get your process figured out, and someone else's Right Way to Write might get you started, but how you get your awesome stories out of your head has to be the way that works for you.
Hope you have a great weekend!
3. Breakfast Plans with Trolls
Bissette pulled her phone out of her sweater pocket and sat down. Her phone connected with three out of four bars to her grandma’s Wifi from this chair. She could bring her suitcase over after dinner and run her laundry from the past week and a half through while having a mug of tea. Probably she could plug in her laptop to get a couple hours of work done on the two jobs she did from home and then stream music while hunting for where that bleached smell was coming from in the kitchen to clean it out with dish soap and vinegar. Compared against spending another night trying to work and sleep around her cousins and youngest brothers using the two game systems in Grandma’s basement, sleeping at Gran and Pop’s had always been her choice in the past and she smiled to realize that hadn’t changed at all even with both of them now passed away.
She stood and walked down the hall to the spare room. The bed was made neatly, dents in the rug beside it where the dresser had been and empty hangers in the closet. She lifted her backpack from the bed and set it in the closet under the hangers. It leaned against the wall in there as if that’s where it had always sat when she wasn’t carrying it around. Her desk would fit perfectly where the dresser had been, and Grandma and Grandma's siblings had cleared out Gran’s bedroom so it was empty right now. Bissette’s small bedroom set would fit in there without feeling cramped like it was in the place she was renting in right now.
In the span of a heartbeat, a breath lifted the weight of living off her shoulders for a moment. Having gardens was something her hands had achingly missed since moving out of her parent’s house, and there was a yard full of them waiting outside to be tended during her free time. She could borrow Grandma’s truck to bring her things here without having to worry about the cost of a rental, so that meant texting her roommates tonight that she was taking the jump and coming here, giving her notice at her in-person job tomorrow morning, accepting the offer for the new position tomorrow afternoon, and be moving in by this weekend. The offered salary from full time work would pay expenses and still have funds left over to start putting toward student loans.
She’d be here to take care of the fairies, trolls and brownies, keep the mirrors clean to reflect away any bad spirits, and set up her home so that the energy stayed just as positive as when Gran and Pop lived here. She paused in the hallway and looked out at the bits of rooms she could see, already knowing which kitchen chair to stand on for replacing the dusty spice bundles with fresh. The door to the crawl space ladder creaked in that familiar way when she opened it and the bare bulb clicked on brightly when she pulled the long string tied to the short chain.
Neat, wooden shelves were arranged for maximum capacity down here, the bricks keeping everything cool. She flicked the switch and the lights Pop had gotten installed when the electrical had been updated brightened the space as if there were suddenly windows. Gran’s little deep freezer was still here, humming in the nearest corner with its red light shining dully from the handle. On the shelves were maybe a dozen jars with tidy labels written in Grandma’s flowing writing. Surprisingly, all the jars held things Bissette liked to eat and each was less than six months old. In the freezer sat a small turkey, a dozen hotdog buns, two half-eaten pints of vanilla ice cream, and a half-pound package of bacon. Bissette knew that Gran hadn’t been down the ladder in at least two years, so everything stored here was likely Grandma’s forgotten food. If she asked, Grandma would likely let her keep most of it.
Bissette updated her breakfast plans to biscuits and bacon, bringing the half-pound package up the ladder and depositing it in the fridge to start thawing out. The cat was gone (as was the milk and tea) and the big clay bowl was dry enough to wipe the last few drops off the outside. She filled the bowl with clean water and took it back out onto the patio, setting it in the shade so it would stay cool for any passing trolls needing to dip a mug. Grandma was in the garden just off the patio, puttering at some weeding, and smiled through a sniffle as she watched her granddaughter.
“For the trolls?” she asked.
“You never know when they’ll come by,” Bissette answered. “I guess I missed dinner?”
“No, not at all. Your Grandpa just chased all the kids away and started the burgers on the grill. I came over to tell you to come and make up your bun and saw there were a few weeds so I stopped for that,” she said, straightening up and dusting off her hands.
“Okay. I’ll just lock up the front and come out this door. Be right out.”
