2015 retrospective

You know how sometimes you look at a period of time and think "how did I make it through that?" ..that's how I feel about a lot of 2015. To say that this year has been a rollercoaster would be an understatement. It's been more like a ride on a tornado - alternating between exhilarating freedom and having flying objects violently smashed into my head.

To recap: Being bullied, lied to and gaslighted at work. Quitting my job, and as a result leaving my chosen field - possibly forever. A six month writing sabbatical. Unexplained infertility. Wildly successful April A-Z (click to read the novella I wrote that month!). Meeting the incredible ladies in my writing group - the Charming Characters. The entire month of June was pure bliss. And then there was the #AMEshooting. I ran my first half marathon, went on backpacking trips at Lumpy Ridge, and Mt. Zirkel, and Maroon Bells, and Lawn Lake. Six months later, still having post-traumatic stress symptoms from the old job BS. Had an editor request a full manuscript of one of my novels! Got a cool new job. Figuring out how to be awesome at new job, but also dealing with feeling like I abandoned my writing dreams for a steady paycheck.

I've never really liked the New Year Resolutions thing. I make a lot of resolutions throughout the year. Why limit myself to what I can imagine for the year at the beginning of it? If I did that I wouldn't have run my half marathon :) I much prefer the retrospective, introspective approach of looking at what I've learned and/or realized:

Solace in movement. Strength of my marriage. Joy in writing. Appreciation of learning opportunities, teachers, incredibly supportive friends and family. So many reminders of resilience - that I have it, and how to use it. Patience while breathing. Patience while waiting. Patience with emotions, doctors, medications, my body, my writing. Patience with myself for not being patient enough. Creativity. And a teensy weensy little bit of learning how to let it all go.

This year I've spent a lot of time (and running and hiking miles) trying to figure out who I am and where I belong in this world. There have been some nasty surprises and failures, but also some successes. I'll settle for 2016 being a rollercoaster. Or, ya know, a chill year would be really great. Regardless, here's to a year of more miles, mountains, and making up stories.

And more of this. Definitely more of this. Mt. Zirkel, CO. July 2015.


IWSG - October

Insecure Writers Support Group is a monthly opportunity for writers to support one another, gripe, whine, cheer, and jeer about this crazy thing we do. It was created by Alex J Cavanaugh, and this month's super-fab co-hosts are: TB MarkinsonTamara NarayanEva E. SolarShannon Lawrence, and Stephanie Faris.  

So... I started a new job a few weeks ago. Awesome! I had a lovely six months of sabbatical, during which I learned so much about writing. Craft, and business, and found a writing group. Fantastic. During that time I started gearing my blogging more toward writing-centric topics, because that's what I was doing at the time, and it's what I'd heard people (fans?) enjoy reading - about the process, where you're at with writing, etc.

And I started dreading writing blog posts.

Not my IWSG posts, because those are more about connecting with other writers. But the ones about what I was up to and how my writing was going, and interesting tips or things I'd learned? Ehhhhhh... Not that I don't care about those things, but I don't seem to care to write about those things. And so my blogging slowed.

And then, the weekend before I started my job, I attended a writing conference. Awesome! Met incredible people, learned a lot, watched a gal from my new writing group place in the top five of a competition. So great. I pitched one of my novels to an editor and she requested a full manuscript.

Holy. Crap. Let me say that again - she requested a full manuscript. Not just the first couple chapters. The Whole Thing. So freaking amazing! I never in a million years imagined that my first ever-in-my-life pitch would result in a request for the full manuscript.

Said manuscript is currently in a first-draft pantsed version that is in no way ready to be seen by an editor, agent, or anyone else.

I'd rather write about places like this than about writing,
ya know? (This is from our Mt. Zirkel trip in July)
So for the last three weeks I've been getting accustomed to my new job, schedule, etc, trying desperately to figure out how in the heck I am going to edit the pantsed beast I have on my hands, and utterly ignoring my blog.

I've made a decision. I'm going back to my blog being about whatever random thing I want to write about - recipes, hiking photos, thoughts on current events. If people want to hear about writing progress they can sign up for my email list. Hopefully this will mean that blogging goes back to being a fun thing, and I can feel less anxiety about writing as a whole.

And then maybe between now and next IWSG I will have something written on my blog that isn't just about how much I suck at blogging.

What do you do when you've lost focus on your blogging or other writing? Any fun accomplishments lately?


Just sent my monthly newsletter!

I just sent my monthly newsletter to folks on my email list.

Have you joined yet? Are you missing out on the fun? I use my list to send special updates, promotions, and stories about my writing journey.

Click here to join the list (I only write once per month - promise!) and to receive your FREE copy of Percy's Armageddon: Pick Your Plot Prequel as a welcome gift.

Have a great long weekend, everyone :)


IWSG - September 2015

Yesterday I watched Brene Brown's talk "Why Your Critics Aren't the Ones Who Count". The talk is directed at creative people and is a pep talk, of sorts. A timely pep talk for me.

After this month, I needed it. August was one of those months where I felt like nothing quite worked right. I didn't get as much writing done as I wanted to in July or August. My inner critic was LOUD about calling me a 'failed blogger' and 'insufficient writer' and telling me, 'you're so unskilled - how can you think that you are good enough to tackle these projects?' I had some health issues that made me just.. exhausted.

But I got some stuff done and actually if I concentrate on the good, August was a pretty great month. I accepted a new job at a company I will be proud to work for. They'll be paying me an appropriate wage for my work (no more being massively underpaid in education), and they won't expect me to work any over time (omg amazing). We went on an incredible, stunning five day backpacking trip. I started attending a writer's group of ladies that I adore.

And yet it's the bad that I think about. *shakes head* Those inner critics are beastly creatures.

This is a quote Brene shared in her talk. I've decided to take it to heart, and hope y'all will too.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..." Theodore Roosevelt

And seriously - go watch the whole talk.

Insecure Writers Support Group is a monthly opportunity for writers to support one another, gripe, whine, cheer, and jeer about this crazy thing we do. It was created by Alex J Cavanaugh, and this month's super-fab co-hosts are: Heather M. Gardner, Christine Raines, Dolorah at Book Lover, Julie Flanders and Murees Dupe


I'm a total blogging slacker!

I've really been neglecting this place! Eek. I even missed IWSG last week because I just wasn't paying attention. Too much going on.

Last week I accepted a new full-time job. I have absolutely adored spending my summer writing, but the position offers me a chance to do work in another passion area and I couldn't pass it up. So! I am facing another life-reorganization. Thankfully this new job will not be nearly as time-intensive as the old one, so I will still have ample time to get my writing done. I might even be more organized about it! One can hope.

