Oh readers, it is so good to have a computer again! And I almost feel badly that my first blog is going to be another soap box post. But I hope you'll hear me out and understand my frustration. Some of you have probably felt this frustration and some of you, well, I love you very much but you have caused this frustration.
I kind of enjoyed my respite from social media, though I don't want a repeat experience. For several days I didn't have to see any negative posts about, well, anything. But I was sad to miss out on some of the really wonderful things you had going too. I missed being able to start the voting on my coloring contest (which by the way is going on right now on Facebook) when I'd planned. And we won't even discuss the total lack of writing that took place.
But one of the first things I saw upon returning to Facebook was someone ranting about a child being upset in a restaurant and how families with small children should be segregated or excluded from such establishments. And it just made my mama bear blood boil.
First, let me point out that I absolutely agree there are certain places children simply don't belong. About 90% of them are places I don't feel I belong. I don't have a problem with certain places being child-free zones because of their nature. But to say that every restaurant should have a separate place for families? Or that families with small children should have to pay an extra gratuity? (Yes, I've seen that suggested.) Let's really think about that for a second. Do you honestly and truly believe that is fair? Let me turn things around. I'm going to now suggest that restaurants exclude single people. Or they shouldn't allow for childless couples. Or if they do, they should be kept separate from my family or made to pay extra because they are somehow imposing on my family time. What do you think would happen?
A firestorm of, "that's not fair," would happen and rightfully so.
Look, I get it. When you go out to eat or to a movie, you want to enjoy an evening out. Guess what? That's what that family wants too. They aren't going to a nice restaurant to ruin your evening. They aren't going to the movies to make sure no one else gets to enjoy the experience. They're going out because they need time away from home too.
Think about dinner from a child's perspective for a moment. When you eat at home, Mom doesn't make you sit at the table until dinner is already prepared. She may have had you help set the table five to ten minutes before dinner is done. But for the most part, it isn't dinnertime until the food is on the table and everyone's sitting down. You eat and enjoy family conversation and there's no long waiting at the table or anywhere else. When the meal is over, you clear your spot and then go play.
Now Mom and Dad take you to a restaurant. You have to wait for someone to show you to a table. This can be upwards of ten minutes (more if the restaurant is crowded and your parents don't change their mind about eating out). Then once you get to the table you have to wait for someone to ask what you want to drink. Another five minutes. Then you're waiting again for your drink to arrive and then you tell them what you want to eat. If there haven't been any appetizers ordered, you're probably going to sit and wait for fifteen to thirty minutes (depending on how busy the restaurant is and how long the food takes to prepare) waiting for your meal. Finally your food arrives and you get to eat. But when you're finished, you can't just leave. You have to wait again for the server to bring the check. And then the waiting starts all over as you wait for her to come back for the check and bring back your parent's change/card. So, for one meal, you're going to do approximately thirty to forty minutes of just sitting. Again, I'm a grown adult and that's hard for me to do. I get antsy. I expect my toddlers to get antsy too.
I'm not going to say that all parents are doing a perfect job of instilling in their children proper public manners. I've seen children act out in ways that were embarrassing and annoying. And believe me, no one is more annoyed than I am when it's my children acting out. But should I really make my children wait until they're old enough to know how to act in public before letting them experience a nice restaurant? No, I shouldn't. Because the only way children will learn proper public behavior is to be given opportunities to experience being in public.
There are many factors into how a child behaves whether at home or out. That child having a meltdown two tables down from you? She may have spent the entire day on the road and is tired and cranky and does not want to see the inside of the car again for the rest of her life. The child bouncing on his seat and talking non-stop? It might be his birthday and he's finally getting to go out because it's his special day. The family with loud toddlers might be in the process of moving and can't stand the place with "Happy Meals" one more time. And yes, sometimes a child's poor behavior is a reflection of bad parenting decisions. But who are you to decide that's always the problem?
Last year, my birthday was mostly wonderful. But there was a moment which put a definite cloud on my day. We were traveling and my husband and I had endured more fast food (particularly McDonald's) than any adult wants to eat. It happens when you're on the road. Being away from home for my birthday, we decided to go to Olive Garden where the whole family would be able to have food we enjoyed and have a nice evening out. We had spent a lot of time in the car that day. And we were all feeling antsy. The trip to the rose garden in Boise hadn't quite worked out all the wiggles. When we got to Olive Garden, we were taken to a table. My son sat next to me and behind us was a table with two older couples. A few minutes after sitting, my husband and I were talking and Gary was babbling happily next to me. What I failed to notice was he had discovered the chair he was on had wheels and was gleefully pushing it into the gentleman seated behind him. I felt a tap on my shoulder and the woman behind me said, "Your son keeps pushing his chair into us."
