Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 5

Yesterday I gave you a sneak peek of today’s chapter of The Farmer’s Daughter, but as I was getting the post ready for today, I realized that sneak peek was actually for Saturday’s special fiction post. Whoops! Well, anyhow, it’s been one of those weeks!
To catch up on The Farmer’s Daughter’s previous chapters, find the link at the top of the page or click HERE.


The sun was bright, the breeze gentle Saturday morning when Molly packed blueberry muffins, fresh milk and cheese, and apple slices into a picnic basket, preparing for the drive up the hill to her grandparent’s home. Her grandmother lived alone there now with her cat Macy and a dozen or so chickens out back.

The four years Molly cared for her grandfather as he battled Alzheimers and heart failure had made Molly question God’s existence more than she liked to admit. It had been torture to watch her grandfather fade from sharp and full of life to a confused, weak, shell of his former self.

Almost as hard as watching her grandfather fade away was watching her grandmother’s grief gradually manifest itself into bitterness and anger over the last year. Molly wished she could walk into her grandmother’s house again and see the grandmother she’d known growing up – sweet, caring and excited about life.

Molly caught sight of Alex standing outside the barn, leaning back against the front of a tractor as she walked into the bright sunshine with the basket. One leg was crossed over the other and Molly’s breath caught when she saw him. Good grief, was it just her or he had suddenly become even more handsome over night?

A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Where you headed off to?”

“Taking some goodies to Grandma,” Molly said, opening the door to the old farm truck her dad had fixed up for her.

“Where’s your little red hood?”

Molly laughed as she slid behind the steering wheel. “The wolf stole it.”

Alex walked to the truck and pushed the door closed behind Molly. The window was already rolled down, and he leaned on the edge of it, a whiff of his aftershave drifting toward Molly and sending a surge of unexpected pleasure coursing through her.

“Drive safe, Molly Bell,” he drawled in a fake Southern accent.

Molly tipped her head to one side, amused, but also bewildered by his behavior. “My middle name is Anne. And it’s just up the road, so I’m sure I’ll be fine, Alex.”

“Oh, is it?” Alex pushed his hand back through his hair, leaving it disheveled but somehow still attractive. “Well, then, drive safe, Molly Anne.”

Molly wasn’t sure what to make of Alex’s recent increased attention to her, but the way he said her name made her heartbeat faster. She watched him walk away, admiring how his jeans fit perfectly and his white T-shirt did nothing to hide the muscles underneath.

Molly had once thought of Alex as another brother and she was sure he had thought of her as a sister. The two of them had been joking and teasing each other since he started working on the farm five years ago, but recently the tone of their teasing had changed; exactly how Molly couldn’t explain, other than to say it was less childish and more edgy with flirting overtones.

How she viewed Alex was starting to change too. Her heart pounded faster when she was near him, her eyes lingered longer on his retreating form or his tanned biceps when he lifted hay into the cows’ trough, and the sound of his voice sent a buzz of excitement skittering through her limbs. If his hand grazed her skin while handing her something, she immediately felt a weakness in her knees that made her flush warm with embarrassment.

She shifted the truck into gear and shook her head, trying to shake the thoughts of Alex from her mind. She had other things to think about today. Alex Stone would have to wait.

Her grandmother’s house was a mile from her parents, nestled in between a grove of trees at the edge of the family’s farm, where her great-grandfather had built it almost 102 years ago, farming the land around it, That first farm, 150 acres large, had expanded over the years until it became the 400-acres the Tanners now farmed on. Molly drove past the sign designating the farm as a Century Farm in the state of Pennsylvania and turned into the dirt driveway, pulling the car up in front of the garage.

Behind the house was the barn where the Tanners now stored much of their equipment and some of their feed, a chicken coup, which Franny Tanner still visited each morning to collect eggs for her breakfast, a large oak tree with a swing hanging from one of its large branches, and further beyond the yard was the corn fields her father and uncle now harvested each year.

Molly’s grandmother, sitting on the front porch, rocked slowly in one of the rocking chairs her grandfather had built when he’d finally handed over the reins of the farm to his sons, not fully retiring, but finally relenting to working less and rocking more.

Franny looked up to watch Molly pull into the driveway, her heart softening at her second born grandchild. Her grandchildren were the highlights of her day, even on the days she resented their overuse of digital devices. Molly was different than her younger cousins, though. She wasn’t interested in cellphones or notepads or whatever they were called. She worked hard, cared for her family and took on the bulk of the responsibility at the family’s farm store. Franny was proud of her and she wished she could say it without feeling like she might completely fall apart emotionally.

Molly carried a basket with her and bent to kiss Franny on the cheek. “Hey, gran. I brought you some muffins I baked the other day.”

“Thank you, hon’. That’ll be a nice treat. Why don’t you make us a plate and we can sit out here and chat a bit? There’s some lemonade in the fridge.”

Molly set the basket down in the kitchen, poured the lemonade into two glasses she pulled out, and placed two muffins on plates.

Back outside, carrying the tray, she noticed her grandmother’s furrowed eyebrows and thin-lipped mouth, a clear sign something was bothering her.

“You okay, gran?” Molly asked, placing the tray down on the small table between the two rocking chairs.

Her grandmother’s familiar smile quickly returned but Molly could tell it was forced.

“Of course, honey.”

Her answer was curt, and Molly knew she’d been thinking about something that made her sad.

“So, how is it going on the farm?” Franny asked.

“Good. Dad and Alex are working on the tractor. It broke down, but they think they can fix it. We’re baking the rest of the cakes for the rummage sale. Hopefully, they will be fresh enough for Mavis –“

Franny snorted.

“That Mavis. Always worried about things being fresh. I guess that’s why she’s been married three times.”

Molly tried not to laugh.

“Grandma, that’s not nice.”

“But it’s true.”

Franny looked Molly up and down as Molly stood and leaned against the porch railing. Molly’s curves were still there, but she had definitely been gaining weight over the years. Franny had been in such a fog after Ned died, she was only now starting to notice changes in those around her.

“What happened to you anyhow?” Franny said disapprovingly before she even thought about her words. “You used to be so skinny.”

Molly looked at the ground quickly. Franny saw the pain in her granddaughter’s face and felt immediate guilt. Why did she keep blurting awful things at people? It was as if her brain and mouth had become disconnected and she didn’t know how to reconnect it. She remembered thinking as a teenager and young adult that old people could be so rude. Her mother had told her it wasn’t that they were rude, they just weren’t afraid to say what they thought anymore.