In other news, this fall I am one of the judges for the 2015 Bold New Worlds high school writing contest! It's a contest for high schoolers writing short stories in the speculative fiction genre. This year's theme is Creative Creatures and I can't wait to see what the students come up with! Contest prizes include cash for the top 3, critiques, and publication in an anthology. The prizes are funded by sales of last year's anthology. Submissions will be accepted through November 1, so please help us get the word out!


Just a quick update

I haven't been feeling super great the last couple days, so a quick update this week.

I'm participating in #CampNaNoWriMo this month, and so far it's going really well! I am having a ball with my project. I've been spending mornings writing and afternoons editing another project, so things are just humming along :)

Here's a pic I shared yesterday:

What are you working on this week?


It's kind-of a big deal

Happy to be done!
Happy Monday, all!
I hope my US friends had a great 4th of July. And did y'all see that Women's World Cup Final? Incredible!

I completed my first half-marathon on Saturday. Crazy, right? Yeah I think so too. It seemed like a good idea when I signed up, and then for a couple days before (and for the last 3 miles of the race hah) I was like, "why did I think this was a good idea??" And then I finished, and the excitement and runner's high said, "this is why this was a good idea."

I find that writing is similar. I often get to a point halfway through a project and think, "why am I doing this? Why did I think this idea was worth all this work?" but then when it's finished and I finally get to show it to other people I am reminded why I do this. I do it because it's hard. Because it allows me to connect with people I might not otherwise. Because being able to say "I published a book" or two, or three, is a BIG DEAL.

I ran a half marathon. I wasn't the fastest by any stretch, but I did it. I put in the work, the sweat, the blisters, and I did it. It's a BIG DEAL.

What are you working on right now that is a BIG DEAL in your life?

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July #IWSG - a revisit to my Challenge from last week

The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer's Support Group day. It's a day for lovely people to bop around and support one another through this crazy thing we call 'being writers'. If you consider yourself to be a writer I highly suggest joining :) 

I am a co-host this month, along with Charity, SA, Tamara, Allison, and Tanya. And of course, Alex! Check them all out!

In my other professional life we talk about growth through provision of both Challenge and Support, so today I'm offering my fellow writers a dose of both.

June was an emotional month for social justice and civil rights in the USA. In just two weeks we had the shooting at Emanuel AME Church, subsequent burnings of other black churches (7 as of this writing), and the SCOTUS's decisions to maintain Obamacare and legalize same sex marriage in all 50 states. Issues of freedom, justice and safety have been on everyone's minds. We have celebrated and mourned. On the 26th President Obama gave a celebratory speech in the morning, and sang an emotional (and ever so slightly off-key :) ) Amazing Grace in the afternoon. The US has come a long way toward equality, and we have so much further to go.

Last week I challenged my writing friends to write more diversity into our books, and today on IWSG day I want to re-issue that challenge. America reads. More and more we are seeing our books turned into movies and television shows. If we as writers commit to writing more diversity of all kinds into our literature, think of how many minds we can influence!

I challenge you all to commit to write: people of all races/ethnicities as main characters, as lovers, as friends; LGBT people as positive, functional, happy, normal people; and women as powerful agents of their own lives. If all of us writers (including us white writers.. *ahem*) look at our stories and are intentional about not only having white male protagonists, bad guys who are people of color, damsels in distress, we can show our readers what the world could look like. What the world should look like. What the world does look like.

Writers have always been subversive and political in our own ways. I'm challenging you all to join me in this particular subversion. Are you in? How can I support you?

Click here to read my original, more lengthy post about the AME shooting, which contains the initial challenge and more detailed reflection.


Reflections on the #AMEshooting and an author's call to action

On Thursday, I was shocked (or not shocked? Which is worse..) and saddened to hear about the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Sunday's service at the
AME Church - from npr.org
On Friday and Saturday I read others' reactions and tried to process my own emotions about the incident. I thought about our history of race issues, gun control, perceptions of mental illness. I answered questions on FB about 'the other crazy white guy who shot people in Colorado' and grieved that white men who shoot people are 'mentally ill' and taken alive to jail, while poc who shoot people (or are even suspected of it!) are 'terrorists' who often never make it to jail or a trial. I cried as black friends expressed fear for the future of their children. Again.

On Sunday and Monday I once again found myself struggling with what I can do as a white ally to help stop the violence against people of color in our country. When I worked at universities, the answer to that question was 'easy', even if execution wasn't always - talk to white students about our privileges and support students of color in whatever way I could. Now that I work from home, that answer is more difficult. I felt hopeless because my sphere of influence has shrunk. After all I go hours at a time without speaking to another person.

I came up from my pit of white guilt this morning knowing that I am not helpless. As a white author what I can do to help effect change is to write diversity into my books. Think about it: my book has entered hundreds of homes, further books that I write will reach hundreds, maybe thousands more. My writing mostly falls into the category of Young Adult. If I write diversity into my books and young folks read them, that is one more voice of equality speaking to the next generation.

So I want to talk to my white people for a second.

In a lot of cases I think we take the 'write what you know' advice too much to heart. What we know is white culture. As white people, we rely on people of color to talk about 'black people things' or 'hispanic things', or whatever. As white people we don't want to make a misstep and say something bad or accidentally racist, so it's better to just leave the talking about non-white people to non-white people. Right? Wrong.

I am issuing a challenge to my fellow white writers. Look at your fiction through a lens of social justice and equality. I've written about this before when I was at an LGBT conference, but let's expand upon it. I want us all to be honest with ourselves while considering these questions (I'm including myself in this):

  • How can you, as white person, write diversity into your fiction?
  • How do stereotypes and prejudices inform your writing? (and they do, for all of us) I'm not just talking archetypes here - really look at it. Are the good guys white and the bad guys black? All the people of color uneducated or 'urban'? All the children of color from broken homes? These are tropes we see constantly in popular fiction.
  • Is white'ness a necessary component of all your characters' story arcs in your current WIP? Is there someone who could be non-white, and is it possible that it might enhance their character development?
  • As writers we are not just creative people. We are also researchers. When was the last time you learned about a culture outside your own for a piece? When was the last time you went to a place where people of color worship? A cultural celebration? The 'other' side of town? Interviewed a non-white person to hear their story?
  • What about the books you read? Do they have multicultural protagonists? Non-white authors? Do you know about We Need Diverse Books? or the Unconventional Librarian?
  • Have you ever, in the course of your creative development, written a non-white protagonist? Are you uncomfortable with the thought of writing one? Why? No really, why?
I'm asking my literary friends to: consider the questions above and commit to writing more diversity into our works of fiction. Comment below and let me know your thoughts and how you are committing to expand the worlds you create.

