Happy Thanksgiving!

Standard
20141127_111824

My first Thanksgiving in Florida. Aunt Stephanie and my mother fighting over their mother’s rolling pin. Ah, the holidays ūüėÄ

So, busy day today what with hanging out with family and writing and cooking and eating, so I’ll make it quick.

In honor of the holiday:

I am thankful for family, near and far, for the support and friendship and everything over the years.

I am thankful for friends from my best friend and writing partner of more than a decade, to my college roommate and the sweetest person I know, to all the wonderful new people I met at Goddard College.

I am thankful to be a writer. ¬†It has been a long road to get here, but writing is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done. ¬†It is wonderful and exciting and surprising and heartbreaking and exhausting and all around amazing. ¬†I couldn’t imagine a better thing to do with my life.

And on that note, take a moment today to remember the good things in your lives.  Have a great holiday and be safe out there tomorrow.

J

LOA *Not the voodoo kind

Standard

140101_003

Packet 5 (the last of my G2 semester) made it into the mail on Friday just as the post office was closing.  I had it all on track, but I had some last minute issues that pushed me far closer to the deadline than was in any way comfortable with.  What matters is that it made it.  I can breathe again.

Yesterday, I submitted my End of Semester Self-Evaluation. ¬†A troublesome document accounting for all the work I did over the semester, how it meets my goals, and what I plan to do next semester. ¬†It’s a pain and rather stressful to throw together if you’re not expecting it (I wasn’t last semester, this time I was, but not a few days early), but it’s a perfectly reasonable expectation since this program is largely independent study. ¬†I don’t take classes, so how else do they keep track of my progress through the program?

So, with that all out of the way, my second semester of grad school is officially over.  Woohoo!

And now for the good news/bad news. ¬†I won’t be going back to school for another 6 months. ¬†Yup. ¬†I will be dealing with some major life changes (new location, new employment, new who knows what else), which will make it very difficult to continue school during that time, especially with the Teaching Practicum. ¬†In addition, I¬†wasn’t able to finish as much as I’d hoped this last semester, so it will be very helpful to have a little extra time to work on these¬†things on my own before I dive into my third semester, which promises to be more difficult than the last, even without moving right in the middle of it.

I am relieved to have a break from the snowballing pace of this program and excited to have a bit of time to work on my novel without worrying about deadlines or people reading over my shoulder, so the break will be a good thing. ¬†But at the same time, I’m really going to miss all my friends at Goddard. ¬†The community there is fantastic. ¬†It’s just an amazingly wonderful experience to spend a week with a bunch of other crazy writers who are just as passionate about their work as I am about mine. ¬†Residency has been one of the best experiences of my life with the intense focus on writing, workshops, readings, visiting writers, it gets me so pumped to dive into my work and I learn so much in such an incredibly beautiful location. ¬†I seriously can’t say enough about the community and the event itself. ¬†So I will really miss not going up for another gorgeous Vermont winter with all the writers I’ve been celebrating and commiserating with over the last two semesters, especially the G2 Fireballs and the new G1 YA writers.

Taking this Leave of Absence was, surprisingly, one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make. ¬†I’m really going to miss everyone and I’m going to miss the energy and excitement of Residency this semester, but taking this break is what I’ve got¬†to do at this point in my life and in the program.

I plan to keep up with this blog so everyone can see my progress without the regular deadlines of school.  Hopefully keeping up with this will help me keep on track with my goals for the semester off so I come back for my G3 stronger than ever.  And I will see everyone again in June for the next Residency!

So, dear readers, keep in touch about your writing plans and progress, because I don’t want to slip out of the loop while I’m away. ¬†Happy Writing!

J

The Girl with the Corn Silk Hair

Standard

The following was a detour I took tonight on my novel because I needed a better understanding of Reynard so that I can move forward with his storyline. ¬†It is raw and, aside from a few spelling corrections, unedited. ¬†It will likely never be seen anywhere but here because it was solely an exercise for my benefit to prepare me for the next portion of the book and to help me through a difficult block I’ve been battling today. ¬†I hope that tomorrow I will return to my novel with a clear mind and nimble fingers so that I can do what must be done and carry on with my thesis.

J

John William Waterhouse

Though the descriptions do not match, this painting by John William Waterhouse was my inspiration for this portion of the story.

The Girl with the Corn Silk Hair

They arrived at the small, coastal village of [Pentref Arfordirol] weary and crestfallen.  The war had been long and taxing and the recent losses made Reynard wonder what he was even fighting for.

He had joined the troops of Harayan two years before, right at the start of the war.  He was the son of a farmer and the excitement and honor of fighting for the kingdoms drew him more than the life he had been raised to take over, the humble life of a farmer on the edge of a small town on the northern border of the kingdom of Harayan.  He had joined with great vigor and the heavy labor of the farm life had prepared him in many ways for his duties as a soldier.  His body was toned and his mind was prepared for long hours with little immediate reward, so he fit in well with the life of a soldier, the heavy training in strength and weapons, the long days and longer marching.