Was that it? Did she really think her precious granddaughter who had done so much to help her and Ned when he was sick needed to be reminded that she’d gained weight? Did she really not care that she had just hurt her granddaughter’s feelings? She knew that wasn’t true. A sharp twinge of remorse twisted deep inside her.

“Well, life happens, Grandma,” Molly said with a shrug. “Some people just gain weight.”

Franny looked at a butterfly on the bush in front of the house, shame overwhelming her. She swallowed hard.

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I didn’t mean that to come out like that – I just wasn’t thinking about . . . about how it sounded.”

Franny realized she sounded like that upstart pastor who had visited her the other day now. He had stuttered and fallen over his words like a drunk man walking home from the bar and now she was doing the same thing.

Molly sighed. “It’s okay, Gram. You’re right. I have gained weight. I need to work on it and lose it again. I’ve joined the new gym in town. Liz asked me to join with her. I thought I’d see if I can get back into shape.”

Franny knew it wasn’t okay. Her granddaughter was too nice to say so. She wished she hadn’t said anything.

“Well, that will be nice,” she said, even though she didn’t think Molly really need to join a gym.

She was just going through a phase. The weight would come off eventually. Franny was sure of it.

Molly walked toward the front door, smiling again, but Franny knew she was still hurt, and the smile was an attempt to cover it.

“Hey, how about I get the paper and we read the funny pages?” Molly asked.

Franny reached out and touched Molly’s hand, trying to say again how sorry she was for the hurtful question. She smiled. “I’d enjoy that, yes. Make sure to read me Beetle Bailey. He’s my favorite.”

Franny felt like crying when Molly went into the house for the newspaper, but she couldn’t let herself cry. If she did, she might never stop. She simply had to be better about letting her thoughts fly free and she had to learn how to be nice again.

***

Molly carried the tray from the front porch to the kitchen, her eyes wandering to the stairwell, her mind wandering to memories of when she’d come here every day to help care for her grandfather when the dementia had become worse.

“Hannah? Is that you?” he had asked two years ago as she straightened his blankets and pulled them around him in his chair in his room.

“No, Grandpa. It’s Molly.”

Her grandfather was silent as he slid his fingers across the edge of the blanket, his eyebrows furrowing.

“Do I know a Molly?” he asked looking up at her, his blue eyes clouded in confusion.

“Yes, you do,” Molly said, telling him for the third time that day. “I’m your granddaughter. Your son Robert’s daughter.”

“Oh, I see.” Her grandfather still looked confused but forced a smile.

“I bought you some lunch, Grandpa,” she said, turning to the tray she had carried in.

“I don’t want lunch.”

“It’s your favorite. Baked beans and ham.”

“I don’t like baked beans.”

“You actually do.”

“I don’t like it and I don’t want it!” he shouted.

Molly sighed and sat on the chair across from him. She glanced at the CD player on the dresser next to the bed.

“How about some music?” she asked, remembering how music had calmed him in the past.

Pushing play, she began to sing when the words began after a short musical interlude.

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul”

She watched her grandfather’s face, as she sang. At first, he stared at her as he often did. His eyes looking at her, yet through her. Then slowly he began to repeat the words, his expression fading from confusion to peace.

“It is well

With my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul”

Molly sang with him.

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well

With my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul”

“I like that song,” he said with a smile as the song ended. “I used to sing that song with my granddaughter.”

“You still sing that song with her, Grandpa.”

He looked at her, a slight smile tugging at his mouth.

“Oh, Molly,” he said softly, tears in his eyes as he patted her hand. “Is that you?”

Molly clasped her hand over his, watching tears spill down his cheeks. “It is, Grandpa.”

“I love you, Molly girl,” he whispered, leaning up to kiss her cheek.

Molly fought back the tears and returned the kiss.

“I love you too, Grandpa.”

Fiction Thursday: Rewrites and doubts about writing ability

So, here is the truth: I have been rewriting and editing A New Beginning this week and I’m discouraged. I don’t like parts of it and may need to gut the thing before I sent the thing to Kindle sometime in May. That’s the honest truth. I read it and think that there are so many sections that really need to be reworked so I’m working on that right now. I’m also having a lot of doubts about my writing but I’m sure that’s normal for any writer.

Which brings me to why there is not a new chapter for Fully Alive today. I do have ideas for Fully Alive. Plenty of ideas. But I’m intimidated by the story. A comment on my chapter last week highlighted this anxiety about writing this story, though unintentionally. The person who commented mentioned how difficult it is to make people from 2,000 years ago real to my readers. How true that is. Fully Alive is a story that has been in my mind for more than a year now and I’ve tossed it back and forth in this old noggin of mine so much that I’m back to my old habit of overthinking. The person who commented said they were sure I could bring the characters to life, but I keep thinking: What if I’m not the one to write this story?

I’ve written large chunks of this story, but I know I need to do more research before I can fully flush it out. That need for research is one reason I’m stuck on Chapter 4. If I show you the first paragraph of this chapter, you may understand better why I need to do some research.

The stench of death filled Atticus’ nostrils. Any other man would have gagged on vomit, but death was a smell Atticus was accustomed to. Before being stationed in Jerusalem he had been on the battlefields of Germania and before that he’d trained in Rome itself to become what his father had been — a Roman centurion.

I am so excited to explore the character of Atticus, I can not even tell you. But I don’t know enough about him yet. I need to know more about the army he is apart of before I can understand him. And I need to know more about his culture, how he grew up, before I can really tell his story. So, I’m a bit stuck. I need time to research, but I also need time to finish rewriting parts of A New Beginning, unpacking our house, writing The Farmer’s Daughter, and did I mention unpacking our house?

I have a lot of self-doubt when it comes to my writing. People I thought cared about me have declined reading it in the past and I know it is really stupid to hold on to that rejection (which the person probably doesn’t even know they did) but it’s still there in the back of my mind, amongst a pile of various other rejection skeletons. I still don’t feel like I’ve found my groove for fiction writing, but I’m not giving up. Not yet. I really enjoy it, even if it isn’t perfect. I like telling stories, even if they aren’t award winning.

I plan to keep sharing fiction on the blog, but I thought today I’d share with you that sometimes writing it is a challenge for me. While it’s a challenge, it’s also a ton of fun and I am determined not to take the fun out of it, which is why I decided there isn’t anything or anyone who says I have to share a piece of fiction on my blog if I feel it isn’t ready. If there isn’t anyone pressuring me to share before I’m ready, then why am I pressuring myself? Who even knows.