I'm not saying we should be striving to speak for people of color, because we shouldn't (and that's a whole other blog post). I'm asking all of us to stretch our writing to include people who don't look like us, and to let them be real, not just the asian lady in the grocery store, or hispanic woman praying a rosary who don't even get names because they are so unimportant. When we show people of color as being well-rounded, intelligent, non-violent agents of their own destinies we give our readers a more truthful portrayal of reality.

What an impact we will have if we all focus on bringing more diversity to our fiction! If each of my literary friends writes with diversity in mind we will reach thousands of people. We quiet, introverted people who sit alone in rooms with keyboards, can aid the revolution. It may not be fast, but it will be potent, and the impact will last for as long as people read our words.

In fiction we create worlds - let's make those worlds better than the one we live in, and maybe someday reality will catch up.


Just a couple quick notes this week!

So we are actually out backpacking right now, but I realized Sunday morning that I hadn't written my post for this week yet! Oops.

This week I've been attending LitFest at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, and it has been fabulous.  You all should come next year! We have a lovely guest bedroom ;) Since I don't have much time, I figured I'd just share a couple things that I've learned and experienced, so others can learn them as well:

  • A panel of agents ALL said that they don't care what kind of online platform an author has. They only care about the work, and will worry about platform later. This flies in the face of a lot of things I have read, and I've been chewing on it for several days.
  • Some agents are, indeed, really intimidating. Others are super sweet.
  • Authors are some of the best people out there. I have found my flock. I haven't felt so 'with my people' since summer camp.
  • The Jesus story fits almost perfectly into the Three Act Structure that Aristotle wrote about. (draw your own conclusions from that)
  • One of the women who taught a writing session did so one hour after finding out her father had passed away. She stole wine from the party downstairs and turned the session into a celebration of her father, who was known as a great teacher. I am glad that kind of beautiful act happens in our world.
  • Stories are everywhere if we know where to look for them. Occasionally getting the full story will require getting out of our introvert caves, but it's so worth it.
  • On a related note, I think I really do want to try some freelancing. Eek.
  • A reminder: write the damn words. You can edit later. If you realize you need to edit something, make a note and write the rest of the piece as though you've already changed it. Will save your mind now, and time later.
  • Imposter syndrome: We all have it. Even people whose books have made NY Times bestseller lists.
  • It is possible to run 10 miles in the morning and sit through class all afternoon. But... you probably want some caffeine to do that.
Ok I have to go! I will check in with the blogging world this week, I promise!


Yeah.. I'm on #Instagram..

(Armageddon is still on sale!)

So I don't have anything to tell you about pirates this week, because my in-laws were in town and I haven't read even a page of anything. But! I have been learning how to use Instagram.

I still kinda feel like this about it:
A photo posted by AJ Lauer (@ayjaylauer) on

But I'm enjoying sharing pictures like this, so it might not be so bad:

A photo posted by AJ Lauer (@ayjaylauer) on

If you use Instagram, come find me and we'll hang out :)


Kindle Countdown deal for Armageddon!

Our Kindle Countdown Deal is ON!
For the next couple days, Armageddon: Pick Your Plot is only $0.99!
And you can sign up for my email list to get a FREE copy of Percy's Armageddon: Pick Your Plot Prequel. That's a lot of awesome reading all at once :)

Find out why reviewers are saying:

Already got your copy? Just a really nice person who wants to help out indie authors? Click these links to help share about our sale:
Tweet about it!
Post to Facebook!
*heart* our picture on Instagram!
or Share the link on G+!

Next week we will return to our regularly scheduled pirates, mountains, and writing ramblings :) Have a great weekend, everyone!


June IWSG!

Haha it seems that the month of June is catching me by surprise this year! My in-laws have been here for a week and I was checking email yesterday when I suddenly realized that the first Wednesday of June is NOW. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer's Support Group day. It's a day for lovely people to bop around and support one another through this crazy thing we call 'being writers'. If you consider yourself to be a writer I highly suggest checking it out :)

This Friday is our first Kindle Countdown sale. We published Armageddon two years ago, but due to my crazy previous job, I didn't have any time to do much publicity beyond the initial 'omg I published a book look at me!!!' push. Now I'm writing full time and somehow still don't feel like I had enough time to publicize this sale. Scheduled tweets and FB and blog posts, yes. But we'd decided to go backpacking this weekend so I won't even be around to help continue the boost (priorities, I know...). And I can think of a TON of other things I could have/should have done to boost visibility of the sale, but just didn't get to.

Somehow I feel like life keeps getting in the way of doing this right. I consider it my job but there's so much LIFE happening (in-laws visiting, health stuff, running and enjoying our CO spring weather). It's so easy to just do the life stuff and not focus so much on my job. But then I also find myself thinking that isn't necessarily the worst thing at this point, as I'm still very much recovering from the insanity of my previous job. So, I should be taking time for myself, and I should be enjoying the weather. It's only been a little over two months since I quit and Rome wasn't built in a day, right? Especially if that day was during the beautiful springtime...

What are your biggest distractors? How do you bring yourself back around to focusing? What is your favorite way to advertise for an impending book sale?


Kindle Countdown Deal Starts Friday!!

First of all, how in the WORLD is it possible that it's already June??

Now that that's out of my system, this week's thing I learned about Pirates:
If you ever need to know anything about pirates (or dinosaurs, or space, or rocks, or bugs..) ask a mother who has a kid that is interested in the topic. They can tell you more in less time than even a visit to the library!
And, the big news in the Armageddon: Pick Your Plot world! We are having our very first Kindle Countdown Deal starting this Friday, June 5th! If you haven't already gotten a Kindle copy of Armageddon, this is a great opportunity. On June 5 and 6, Armageddon will be on sale for only $0.99!! I'm so excited. Check out some reviews and quotes:

And lastly, if you haven't already, please sign up for my email list here! When you sign up you'll be able to download a FREE copy of Percy's Armageddon: Pick Your Plot Prequel, which is perfect to whet your whistle for the sale on Friday!

I'll post a reminder on Friday. Have a great week, everyone :)


Muse Party Blogfest, and A Change of Mind book launch!

Happy Memorial Day!
A couple things for everyone today! The awesome Nick Wilford has a book being released today, and Sarah is hosting the Muse Party Blogfest! But first, your pirate fact of the week:
The Confederate army enlisted Privateers (aka Pirates!) to help bring down the North. Jefferson Davis issued a proclamation inviting, "all those who may desire, by service in private-armed vessels on the high seas, to aid this Government in resisting [Northern] aggression, to make application for commissions or letters of marque and reprisal to be issued under the seal of these Confederate States." And they came, and they did conquer some Northern ships!  -- information from Pirates: A Worldwide Illustrated History 

Nick Wilford has a book coming out today!

