Writing Lost and Found

lost in a daydream by mkendall (detail)

It’s been almost a year since I posted last. I blame…um…aliens? I don’t know. I guess I’m not the best blogger in the world. C’est la vie.

I could post about how I’m going to try to be better in the future, but I think me posting anything at all says that better than I could write on purpose. Anyway, enough about me not writing, let’s move on to more important things:

Did I ever tell you I’m writing a book series? If you’ve been following me forever or know me outside this website the answer is probably yes. In fact I created this website specifically to be about writing, hence the title. How am I progressing? Well let me give you an update:

Last month I finished editing the millionth draft of my first book. This month I finished a read-through/edit of the bits of book two that are already written. Yesterday I finished the sub-plot timeline so I know what I need to add to book two to finish it. Today I started writing new scenes for the first time in well over a year.

I am so happy that I’m writing again! I mean I write and edit all the time. But these are new scenes in book two. With each scene I’m that much closer to finishing it and moving on to book three and completing the series!

It felt so good to get those words on paper, or I guess, into the computer. It feels so good to be moving forward. Don’t get me wrong I love editing, but creating something new is one of my favorite things about being a writer.

I’ve also put up an excerpt from book one, Mark of the Essence, which you can read here.

And while I love my book series I have also spent some time here and there writing short stories. Okay they are very short stories, probably more like flash fiction. And I thought maybe since right now they are just sitting in my writing folder I should put them up on here. So starting today I’ll post a new story once a week or so until I run out. At which point maybe I’ll write a new story every week? I guess we’ll see.

I already have two stories posted on the site: “First Light” and “The First Mark”. Both of those were written as part of the Fantasy-Faction monthly writing contest. Today’s story is much shorter and rather than talk about it, I’ll let you read it for yourself. Enjoy!

– – –

“The Scent of Spring”
by Jennie Ivins

The first thing she noticed upon waking wasn’t the songbirds singing in the trees above, or the way the tall green grass tickled the exposed skin of her neck and face. Even the unevenness of the ground and the way her dew covered clothes clung to her body weren’t the obvious senses that roused her tired mind. It was the smell of damp earth, rich and full of promise, mixed with the copper of fresh blood that finally shook her from her sleep.

Her eyes shot open but her body remained still. How long had she been asleep?

The sky through the spring green leaves above her was spotted with puffy white clouds rolling lazily along in a breeze too high up to rustle the grass she lay in. The sun was behind her, making its way up to the center of the sky, taking its time as it shifted the shadows of the forest off patch of clover to her left and onto the dead man at her feet.

She sat up and backed quickly into a tree trunk. She hit her already tender head and cursed under her breath as she got a better look at her surroundings.

The meadow rolled along down a short hill and ended in a brook that was close enough to see, but too far away to hear. The forest behind her was light and airy with deer paths leading through budding underbrush. Most likely it lined a road or a farmer’s field. The edge closest to the clearing was littered with broken braches and scraps of cloth and hair. It was rather obvious which direction the pair had come from.

Her eyes again came to rest on the corpse. Flies were already circling its gore stained clothes, which the song birds in turn were swooping down to snap in their hungry beaks. What would she do with the body?

A short gust of wind blew a blood caked curl in front of her eyes. It brought with it the not unpleasant smell of a farm freshly tilled and animals at pasture. She didn’t remember passing a farm, but it had been dark the night before. Dark and cold and quiet.

The sound of birds and insects buzzing all around her hurt her head. It was too beautiful, too perfect. There was too much life in this place, too much spring in the air for the death that surrounded her.

She stood, using the tree to keep her balance. Her leg hurt. Her head hurt. The smell of blood and whatever else pooled around the man was making her sick.

She hobbled down the soft hill towards the babbling brook. Everything about this place made her angry. All she could feel was pain and fear. But all around here was nothing but warmth and new life. She fell on her knees in the sand by rivers edge and washed herself of all the stickiness she could. She cupped her hands and poured the cold waters on her face and head.

The cold felt better. She closed her eyes surrendering to the chill and darkness. The sound of the water was preferable to the sound of singing. When she’d washed as much as she could, she lay back on the bank, hidden from the sun by the canopy above. Where would she go now?