He did well in his duties and served willingly, but he was not the best.  Many of the others had grown learning to fight while he had been a simple farmer, learning the ways of the land and the ways with animals.  It had been a comfortable life and he had been sorry to leave it behind, but he wanted a chance to see Zinthe and serve the kingdoms and the gods before he returned to the quiet, simple, though by no means easy life.  In a few years, when this war was one, he knew he would return to the home he had grown up in, find a bride in a nearby village, and raise sons to care for the farm after his passing while his bride would raise their daughters in other duties.

It was a pleasant thought and one he brought to mind on days when the war seemed endless and the fighting seemed pointless.  He would dream of the beautiful life that awaited him when they came out victorious.  He would return a hero, a brave soldier who had served them well.  He would be honored and respected among the villages as the other old soldiers were.  He would even some day share old war stories with the other veterans.  His new title as soldier and hero would bring him to the attention of the maidens and he would have his pick.  He wanted someone who was strong enough to stand by him through the hard times that would inevitably come during drought and other hardships of the farm, but also someone who was kind and gentle and sweet.  A girl who was as beautiful on the inside as well as the outside, because beauty would fade with time, but a kind heart and a faithful companion would last him to the end of his days until they at last moved on to the great afterlife, leaving their children to carry on their legacy as he once had for his father.  He knew it was his duty and his destiny to carry on and care for their land after his father passed because he was the only son of the kind, hardworking couple that were his parents, and he was happy to fulfill it, one day, when this war was over.

He first saw her when they came into town.  They were welcomed wholeheartedly by the villagers.  The people of this small town honored the arriving soldiers for their service and looked forward to the help they would offer in return for supporting them during their stay.  She had been only one of many men and women who came to greet them and direct them to their lodging.  Most stayed in the small inns the village supported, but some were taken in by widows and other lonely villagers who needed the help and the company.  Reynard joined William at the inn with many of the senior soldiersРthey were all veterans now, though some had been so for much longer.

He only saw her for a moment in all the bustle, but her hair shone like corn silk on a summer afternoon and drew his eye.  When she turned and he saw her face, she was more beautiful than he could have hoped, the most beautiful maiden his eyes had been fortunate enough to see.  Her smile was sweet and kind as she welcomed weary soldiers into their town and homes, and then she was gone.

He watched for her, hoping she would come by again in the evening because he had missed the opportunity to speak with her, or even catch her name.  That evening, the inn was chaos as they found places for the new arrivals to sleep and sorted out the business of feeding the weary, hungry men.  Even in the bustle, he knew that he would have seen her again had she been there, but she was not.  He watched for her the following day and offered whatever help he could around town in hopes that he would come across her in so many varied tasks, but he did not.

On the third day in the village, he at last found her again.¬† She came to down to bring yarns from her father’s sheep for dying.¬† He then learned that her name was Melinda, great gods, what a blessed name, the name of highland sprite, a gift from the heavens.¬† He offered his assistance to her and she graciously accepted.¬† He found that her home was some distance from the town.¬† Her father was a shepherd with a number of sheep he tended out in the hills and she came into town every day or two to buy supplies or offer her wares– the finest wools in the region and some of the finer craftsmanship in knitted pieces.¬† Once he had found her, he offered his services exclusively to her.¬† He was not one to deny assistance where needed and so helped other villagers when requested, but his whole purpose was to stay with this delicate and beautiful young maiden.

After some days in the village, William spoke with him about their interactions.  He urged Reynard to confess his love for her, that if he hid it from her, then she could never reciprocate and if she held no love for him, then it was better that he know now so that he could forget his desires and stop torturing himself.  At last he did confess his feelings for her and to his delight and relief, she admitted that she felt the same for him.

After that, they were truly inseparable, enjoying the happiness and contentment and only young lovers can.  Rumors spread about them, though through the villagers and the visiting soldiers.  Reynard was happier than he could ever have dreamed that he had found such a sweet, kindhearted maid to spend his days with.  As the time passed, he could not imagine finding another he desired more to be his wife, but with the war looming over their heads, however quietly it had been lately, he feared that it would not be wise to pursue his courtship with the young Melinda.

At last the day came that he had both anticipated and dreaded.¬† A messenger came with orders for a portion of the men to return to the main camp to prepare for a new battle campaign.¬† Reynard was eager to do all that he could to finish this war so that he could return and wed his sweet Melinda, but he could not bear the thought of leaving her side.¬† Melinda was heartbroken when the news arrived, but she tried to hide her sorrow and fears so that her love would not return to war with a heavy heart because, while she could not bear the thought of losing him, she believed that a man should fulfill his duty, no matter how difficult.¬† Reynard volunteered to return to camp with many of the others, but William, taking pity on him and his sweet companion offered to go in his stead.¬† William convinced him that he would not be needed for this battle and that they had more than enough men to carry out the commander’s wishes.¬† Reynard was grateful beyond measure, though he felt pained that his friend would risk his own life so that he could remain with Melinda for a little while longer.

After at least half of the battalion marched northward to join the other companies in the main encampment, life in the small coastal town returned more or less to normal.  With fewer mouths to feed, the village felt more at least and began to prepare for the coming winter festivities.