I was mortified. I immediately apologized, corrected Gary and told him he needed to say sorry, which he did. I pulled his chair up to our table and he stopped pushing into them. Despite my actions, I heard not long after, "Parents today just don't know how to parent."
"My child certainly would never have behaved so poorly."
"Just another spoiled brat from parents not old enough to know anything about the world."
I wanted so badly to turn around again and give them a huge piece of my mind. My children are not spoiled and I can guarantee you that at some point, their children (if they had any) were the perpetrators of some social faux pas because every child does at some point. And on top of that, I had just turned thirty. I think I'm plenty old enough to be a parent.
But this kind of thing happens far too regularly. Parents of today are looked down on as lazy, soft-willed, technology-absorbed children. While I recognize there are certainly cases of those out there, I've seen them too, not every parent is lazy or soft-willed or technology-absorbed. And it's not just the generation(s) before us looking down their nose at us. People our own age do it as well and often, they're people who don't have children. I'm sorry, but if you don't have a child you have no clue what it is like to be a parent. You can study it all you want, but it's not the same thing.
How would those couples have reacted if I had turned in my seat and let them know exactly what I was thinking? Or just that I had heard them? Would they have been more patient realizing we had spent a long day traveling and my child was trying to release some pent-up energy? Would they have accused me of being too young if they'd known I was there celebrating my thirtieth birthday? Would there have been understanding realizing that children are sometimes children and aren't going to sit as quietly and patiently as an adult?
I don't know. I don't know that it would have made any difference at all to them. I've seen children behave horrendously in public. And sometimes, I'll admit it, I've wondered why their parents didn't appear to do more to correct them. But generally, I keep those opinions to myself because the reality is, I don't know what circumstances brought them to the same restaurant as my family. I don't know what factors have played into their child's behavior. It's none of my business and it's not my place to judge them. I'm grateful that for the most part, my children are really well-behaved when we're dining out. But even on the nights they make poor decisions, I would't change the choice to take them out for dinner. If I deserve time out of the house, then surely my children do too.
Yes, there are parents who could use a lesson in discipline. There are children who become monsters when unleashed on the world. But I think those of us who are adults, whether we are parents or not, could extend a little patience and understanding to those children who are struggling. Eating out is a fun experience, but it is also a departure from the normal routine. And for some children, that is very difficult to navigate. So the next time you hear a child cry when you're eating out, instead of viewing it as a personal attack on your evening, extend that child a little patience. Give that parent the benefit of the doubt. Not every parent of small children is too absorbed in themselves to recognize their child misbehaving. Often, they take care of the situation as quickly as they can. Have you ever recognized it? Have you even once noticed when the child stopped crying soon after he started? If you're saying no, perhaps the family isn't the one with a problem. Remember, you're not the only one who heard the child scream. There is probably a very embarrassed parent trying to calm their child down all the while knowing that there are people in the restaurant judging them and looking down at their child as a nuisance. It's not a pleasant experience as a parent. No one wants to feel judged. And I can tell you as a parent, that nothing makes me angrier than people judging my children.
Be patient, be understanding, be kind. And if you can't be, then perhaps it would be better for you to order take-out and eat at home.
Well, readers, my word counts the past week have been pretty sad. Part of it was just being busy with lots of other things going on. I became an aunt on Tuesday (yay!) as well as taking my kiddos to a track meet to watch their daddy's students. But I've also been sick the last couple of days. Not sure what nastiness hit me, but boy do I not want that again! I'm feeling somewhat better today, though still weak.
But enough of poor pitiful me. I've been able to get another coloring page ready for you! It occurred to me that I may not have set the last one up in the easiest way to download. So I'm going to update that later today. Here is a setting from Prince Charming's Quest. I had planned on putting Moira in there working on the dress, but I couldn't find a good place to put her that didn't block the gown. It turned out super pretty, don't you think?
So have fun coloring and be sure to share with me how you interpret Moira's sewing room! You can email pictures of your coloring at firstname.lastname@example.org By the way, don't forget about the Fantasy Fan Art Contest! There will be awesome prizes and lots of fun. Not to mention the Charming Academy series is way under-represented (it's not there at all). Be creative and most of all, just have fun!
Before you panic, no, I'm not considering quitting. Right now I should be working on my Camp NaNo project, but I saw on Facebook an author looking for advice because she's feeling down on her writing. Many comments later and I noticed it was a common problem for many authors. I gave her a brief answer, but wanted to delve a little more in depth.
First, you should know that I consider writing to be my professional hobby. It's fun, it's enjoyable and I even make a little money from it, which is wonderful. But my purpose in writing isn't to make tons of money. My purpose in writing is to touch, even in a small way, someone out there with the stories I have to tell.