Title: A Change of Mind and Other Stories
Author: Nick Wilford
Genre: Speculative fiction

Format: Ebook only

Would you change something about your personality if you had the chance? Reuben Timsbury is ready to say yes to that question, but what is the cost? Read A Change of Mind and Other Stories to find out. This collection of dark, speculative fiction contains a novella and five accompanying stories. The pieces include four previously published in Writer’s Muse magazine. 

It's available today, at an introductory price of only $0.99. I'll be getting my copy soon - will you?

Purchase Links:

My buddy Sarah, whom I met during A-Z this year, is having a blogfest to celebrate her blog's 4 year anniversary! So please join us for the Muse Party Blogfest :)

1. Who is your muse (or character)? Tell us a little bit about him/her and why you brought them. I don't really have a muse, so I brought a character from one of my works in progress: Ringer. He is a small business owner whose life has been taken over by searching for people who have mysteriously gone missing from his antique phone shop, so he doesn't get out much. And he needs some stress relief, so I thought a party might be a good distraction!
2. What are you guys wearing? Dressing up or keeping it casual? I'm wearing skinny jeans and cute heels. Ringer is wearing khakis and a button down shirt. Couldn't get him to shave, but he actually cleans up pretty nice in that scruffy sort of way :)
3. It's a potluck! Did you bring something yummy? Of course! I brought some gluten-free hazelnut bread, and Ringer brought meat for burgers. He's... not much of a cook, but always has burger meat on hand to feed his pet raven.
4. Open bar! What are you both drinking (booze or otherwise)? Ringer'll have a G&T and I'd like a dark & stormy, please! We like ampersands.
5. Wallflowers or social butterflies? We're probably both halfway in between. Conversations with a small group over to the side of the room are best, that way you can talk about real things. Also that will allow Ringer a chance to see if you know anything helpful...
6. What song(s) will you and your muse sing for karaoke? For karaoke I'm a fan of anything from Rent. Female country singers are good too. Anti-war ballads from the 70s are more Ringer's style. Maybe some Fortunate Son as performed by CCR, or Give Peace a Chance by John Lennon?
7. What's your favorite party game? Telephone, naturally. *snicker*
8. Which one of you is more likely to end up dancing on a table top? Definitely me. Preferably sans high heels.
9. Has your muse been a good date and would you ever hang out with them again? For sure! It was fun to get him out and give him a chance to loosen up a bit. And I always love a party...



A learning sort of week

So I decided to take last week off of blogging (other than a quick foray for a Blog Blitz). I'm slowly figuring out what my work habits will look like, as well as what I want my every day life to look like. I spent last week learning, exploring my community, and planning. So for today's post, just a list of things I've figured out and learned in the last week:

  • I think I am going to try having regular posts on Mondays only, with exceptions for special events (IWSG, blog hops, book blitzes, etc). This may change if/when I do another Pick Your Plot series, but it also may not :)
  • Preparing to write requires a fair bit of research, even when writing mostly from one's imagination, so I'm going to share something interesting/cool that I learned that week. I'm a total nerd, so sharing factoids appeals to that side of me!
  • Small business owners are awesome! I had a great chat with a couple of them this week as I spent time in my community. It was also super cool to attend the Women in Business Brownbag at my local Chamber of Commerce. Neat ladies.
  • I'm going to do a writing workshop for teens at my local library in the fall. More info once we've got the details worked out, but it will be part of doing promo for the Bold New Worlds writing competition (which I am judging this year!).
  • I ran 6 miles for the first time ever on Thursday. I chose a flat course thinking that I should go easy with the terrain since it was a new and potentially difficult distance for me. MISTAKE. The flat'ness ended up being boring, which made my run more difficult despite its lack of hills. This week: a far more interesting route.
I'm researching pirates right now, so the fact of the week for you mateys is this:
The "Golden Age" of piracy was actually only 40 years long, from 1690 - 1730. Kind-of a surprise considering how much attention we give seafaring pirates, don't you think? - factoid from Pirates: Predators of the Seas
 Have you learned anything interesting lately?


IWSG - May!

Today is Insecure Writer's Support Group Wednesday! The first Wednesday of each month, writers pop around to one anothers' blogs to offer support, insight, high fives and hugs. This month's hosts of the hop are Eva Solar, Melanie Schulz, Lisa-Buie Collard, and Stephen Tremp. Good job, team :)

Last month I talked about having seen one of my favorite authors, Jacqueline Winspear, speak (you can read her blog posts here - highly recommend!). It was my first week of writing full time and her words about writer's block were exactly what I needed to hear. Not that writers block is easy to get over, but rather that we should not allow ourselves to have it because others have died for our right to freedom of speech. The concept of the privilege of writing making it an essential action hit me right in the feels. 

I took that quote to heart this month by doing my daily April A-Z post every morning. I couldn't pre-post due to the nature of the challenge I set for myself, and I loved the accountability it created. I've also been researching the business side of being an author. It was quite busy!

As I've been 'not working' (as my former coworkers seem to refer to it), I've become more and more aware of the privilege I have in being able to pursue my dream of writing. Of being an author without having to worry about having money for food or rent. This month I stumbled upon this article about how writers are often 'sponsored' by family, spouses, or wealthy patrons, thus enabling them to be creatively productive. 

I'm so incredibly thankful that my spouse can support me through this journey so I can do this without stress. But I'm also keenly aware of my time and of wanting to make sure not to waste it because I know that there are many others out there who are squeezing their writing dreams into precious snippets of time. I am privileged, yes. And also extremely grateful.

What are you grateful for this month?

A new thing in my writing life is the creation of my email list! Subscribe now to receive a FREE copy of Percy's Armageddon: Pick Your Plot Prequel! Emails will only be on the first Friday of each month and will contain writing news and deals. No spam, I promise :)


#AtoZChallenge - Reflections

Boy it was nice to have a weekend off from blogging, wasn't it? I hope y'all enjoyed yourselves :)

So, reflections on this year's A to Z. First off, THANK YOU to everyone who voted, ever at all, but most of all those who visited multiple times throughout the month. I couldn't have done my theme without your votes, so thanks for keeping me going! If there is anyone visiting who doesn't know what I mean by voting, I encourage you to read my story quick. It was super fun!

The voting was so much fun! There were times that y'all picked options that were not what I was expecting, and thus challenged me to come up with bits of story that I hadn't really anticipated writing. Those days were both awesome and difficult, but helped me feel I was really *in* the Challenge mindspace.

But man... Staying in that mindspace for the whole month was exhausting. I knew it would be difficult but didn't really anticipate how tired I'd be by the end. It got harder and harder to visit lots of blogs to keep the voting flowing, so by the end there were only a couple regulars keeping me going (thanks so much, y'all!).