All that being said, I do have additional chapters from The Farmer’s Daughter to share tomorrow and Saturday. I’ve been working on Fully Alive and The Farmer’s Daughter about the same amount of time but Molly’s story is coming faster for me because her story takes places in a more modern time and in a setting I’m more familiar with.

Here is a sneak peek of that chapter:

I brought you some lemonade.”

Robert looked up, his face smeared with grease and sweat and when he saw his wife standing there, her dark brown curls falling around her shoulders, the sunlight behind her creating a deep orange aura around her, his stomach flipped like it so often did when he saw her. She still had the same affect on him even after 31 years of marriage. He couldn’t look at her without feeling the way he had at the age of 15 when he’d met her on that merry-go-round at the fair; a teenage giddiness that sent ripples of pleasure through his chest.

Robert straightened from where he’d been bent over the tractor and wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “Thanks, sweetie.”

He took the glass from her hand and drank it in one long gulp, the cold of it spreading from his chest throughout this limbs, bringing him a cool feeling he’d desperately needed.

 “I needed that,” he said handing her the glass. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” She stood, smiling, holding the glass, watching him as he wiped the grease from his hands. “Have you figured out what’s wrong with it yet?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Robert said, avoiding her gaze. He knew she didn’t really want to know about the tractor. She wanted to know why Bill had been there and he knew he was going to have to tell her. He’d hoped she hadn’t seen the exchange, but he knew better. Annie didn’t miss much around this place and it wasn’t easy to keep secrets between them.

 He knew if he looked at her she’d draw it out of him, the same way she drew so much else out of him – deep feelings he wouldn’t share with anyone else: worries, hurts, joys, sadness, fear. Desire. Passion.

 He didn’t want her to draw this out of him, to have to admit he was failing his family; that even by working so hard every day on this farm he couldn’t pay his bills, pay his debts, and keep the farm going the same way his father would have.

“How far behind are we, Robert?”

I’ll see you tomorrow for the rest of Chapter 5 of The Farmer’s Daughter!


Want to read what I’ve shared so far on Fully Alive? Click the link at the top of the page or HERE. You can find additional chapters from The Farmer’s Daughter HERE or at the link at the top of the page.

Quarantined: A Short Story Part 5

I feel like I’m overwhelming my blog with fiction (and posts in general), but, oh well, I guess. People seem to be following along and enjoying the stories so I’ll keep going. Plus, it’s good to give readers a lot of options that aren’t related to current events.

Quarantined was not a planned project. It came to me very fast and just poured out of me so I thought I’d share to my fiction loving readers (thanks for following along, by the way.) You can find the rest of the parts at the following links: Part 1, Part 2,Part 3, and Part 4. I’ll be posting the final part Sunday or Monday. For other fiction, you can check out the 35 chapters of A New Beginning, which will be published at a later date on Kindle (so you don’t have to click chapter to chapter if you haven’t been following along) or A Story To Tell, which is on Kindle now. By the way, this blog is not aimed at selling products, so I don’t mean to share about my book on every fiction post. My books are priced very low but I wanted somewhere I could place them where people could read them in full instead of skipping from chapter to chapter and I chose Amazon because I have a Kindle. I have found some other options since then for future books. Anyhow…let’s get on with the story, shall we?!



 They hadn’t spoken to each other for four days, other than for her to ask if the doctor had called and him to say ‘not yet,’ and him to ask if she wanted some lunch or dinner and her to say ‘I’ll make my own.’

He’d locked himself in his office, dealing with the fall out for his brother’s delay in quarantining himself after his interaction with the ambassador; writing press releases and using video chat features to do interviews with major news commentators.

She’d locked herself in the bedroom, writing bits and pieces of her novel in between pouring over news sites; scrolling through social media feeds for personal stories from those who had had the virus and were recovering. She wondered if she and Liam would eventually face the same situation, or would they be worse with one of them admitted to an ICU somewhere.

In the evenings she binged watched Parks and Recreation while eating ice cream or popcorn, grateful she’d stocked up on groceries even before Liam had told her about the quarantine. Liam spent his nights straightening boxes, speaking to his brother through video conferencing and binge-watching Bosch, the crime show about a rugged, hard-edged Los Angeles Police Department detective just what he needed to distract him from the restlessness he felt.

“So, how’s it going with Maddie?” Matt had asked via video messaging on night seven of their quarantine as he’d leaned back on his couch and cracked open a soda. His gaze wandered off to one side, toward something behind his computer before Liam could answer. “Jason. Stop hitting your sister. I don’t ca—you know what, just go outside. In the backyard. You’re allowed to go in the backyard. . . . I don’t know. Hit the ball. Chase the dog. I don’t care. Just get out for a while. Take your brother and sister with you . . . Hey! I’m still in charge around here. Do what I say!”

He looked back at Liam through the screen. “Fun times over here. I can’t wait until this thing is over.”

Liam scoffed. “It’s only been three days for you, dude. If you can’t handle three days with your wife and kids, you’re in serious trouble.”

Matt grinned. “Yeah. I know. First world problems, right? Anyhow, what’s up with you and Maddie. I see you’re still alive, so she hasn’t stabbed you yet.”

Liam winced and rubbed his hand across the back of his neck. “Not for a lack of wanting to, I’d imagine.” He sat back against the headboard of the bed, arms across his chest. “We had it out the other night. The stuff she accused me of doing — you wouldn’t even believe it. Affairs, spending more time at work than with her, not supporting her after the miscarriages. It was all a bunch of crap.”

“Well?”

Liam scowled at his brother. “Well, what?”

“Did you do those things?”

“You know I didn’t, Matt.”

“Then why is it bothering you so much? Don’t be so defensive. You know you didn’t do anything wrong so let her rant.”

Liam shifted on the bed, focusing his gaze out the window. “I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t support her like I should have after the miscarriages. And she’s pretty accurate about working too much too.”

“And the affairs?” Matt asked.

“No!” Liam snapped, looking back at his brother. “I didn’t have an affair.” He paused, a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. “I could never do that to Maddie. You know that. We haven’t been getting along, yes, but I . . . I could never hurt her that way.”

He furrowed his eyebrows and leaned closer to the screen of his laptop. “Do you really think I could do that?” he asked his brother.

Matt laughed. “Liam, no, I don’t, and I don’t know if Maddie really does either, but she’s scared. She obviously doesn’t feel secure in her relationship with you to think that. I don’t think you or Maddie really want this divorce. You’re both just afraid to do the work it will take to keep this thing going. It’s going to hurt, little brother, but I think you two need to work things out. I think you still love your wife or what she said to you wouldn’t have hurt so much.”

