So, these past couple months have been a whirlwind. Can you believe we’re already at the end of February?! I’m lucky that the New Year energy has actually carried through until now. Just yesterday I managed to go bouldering properly for the first time in about five years. I’m still sore, but I would love this to become a regular thing. #fitnessgoals! Continue reading
Originally published in Headwaters 2011, the UNCA Creative Arts Magazine.
When I was a child, we attended mass every Sunday, arriving early so that my mother could prepare for the scripture readings. Always as we entered, the colors and smells of the church would overwhelm me: the white altar, the golden tabernacle, the heady odor of incense and of the wine that I was not yet allowed to take—more than a metaphor, the real blood of Christ. But then we would sit and my legs would itch, and I would wonder why anyone ever bothered with church.
My father cared little for the faith. He was there because my mother was there. He only listened when she read. Her strong voice, shaped and accented with the dark tints of her native tongue, would rise to fill the nave, and while I was too young to understand the meaning of the verses in full, this was the voice that had read me bedtime stories, and it soothed me.
I left the faith when I was sixteen. It ended when my religion teacher made a comment about homosexuality—about how their love was less pure: that it was not what god intended. I asked him how he could possibly know exactly what god intended. When he couldn’t answer, I politely told him I would not be taking my Confirmation and walked out of the classroom.
Mother shook her head when I told her. I wish you could see what I see. Then she pulled me into a hug and told me that it didn’t matter. So long as I believed in something—the sky, the stars, the possibility of good—she would be proud.
I was twenty three when we found her unconscious in her bedroom. I had awoken to the sound of my father crying into the telephone, yelling at someone for an ambulance. It took a moment for me to realize what was happening; even then, I didn’t understand until I walked into the bedroom and saw her lying there, her eyes blank, not breathing.
I began to scream.
My father dropped the phone in frustration, and I could hear the dispatcher asking if he was still there. I picked it up.
Can you do CPR?
The dispatcher told me how to find her sternum, how to place my hands. Push down two to three inches, firmly. I felt her ribs break under my palms.
I never heard the sirens, but I suddenly found myself pulled out of the way by the EMT. They loaded her into the ambulance, and my father drove us to the hospital in silence. After an hour of waiting, the doctor came in to talk to us. He told us they had managed to restore her heart beat, but that her brain was damaged beyond repair. She was gone. He asked my father whether they should keep her on the machines.
Her funeral was held in the new church that I had never seen built—the church that she and my father had donated to, after I had left the faith. It was the first time in seven years I had stepped foot into a Catholic place of worship. The smell of incense was overwhelming, the carpets red as the communion wine. When time came for the sacrament, I remained seated—I was a child once more, unworthy of the saving graces of communion. I fidgeted in my seat, my legs itching with the effort of sitting.
I waited for her voice to comfort me.
In honor of the inauguration of our president-elect, human-hating alien swampbeast Donald Trump, I’m here with six ways to approach any dystopian future you may be imagining for your sci-fi works and/or depressing reality this coming year. Continue reading
Ten days in, it’s STILL a new year, and that means new goals, new missions, new inspirations, and hopefully keeping your motivation the whole year long. But as a writer, it’s easy to fall into the trap of simply making the resolution to “write more,” which rarely manages to actually motivate us to do anything more than stress about about how much we’re not writing. Continue reading
We’re already more than a week into the 50,000 word writing challenge madness that is NaNoWriMo, and that means that plots are picking up, rising actions are building, and characters are reacting to crises of conscience with all the subtlety and skill of a Walking Shovel of Death. It also means that your word count is probably behind, and you might soon be ready to start weeping in a corner.
Just informed that I got a place in the Writer’s Voice contest run by Brenda Drake & Co (more info here). So, the blog’s coming out of retirement, and I’m posting my query and the first 250 words of my middle grade contemporary fantasy novel, BETWIXT, both for the contest and for your reading pleasure 🙂
In the small Appalachian town of Candle Creek, the boundaries are clear, yet Elsa Roberts still manages to get tangled in them. As a scholarship student at the prestigious Candle Creek Day School, the public schoolers at her church can’t trust her. At the private school, she’s been labeled “trouble” since the day she punched Izzy Whittaker in the glasses (even though Izzy deserved it). And it doesn’t matter how much Mamá tries to convince her otherwise; Elsa already knows that the kids of Candle Creek will never accept her as one of their own.
And so, she escapes her thirteenth birthday party, crossing a bridge into the wood beyond. There, she finds Aza, a spirit trapped by an ancient curse, who gives her the acceptance she has always craved, and who tells her that she can be a hero.
But the wood beyond is full of danger as well as wonder, and when Elsa sets out to slay a dragon and break an enchantment that threatens to destroy her family, she releases monsters that she never could have imagined. Caught between the dark forces of ancient magic and the very human monsters of Candle Creek, Elsa must find the power to reshape the boundaries of her world, or risk losing her place in it forever.
A middle grade novel that combines fantasy elements with the bittersweet realities of modern middle school, BETWIXT is a story about a girl growing up stuck between worlds, between communities, between histories. Complete at 70,000 words, it is available upon request.
1 | The Wood Beyond
Elsa Roberts was fleeing her birthday party.
She had to climb down the oak tree to do it. Her bedroom was in the attic of the house, three stories up, and the only way for her to escape the party unnoticed was to clamber over her window seat and onto the sill, her fingers clinging to the top of the window frame as she stepped across the two-and-a-half-foot gap to the oak tree’s nearest branch. In jeans and sneakers, it was a feat that made Elsa’s heart pound, no matter how many times she managed it.
Of course, she wasn’t wearing jeans or sneakers. She’d already put on her dress.
There was no time to change into anything more practical. She’d taken too long getting ready, and Mamá would soon come up to check on her. And so, with the late August breeze grabbing at her skirt and the branches trembling beneath her feet, she scrambled out her window and into the old oak, scuffing her shoes against the rough trunk as she lowered herself through the branches. She dropped into the backyard, pausing just long enough to catch a glimpse of the guests through the downstairs windows.
Elsa ducked behind the oak before anyone could think to look outside. At the other end of the yard, a weeping willow tree bent over the path into the woods: a path that led to the Candle Creek, to a bridge that Elsa had never dared to cross—
Not until today.