Professional hobbies like writing, visual arts, music, etc are wonderful because they allow for a combination of pursuing passion and enhancing (or making up) your income. But they're not easy. There's a lot of "in-job" training, if you will, as you learn what works in the market and how to provide the best-quality product to your audience. There are bumps in the path and it can be a brutal world. It's also a very fluid world. There is no real right or wrong way to go about it and everyone has their own solution to the same problem. This can make it difficult to seek for or give sound advice.
I don't think there's a writer out there who has never once questioned their ability. And if there is one, wow, I applaud your confidence! (Seriously, that's awesome!) Even I have had my moments of self-doubt when I hated everything I wrote and wondered why I bothered. Occasionally, I still have those moments. Being self-published is tough. In a world with thousands of authors, it can be hard to make your own work stand out. And there is of course the occasional, "I'll never be as good as fill-in-the-blank." There are low reviews and some are just downright mean-spirited. I've been lucky so far that the dreaded one-star has never been bestowed on my books, but the reality is it's only a matter of time. I know not everyone is going to love my stories and I'm okay with that. But dang those reviews sometimes sting the pride!
So what do you do? What do you do when everything in you screams you're wasting your time and efforts? What do you do when you feel like a minnow in an ocean of rainbow trout?
There are different answers, because every author is different. Here are some things that I do.
1) Research. I love learning new things and I love being able to sound like I actually know what I'm talking about. As writers, we have to sound knowledgeable about what's going on in our stories or we lose credibility. So I research. I spent countless hours reading articles and books, as well as watching movie extras and online videos about swordsmanship. I would rewatch the same scene in a movie over and over, watching the footwork, observing hand motions, and listening to the dialogue. That scene in Lord of the Rings when Boromir is teaching Merry and Pippin to fight? Yeah, I watched that a ton! Because of that, I feel the scenes in which I've had swordplay are more rich.
2) Take a break. Sometimes I get myself so involved in my writing that I start to burn out. When I spend more time staring at a blinking cursor than writing, that tells me my brain is fried. Writing is fun and enjoyable, but if it's all you do it becomes monotonous, no matter how interesting your characters. After completing Prince Charming's Quest I had a dismal showing at NaNoWriMo. I tried for a while, but quickly realized I was just too tired. Writing had ceased being fun and started to be a chore. So I took a break. I had started a fun story that was supposed to be just a giant month long free write, but even that felt like work. Instead of writing, I spent November illustrating my Christmas story, spending time with my kiddos and just relaxing. I quit worrying about deadlines and getting a new story out and just focused on me and my family. When I jumped back into writing near the beginning of this year, I felt more energized and focused than I had in a long time.
3) Work on something else. This can be another writing project or a different hobby all together. You know why I have a garden? Well, yes, I do love flowers, so that is part of it. But it's mostly because it gives me a refuge. It's the hobbit in me I suppose that loves to dig in good earth and smell the fragrance of flowers and trees. It's inspiring on many levels and the time I spend out in my garden is time I can let my thoughts wander. Sometimes those wanderings turn into ideas and sometimes it's just a mental reprieve. In either case, it's helpful. Recently I had been trying to force myself to work on A House for Charity. Forcing myself and hating every moment of it. I was stuck. I was really stuck. Then my talented friend Faith posted on Facebook with a cover she had designed and the announcement that she would be starting to make premade covers for authors. That cover brought to mind the idea for To Keep a Star. I decided to put Charity away and work on something new. And you know what? The story is coming great! I've had great lines that inspire me, or just make me laugh. I'm enjoying my writing, I love my characters and I even like my story.
4) Read. There is no better place to escape than a good book. I love reading and especially enjoy reading in the genres I'm writing to see how others are interpreting them. Recently I have enjoyed delving into Shanna Hatfield's fun stories. Not only does it help me get a better feel for Western writing which has helped me in writing Scarlett and Blizzard, but it also allows me to fall in love with someone else's characters and root for them. I can just relax and enjoy the ride. If you need suggestions, I have many wonderful friends who write fabulous books. I can definitely hook you up.
5) Just keep trying. If you have a story in you, write it. No one else can do it for you and you never know how that story will impact someone else. My sales aren't extraordinary, but the occasional email from someone who read and loved my books more than makes up for the lack of financial success. I recently received an email telling me my books belonged on the shelf next to the Grimm Sisters. Talk about a huge compliment and honor!
What can you do as a reader to encourage your favorite author? There are a few things and each of them is meaningful.
When you read a book that you just absolutely love, write a review. It doesn't have to be long or complicated, but let the world know, "I loved this book!" That not only gives your favorite author a much needed boost of confidence, it also helps their books become more visible. Visibility and word-of-mouth are authors' best friends. It's the easiest way for us to gain new readers.