Liam shook his head and clicked his tongue. “Matt Grant. The hard-headed, some might say, pig-headed, youngest-ever head of the intel committee showing that he’s also a marriage counselor.”

The brothers laughed easily together.

“Seriously, though, Liam,” Matt said, leaning closer to the screen now. “Let me give you some brotherly advice: make darn sure this divorce is truly what you want before you sign those papers. You and Maddie have something special. Always have. I don’t want to see you throw this away without really thinking it through. Okay?”

Liam let out a long breath, tapping his fingers along the touchpad of the laptop.

Matt pressed him further. “Promise me you’ll think really hard about all of this while you two are locked up in there, okay?”

Liam nodded. “Yeah. Okay. Thanks, Matt.”

Three nights later, on the tenth night of quarantine, Liam packed it in early, shutting off his phone and laptop around 10 p.m. and sliding under the covers, drained and glad he hadn’t yet experienced any coughing, muscle aches, or a sore throat. His mind was racing, filled with thoughts of work, thoughts of what this virus might mean to his parents, his older aunt and uncles, and anyone else whose health might be more vulnerable.

 His thoughts were also filled with Maddie.

She was sitting in the room down the hall, but she might as well have been thousands of miles away with all the interaction they’d had this past week.

Matt was right. Liam still loved Maddie and he was beginning to wonder if she had any love left for him.

Sleep had just begun to slip over him when he heard a soft knock on his door. He didn’t answer. He rolled over and closed his eyes tighter.

The door squeaked open and then footsteps, soft across the floor. What did she want? He was too tired for another fight.

“Liam?”

Maddie’s voice was barely audible. He ignored her.

She spoke a little louder. “Liam?”

He ignored her again.

She sighed in the darkness, he felt, rather than saw, her turn back toward the open doorway.

“What?”

Silence fell over the room and he heard a breath drawn in deep and slowly let out again.

“Will you hold me?”

He rolled over, squinting in the darkness, trying to make out her face to decide if she was serious or not.

“Just hold me. Nothing else.”

He wondered if this was some kind of trick. He squinted again, trying to see if her hand was behind her back; if she might suddenly draw a knife from there and stab him.

“Please?”

She seemed to be serious. Very. He heard a vulnerability in her tone that he hadn’t heard in a long time.

“Um . . . yeah. Okay.”

She lifted the sheet and comforter, sliding next to him, her body warm, her feet cold. Her feet had always been cold and she’d always slid them up his legs to warm them, making him squirm but laugh at the same time. Sometimes he’d asked if she needed the rest of her warmed up too and often she’d say yes and he’d snuggled close and nibbled at her earlobes.

He wasn’t going to ask her tonight if she needed warming up.

She laid her head on his shoulder, a hand on his chest over his heart and closed her eyes. She remembered how comforting the soft thump of his heartbeat had been for most of their marriage.

They laid in the dark listening to each other breathe until she whispered: “I tried to stay away from the news but it’s like watching a train wreck. I can’t seem to look away.”

“I know,” he said softly.

“People are scared.”

“Yeah.”

“They’re convinced they’re all going to die.”

“They’re not. Fear does crazy things to your mind.”

Silence settled over them again.

She laughed softly again. “Yeah. Like that time you had that spider on your arm when we were driving to my parents and you almost drove us into a river.”

Liam snorted a laugh. “Well, spiders are scary, what can I say? All those legs. . .” he shuddered. “It’s just creepy.”

Silence settled over them again.

“Liam?”

He stared into the darkness, at the light of the streetlight bleeding in under the blinds. “Yeah?”

“If this kills one of us —”

“Maddie, this isn’t going to kill either one of us. I already told you we don’t even know if my test is positive. And most of the cases are mild, especially in our age group. We’re not in the highest risk age group. Okay?”

“But if it does . . . I want you to know. . .” Maddie took a deep breath and spoke fast and softly as she exhaled. “I’ve always loved you. Even when I didn’t like you.”

Liam laughed softly.

“Thanks. I guess.”

“And, Liam?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry you thought you had to fix me. Only God can fix my broken heart.”

“Yeah. I know.”

Silence settled over them again and he laid his hand over hers, over the one laying on his chest.

“Maddie?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry you thought I didn’t care. I’m sorry I let my career become more important than our marriage.”

He had been trying not to be aware of her body warm against his, of the smell of her shampoo, of how soft the skin on her arm felt under his hand, of how her closeness made his heart rate increase. But he was aware of it. All of it. Much more than he wanted to be.

He slid his hand slowly up her arm, resting it just below her shoulder, squeezing gently.

He gently pressed his lips against the top of her head, her closeness suddenly intoxicating. “I love you, Maddie. Despite it all. I love you.”

He listened to her breathe and for a moment he thought she had fallen asleep.

 “I’m so tired. . .” she whispered against his neck, her breath warm. He could tell she was fading fast.

“Sleep,” he said softly. “We can talk more in the morning. It’s not like we’re going anywhere.”

She slept but he couldn’t. Not now with her tucked against him soft and warm, kicking his thoughts into high gear. He hadn’t expected her to come to him for comfort. He hadn’t expected it, but he welcomed it and loved having her so close, even if it was only physically.

 Had she meant what she said? That she still loved him? Maybe it had been the stress and the worry talking. The exhaustion even. He wasn’t sure but what he was sure of was that those words had sparked a warm, comforting fire in the center of his chest. He closed his eyes, savoring the feel of her hand over his heart, trying to switch his brain off and knowing he’d meant it when he’d told her he still loved her.

Creatively Thinking: Don’t be afraid of the thesaurus

I think a lot of writers are afraid of using a thesaurus.

Or maybe it was just me avoiding thesauruses all those years because I thought I should have all the words in the universe in my head already somehow.

It wasn’t only my pride keeping me from using one. I also avoided thesauruses because one of the biggest lessons we learned in journalism 101 was K.I.S.S.

No, our professors were not trying to be inappropriate.

It’s an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid.

What that means, obviously, is to write what you mean and don’t add extra words.

Or don’t keep adding a sentence to over-explain what you’ve already explained.

Or don’t use large words to further elucidate your thoughts.

There is no need to keep illuminating your opinion by adding words that are completely supererogatory or superfluous.

So, yeah.

I think you get the intellection I was going for. *wink*

And you can also tell I used the thesaurus for this blog post.

Using a thesaurus can help enhance your writing but it can also make you sound like a pretentious snob, so my advice is to use the thesaurus with care ( or, in other words, caution, guardedness, prudence, or circumspection.)