I have a present for you.

Amy sat at her dressing table, gently holding a silvery handkerchief with aged hands. She looked in her mirror at her reflection. Her face had become wrinkled, with laugh lines around her eyes and mouth. Her eyes, though showing her exhaustion and sadness, still shined brightly. But the sadness...

She raised the handkerchief to her lips and kissed it, gently.

"Hellooooo, Sugar! I was wondering when I'd hear from you! Took longer than I thought it would," Cal said, stepping out of the shadows. She was surprised to see that he did not wear his traditionally flamboyant sequined gown, but instead wore skinny jeans with holes at the knees and an oversized black leather jacket. She noted with pleasure that his shoes were bedecked with sequins.

"What do you need? As I remember, you have one wish left. And please, remember what happened the last time you asked to see someone who had passed on. That's how you ended up here."

"Yes, I know. Cal, my life here has been wonderful. I have loved, and watched a child grow, and known contentment. But my loved ones have gone. We... had a measles outbreak. I guess the power of my vaccines carried through the mirror - everyone said it must have been through magic that I survived - and my Prince and Irena have died. I cannot stay here any longer. Please, take me back through the mirror."

"Ohhh Sugar. Going back through won't take the pain away. And, I can't do that anyhow. Your body on the other side... It has... Well, it's not usable."

"I don't want to die. I just can't be here anymore. Then, Cal. Do you remember that tapestry? By the Man in White's room, when it looked as though the figures were moving? Could you put me there? It seems like such a simple life, hanging in the beautiful scenery, watching the bustle of the castle. That way I can stay in this place I have loved, but no longer feel the pain of it."

"Well, Sugar. You've always been creative. Take me there."

Amy and Cal walked slowly through the hallways. Amy told stories of her time in the Palace. Here where she had found Irena kissing a boy, there the ballroom where she and the real Prince Leo had had their first dance. When they got to the hallway on the west side of the Palace, Cal was surprised to see specks of paint still on the window.

Amy laughed, "We were never able to quite get it all off. All these years I've said hello to the Man in White every time I've passed this window. He's almost an old friend now. Please, this tapestry."

Cal nodded and kissed her on the forehead, "You've always been a brave one, Sugar. Enjoy your new life." She smiled as he snapped his fingers in front of her face.

And within a moment a small embroidered lady appeared in the tapestry. She held hands with a little girl and waved a silver handkerchief in her other hand. And waited out her days watching in the back hallway of the place where she Lived.

The End.

If you haven't already, here is the place to sign up for the Reflections bloghop!


#AtoZChallenge - stay in this biZarre place

Happy Z day everyone! If you were participating did you make it through the Challenge? If you participated in the Challenge, make sure to check out the A-Z main blog for information on how to participate in the A-Z Reflections blog hop! We love to hear folks' feedback about how the Challenge went for them, what they liked/disliked, and if you have made any friends this month :)

And here it is, the final segment of our saga.

Amy turned to Cal and took his hand, "Thank you, for everything. But, I've found a new life here that is so different from home. It's wonderous, and bizarre, and full of magic. I want to stay."

"Well if that's what you want to do, sweetcheeks. Far be it from the power of a genie to make a decision for you. But here, Sugar. If you ever need me, you just let me know." He tucked another silvery handkerchief into Amy's hand, "But try not to bleed on it next time, ok?" And with that, Cal snapped in front of his face and disappeared.

Amy turned to Irena and said, "I bet you're hungry. Shall we go find you some dinner?" Irena nodded happily and skipped down the hall. "Prince Leo, would you like to join us?"

"Yes, I believe I would. You wouldn't imagine what immensely hard work it is to stand so perfectly still," he said, and offered his arm to Amy, "and you must tell me what has happened these years. Irena has grown so much. As have you... Amy."

Amy flushed a bit and focused on walking calmly down the hall. Where do I start?, she thought, and instead said, "We will have plenty of time for that, Prince. I have had a very long day. Why don't you tell me about the tapestries as we pass?"

She glanced once more at the painted trap upon the window, and then turned her back on it, looking forward to the future.


Thank you to everyone who voted this month! It's been a pleasure writing for your whims. Keep an eye out for.. umm.. other things ;) I have a feeling this story isn't quite finished.


#AtoZChallenge - show You the way

Amy looked at him defiantly, "If you free Irena, I will show you the way."

The Man in White cackled, "And what if I won't?"

"Then I will close the door and we will both be stuck here forever. Together."

"Fine." He waved his hand and the painted sheen disappeared off Irena's face and body. She ran with arms outstretched toward Amy, but was suddenly frozen again. Amy looked at the Man in White, who was grinning. "I have changed the spell. When I leave this realm, the girl will be freed. She will remain frozen for as long as I remain in this plane. Your turn."

Amy glanced at Irena's frozen body, with its arms outstretched and a hopeful look on her face. She looked behind her and was pleased to see that the Man in White's illusion did not show the true hallway. Instead it appeared that the grand room extended quite a ways. Amy turned on her heel and walked quickly through the illusion.

By the time the Man in White stepped through after her, she had hidden herself behind the tapestry with her bucket of paint. She peeked out and watched as he noticed her painting and moved closer to inspect it. Just as he approached, she stepped out behind him and caught her reflection in the mirror, which Cal dutifully held just outside the window.

The effect was perfect! The mirror was placed just so, allowing her to create the illusion of herself leaning out from behind a pillar down the hallway. Amy beckoned to the Man in White as though to guide him down the hall and was shocked as he stepped willingly up into the painting and started toward her reflection. When he was just a few steps in, Amy pulled out her paintbrush and bucket and began furiously painting more arches and x's into the scene.

Blanco saw the walls move and realized what she was doing. He turned around and moved his hands, attempting to counteract her spell. Her lines moved obediently away from him, and Amy almost panicked. But then she thought, Bet you can't walk through walls! and with a desperate hope, Amy threw the entire bucket of paint onto the window. She willed with all the force of her might that her paint would become a solid wall.

The Man in White threw himself against her wall, and the glass of the window cracked a little, but held. He left one handprint coming through the drying paint but was unable to break through Amy's spell.

Cal popped into the room, shard of mirror in hand. He placed it gently on the upturned paint bucket and put an arm around Amy's shoulder, "Willpower triumphs over greed, eh Sugar? That was quite some spell! Well done. I'm going to go fix that cracked window, just in case."

Amy laughed as she noticed his outfit as he glided to the window and put his hand to it. Cal was wearing the most outlandish camouflage outfit she'd ever seen. A bright blue top, with green camo harem pants, and brown shoes. He'd topped it off with a hat covered in sparkling leaves. If any normal person had worn the outfit they would surely have been seen, but of course Cal was no normal person. Thankfully.