Send them a note. Traditionally published or indie, all authors need some words of encouragement and love. Whether you write long hand and send them a letter or you send an email, those messages from our fans mean the world to us. Hearing from you about how my books have made you smile is the best feeling in the world. When you tell me you're anxious to read my next book, that definitely lights a fire under me.
Like and follow their social media posts. It's such a little thing, but it really makes a big difference. For one, visibility plays in and more people can see what we're up to. But it also lets us know that someone out there is seeing our posts. When I post pictures or blogs or just status updates, I love to see your comments and likes. I especially love reading your comments. You readers have had me laugh out loud and just beam with joy at the things you've said on my posts. And I will be honest, a couple of you have teared me up with your heart-felt messages of love and encouragement.
Are you an author? Comment below with your solutions to writer's block and feel free to include one link to your website or social media. Are you a reader? Tell me what you love most about your favorite author (and then send them a note saying the same thing!).
Well readers, here we are! Thank you for being patient with me. As a reward for being so amazing and just 'cause I love ya, here's the full cover to Scarlett and Blizzard. This is what will be used when the book is completed and released in November. Gorgeous, isn't it? Charlene did a great job and has a wide selection of premades available for those of you in the market for a great cover.
Be sure to vote in the poll below when you finish reading this chapter. I'll get the video up just as soon as I can. It's been a crazy week here. Speaking of crazy, Scarlett's birthday is coming up and things are going to get wild. What's the craziest thing (good or bad) that ever happened on your birthday? Comment here or on my Facebook page and your memories might make it into the story.
Grandma didn’t stay long after Christmas. She declared three puppies yapping all the time was too much for her sensitive hearing. Personally, I think the decision to go was based more on a second argument with Scarlett. Realizing she couldn’t force her own way, Grandma told us three days after our Christmas celebration, “My dears, it has been a wonderful visit, but I believe I have stayed too long. I haven’t been to Sarah’s house in a while. I think I’ll just drop in on her.”
“Oh, Mom, please call her first,” Mom begged. “You know she’s got her hands full with that new baby.”
“Exactly. She needs me there,” Grandma replied.
Unable to talk her into some semblance of reason, Mom reluctantly helped Grandma pack her bags and set up a flight for her. She grabbed my arm when Grandma was out of earshot and said, “Call your aunt and let her know Grandma’s dropping in.”
I nodded and grabbed the phone from the kitchen before heading up to my room. I could hear Scarlett’s voice coming from her own room and I paused. “Yes, I did receive the email and am considering it. There are several factors I need to look into before committing. Yes, I understand that the position may not be available if I wait too long. Yes. Thank you.”
What position? I wondered. I knew I couldn’t ask her about it. So I continued to my own room, worry gnawing at me. What was Scarlett up to? I tried to clear my mind before calling Mom’s youngest sister, Sarah. She lived in northern Utah with her husband and large family. I’d always felt pretty close to her. Perhaps because she, like me, was the baby of the family. She was also just fun and had a heart of gold. She and her husband had just adopted a little baby girl and I knew from emails that she was struggling with colic. I hoped I was calling at a good time for her. When my aunt’s tired voice answered I said, “Hi, Aunt Sarah. It’s Blizzard.”
“Hey, Blizz. How’s our little country star?”
“I’m doing well. Listen, Mom asked me to call because…”
“Don’t tell me. My mother has decided it’s been too long since she visited and is going to be dropping in unannounced soon.”
I laughed. We were all pretty used to Grandma’s flighty nature. “That’s about the size of it.”
Sarah sighed, “Mother. Do you have any idea of when she’ll arrive?”
“Mom’s helping her set up the details as we speak, so I would guess it’ll be tomorrow at some point.”
“Great. Well, I suppose I’ll tell Roy to skip lesson planning and we’ll get the house prepared. Thanks for the warning, Blizz. Tell your mom I owe her one.”
“She probably wouldn’t say no to a box of cookies. Just sayin’.”
Sarah laughed. “I’ll see what I can do about that. Have a great day, Blizz.”
“You too, Aunt Sarah. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
The line went dead and I took the phone back downstairs just as Josiah was coming out of the second guest room. “Well, good morning,” I said brightly.
“Mornin’,” he yawned. “What time is it?”
“D’you really wanna know?”
“I can’t have slept that late,” he murmured, running a hand through his sleep-tousled hair.
“It’s nearly ten.”
He almost swore, but caught himself. “Horses are prob’ly half-starved.”
“No, I took care of them,” Scarlett said, appearing next to me. “I figured the fact that you weren’t out there meant you’d either decided to sleep in or were busy doing something else. You doin’ all right?”