Using it too much can also completely muddy what point you hoped to get across in the first place.

I don’t use a thesaurus all the time, mainly because I can’t spell the word thesaurus, but also because I try to keep to my old college class acronym in the back of my mind at all times while I writing, even when I’m writing fiction.

Actually, I don’t think there is a need to complicate sentences with voluminous words in fiction at all.

This will go against the KISS rule here a bit, (by adding more than I need to to this post) but after Googling the term and how it relates to writing, I discovered the term was actually used first as a design principle by the US Navy in 1960. According to the not-always-correct Wikapedia.com: “The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.”

Other phrases associated with the acronym, which could also work for writing, include “Keep It Short and Simple”, “Keep it Simple and Straightforward”, “Keep It Small and Simple,” or even “Keep It Stupid Simple.”

So, the bottom line is that why you are keeping it simple, don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit with your language so you can avoid redundancy in your prose. B

ut at the same time, don’t go too crazy with that thesaurus, okay?

 

 

Creatively Thinking: Why I blog my novels as I write them

I don’t think a lot of people are worrying about this, but I thought I’d share today why I blog my novels as I write them (or shortly after).

It’s probably not the best marketing move to put my novels on my blog, chapter by chapter, but, well, I’ve never been good at that marketing stuff, for one, but also, I like the interaction I receive when I share my novels on my blog. The interaction is worth more me to than the money, although you might have to remind me of that when we are pinching pennies to get groceries some weeks.

I like that my handful of blog readers interact with each chapter and share with me their impressions or their ideas for how the story should unfold. Based on those impressions, and impressions of friends or family, I adjust and rewrite the story before the final publication. Or sometimes I rewrite it because I like it better. Putting the story up on my blog also forces me to finish it and to edit it chapter by chapter because one, I have “fans” waiting to read the rest of the story (okay, I have maybe 20 people reading and four that comment, but I don’t mind writing it for just those people. I’m not even kidding.) and two, it also forces me to focus on each chapter individually, write before I copy it to the blog to publish it.

I am sure some authors (am I really one of those? I don’t know. . .but it sounds good, right?) wouldn’t want to share their books on their blogs. They’d rather write them, leave them on their computer and then one day get their nerve up and send it to a literary agent, hope the agent picks them up and pitches their book to a publisher and that publisher signs them and their book is marketed to millions and then they become a millionaire. Sharing the book on their blog could mean no one will ever pay them for the book because the readers can simply read the book for free on the blog, right?

Not necessarily.

In my case, I only have about 360 blog subscribers and of those 360, only about 5 interact with me on a regular basis and only about 20 actually follow the stories I share on the blog. Not only that, but of those who might find my blog, how many of them will really want to scroll from chapter to chapter for free, versus buying the book later on Amazon in it’s completed form, or at least “borrowing it” through Kindle Unlimited?

Probably not that many.  In addition, once I’ve shared the chapters on my blog, I take down the page that links to each chapter and replace it with an excerpt and a link to my book on Amazon, or wherever else I might choose to sell them in the future. In the end, sharing the novel on my blog is a motivator for me, but also a nice distraction from other stresses in life (like the news) and from what I’ve heard from those who read it, it’s also a nice distraction from them.

I don’t expect that my novels will ever win awards, but they’re already winning me something else – a little bit of sanity and a whole lot of distraction.

And while I’m on the subject of sharing my novel on here, I have two new chapters scheduled this week: one tomorrow and one Friday.

I am in the midst of writing a new novel called The Farmer’s Daughter, but I haven’t yet decided if I will share it here as part of Fiction Friday or not. I have a feeling, though, it’s a story some of my regulars will really like. I’ve shared a little of it on here before.

It’s the story of Molly Tanner, who still lives on her parents farm at the age of 25 and wonders if there is a life for her beyond the farm. At the same time she’s pondering this, she notices that farmhand Alex Stone is paying more attention to her, but she’s not sure why. Five years older than her and her brother’s best friend, Alex is battling some demons of his own, mainly that he’s falling for Molly but he doesn’t feel like he’s good enough for her. He covers his pain from his low self-esteem and his lack of attentative parents growing up by drinking a lot and dating women.

Other characters are Molly’s brother, Jason, her parents Robert and Annie, her grandmother, Franny, and her best friend, Liz. Robert and Annie are facing their own concerns throughout the book as Robert fights to keep the family farm, which he and his brother have now turned into a farming enterprise, running.

This will be the first book in a series, but I’m not going to overwhelm you with the other characters and their backstories. At least not yet!

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Prompt: “By Design”

The following is a Flash Fiction prompt by Carrot Ranch Literary Blog for the week of Dec. 26, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2019.

The challenge is to write a story in 99 words, no more, no less. This is my first try at such a thing, so go easy on me. Edited to add: I realized after I wrote this that I accidentally left a word in that shouldn’t have been there so this is only 98 words. Oops. Also… I read this to my husband, my 13-year old son heard it and announced, “that was the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard.”


She thought it had all been an accident. He’d run into her on his way into the supermarket while she was walking out.

“Oh, excuse me,” he’d said, bright blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight, dirty blond hair falling across his forehead and his hand warm against her arm as they collided. “I didn’t see you there.”

She’d dropped one of her bags and oranges were rolling across the parking lot.

Little did she know their encounter had been by design all along, and by his design, not by divine design. It wasn’t divine, was it? She wondered.


Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.

Creatively Thinking: What to do when you hit a wall in your novel writing

It’s happening.

I’ve hit a wall in my novel.

My second novel, A New Beginning, the sequel to A Story to Tell, is much more of a challenge than the first.

My husband keeps saying I need to take a break from it and walk away but he doesn’t understand that in my head these are real people and I need to find out the ending to this chapter of their lives! How can I do that if I don’t sit down and let them talk to me? Only they won’t talk to me! Why won’t they talk to me?!

The main two challenges with this sequel are that I am writing in first person again and the second is that I’ve gone off-script in that my first novel was based on a true story and the second is completely going beyond my knowledge of the original story.

Some writers, who are plotters, would say I’ve hit a wall because I don’t plot down to the last period, but I don’t like to plot that extensively. Plotting in such a detailed way takes the fun out of writing for me. To me, once the details are on the page, fully written out or not, I’ve lost interest because the story has already been told. In other words, I’m a panster because I feel like the characters are telling me the story and I’m just transcribing it as I got along.

Despite the fact I’m not a seasoned novel writer, I’ve learned and discovered some tips to help me through this bog or over this wall and thought I’d share it here for others who might be writing a novel or any other kind of book.