The cracks sealed themselves, leaving only an abstract white painting with the relief of a hand coming out.

"Amy? Amy look! I found Papa!" Irena's voice rang in the hallway. Amy turned and found her small charge leading a handsome man by the hand toward her.

"Ahh! Prince Leo!" Amy fumbled through a a curtsie and bow, "Glad to see you looking so well!" Leo returned her bow and released his daughter's hand.

Irena laughed and threw herself into Amy's arms, "Thank you for saving me! I had a dreadful itch on my knee that whole time. It was terrible!" She raised the hem of her skirt to show Amy where she had scratched it mercilessly upon becoming unfrozen.

"I hope it feels better, little one," Amy said, smiling and patting her head.

"Sweetcheeks," Cal said, "I hate to break up this reunion, but I need to be getting back to... other engagements. You've only got one wish left, and it looks like you'll be needing it to get back to your real life. Shall I?"

Amy thought. While this experience had been interesting, it had also been terrifying, and wonderful, and confusing. And no one would believe her story when she got 'home'. Home was also terrifying, and wonderful, and confusing.

What should Amy do?
Use a wish to return to the baZaar and her body,
or stay in this biZarre place and learn to live a new life.

That's it! Your last choice! What will it be? Will Amy stay in the Palace and learn how to live life there, or return to real life? Leave your comments below and we'll see how the story ends tomorrow!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the ENDING to finish reading :)


#AtoZChallenge - X's and arches

Amy carefully laid out her pattern on the window. She made a complicated hallway, criss-crossed with X's, arches, and banisters. As she painted, she made each stroke with the intention of it being a trap. The closest thing I have to magic is my desire for this to work!, she thought. It was an intriguing hallway and she hoped it would be enough to draw him in.

She stepped back to admire her work and said, "What do you think, Cal? Not bad considering that I only had white, right?" She'd incorporated the scenery of the garden beyond the windows into her design of the trap. Here, a well-placed arch looked as though ivy crawled along it. There, a small window looked out to the sea.

"It's fabulous, Sugar. What is that hole in the painting for?" he said, pointing to a triangular hole in the paint about halfway down the hall.

"That's where you come in. I need you to make yourself invisible and go out to the garden. Hold the mirror in that spot. And when the time is right, turn the mirror toward me, ok? You'll know when." She hid the paint bucket behind the edge of the tapestry and prepared herself to walk in to the Man in White's room. "Thanks Cal, for everything. I'll see you in a minute."

Amy stepped through the shimmer.

And found herself not in the hallway she'd left, but in a room. It was richly appointed, with gold leafing surrounding murals painted on the ceiling, velvet curtains framing the windows, and even several statues tucked into corners. And on the far side, seated in a red chair with golden poms for accents, sat the Man in White. His ascetic appearance clashed with the lushness of the room, and yet he was clearly master of the space. Standing next to him, painted in exquisite detail, was a statue of Irena. No, it was Irena! Her eyes blinked, and widened a little at Amy's appearance. Alive then, but trapped. That's why she wasn't moving.

"I knew it was only a matter of time until that tramp of a genie showed you where to find me," the Man in White said. His odd speech accented the word 'tramp' in a way that made Amy angry.

"Yes, my friend Cal showed me where to find you. You've got quite the setup here. How much of it is real, I wonder? How many of these statues are poor, trapped individuals?" Amy met Irena's eyes and tried to send reassurance through her gaze.

"I assure you it is all quite real," he said, walking toward her. "The question is, what shall I do with you? You have what I want but are unwilling to give it freely. Shall I torture it out of you? Perhaps then your genie friend would come save you and I could force him to take me to your world. But that's not as fun as you giving it up yourself."

He was playing right into her plan! She knew his desire to get to her world would work to her advantage! Now was the time to entice him out to her trap.

What should she do to get him to leave the room with her?
Say, "If you free Irena, I will show You the way."
or, "Yes, well, I've figured it out. No torture, please. Follow me."
Run awaY! Hopefully he will follow.

Just this choice and one more! Tell me, what should Amy do to lure the Man in White out from his lair? Comment below!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the show You the way post to continue reading :)


#AtoZChallenge - the White paint

Can't believe it's the last week of April A-Z! We're on W which means only a couple more days. Time flies...

Speaking of W, you've only got a couple days left to submit for WRiTE CLUB. This is one of my favorite writing competitions on the web, hosted by the incredible DL Hammons (@DL_H). The competitors are anonymous, and paired in bouts against one another. Last year there were 167 entries and only 32 competitors. I was one of them. It was magical. I can't recommend participation enough! So go polish up your best 500 word scene, and get it in before Thursday :)

"Cal," Amy said carefully, "Could you get me a bucket of white paint and a large paintbrush, please?"

"White paint, eh? What do you have up your sleeve, Sugar?" he asked as a bucket thunked to the floor and a brush flopped next to it.

"You said to use my talents. We had to take a shop class in high school, and it turns out I'm actually pretty good at designing things. I figure, since we know old Blanco is all about the paint, I might be able to design a trap and lure him into it with the paint. And then... Somehow keep him there. It's only about half-baked, but... it's what I've got. Cal can you take me close to wherever they are so I can find a wall?"

"Of course. Right this way!" Cal said, sashaying down the hall.

Amy picked up her bucket and brush, and followed. At the last moment, she bent down and picked up a large piece of the mirror. She wasn't sure if it would get her home, but she didn't want to risk her only passageway being cleaned up and discarded by a servant while she was busy with Blanco.

After many twists and turns, Cal indicated a door, "That's where he is. Irena is there too. ...still not moving. There's someone else in there too. Odd. Now, Sugar. You see that shimmer there? Where the tapestry on the wall almost looks like it's moving a little? That's where his enchantment starts. I don't know what happens when you pass through it, but if you're going to work your own magic you better do it before that line."

Sure enough, there was a spot on the wall that looked odd. As though the characters in the tapestry were moving, almost like a very slow motion animated film. Just to the left was an expanse of window, perfect for her plan. Amy started plotting out her drawing, choosing just the right shapes and angles to make her trap.

The painting she picked was...
An eXtremely simple arch with a hallway beyond,
Criss crossed with X's and arches like a web,
or an eXtravagantly detailed room.

So what shall the trap's design be, dear readers? Vote in the comments below and we'll find out what happens tomorrow!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Xs and Arches post to continue reading :)

This bit of encouragement on our quest was offered today by my friend and fellow co-host Pam. Pretty sure there won't be any rabbits, but thanks for the encouragement, Pam!