Life with Reynard and Melinda continued as they had and they were happy, but Reynard lived with the fear that any day he might receive orders to return to the camp and fight again.¬† He had never doubted that he would come out of the war alive and well when the Zinthians were at last victorious so that he could have the happy life he had long dreamed of, but now that he had found the companion he wished to bring back with him to his humble farm in Harayan, he feared that the dream might not come to pass because this war was harder and longer than any of them had anticipated when they joined it.¬† He wished desperately to ask the gentle Melinda for her hand and dreamed of the beautiful, but simple wedding they could have here, in her home village, the celebrations of its many kind and generous inhabitants.¬† He thought of the children they would raise together.¬† He knew his mother and father would be pleased because while she was sweet and gentle, she was also strong and hardworking, which would serve them well in their long life together.¬† They had spoken of it in quiet whispers on evenings under the stars above the craggy cliffs on the edge of the small village.¬† She would be sad to leave her mother and father behind, but she was willing to make the sacrifice for their future and her skills would be greatly appreciated in the village of Reynard’s home.¬† They spoke of their future together in dark, hushed moments, when no other soul might hear and only the gods were witness to their promises, but they didn’t dare bring their plans to the light of day for fear that it would shatter them and take away their happiness.

Too soon, the inevitable end came.  Another messenger rode into the village with new orders for the remains of the battalion.  They were to return to the main camp at once to continue the battles.  They had regrouped and gained a foothold on the Citadel IslesРtheir greatest victory since the war had begunРand now was the time to attack with full force.  All the soldiers were required at the main headquarters so that the battalions could be reorganized and put to work.

The remainder of the battalion living in [Pentref Arfordirol] spend the day preparing for the journey, packing their belongings and food for the long march north, so that they could depart first thing in the morning.¬† Reynard and Melinda’s last night together was bittersweet and many things were left unsaid, but they confessed their love again and again as they had so many times before and prayed to the gods that Reynard would return safely soon so that they could begin their happy life together.¬† Before they departed, Melinda presented him with a locket her mother had given her as a child.¬† Inside, she had placed a small lock of her corn silk hair so that he would always remember her and be strengthened to return to her soon.¬† He clasped it around his neck and vowed never to take it off until they met again at last.¬† They said their goodbyes in the breaking light of dawn and Melinda could not restrain her tears, though she tried.¬† Reynard would not shed a tear, though he wished he could, because he could not leave his love more heartbroken than she already was.¬† He promised to return and that he would do what he must to win this war, but no more.¬† As the separated, Melinda watched him go, more afraid than she had been of anything in her life that he would not return and cried until she could no more.¬† Then she returned to her home and her work and prayed that the gods would protect her soldier, Reynard.

It took more strength to walk away from her than he had ever needed before in his life, but Reynard knew he must fulfill his duty to the kingdoms.  He rejoined his battalion for the long march north, and though many reveled in the latest victory and the coming excitement of returning to battle, he could not join in the celebration because he had left his heart and soul with the sweet little shepherdess with the corn silk hair.

Life is short and then you die.

Standard

“Death never comes at the right time, despite what mortals believe. Death always comes like a thief.”

—Christopher Pike

As writers, we all kill off characters at one point or another and in many cases we take great pleasure in it.

A week or so ago I had a really crappy day and needed to take it out on someone. ¬†So I decided to kill off one of my main characters. ¬†At the time, I was quite thrilled about it and ready to go. ¬†I started planning the circumstances, getting his affairs in order—because he had some significant plot details that were still forthcoming—and etcetera. ¬†But as the time has passed and I still haven’t killed him off, I’ve become more and more reluctant to do so. ¬†He’s a good guy and he had good things going for him, it just seems wrong to kill¬†him off, him in particular, just because I had a bad day. ¬†At the same time, while I’ve been planning the events leading up to it, I’ve also been considering the outcome, and as I’ve developed these outcomes and looked at the way the story must go from that point, the more and more necessary this particular death seems to be in order to push the story in the direction it needs to go.

So, here I am, I have a crucial plot point that came about on a whim and I am increasingly reluctant and heartbroken at the thought of carrying it out, all the while, it has become the major turning point for my MC, the final straw that pushes him into a place he was always destined to go, no matter how reluctant he has always been.

It’s really hard to be a writer.

J

Write or Die!

Standard

In honor of Day Three of NaNoWriMo, I wanted to introduce you to my 1# favorite tool for getting words down. ¬†The free app is about halfway down the page and I use it all the time. ¬†It gives you the option of writing to a specific word count and/or time and the level of strictness and punishment for not writing. ¬†It’s a great way to just knock out a chunk of writing so that you get your ideas (or just words if you have no ideas) on paper and then you have something to work with later. ¬†It’s great for NaNoWriMo and some years, most of my writing was done with the online app while other years I just used it for a little nudge. ¬†I hope you find it as useful as I have. ¬†Enjoy!

Write or Die by Dr Wicked | Putting the ‘Prod’ in Productivity.

J