Green Photo Women's Fashion Tips Pinterest Graphic1. Do what my husband said (eye roll) and take a break from your current Work In Progress (WIP)

Go work on another writing project or no project at all. Put your current project aside for a couple weeks or, if you aren’t on a deadline, a couple of months.

This week I’ve put A New Beginning aside for a couple of days and continued working on my third novel The Farmer’s Daughter, which is spawning ideas for a series (The Spencer Valley Chronicles). The Farmer’s Daughter is written in the third person, versus first-person like A Story to Tell and A New Beginning and it’s about a young woman named Molly Tanner who wonders if the world has anything to offer for a 26-year old with little life experience beyond her family’s farm and her small Pennsylvania town. Farmhand Alex Stone, drama with her best friend, and her father’s struggle to keep the farm running will distract Molly from wondering about life beyond the farm.

2. Develop your supporting characters. This was a suggestion from Jess Zafarris in an article on Writer’s Digest. Zafarris, drawing from author and podcast host Gabriela Pereira’s book DIY MFA, suggests telling more about the side characters in the book who support your protagonist.  You should make sure these characters enhance the journey of your main character and help bring you closer to the ending you hope for your novel to have.

For me, this has meant writing about how Blanche relates to others in her life – from her sister Edith to her parents (especially her dad) and her best friend Emmy. Of course, I’ll also have to write a little about Hank, her son Jackson, and certain other individuals who might pop up as any type of love interest in her story. Ahem.

3. Define who your character(s) is/are. If you haven’t already, write down a paragraph about your protagonist and his/her characteristics that will help push you through the middle. For me this is close to plotting, but not quite. I ask myself “what would Main Character (MC) do? What does MC like? What issues does MC have in this book that we can address in this middle section.” So far, it’s working and it helped me push through a couple plot points that had me stuck.

4. Use the midpoint of the story to focus the story. Another suggestion from Zafarris is to use the midpoint of the story to focus your story. You can do this by reaching a climax of sorts in the story that will continue to propel you toward your conclusion. One way to craft this high point in a story is to make it seem your MC has reached their goal or has completely failed at it, Zafarris says. To me, this seems a bit cliche, but at the same time, I see what she’s getting at.

“Though they might seem opposite, the temporary triumph and the false failure share a common thread: In both cases, the external events lead to an internal moment where the protagonist must decide how she feels about the person she has become,” Pereira writes. “This introspection may be a complete turning point where the protagonist reconsiders every aspect of her personality … [or] a slight shift. … As with any aspect of a good story, the external events need to reflect and contribute to the internal journey that eventually makes the protagonist grow and change.”

5. Daydream. This one is the simplest for me since a lot of my scenes play out like movies in my head. I try to give myself time to daydream, which usually happens at night. Daydreaming isn’t hard for me because I seemed to always float through life while living in my head when I was a kid and that’s been something that has translated into adulthood as well.

I think about my characters and what situation I need them to work through and then from there, my brain will jump to a conversation they might have with another character, which spurs an entire scene playing out in my mind. The only problem with this process is that the daydreams often come late at night for me so there I am at 1 a.m., sitting up in bed, grabbing my phone and jotting down the scene I started creating in my mind. As I’ve mentioned before, this way of writing a novel can make some days hard to get through, but it’s simply how and when my creative brain works.

6. Review parts of your novel that are working and you like. This suggestion came from Writers Relief.com,  which suggests waking up your creative mind for that hard middle section by re-reading the parts of the novel that work for you. By reading those sections again you may find a way to write the middle of the novel, needed to help build up to or around those moments you find complete already. After all, the idea of a novel is to build a story. This is something I keep reminding myself. When I write a scene I really enjoy, I tell myself that I can’t simply rush to the next scene I like because there needs to be some story building, some pulling in of the reader that makes them feel like they are on an enjoyable walk and not a high-speed roller coaster ride to the end. Of course, if you’re writing a thriller or a mystery, you might want the high-speed aspect, but for me, with my slower paced, clean romances, I prefer a leisurely, yet still interesting stroll.

7. Read the works of others you enjoy and even some you don’t. When you read a story you enjoy this can help give you ideas for your own story, not by stealing ideas but by inspiring you through your own character and their situations. Reading a good book is also a nice distraction from your struggles with your novel. The story in the book you choose to read can help clear your mind and show you what you can and should do with your story.

Reading stories you don’t like can also help show you what you do not want to do in your own novel. If there is a plot twist or a weak character development, you will see it as something to steer clear of in your own writing. Or maybe the book is a popular and well-received one but you know it’s still not how you want to write your own book. Either way, it can help define how you get through the rough spot of your novel.

8. Write a synopsis of your story. As novel writers know, a synopsis is a summary of what your book is about. Writing this can help you to hone what scenes you still need or may need to eliminate from the book to make it more concise and carry your story forward. You’re going to need this later anyhow, whether you go the traditional route and send the synopsis to a literary agent or go the indie publishing route, like I did, and toss your book up on Kindle.

9. Try writing prompts related to your WIP and your MC. 

Instead of using a writing prompt to kick start a flash fiction piece or a novel, use the prompts to ask yourself things like “What would happen if my MC did this instead of this?” or “What if this person said this or that to my main character?” Imagining other scenarios for the outcome of your novel could help to pull you out of the writing rut as well.

10. Do something physical, completely unrelated to writing. This is similar to get up and walk away from your project for a while. Go for a walk, a run, a swim, anything to get your body moving, your endorphins flowing, and your brain off your story. Or, maybe your brain will be on your story as you walk and something will break loose and help you carry forward.

For extra information on overcoming writer’s block, I’ve included this link to best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins talking about how to overcome it. Please try to ignore how the camera is focused on the books behind him for most of this video. The advice is very good, despite that odd recording blip.

 


Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 4

If you want to catch the beginning of Blanche’s story, you can read it on Kindle and Kindle Unlimted.  However, you don’t have to read the first part to be able to enjoy A New Beginning.
As always, this is the first draft of a story. There will be typos and in the future, there will be changes made, some small, some large and as before I plan to publish the complete story later as an ebook. Also, sorry about the lack of indentations at the beginning of paragraphs. I can’t seem to figure out how to make that happen in WordPress.


Light, Shadows & Magic (2)Chapter 4

I ushered Jackson upstairs to his bath on the eve of his Kindergarten debut, hoping playtime with his toy boats and submarines would be short and bedtime story time even shorter. It had been a long day and my body was screaming at me to lay down and cover it with a warm comforter and quilt.