The wet seeped into her bones and her body started to shake. It longed for the warmth of the hillside and the softness of the grass. She didn’t deserve it. She never had.

Maybe she should stay there by the brook and let the cold take her. She could become one with the leafy shadows and lend her song to the water against the rocks. Bones and rocks were very similar. Hard and smooth. One held up the earth, the other men. But all men’s bones returned to the earth eventually. Maybe it was her time now.

A pit in her stomach bubbled to the surface. She couldn’t stay there. She didn’t want to die. If she had wanted death it could have been hers the night before. Maybe not quick or painless, but hers none the less.

She sat up, sand sticking to her clothes and arms. The farm then. They would help her. They would give her hot food and new clothes. They would shower her with pity and freshen up the guest room. While they weren’t looking she would nick supplies. They would tell her to stay as long as she wanted, but she would only stay the night and be gone before anyone could miss her.

Before the farmer’s wife picked through the holes in her story. Before the famer’s children noticed all the scars on her arms and legs. Before the farmer found the body in the tall grass, where the songbirds sang, under sunny spring skies.

– – –

You can find my other stories by clicking on the drop down menu at the top of the page marked Short Stories or you can click the links below. If you’d like more information on my stories or book series you can find my contact information on my About Me page. Happy Writing! :)

“First Light”
“The First Mark”

Title image by mkendall.

The Last September Morning

That's Fine by Eric Flexyourhead

The sky this morning was incredible. In the north it was azure – the color of a Caribbean sea. In the south thick heavy clouds were pasted above the trees. They looked disapprovingly at the clear patches as if they were considering engulfing them in one smooth sweep. But in the end the clouds relented and blew off to the south to drop their rain on a more worthy area.

The sky, so pleased with its victory turned an even deeper blue, so pure it almost hurt to look at. Around its edges the remnants of the impotent storm framed the last September morning with feathery white lace.

“The last September morning.” Sounds like an old folk song doesn’t it? You know what else it sounds like? Panic. Because if today is the last day of September, that means it’s only one month until NaNoWriMo starts!

For those of you not familiar with NaNo, here’s a bit about it. The summary is you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. Yes 50K. 5 with four 0s after it. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, but it’s actually what got me started writing as more than a thing I did sometimes and never finished. I wrote 80,000 in my first NaNo, which turned into about 1-1/4 books of my series. Even if you don’t win NaNo, it’s a great way to get in the habit of writing every day.

Now technically you’re supposed to start something brand new, and only work on it for the whole month. I’ve not done that since the first year. Usually what I do is work on something I’ve started instead. I’m not sure what I’m working on this year, but I’m going to do my best to win. I’ll update you all once I figure it out. At the moment it will either be rewrites of my first book or continuing a YA story about a boy that finds dragons.

Anyone else doing NaNo this year? What will you be working on? Whatever it is, I wish you good luck and happy writing!

Title image by Eric Flexyourhead.

Wet With A Chance of Caterpillars

Spiderweb at Daybreak by Erina68

I never should have mentioned how nice the weather has been for my walks. I should know better by now.

Today the relative humidity was probably around 98%. And that’s being generous. Just getting the kids ready for school this morning made me breakout in a sweat. If there hadn’t been a breeze, I would have been drench by the time I got home from my walk. On the plus side my legs didn’t hurt when I finished, so I think my body is starting to get the hang of this. Yay!

In more exciting news (to me anyway) I caught a huge caterpillar on Friday afternoon! And when I say huge, I mean I saw it crawling across my driveway when I went to get a drink from the kitchen! It turned out to be an imperial moth caterpillar. I kept it in a box on my desk till my kids got home, and then we released it on the lawn.

Caterpillar

This type of caterpillar doesn’t make a cocoon; instead it burrows into the ground and changes there in the spring. Almost as soon as we released him, he found a nice spot in the grass and dug a little hole to hide in. My kids decided to name him Pointy Leaf William, which I think is the greatest caterpillar name ever.

While we were watching him disappear into the grass, my youngest caught a butterfly. It was a very exciting afternoon! At least if you like bugs.