Grandma was weeding again in a different part of the garden when Bissette came back and closed the door without locking it. “No backpack?” Grandma asked. Her tone was just as carefully neutral as every other conversation about the house. She hadn’t wanted to pressure Bissette one way or the other, but her nerves about not knowing what was happening with the little house pinched at her eyes.
“No. I think I’ll bring my suitcase over after dinner. There’s still tea in the drawer and a couple of mugs with the dishes that were left behind. I’ll have to borrow some of your cutlery, though. And…” her voice trailed off as she braced for the big question. “And I wanted to ask if I could borrow your truck?”
The pinching around her grandma’s eyes melted away. “You’re going to accept that job offer?” she asked quietly, the forced neutrality strained by hopeful excitement.
“Yes.” The statement felt definitive. And right. It felt right and Bissette felt good saying it. Especially once it was said out loud and her grandma wrapped her up in a hug.
“Welcome home,” Grandma said, holding Bissette’s shoulders and stepping back to beam a smile through the few tears on her cheeks. “Come on. Let’s go tell Grandpa that you’re taking the truck for a few days.”
Technically it's still Friday, so I can pretend I didn't get busy today and forget to put out my blog this morning ;)
Also, if I'd gotten this out on time today, I wouldn't have been getting it done while in a good mood. Why the good mood? For the first thing, Karma really is a bitch, and she bit someone who royally deserved it. A good friend called me today and let me know that some trouble he'd had years ago, and which has followed him into some current issues, got a large bit of well-deserved closure today. It was a good call and brightened my day.
For the second thing, for some reason I've been getting sleep... and that reason is therapy. My therapist is back from her holidays and I had someone I could gob all the uglies to without repercussion. Added bonus: she provided positive reinforcement for the stuff I'd managed to get through, and then had suggestions and Path Forward ideas for some of the financial problems that I hadn't thought of as options before.
The third reason is that this was the first full week of regular school. I've mentioned before that schedules give me structure, and structure gives me sanity through predictable routine (as long as the interactions in that routine are not consistently crappy, ie: not like my previous job lol). This kids-in-school schedule is full of pretty awesome people, though, so the sanity boost has been huge.
That means more writing, more reading, and more editing. End result? More stories for you :) Hope you have a great weekend!
2. Sweet Tea & Brownies
This house had been a living fairy tale for every child that encountered it, complete with a mysterious old woman and her quick-to-smile husband. Gran brewed sweet tea in jars on the windowsills and hung dried spices from the ceilings of each room to keep the energy clean and positive. She burned incense to purify the air, kept mirrors at every entrance to reflect away bad spirits, and hung small, silver bells and a knot of red yarn on every door to protect the rooms. A cherry tree and a peach tree dominated the half-wild gardens in the back yard. Tarot cards that she claimed were blessed by a Druid had always sat beside a thick beeswax candle on the kitchen table like a centerpiece and all the furniture in the house was placed based on Feng Shui philosophy to ensure energy was channeled for the maximum benefit of everyone who entered.
Only the bathroom got bleach-based cleaners, because outhouses were dug away from the house and garden for a reason and bleach made sure the sentiment remained despite indoor plumbing. Gran cleaned with vinegar for a lot, and all-natural dish soap that Grandma bought for her for the rest. The wood floors had always shone with regular oilings.
The house had been well-maintained structurally, too. The windows and roof had been replaced only five or six years ago, and the siding and insulation updated a year before that. Pop had repaved the driveway twice while they’d been living here and the second time was still holding up perfectly well. Plus, Pop had been a plumber, so his tinkering after retirement had included updating all the piping and drains to the latest codes before he’d passed away about a year ago. The hot water tank and furnace were only three years old, Bissette’s mom and husband had bought them as a surprise when Gran had gotten the entire house’s electrical updated to current.
The impossible thing seemed to be thinking of this place as hers rather than as Gran and Pop’s. Most of the furniture was gone already, as were the keepsakes and heirlooms. Gran had been pretty specific in her will about who got what, and nobody had been left out. A few cousins had grumbled that Bissette had gotten the house, but Gran had written the house was meant for Bissette because she was the only one who still understood that the dishwasher and kitchen window had to be kept open a crack for the fairies who rested in there to come and go as they pleased.