Even on the days I was beyond tired, I looked forward to tucking Jackson into bed at night, snuggling next to him and reading Winnie the Pooh or Dr. Seuss.

“Read it again, Mommy,” he said as I finished Green Eggs and Ham for the second time.

“I think we’ve read it enough, sweetheart. You need to get some rest because tomorrow is your first day of Kindergarten.”

Jackson pushed out his bottom lip. “I don’t want to go to Kindergarden, Mommy. I want to stay here with you and Grandma.”

“We’re going to miss you, but you are going to love Kindergarten. You’re going to meet new friends and learn new things and –“

“But who is going to protect you and Grandma?”

“Protect us from what?”

“From the bears in the field.”

I laughed. “What bears in the field?”

“Grandpa said he saw a bear in the field on his way to work and what if it and its family comes to the house when I’m gone?”

“Well, what would you do if you were here?” I asked, enjoying listening to the way his mind worked.

“I would get grandpa’s gun and shoot them and make those bears into a bear rug for you and Grandma to sit on and drink hot cocoa on!”

I pulled him against me, laughing as I kissed his cheek. “And we would be so happy if you did that for us, but I don’t think any bears will come to our house. Bears are as afraid of us as we are of them.”

Jackson pushed against me and buried his face into my stomach.

“I still don’t want to go to Kindergarden, Mommy. It doesn’t sound like my type of garden at all.”

I rubbed his back and leaned back against the headboard, closing my eyes for a moment as he softly cried.

It seemed impossible to me he was already six and starting school in the morning. Stroking his soft, brown hair, I thought back to the first few days after I’d brought him home from the hospital. I’d been so lost and terrified as a first-time mother at the age of 19. Mama had stayed with me a few days, showing me how to change Jackson’s diapers, pat his back to bring out burps, and rock him to sleep.

“I know it seems scary, Blanche, but it’s going to be okay,” Mama said, stroking my hair as I clung to her the day she left.

“Oh, Mama,” I sobbed, sitting on the floor, my head in her lap. “How could I have been so stupid to have a baby already? I don’t know anything about babies. What if I can’t do this?!”

“You can do this, Blanche,” Mama said softly. “I know you can. You’ve never given up on anything you’ve set your mind to and I know you love this baby. You loved him even before he was born, didn’t you?”

I nodded, remembering how I’d talked to Jackson when he was in my womb, telling him about the book I was reading, or the meal I was cooking, or what the weather was like that day.

“All you have to do is love him and it will be just fine,” Mama said, rubbing my back as I cried. “Ask God to give you wisdom and strength for each moment as it comes and do your best not to let your mind race into the future, tangling itself up in the questions of ‘what if.’.”

Mama laughed. “I think two of the worst words for a mother are ‘what if.’ Or maybe the worst three words: “But what if . . .”

The day Mama left I never felt more alone in my life. I knew Hank wouldn’t be any help taking care of a baby he hadn’t even wanted.

Peering at Hannah Harrison through the crack in the front door of our apartment, the day after Mama left, I hesitated. She looked like a model on the front of a fashion magazine – soft blond curls, curves in all the right places filling out her pencil skirt and white, fluffy sweater. I closed the door, my hand on the bolt. I didn’t want someone as well put together as Hannah to know how little I knew about life; how incompetent I was as a mother and a wife. Still, I needed someone to tell me it was going to be okay now that Mama was back in Pennsylvania with Daddy and I decided to take a chance that Hannah might be that person.

“It’s going to be just fine,” she told me, taking a screaming Jackson into her arms, sitting on our couch and laying him across her lap while she rubbed the gas out of his belly. She made it look so easy.

Her words echoed Mama’s: “You just keep loving this baby, Blanche and you’re going to be okay.”

So many decisions in my life had hinged on my love for Jackson. Leaving Hank, coming back home, the jobs I had taken, the promise I’d made to keep us both from being hurt again. When Thomas Fairchild, the cub reporter at the paper, had asked me out on a date three years ago, I’d turned him down gently but quickly. Even if I had been interested in him, I had to think about Jackson and how my dating would affect him. I couldn’t risk him getting attached to someone I wasn’t sure about; his small heart broken if the relationship failed.

I looked down at my lap and saw that Jackson had cried himself to sleep. I lightly brushed an already drying tear from his soft, ruddy cheek with my finger and studied his perfectly shaped mouth and the comforting familiarity of his boyishly round face.

A rush of panic suddenly gripped me as I studied him. Though I had reassured my child only moments before that he would love his first day of school my mind began to race with fear. The heavy ball in the pit of my stomach that had been forming for weeks, months even, had clearly settled in to stay.

I didn’t want to let him go. I didn’t want him out of the safety of my or my Mama’s care. I wanted to hold him for as long as possible, keep him with me instead of sending him off into a world full of hurt, anger and dangers.

I curled myself around his body; the body of a boy who felt too fragile and small to send off into the unknown and closed my eyes, reveling in the feel of him warm against me, wishing we could stay this way forever.

My grandmother once told me that being a mother was like walking through life with your heart outside your body. Only after I’d had a child of my own did I understand what she meant.

So many times in the months after Jackson was born I’d wondered if my parents had felt the same about me and Edith when we were young – that unending, unconditional love that only seemed to magnify each day.

“Of course we did and still do,” Mama told me at 3 a.m. one morning when Jackson was 15 months old.

Jackson had fallen asleep only a few moments before after hours of crying from teeth trying to break through his lower gum. Mama rubbed clove oil on his gum, an old trick she’d learned from her mother. Within minutes he was asleep in her arms and she was standing in the kitchen, holding him in her arms, his head against her shoulder as we talked. Leaning back against the kitchen counter, her dark hair fell loose around her shoulders, her blue robe tied closed over her nightgown.

“Seeing you in pain, hearing you cry, it was like being hurt ourselves,” Mama said. “And when you made mistakes and faced the consequences, we never rejoiced. We always felt the pain with you and wished we could make it better. Watching you make mistakes — That was just as hard, sometimes even harder. We had to let you make them, we knew that, but it was so hard.”

“It must have been really hard to know what a mistake I’d made when I left with Hank.”

Mama smiled. “Yes, but there was also a hope that maybe I was wrong. I hoped it would all work out and Hank would turn out to be better than what others said he was. If I had known how bad he really was, I would have been beside myself with worry and would have been up there dragging you home.

She laughed softly. “Now, Daddy? He never doubted Hank’s lack of character.”