Without answering, Josiah went into the kitchen. I looked at Scarlett and she shrugged. We followed and found Grandma fussing over Josiah. He turned to Scarlett with a pleading look. It was clear he was trying to be rescued from our overanxious grandmother.
“Grandma, do you need me to help you pack up your Christmas presents? I’d be happy to,” Scarlett said.
“Oh no, dear, your mother already helped with that. But just check this boy’s temperature. He’s definitely feverish. He shouldn’t be out of bed.”
“I’m sure he’s fine, Grandma, see?” Scarlett replied, placing her hand on Josiah’s forehead. Then she frowned. “Actually, Joe, you are feeling kind of warm. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine,” he growled.
“I’m going to make him some herbal tea. Then you’d best lie down, Josiah,” Grandma demanded.
“I said I’m fine. I have too much to…” A racking cough interrupted him and I fought down a giggle. He glowered at me. “Just what is so funny?”
“Josiah, you sound awful and you look worse. Take a day off.”
“There’s no such thing as days off on a ranch.”
“Sure there are. Blizzard and I will run by the B after we do some shopping in town. We’ll make sure your hands have taken care of the cattle and see if there’s anything they need.”
“I can do it myself.”
“Oh no you can’t,” Grandma retorted, pushing him back into his seat even though he hadn’t actually moved to get up. “You’re going to rest and get yourself well again. Until I leave for the airport, you are under my command.”
Josiah sent one last pleading look in Scarlett’s direction. “Don’t look at me,” she said with her hands up. “I can’t trump Grandma when you’re actually sick. Don’t worry about the ranch, we’ll check up on things and I’ll give you a full report when I get back.” She kissed Josiah’s forehead. “Promise.”
After helping Grandma get things set up and seeing Josiah was comfortable, though irate, Scarlett and I took the puppies out for a potty break before heading to the truck. “Poor Josiah,” Scarlett laughed. “He was probably feeling henpecked enough before getting sick.”
“Poor you. Depending on how long he’s been sick, you might fall next,” I said.
“Don’t you start on that again,” she warned. “I’ve had just about enough of everyone asking about what happened Christmas Eve. It was just a kiss.”
“A peck on the cheek is just a kiss, Scarlett. Even a brief touching of lips is just a kiss. Making out isn’t just a kiss. There’s more to it than that.”
“Blizzard, drop it.”
“No, Scarlett. You need to be a little more honest with me,” I said, irritation rising in me. “You need to quit keeping secrets.”
Her face blanched and then flushed. “Who says I have any secrets?”
“Don’t play dumb, Scarlett. You’ve been holding a lot back recently. I get that you’re an adult and you don’t have to answer to me or anyone else, but the least you could do is let us know what’s going on in that head of yours.”
“You wouldn’t want to know,” she replied quietly.
I was about to retort that I would actually love to know how her infuriating mind worked when she frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“That car,” she said, tipping her head towards her window, “do you recognize it?”
Turning in my seat to look at the car she was referring to, I gazed back. A nondescript, rusty car was slowly driving down the lane. “Hmm, no. Maybe one of Josiah’s hands is using it. He’s been saying that Franky goes through cars like a woman goes through shoes.”
“What would Josiah know about women’s shoes?” Scarlett muttered. “Anyway, Franky is upgrading his cars and he’s only done it twice. Stupid for a guy working on a ranch, but how he spends his money isn’t any of my business.”
“Maybe he finally decided a junker would be better.”
It wasn’t until we got to town that I realized Scarlett had effectively gotten me off topic long enough that bringing it back up would be awkward. Dang her, I thought as we walked through the aisles of the supermarket. I knew she had something going on that I was pretty sure even Mom didn’t know about. What made me nervous was the fact that I was also pretty sure that if we found out about it, it would not be pleasant.
When we’d finished shopping, Scarlett and I got back into the truck. We dropped by Starwood long enough to have Mom help us take the groceries in. “I can’t believe you allowed my mother to adopt Josiah as a patient, Scarlett.”
“Hey, it’s keeping her busy, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but if Josiah doesn’t get some relief from her soon, one of them might die.”
Scarlett and I giggled. “Don’t worry, Mom. We’re just going to run by the Double Rocking B and check on things before coming back. I’m sure we’ll get here before the house explodes.”
We drove down the road laughing and as I looked out my window, I saw the old car again. I took a longer look at it this time. It wasn’t one we’d seen before that day. Everyone knows when you live in a small town, you know everybody. You also know everybody’s vehicle. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got two in the same make and model, you’ll know which one belongs to John and which belongs to Jane. It’s just sort of the way things are. This car didn’t belong to anyone in town. I tried to get a look at the driver, but we’d already passed by. “Scarlett, is that…”
“The same car? Yeah, pretty sure it is.” She was frowning. “Look, I know we try to be open with Mom and all, but I don’t think we should tell her about this. At least, not with Josiah in the room.”