#AtoZChallenge - Searching for Vanished Irena

Amy stood up. "Thank you for fixing me up, Cal. I need to find Irena. She is the little girl of the house, and she is my charge in this realm. The Man in White made her disappear from my arms just before he moved the mirror. I need to make sure she is ok."

"Hold the phone, sweetcheeks. I admire your dedication to this young creature, but you can't just go blazing about the Palace without a solid plan." He paused and closed his eyes for a brief moment, "I can tell you where your little girl is - she's with old Blanco. So if you're going in to get her, you have to be ready for him too."

"Where is he holding her? Is she alright?" Amy asked.

"They're in a room on the west side of the Palace. I don't know if she's alright. She doesn't seem to be moving, but that might not be a bad thing. But, you need a plan, love."

"How do I defeat someone who is so much more powerful than me?" Amy said as her eyes filled with tears.

"You have powers. Things you know, talents you possess. You're from another world, remember? You'll just have to think creatively to figure out what you can use against him. What makes you fabulous, darling? And what might make him weak? I can grant you two more wishes. I suggest you use them." Cal gave her a challenging stare, as though daring her to come up with something truly outrageous - fabulous, even - to move forward.

What help should Amy request from Cal?
Ask for her own Wand so you can use magic on him.
Request a paintbrush and bucket of White paint.
Wish for Cal to bring her the most useful object from back in the shop.

Ok, friends. Tell me. What W direction is Amy taking? Vote in the comments below and I'll get that post written for your Monday enjoyment!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the White Paint post to continue reading :)


#AtoZChallenge - Need a little Understanding, sometimes..

Oof we're getting into the tricky letters, y'all! Just about got a headache trying to figure out V options for tomorrow.

This is an interactive fiction tale! If you're new to the game, start reading back at my A post. Or jump in and let us know in the comments where you think the story should go next :)

"Cal, what..? What is going on here? You said spellwork. So I was right - Blanco is some kind of magician? I need you to help me understand what is happening to me," Amy said.

"Sugar, you've walked into a mess, and it's partly my fault. Sit down and I'll fix your face while I explain," he said as a bench appeared behind Amy. She sat down and he began picking the slivers of glass from her skin. "This kind of work is best done with my fingers. It's just a little more gentle.

"When you wished to see your father, I kept you in my own little magic bubble. It's easier to manipulate things that way; I could control time and make sure your daddy didn't get away from us. It was also a little lazy of me. I should have let you stay in real time and figured your daddy out for myself, but I took the easy way out. The residue from your little visit and the magic in my handkerchief marked you for the Man in White. He must be watching through various windows into our realm, waiting for the right person to pass by. And then when the shopkeeper sent your spirit floating around, it made you just ethereal enough to pull you through.

"Now, I'm not one to think anything looks better without sparkles, but I do declare that your face is much prettier without all those spikes sticking out of it," Cal said, patting Amy's face with another handkerchief he pulled out of his bosom.

"I got back from my party and found your body knocked out on a chair and traced your spirit here. But your magician friend locked down the mirror pretty good as soon as you went through. It took some finagling to get through his defenses and I got into the building just before he whisked the mirror into this hallway. I'm lucky I got through before you went linebacker on it, otherwise I might never have seen the inside of my bottle ever again.

"Now I'm here and I'll help you out if I can, Sugar Snap, but I can't do the heavy lifting. You're going to have to figure this out for yourself."

What should Amy's next step be?
Verbalize her need to destroy Blanco.
Venture into the rest of the Palace to find the Man in White.
Search for the Vanished Irena (is she really gone?).

Vote away! Let us know in the comments what you think is the best option!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Search for Irena post to continue reading :)


#AtoZChallenge - Throwing herself at the mirror

I have a Throwback Thursday post up at the main A-Z blog today! I gathered the very first A posts of all the co-hosts so we could all see how far we've come. It's pretty fun. Check it out :)

Amy took a deep breath, feeling the Man in White's hand rising on her stiff shoulder. She murmured under her breath, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall..." as she readied her body. Amy braced her feet, made fists with both hands, and launched herself at the mirror. Blanco yelped when she dashed out of his grasp. Her right fist and shoulder made a solid connection with the glass. The mirror, with Amy on top of it, tumbled to the ground and smashed spectacularly.

The force of the impact threw shards of glass up into the air and down the hallway, and even back toward Blanco. Amy sprang up and stood with her back against the wall, fearlessly meeting Blanco's eyes once more. He looked at her across the glittering mess and slowly brushed glass from his clothing. A couple larger shards had made it through the cloth and tiny blossoms of blood were spreading across his pure white shirt.

"What now?" she asked. Her voice was calm, focused, and dead cold.

Her mind was not nearly so calm. She knew she had made him angry and had no idea how he would respond. Amy felt pinpricks all over her face and neck but dared not touch them for fear of driving the splinters further into her skin. The knuckles on her right hand smarted fiercely where they had struck the mirror, and the dampness at her fingertips told her they were bleeding a fair bit. Without taking her eyes off the Man in White, she brought Cal's handkerchief from her pocket and wrapped it securely around her hand.

"This is not over." Blanco said, fiercely. "I will get what I want. And you will give it to me." With that, and a swish of his hand, he was gone.

Amy slumped against the wall. She held her right hand in her left and tried to think.

"Well, Sugar. You have got yourself in quite the pickle here! It was a lot of work to get into this place. Some serious spellwork surrounds this palace. I had to pick my way right through all these nitty little spells, and almost lost a sequin tryin' to get into this hallway." Cal popped into the room, just feet in front of her. He was resplendent in a strapless purple gown, bedecked with sequins in all the right places, and dainty silver jewelry with turquoise that stood out masterfully against his dark skin and the jewel toned dress. "You didn't have to bleed on my handkerchief though. A kiss would have done the trick!"

Amy threw herself into Cal's arms. She was unbearably grateful to see a familiar and friendly face, even if he was the first person to do magic on her during this crazy day.

"There, there, darlin'," he said, patting her back. "Now what can I do to help you out of this mess, Sugar? And I don't mean grabbing a broom to sweep. Cal does not sweep floors."

How can Cal help?
Undo the damage to the mirror so Amy can try to get home?
Do Unto the Man in White has he did Unto Irena?
Help her Understand what is happening in this place?

Don't forget to vote on your choice for what should happen, in the comments below!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Need some Understanding post to continue reading :)


#AtoZChallenge - Stare down!

Haha y'all picked the long option today :)

Amy stopped running. She put Irena on the ground and said, "Honey, stand behind me." She wrapped Irena's fragile little-girl arms around her waist and rested one hand atop them. The heat of the girl's face pressed into her lower back was strangely reassuring. Amy squared her shoulders and met the eyes of the Man in White. 