Butterfly

It’s amazing what you can see if you take the time to look around. There could be a whole world of wonders right outside your front door. :)

In the words of the immortal Dr. Seuss:

From there to here,
From here to there,
Funny things are everywhere.

See you tomorrow!

Title image by Erina68.

Writing and Walking – Fall Is Here

Autumn Leaf on Vintage Book by EmeraldCut

I’m bad at blogging regularly.

Wait, let me rephrase. I’m terrible at blogging regularly.

At least until now, that is. I’ve decided I need to spend more time writing. And while in a perfect world that writing would always be related to my books, any writing is better than no writing. And since right now I’m working on plotting out an outline and reorg-ing the entire beginning of the book, I thought doing a daily blog post would be a good way to keep my writing skills sharp. It also ties into something else I’ve just started doing: walking.

I am not the healthiest person at present. I’ve never been big into exercise and while I know the proper way to eat, I’m not great at it. So last week I decided I would walk a mile every morning after the kids went to school. It’s been working really well! But since I’m out of shape, I need a cool down period when I get home. And what better way to cool down my body than to spend some time sharpening my mind.

Every week day, I’m going to try to write a post. It’s probably going to deal with what’s going on in my life and writing, and maybe even about random thoughts I have while walking. The weekends are currently “off” days, since the kids are home and I usually get walking in Saturday with my cousin Amber. Granted it’s in craft stores or the mall, but I figure that counts. Sundays, I’ve decided should be actual off days. At least until I’m more used to walking. My feet and calves were really sore at the beginning of the week. The day off on Sunday made a big difference. That may be temporary though. We’ll see.

Hopefully it will be interesting, but I can’t promise anything. So here we go. Day nine of walking. Day one of writing. Enjoy!

– – –

Today the sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and the leaves all made a satisfying crunch when stepped on. This is my second week of walking in the morning. Every day I’ve gone has been beautiful – the perfect day for a walk. And out of the nine days I’ve been walking, I’ve only missed one. Not because it rained, as I would have loved to hear the drops drumming on my umbrella, but because the kids had a day off from school. Taking three boys walking in the rain, while fun, would not have been as peaceful or relaxing in any way shape or form.

My walks this week have been dedicated to working out how I’m going to rewrite the beginning of my book. I’m shifting the focus from one character to another, but that involves me knowing a lot of backstory I didn’t think I needed to get into quite yet. Wednesday I figured out how to start the chapter. Today I figured out all the events that led up to it. My plan is to write a rough outline either this afternoon before the kids get home or tonight after everyone’s in bed.

After having the kids home for the summer (well part of the summer) it’s nice to have some quiet time to just think. The walks have been great for this. We’ll see how I feel about it when the weather starts getting cold. But I plan on sticking with this as long as I can. Hopefully blogging about it will give me that extra push I need to stay on track with my health and my story.

Until Monday everyone! Happy writing!

Title image by EmeraldCut.

The Boys’ First Trip To The Movies

The LEGO Movie (poster)

A friend on Twitter asked about how people get autistic kids to try new things and specifically how to get them to the movie theater. It just happens that last week we took our boys to the movies for the first time. So I thought I would share our experience. Hope it helps some of you in trying new things with your kids, whether they are on the spectrum or not. :)

We’d been thinking about going to the movies with the kids for awhile, but after my husband and I saw The LEGO Movie, and my parents invited us to go see it again, we decided this would be a good one to try out with them.

Now taking three autistic boys to a movie for the first time did not sound like the greatest idea in the world, so we decided that we would take them one at a time. The challenges we faced were similar for all three boys:

– dislike of loud noises
– fear/dislike of the dark
– inability to sit still for long periods of time
– dislike of new things/experiences
– focus on what normal activities they would be missing if they went to the movie instead
– trouble using ‘inside voices’/being quiet for long periods of time
– dislike of ‘bad things happening’/conflict in movies and TV shows

Based on that list I’m sure you’re wondering why we would ever try to take them to the movies in the first place. I’ll be the first to say I wasn’t 100% positive it would work, but trying new things is an important part of growing up. And with autistic kids it’s important to expose them to new things so they can learn how to cope with the real world.