“Why? He’s the one having trouble with strangers.”
“Exactly. If he hears about a strange car being on the road, he’ll shut us out again. Besides, maybe it’s just a coincidence.”
“Sure,” I said. “Because random cars show up on our road all the time.”
She glared at me, but I could see the worry in her eyes.
“Scarlett, this isn’t something we can just keep secret. We’ve got to figure out who’s been targeting Josiah before they do something to our ranch. At this point, it’s got to be common knowledge that he’s staying with us. This is a small town and there aren’t exactly tons of apartments at the ready.”
“I know.” Scarlett chewed on her bottom lip as she parked the truck in front of Josiah’s ranch. “But what else can we do?”
We got out and were silent as we looked at the ruined remains of the barn and ranch house. I thought of the memories and treasured heirlooms which had gone up in smoke. In my mind, I didn’t see the green-trimmed, white house of the B. Instead I saw our own creamy ranch house, its blue trim like a piece of the sky. Imagination set it ablaze and tears filled my eyes as I wondered what would happen if the attacker decided to come after Josiah again. “Scarlett, we can’t let this happen to Starwood. Josiah would never forgive himself. He already can’t forgive himself for what happened here.”
“It won’t happen to Starwood,” she said, determination in her voice. “We’re going to catch the jack that did this.”
I gaped at her. That was the nearest to swearing I’d ever heard from my sister. “How?”
“I don’t know yet, but somehow or other we’re going to. Come on, let’s find Franky and see how things are going.”
We walked past the rubbled and towards the pastures the cattle were kept in. We could see a large crowd of them around a strewn bale of hay. Out in the fields, men on horseback were driving more into the pasture. A tall, wiry young man was leaning on the fence post barking orders. He heard us approaching and his handsome face broke into a grin. “Hello, ladies. What brings you to the B?”
“Josiah’s not feeling well, so we came to check things for him,” Scarlett replied.
Franky rolled his eyes. “I told him to stay home yesterday, but would he listen to me?”
“You noticed he was sick yesterday?” I asked.
“Not hard to tell,” Franky replied. He took a long look at me and I felt my cheeks go red under his scrutiny. Franky wasn’t much older than me, just nineteen. But he worked harder than most and after disappointing his parents with no desire to attend college, had come to the Double Rocking B without a place to call home. Teddy had immediately taken him in and though he no longer lived at the house, having an apartment in town, he was still considered part of the family. I wondered why we didn’t see him more often, but my thoughts were interrupted when he asked, “Winter break ought to be over soon, huh?”
“School starts again next week.”
“Bummer for you. Enjoying the break?”
“Good to hear. I heard you at the diner the other night. You’re sounding real good.”
I blushed again and could see Scarlett grinning. “Thanks,” I mumbled, looking away from Franky’s sparkling green eyes. There was a little too much mischief in that smile.
“So, anything for me to report to Josiah?”
“Just tell him the rattler is back.”
“Rattler?” Scarlett repeated. “It’s too cold for snakes.”
“Wrong kind of snake. Trust me, Josiah’ll know what I mean.”
“Franky, do you know anything about a car that’s been up and down this road?” I asked.
“You’ve seen it too, huh? Josiah’s been watching it for about a week and a half now. Ever since the fire, he’s been seeing that junker. Most times it’s just parked outside the B, but he’s seen it driving down the road too. He’s called the sheriff out a couple times, but Sheriff Henley’s never seen it once during his patrols. You gals be careful, got it?”
Scarlett nodded and thanked him. “We’ll see you around.”
“Yep.” I looked up again and Franky winked at me. Blushing furiously, I turned away and walked to the truck as fast as my legs could carry me, Scarlett still grinning that fool grin of hers. “What?” I demanded.
“So, how long have you been making moon-eyes at Franky?”
“Can we not discuss it please?”
“Ha! Not so fun when the tables are turned, is it?”
I glared out the window and saw the rusty old car sitting outside Josiah’s place. As I looked at the driver, he smirked at me and my mind took me back to July. “Scarlett, I know who’s driving that car.”
“The man we saw arguing with Josiah at the county fair.”
Sometimes when I'm feeling creative, but not necessarily like writing, I like to sketch out characters and scenes from my stories. This sketch of Electra, Laria, and Antares is one I finished last night. I thought about coloring it in myself and watching my pencils bring the picture to life. But then I thought, "What could my readers do with this?"
So, here it is, my very first coloring page. Feel free to print it out or color it using your favorite computer program (fair warning though, not all the outlines close completely). Then, won't you please share the results with me? Email them to Jessica@JessicaLElliott.com so I can see how your creativity blended with mine. As I receive them, I'll share some of my favorites here on the site.