He looked at her, but continued his incantation. Windows and floor blurred past, as though they were on a train watching the world fly by. 

"STOP!!" She shouted with every ounce of her being and held out her hand in the universal gesture for 'halt', as though casting her own spell back at the magician.

The Man in White blinked twice, momentarily shocked, and then stopped speaking and slouched a bit in exhaustion. The world slowed and Amy found herself in a stable, unmoving hallway. Leaves on trees outside the windows danced merrily in a gentle sea breeze. Amy took a deep breath to slow her heart rate and continued to watch her foe.

He pulled off Irena's Papa's cap, revealing his white headdress underneath. Steely grey eyes never left Amy's gentle browns as he used the cap to wipe what remained of the painted illusion from his face. "There is no point in running. You are in my world. I will always find you." He spoke with the slightest of accents. He enunciated the t in point quite sharply, but almost slurred the vowels in each word. It gave his speech an odd cadence, half song but with strict counterpoints throughout.

"Then I won't run. I will hide, I will dance, I will do whatever it takes to get us out of here. Who are you? What have you done with Prince Leo? What do you want with us?" Amy said. Her heart quivered a bit, but her voice did not shake.

He laughed, "Us? Irena is nothing to me. A trifle. Only a child. A figment, really." He waved his hand and Irena's arms vanished from within Amy's grasp. Amy swung her hands behind her, searching for the child who had disappeared from behind her body. She was gone. "That's better, don't you think?" the Man in White said. 

"What do you want from me?" Amy said through gritted teeth.

"What any man wants. Conquest. I have tired of this inconsequential territory. You have access to a world that I desire. I want it. You will give it to me. And then I will let you go. ..or not." He looked at Amy with a gleam in his eye that she chose to ignore. 

"I don't have anything."

"Of course you do. You come from one of the richest lands in history. All I need is access. I was able to bring you here because you possess the germ of magic. You must be able to go back through. Take me to the other side of the mirror." He gestured to the side and Amy saw that the mirror had appeared to his right. In a blink, Amy found herself standing in front of it, gazing back into the shop she'd been stolen from. How simple life had been before... all this.

"Well?" he said. He put a heavy hand on Amy's shoulder and her entire upper body froze. "Shall we?"

THINK! There has to be something you can do or say!
Tell him a way to get through the mirror. Make something up.
Touch the mirror, gently. Hey, it worked last time!
Throw yourself at the mirror to break it. No way he's coming through with you.

As always, let me know what you think Amy should do in the comments below. Things are heating up! Can't wait to hear what you think!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Throwing herself at the Mirror post to continue reading :)


#AtoZChallenge - Run!

Y'all, this is my 1,000th post on this blog! So crazy. I don't think I ever thought I'd hit that many when I started it in college back when it was just a silly thing to do :) Not so silly anymore, if you ask Amy...

Amy scooped Irena into her arms and shot out through the door and into the hallway. She ran as fast as she could but was distressed to note that the hall's windows were passing in a blur reminiscent of a sketchy cartoon, and that the door at the end did not seem to be getting any closer. She slowed a bit and the windows came into better focus, but the trees outside them had a Van Gogh feel to them.

He still has us, she thought, mournfully. Where is he??

She hazarded a look back and nearly tripped as she saw the painted man standing stock still only ten feet behind her. The windows blurred past but he followed close without moving his feet. He was murmuring and sweating. His jaunty cap and perfectly painted lips had fallen askew, casualties of exertion.

"Why are you running from Papa, Amy?" Irena asked, her voice bouncing in time with Amy's running pace.

"He's not your Papa, Irena. I don't know who he is, but he's not your Papa," Amy replied. "You remember the stories I've told you about magicians? He has us in a spell. That's why the windows look funny." And I don't know how to escape! she added, silently.

What should Amy do?
Scream for help,
Turn around and Stare down the Man in White,
Stop fighting. Submit to his illusion.

I've decided to give up on the voting, for now. It didn't bring any extra responses and I miss you all commenting :) Let me know in the comments below what you think is Amy's best course of action!

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Stare Down! post to continue reading :)

And don't forget that you can sign up for my monthly email by using the form at the right or the tab at the top of the page!


#AtoZChallenge - Quietly finding Irena

Boy. In honor of Q it was a Quiet weekend, y'all! (Can you believe we're already at Q??)
Enjoy :)

Amy stood up, and with a last grateful smile at Mat left her empty mug on the hearth and quietly took her leave from the kitchen. She felt much refreshed thanks to her brief sojourn somewhere that felt like reality and paused to arrange herself.

Her hair was a mass of frizz thanks to the rain and subsequent quick-dry of the fire. She did her best to tuck the wispy bits into her braids, knowing that she probably still looked like she'd just got out of bed. But what else could a gal do without a mirror? Her dress was obviously not meant to be dried via fire-blast and parts of it had shrunk a bit. The shoulders had become just barely too tight, and some of the folds in her skirts stuck out funny.

It was while rearranging some of the skirt folds that Amy discovered pockets! Why don't modern dresses have pockets?? she grumped. She stuck her hands into the slits at her sides, and found.. What? How? Ohhh...! she thought, Cal's handkerchief! She couldn't begin to imagine how it had got there, but the dear piece of home was folded neatly just as she'd left it. Oh, Cal, she thought, fingering the silvery fabric, where are you now? With a sigh she tucked the handkerchief back into her pocket and walked toward the door that led to the room where she'd left Irena sleeping.

Amy walked into the room where she'd left her charge and found Irena seated on the floor playing a game with a well-dressed man. Their backs were to the door, but Irena hopped up as soon as she heard Amy enter and ran toward her, "Oh Amy! I had a wonderful nap! I had a dream about music, and dancing! And then it all got washed away in the rain, like this!" She made an exaggerated whoosh motion with her hands.

"That sounds like an exciting dream!" Amy said, hiding her disconcerted feelings by focusing on straightening the girl's sleepy hair. "And what are you doing now?"

"My papa came to play with me! Didn't you, Papa?" She tugged Amy's hand, leading her toward the seated man. As they drew near Amy had a sense of things not being quite right. The scene was too perfect. Too... intentional. The man, and the game pieces, appeared to have been painted into the room. The man turned. Their eyes met and Amy saw, for just the briefest moment, a glimpse of white shine through. Here was the man in white, pretending to be Irena's father again.

Amy's stomach jumped into her throat and she clutched Irena's hand in her own.

It seemed there were only two options for action. Should she:
Remain and try to figure out what the man in white is doing with Irena,
or Grab Irena and RUN!

Again, you can vote in the survey below, or leave a comment! Happy Monday, everyone :)

Voting has closed for this post! Please visit the Grab Irena and RUN post to continue reading :)