Bisette left her backpack and roamed the few rooms. Shadows made by dust belied where furniture had been and a lack of discoloration on the walls spoke of the photos and paintings that had been hanging there. All the mirrors had been left, and all the usual spices hung in small bundles from the nails and hooks Gran had on hand at the time she’d put the first ones up. Every door tinkled like laughter and each closet smelled of the laundry soap Gran had made using a few things from the grocery store and the plants in her garden. The jar of her liquid soap sat on the shelf above the washing machine, the recipe for making more beside it.
The little china cabinet was empty. Whoever had cleaned it out had also cleaned it up because there wasn’t any dust. Bissette smiled faintly as she opened one of the ornate glass doors and the missing tang of vinegar jumped out to greet her like an unexpected hug.
The kitchen table, with its set of four nearly-matching chairs, was looking empty without the cards and candle in the center. The dining room chairs and table, the fancy ones that weren’t part of a set but had matched close enough to the built-in china cabinet to look like they all were, had left only the evidence of a few dents in the hardwood. That was fine, though. The fancy table had always felt stiff in the house, and it was too big for the room. The living room had been squished because of it. Bissette’s favorite memories had been around the kitchen table, reading cards and having tea from the jars on the windowsill, so having that table still here felt good.
The cat flap on the back door bumped and one of the neighbor’s three cats froze mid-step in the hallway when Bissette looked over at it. Gran always said the cats were welcome because the brownies that rode them were too small to get around on their own. Bissette looked in the fridge and found some milk that hadn’t expired. The last of the non-pretty dishes were scattered around the kitchen cupboards so she poured some milk in a chipped bowl and some sweet tea in a shot glass, putting both on the floor for the cat and the brownie to drink. The cat rubbed her legs and purred a thanks before settling down at the expected treat.
Holding a deep breath, Bissette unlocked the kitchen door and stepped out onto the patio. The gardens hummed with more bees that she could hope to count and her siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles laughed around the barbeque at Grandma’s. A few called over the hedge that she should come back before they ate everything. She laughed and joined a few joking comments as she was looking for what she knew had to be here, waved at everyone – assuring them she’d be back over soon – and then took the heavy, clay dish and metal plate inside to wipe off the dust and wash away the algae that had soured the dishes. Gran kept the big bowl out there with fresh water for passing trolls to dip their mugs, and the iron in the enameled plate kept the fairies from stealing the trolls’ daily biscuit.
She set the bowl and plate to dry in the sink and then cracked open both the window over the sink and the dishwasher after hanging the dishrag over the tap. Going through the rest of the kitchen cupboards proved that there was everything needed to make baking powder biscuits for breakfast tomorrow if she slept here tonight. There was a box of herbal tea and some incense cones at the back of a drawer too, which would be nice for after dinner, and still one chair in the living room to sit in that was near the wall closest to her grandma’s house.
Today is my youngest's first day of a complete Kindergarten class. The school did a staggered start, so her first day of Kindergarten was with only a third of the class attending this past Tuesday. Today, though, is the first day with the full class – and without any parents tagging along. Drop-off was at the door and everyone waved 'bye' as the Teacher and Teacher's Aide led the line of kids down the hall to their classroom.
As for writing, I'm very excited to dive into my big manuscript and get back to queries next week. This week I finished up the heavy slog of first-round editing on my space novella and handed off the story to my first reader / editor. (Spouses who like reading and who happily provide useful feedback are gifts to Authors and Writers.) And, as you can see below, my serial Short Stories have started again today! I'm so happy to be getting back into sharing words with you. Hope you have a great weekend!
1. Gran's House
Gran’s house smelled odd. Usually she’d have incense burning, so the lack of it left an acrid stillness to the scent of the place. Plus, somebody unfamiliar had cleaned in the kitchen, so an unwelcoming smell of bleach lingered where a tang of vinegar should have been.
“Will you be okay?” Grandma asked, resting a hand on Bissette’s arm.