Have fun and be creative!
As promised, here's the exclusive chapter for all of you to enjoy. If you want to continue receiving Scarlett's View, go sign up for my newsletter!
I love my grandma. I really do. Honest. But sometimes that woman just drives me nuts! She’s obsessed with finding me a husband since she seems to think I’m getting too old to find one on my own. Having her come for Christmas was something I’d grown used to. I wasn’t prepared to have her there and Josiah and a gaggle of little boys. Sometimes Mom’s sense of neighborly love gets a little out of control. This Christmas, that was definitely the case. The house got louder and more crowded with each passing hour. Around suppertime Mom somehow got the Lesters in the dining room and when we’d all finished our meal, we went to the living room for caroling. “Scarlett, would you mind getting my guitar for me?” Blizzard asked.
“Sure.” I walked upstairs to her room. It struck me as odd that her door was partially ajar since I knew she had closed it prior to the Lesters’ arrival. I pushed the door open and suddenly a bucketful of icy water poured over me as something hit me in the head. I couldn’t stop the scream that escaped my mouth. Freezing and furious, I went into the room and grabbed Blizzard’s guitar, tempted to beat her over the head with it. Everyone was working their way up the stairs when I came out of her room. “Think you’re funny, huh?”
Blizzard was falling all over herself trying to apologize. “I’m so sorry, I set that up for the boys. Not you.”
“Do I look like a boy?”
“Nope. Definitely not a boy,” Josiah replied.
I caught him staring at me and realized with my shirt wet, I was revealing more than usual. I slapped him across the face. A gentleman would know better than to just stare like that. “Excuse me while I go change.” I turned on my heel and went to my own room, peeling the soaked shirt from my body and tossing it angrily in the laundry basket. I kept thinking about Blizzard’s surprised expression. A smile tugged at my lips and then I had to laugh. The boys had gotten into her room earlier, as evidenced by the boy who’d run into the kitchen with her neon pink sports bra on his head. She probably had set up that little trap as a way of teaching them a lesson. Unfortunately for me, I was the one taught.
Once I’d gotten into fresh clothes and warmed up a little, I hastily removed all trace of humor from my face. I didn’t want Blizzard thinking I’d forgiven her that easily. I glanced around my own room. The boys hadn’t gotten around to exploring in here. I stopped by the herd of model horses traipsing across Mom’s model of Tara. The most recent model from Josiah stood to the side of the group. He’d named her Misty Oasis and asked for forgiveness. I should forgive him. I knew that. But it was hard to want to. Allowing him the chance to try again hadn’t been an easy decision. I needed to know that when things went awry, he wouldn’t shut me out. Of course, I guess if I was honest, I needed to be willing to stop closing off my heart to him every time he got prickly. I picked up the dainty Arabian and placed her amongst the herd. Like it or not, Josiah was bound to be a part of my life unless I could find somewhere to go.
Closing the door on my thoughts, I went downstairs where everyone was enjoying a rousing rendition of Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas. I joined with a smile and suddenly a strong pair of arms surrounded me. I turned with a glare to see Josiah behind me. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Getting you warmed up, Lettie. Wouldn’t want you to get hypothermia. Just keep singing and enjoy the moment.”
His breath tickled my ear and a shiver ran through me.
I wasn’t about to admit to him that my shiver had nothing to do with being cold. If anything I felt overly warm. We finished the song and continued to another. When we started Here Comes Santa Claus, Josiah disappeared. I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. Then a loud, “Ho, ho, ho!” interrupted the song.
Leslie’s eyes filled with tears as her boys shouted with glee, “Santa!”
Tears of my own pricked my eyes as I watched Josiah play the role of Santa to perfection. He took each boy lovingly onto his knee, giving them the presents Mom and I had carefully selected and wrapped over the previous week. He laughed merrily and posed for my grandmother as she circled around him like a vulture with a camera. Then as Mom passed out mugs of cocoa, he began reading from the Bible. The deep tones of his voice enriched the familiar story and I watched as the boys dozed. Even Blizzard succumbed to the soothing quality of Josiah’s voice. When he finished, the boys hugged him eagerly before following Mom to the kitchen to retrieve their treat bags. I stayed behind, glad for an opportunity to talk to him alone.
“Ready for your turn to sit on Santa’s lap?” Josiah teased as I stood in front of him.
“Ha! You wish.”
Grabbing me before I could move away, he pulled me into his lap. “Not a wish, anymore,” he grinned.
“Really, Josiah? You’ve got to learn to ask before just grabbing people or you’re going to get yourself hit.”
“Whoa, cowgirl, I’ve already reached my slap quota for the day.”