The first step was deciding whether or not they were ready to face this many issues/fears at once. The best way for us to do that was to have a movie night at home. We picked a movie that was slightly more intense than what we’d watched up to this point, but one that we knew they would like – we picked Labyrinth.

We made popcorn, piled on the couch with all the lights off, and watched the movie. All of them sat very well, were relatively quiet and didn’t seem to mind the dark of the room or the ‘scary’ parts of the movie as long as we were right there to reassure them. The test run was a success!

Over the next week we hyped up the idea of doing a special day for each boy. Each of them would get a day to eat lunch in a restaurant (McDonald’s) with just mommy or daddy. Then we would go to the movie theater buy popcorn AND a bag of candy. Then go in and watch the movie on the big screen!

During the week leading up to the movie trip they all alternated from being excited to not wanting to go, which is very typical for my boys. To tip the scales over to excited, we watched The LEGO Movie trailer a bunch of times and listened to “Everything Is Awesome” (the theme song for the movie) which I’d downloaded onto my iTunes. We also watched a social story about going to the movies on YouTube. By the time it was the day for the first boy to go, he was more excited than nervous.

The trip for each boy was identical, well except for their reactions to the trip (I’ll get to that part in a minute). We went to McDonald’s and got a happy meal which we ate inside “like a real restaurant”. While there we talked about how fun it was going to be to see the movie and if they wanted to get candy or popcorn or BOTH! When we were done we drove to the theater. On the way over, we talked about what the theater would look like, if/what they were nervous about, and how everything would be okay and a lot of fun. :)

How did the boys’ first trip to the movies go?

Well the results were mixed.

Kid #3 (my youngest) went first. His trip actually went the best. He was slightly concerned when it got dark, but adjusted fine once the actually movie started and the previews were over. He had to be reminded a couple times not to talk, but overall he was good. He did get antsy during a couple of the slower parts, but whenever that happened I would give him some Skittles and he would sit contently until the next slow part. Overall he had a great time.

Kid #1 (the oldest twin) was next. He has the most severe/classic autism symptoms (though he is still very high functioning). He LOVED going to McDonald’s and was probably the most excited to see the movie. However, he was also the one who was the most antsy during our home movie night and ended up having the hardest time sitting through the movie at the theater. He decided he was bored about 30 minutes in, but I was able to redirect him enough that we were able to see the whole movie. The candy trick didn’t work as well with him, and he needed to be reminded not to talk a lot more than his brothers. While he did have a good time, the verdict with Kid #1 is that he is not quite ready for a full length movie trip yet.

Kid #2 (the younger twin) was the last to the movie. Even though he is better at sitting and has less symptoms than his twin, he had almost as much trouble as Kid #1. The difference was he was quieter and lasted 45 minutes before getting bored of sitting. Unless it’s something he insists on seeing, we’ll probably wait awhile to bring him to the theater again as well.

What worked well?

The prep leading up to the trip (including the home movie night) helped quell most of their fears of doing something new. Explaining what it would be like and showing them the social story helped get them comfortable with what would happen. Going on a full stomach kept their moods even. And making it a special trip just for them (individually) made them more excited to go and much easier to manage. It definitely would have been harder if the adult to child ratio was not 1:1. It was also helpful that my husband and I had already seen the movie. Then we knew when the slow and scary parts were ahead of time.

What worked okay?

Having a snack to get them through the slower parts of the movie worked to a point. And will mostly likely work better as they get more used to going to the theater. Going at a slow time of day, meant the there were less people in the theater and less people to bother if they started being antsy.

What would we do different next time?

Next time I think I would try to show up as close to the movie starting as possible, maybe even skipping the previews to make the time sitting in the theater shorter overall. Also next time we will try going even earlier in the day. Our theater also has “Sensory Friendly Films” movie showings that we will try out this summer. The lights are left on a bit, the volume is slightly quieter, and it’s okay if the kids have to stand up now and then or if they need to talk some during the movie.

Overall I think getting them to the movies was a good experience. We learned a lot, they had fun, and we now know where the bar is set for each child. Every day is a learning experience and if that experience happens to include popcorn and movie, then all the better. ;)

If you have any questions about our experience at the movies, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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