“Yeah. I guess so.”
“Okay. We’re still all next door when you want to come back.” She kissed her oldest granddaughter’s cheek and hugged her shoulders.
Bissette leaned into the hug and smiled at her grandma. It had been years since she’d seen a lot of her relatives, and the new perspective of looking across or down at adults she’d only known as looking up to had been a jarring experience. Thankfully, her grandma was the same solid as always.
“I don’t think I’ll be too long.”
“Take as long as you want,” Grandma assured her with a final squeeze.
Bissette nodded and watched her grandma walk back along the path to where she lived next door. Gran had been Grandma’s mom. The two yards had become so interconnected over the years with pathways and gardens that it was mostly forgotten by the folks around town that the two houses each sat on their own properties.
Gran’s little house was a bungalow from the nineteen-thirties, built over a dirt crawl space that provided standing access the heat vents and plumbing. The crawl space was nearly five feet tall and had been completely bricked by a Mason in the sixties. Bricks had been easier than lifting the house for concrete, and the Mason was a friend of Pop’s who’d done it for cheap; Gran had paid the Mason in preserves. Pop would laugh and tell the story of the two weeks his friend would come by after work and brick up their crawl space until after dark so Gran had a nice space to put in little shelves for her preserves, and then he’d smile proudly that she’d given the friend the full payment’s equivalent in cherries, peaches, and wax-sealed jams.
“Of course, he didn’t know that she’d keep paying him every year because after most of the kids moved away she didn’t stop making the same amounts of everything,” he’d always add with a wink that made all of the small children giggle.
Bissette closed the door, setting the view of Grandma’s house into the frame of the half-window just above the knob. Grandma’s house was a big two-story with a separate garage that had been built in the nineties with property lines precariously close to the siding. The yard clung around it, gardens sprouting in the narrow gaps between walls and fences to spill over and bloom brightly in the comparatively wide spaces around Gran’s house. All the kids and grandkids had grown up on the paths between houses, visiting at one house and going for tea at the other depending only on where they’d left their suitcases.
Keeping her backpack shouldered, Bissette didn’t bother taking off her shoes. Gran would chide anyone fiercely for wearing socks; shoes or barefoot only in her house because the floors of a home were meant to be touched by soles. Bissette walked the short hall to the single spare bedroom and dropped her bag on the bed.
She was the oldest great-grandchild. Her grandma had been the quick product of a zealous, teenage marriage that had lasted an entire lifetime. Her mom had been a teenage mistake that her grandma had chosen to keep and turn into an adult choice. And Bissette was the first of five kids across two marriages – both happy, the first only ended because her dad got sick and passed away – making her the same age as her aunts and uncles born by her Grandma’s youngest sibling.
Out of all the grandkids and great-grandkids, Gran had left Bissette the house.
It was beyond strange to go from being twenty-six, buried in school debt and unable to make ends meet on three part-time jobs in spite of sharing rent with two roommates, to being twenty-six and the owner of a mortgage-free house. Gran’s will had recommended selling the property to start a life without debt, take any extra and go on a holiday, but nothing except Bissette taking ownership was required. When Bissette had checked the local market for jobs, though, there were three openings she was qualified for. Each one was full time, with benefits, and after sending her resume she’d had interviews for each one. Now she had a mortgage-free house and a really good job offer that would start in two weeks if she accepted it.
Living next door to her grandma would be… interesting. Family that close, when Bisette hadn’t been living close to family for a few years now, would take some getting used to. Then again, she wouldn’t be living there and visiting here like she was right now as everything settled out for the estate, so it would probably be fine. Actually, living here now would likely be not much different than when her parents had lived just up the street when she’d been a kid.
Afternoon sun broke through the clouds and threw rainbows all around the spare bedroom from the fairy drops in the window. Bissette turned and smiled at the many crystals hanging from fishing lines tied to a curtain rod Pop had hung inside the window. Gran had always called them fairy drops. Light refraction off the cut surfaces of a faceted crystal was a lot less enchanting than fairy magic, and Gran had always been enchanted.
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!