I laughed too. I could almost hear Daddy telling Mama Hank was hopeless.

I sipped tea, now cold in my mug. “Sometimes I worry about being a mom because we can do everything in our power and our children can still get hurt or break our hearts. It scares me. It scares me I won’t be as good as you were at having faith it will all work.”

Mama stroked the back of Jackson’s head and swayed a little in place. “You think your daddy and I always knew what we were doing? We definitely doubted ourselves throughout your childhood and yes, definitely after you left with Hank. We wondered what we had done wrong, what we hadn’t taught you that led to you leaving without speaking to us first. We felt we hadn’t been accessible enough for you to feel like you could talk to us and talked about how we could change that in the future, once your daddy dealt with the anger, of course.”

I felt tears in my eyes, and knew exhaustion was making my emotions even more raw. “You and Daddy did such a good job with us, Mama. Maybe you didn’t feel like it after I left, but it wasn’t anything you did. It was my own selfishness and pride.” I drew the back of my hand across my eyes to wipe away the tears. “I was so stupid. How could I have been so stupid? I’m so glad Grandpa and Grandma weren’t here to see me.”

Mama stood next to me and rubbed my back with her free hand as I cried.

“Life is made up of stupid decisions that we didn’t think were stupid when we made them,” she said. “But you took responsibility for your actions, you walked away from Hank when he became violent and you’re raising your son on your own — ”

“Well, with you and Daddy’s help,” I interjected.

“Yes,” Mama said. “But Blanche, you didn’t run away from Jackson when life got tough. You set your mind to being the best mother you could for him and you’re still doing it. I think those are all things your grandparents would have been very proud of you for.”

Jackson shifting in his sleep pulled me from my memories. I laid him back on his pillow, pulled the covers around him, kissed his forehead and stood to turn out the lights.

“Protect him tomorrow, Father and most of all, protect his tiny, innocent heart.”

***

A young Hank, maybe 11 or 12 stared back at me from the photo on Marjorie Hake’s wall. I’d seen it many times over the years since I’d been bringing Jackson to visit his grandmother and each time I studied I wondered what path Hank’s life had taken to transform him from innocent to broken. I’d brought Jackson to see his grandmother after his first day of Kindergarten. He’d been excited to tell her about his day and then darted outside to play with a homemade cookie in his hand.

A teacup clinked in a dish behind me. “It seems so long ago,” Marjorie said. “A lifetime ago, really.”

“Do you ever hear from him?”

“No. Never. And I’m never sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Eloise Carter told me last year her son had seen him in a bar in Syracuse maybe two years ago and he said he was moving out west. That’s all I know.” She looked at the photo as I sat down across from her. Still. After all these years. That’s all I know about him.”

“He wasn’t always so angry and selfish, you know. He was a good boy, always willing to help me around the house, take care of his little brother, protect me from Henry. He could never make his father happy, though. Never.”

Tears pooled in her eyes. “I truly think inside he’s a lost little boy who doesn’t know how to tame the emotions raging inside him. Not that any of this excuses how he acted, how he treated you. It never will. But it is a little insight into what transformed him into who he became, I suppose. If only I’d . . .”

She sipped her tea and shrugged. “Well, that’s in the past. Nothing can be done to change the past. I’m beginning to accept that life doesn’t always turn out the way we hoped or expected. And life is getting better now, brighter even, despite all the mistakes I made and all I’ve lost. Did I tell you I joined the garden club?”

“No, what does a garden club do?”

Marjorie laughed, and pushed a strand of her chin length hair behind her ear. “We talk about gardens and what we should do with our gardens and how to grow gardens. It’s very titillating conversation.”

I sat across from her and stirred cream into my tea. “Marjorie, I’ve never told Jackson about Hank.”

She looked at me, tea cup braced between her hands. “I know,” she said. “And I haven’t either. I can’t imagine what we’d say to him. He’s too young to understand. Maybe someday, but not now. I think it’s the right thing, keeping his father a topic to be discussed when he’s older.”

Sunlight poured across Marjorie’s dining room, wallpaper with pink roses she’d had installed the year after her husband died. She wanted to change everything about her life, she said, and after the bright wallpaper and hardwood floors, she’d had her hair cut short into a modern bob. When Edith spun the chair around so Marjorie could see herself in the mirror the reaction was visceral and sudden. Her head fell into her hands and she cried at the transformation. It was a visual representation of her internal revolution.

Out the dining room window in the backyard, Jackson drove his dump trucks through the mud, the front of his shirt and jeans stained brown.

Marjorie reached over and laid her hand over mine. “I know I’ve said it before, Blanche, but thank you so much for bringing Jackson to see me. Watching him grow up has been such a blessing and has filled so many empty places in my heart.”

“Actually, Marjorie,” I said, squeezing her hand. “Our visits have done the same for me.”

Creatively thinking: Back when I created how I wanted to

When I was in high school and college I wrote and sketched and photographed what I wanted without much thought to how it might upset or bother someone.

I would definitely say I was much more in tune with my creative brain back then. I stayed up late creating either through drawing or writing, rarely concerned with someone seeing my work and casting judgments about it being “proper” or not.

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Find stock images by me for sale at Lightstock and Alamy.

During that stage I wrote poems like “Living Statue” but never showed them to anyone. After all, poetry wasn’t really my thing – my brother was the poet. Plus, what would people in my life think about me writing about the half-naked model in my college art class. An offside about that, I had no idea we’d be drawing half-nude models when I signed up for that class.

I went to a smaller state school and had no idea they were progressive enough to allow such things. Imagine my pleasant surprise at being given the chance to sketch the human body, but also imagine my complete embarrassment at being asked to stare at that human body for an hour class. Luckily my art teacher wasn’t progressive enough to provide a completely nude model. Ha! I might have passed out during class.

Over the years my poor brain took a beating from the judgments of others and I, sadly, let those judgments affect how I created. Even sadder is that sometimes I still do. Echoing in my head are voices of the past scolding me for creating the way I wanted to, squelching what I really want to say or show.

To this day, I find myself thinking: “Who will be offended by this?” “What Christian will call me out and tell me I’m not Godly enough?” or “Who will remind me (again) they only hire photographers who pose their color-coordinated dressed family with perfect backdrops?”

Luckily I find myself doubting what I create a little less than I used to, hoping I can someday get back to the early days of not caring what others think, knowing there will be some who like what I create and some who don’t and accepting that I can’t make everyone happy.

How about you? Have you found your creativity has become more stifled or more open the older you’ve become?

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Find stock images by me for sale at Lightstock and Alamy.