“Well, you earned it.”
“No man could have resisted that view, darlin’,” he retorted.
Not willing to argue about it, I shrugged. “So, how did Mom rope you into the costume? I haven’t seen that since Blizzard was a child.”
“The usual bribe, cookies and milk.”
I laughed. Then I leaned against him. “For the record, I think what you did here was better than anything else we’ve done for these kids. You gave them a real taste of Christmas magic. Thank you.”
“It was worth it to see you smile at me again,” he said, his voice low and husky. “Is it safe to say I’ve been forgiven, finally?”
“Hmm, maybe. Or maybe not!” I jumped up from his lap and he followed after, hugging me close as I giggled. As he turned me around to face him, I happened to look up. Somehow he’d managed to find the one piece of mistletoe Grandma had insisted on putting up. Can’t let Grandma’s efforts go to waste, I thought as I placed a quick kiss on Josiah’s mouth.
“What was that for?” he asked.
“Mistletoe. Wouldn’t want to ignore tradition. Might be bad luck.”
“Wouldn’t want that,” Josiah drawled, leaning closer.
“No,” I agreed breathlessly. The scratchy Santa beard tickled my chin as Josiah closed the distance between us.
I giggled and he pulled the beard down. “Lettie,” he whispered before claiming my mouth again. I don’t know how long we stood there under the mistletoe. The world seemed to disappear until all that existed was Josiah and how much I loved him. Maybe I didn’t have to go away after all.
Everything changed when Grandma’s shriek killed the moment. “Merciful heavens! I hope you have a shotgun handy, because that’s the kind of wedding you’ll be planning if this keeps up.”
Startled, I couldn’t get away from Josiah fast enough. Heat burned my face as he replied with perfect serenity, “You’re the one who advocated mistletoe, Mrs. Samuels. I’m just making sure it goes to good use.”
I glared at him. Arguing with my grandmother was like talking to a brick wall. It doesn’t do you a bit of good. I saw Blizzard standing by the boys, a look of amusement on her face. I glowered at her. Couldn’t she have warned me that Grandma was coming? And how long had she and the boys just been standing there? The Lesters left and Mom pulled Grandma away from Josiah. “I should check the horses,” I said, taking the opportunity to escape the confines of the house. I thought of the email I had received earlier in the week. I was told to reply within thirty days. The only problem was, I didn’t know what my reply would be.
Oh my goodness, where to even begin?!? It's April at last and I have tons of things to tell you! So, first of all I'll start with Camp NaNoWriMo. I've gotten started (in fact I stayed up 'til midnight for the first time in years) and have put an excerpt on my Camp NaNoWriMo page. Feel free to go read my opening scene. It's sure to have you begging me to write faster! At least, I hope it does. Will there be new excerpts posted on there? Nope, probably not. But, before you shrivel into a wailing mass of reader misery, fear not. Each writing day (basically any day not a Sunday), I will post my favorite line or bit of dialogue from that day and post it on my Facebook along with my current word count. I'm hoping to get the entire novel written, so somewhere around 70,000 words, in the month of April. A huge undertaking? Yep, it is, but I can do it! I hope.
Second, and this is really where the big news is, I've been working over the past month with a group of fantasy authors to bring you a new site where you can meet, connect with, and discover new favorite authors. We wanted more than just a book list or a directory. Instead we wanted a place where authors and readers could interact with each other in fun and creative ways. We've called ourselves Fellowship of Fantasy and we're doing a few things to celebrate our grand opening.
One of the things we're doing is holding our very first Fan Art Contest! We want to see what you can come up with in terms of artwork, fanfiction, poetry, costumes, music, and video (among other art forms). From now until May 1, you can submit your entries. This contest is open to all ages and worldwide. Go to the contest page to find the official rules. The winning entries in each category will receive a Fellowship of Fantasy tee-shirt and one overall winner will receive a $20 Amazon gift certificate! So don't wait, sharpen your pencils and focus your camera.
The next thing is our Spring Into Fantasy giveaway. This won't go live for a couple weeks, but as soon as it does you can be sure I'll be reminding you to put in your entries. There are 28 talented writers contributing ebooks to the giveaway as well as a $50 Amazon gift certificate. Like last time, there will be a Facebook event in conjunction with this giveaway and that will be where we announce the winners of the art contest.
So, this month there is a lot of wonderful stuff going on and I hope you'll continue to support and encourage me. You are absolutely the best readers an author could ever ask for. I have been blown away by the comments here on my blog and on my Facebook page. I love seeing your messages, receiving your emails, and can't even begin to express the joy that comes from knowing that my writing is touching people. You are incredible and I thank God every day for you. Have a fabulous April and write on!
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius