Who I Am

“I heard that Harper Lee died, and you were the first person I thought of,” said one of my friends.

“Hey, you’re big into movies, aren’t you?”

“The church bells were playing The Eagles, and I thought of you.”

“I heard about this Harry Potter book party, and I had to tell you about it!”

These are just a few of the things that people have said to me recently that made me just puff up with pride. Well, actually the first one made me break out into sobs, because that was the first I’d heard that Harper Lee died, but still. To be associated with those things that I loved, because I had made it so known that I was a fan of those things, was amazing.

It’s only been recently that I’ve started to talk to people I don’t live with. Unless I was being forced to, that is. I’m an introvert, and being social is draining on me under the best of circumstances and incredibly stressful if things aren’t just so. So for me to tell people the things I was into, not happening. Heaven forbid someone disagreed with me. I mean, what if I told someone that I liked fantasy novels and they told me that they liked Eragon? Or worse, the dreaded, ‘I don’t read’. Even worse than that was talking about something real, something personal. What if they judged me about something that matters, like parenting or politics?

It took a lot of work on my part, and a lot of patience on the part of a lot of other people, to get me to the point where I would be honest about how I felt about things. But the benefits have been wonderful.

The best part, by far, is being the first person someone thinks of when they think of Harper Lee. So own yourself, and be honest about it.

Writing 101, Day 9

An early draft of Warm, for Throwback Thursday. Actually, by the time this story made it into Days, it looked pretty much like it does now. It’s definitely one of my personal favorites.

Paper Beats World

Rough draft, mostly playing with this idea.


It was warm out finally, and thank God for that, Marcey thought.  At 72, the cold was no fun.  But finally the winter chill had gone, the wet grass was dried by the late May sun, and she could take her work to the park.  So she packed up her knitting supplies, and took herself down to the park.

She bought herself a cup of coffee, and settled into her work.  She was making a little red sweater for a client who wanted something more personal for her nephew’s second birthday.  It made Marcey’s daughter laugh whenever they talked about her little ‘side hustle,’ as  they called it.  It wasn’t like she needed the money.  She wasn’t hurting like some her age.  She just liked to keep busy.

As she made her way to the chest of the sweater, a young couple…

View original post 657 more words

Samantha Says Hi

It took Frank no more than a few bites of his meal to realize why he was always getting coupons for this particular Chinese place. The food was terrible. The noodles were dry, the sauce had a strange, sweet cherry like taste, and the chicken had obviously been sitting under a heat lamp for the better part of the day.

This was the absolute last thing he needed at the end of a long day, he thought. Irritated, he gestured for the waitress. She, at least seemed to know what she was doing. “What can I do for you?” she asked.

“Yeah, Sweety, this food is terrible,” Frank said, gesturing towards his plate. “Can you get your manager for me?”

“Oh, of course,” the girl said, looking worried. She scurried off towards the back room. Frank helped himself to a long look at her backside as she went. Strange to see a white girl working at one of these places, but at least he hadn’t had to listen to an incomprehensible accent throughout the terrible meal.

While he waited for the manager, he causally opened his fortune cookie, thinking that the incompetent cook couldn’t have possibly messed that up. As it turned out, it was stale. That, at least, was probably not the cook’s fault.

He pulled out the fortune, frustrated. It read, “Samantha says Hello.”

Quickly, he crumpled the fortune in his hand, looking around quickly. Samantha was a name he hadn’t heard in a very long while.

The manager was coming towards the table, with the waitress just behind him. “Sir, I understand that you were not satisfied by your meal?” he asked.

“Never mind,” Frank said, getting to his feet quickly. “Can I have the check now, please?”

“No, please, we’ll take care of it,” the manager said, shaking his head. “Have a nice evening.”

Frank turned away, and left the restaurant without a word.

Outside, there was a terrible surprise waiting for him. His car, which he’d parked just outside of the restaurant with four perfectly fine tires, now had three slashed ones. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered, fishing in his pocket for his phone. It was missing.

“Everything alright, sir?” someone behind him asked. He turned to see the waitress from the restaurant. “Oh, look at your car! Do you need a ride?”

Frank started to refuse, but then he gave the girl a look out of the corner of his eye. She was cute. “Sure, okay,” he said, “Won’t your boss be mad?”

“No, it’ll be okay,” she said, “He’s my dad. It’s a family business. Come on, I’m parked out back.”

He followed her behind the restaurant, glancing around to see if anyone was around to see them together.

“So, you work with your dad?” he asked.

“Yeah, my sister and I both have, ever since we were kids,” she said, fumbling in her pocket for keys. “We grew up around here.”

They got into the car, and she started it up. As they pulled away, she had a smile on her face. “I was actually really happy to see you in today. I have a confession, I’ve actually been sending you coupons for awhile now.”

Frank jumped when she locked the doors. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Why were you sending me coupons?” Frank asked.

“Well, see I recognized you,” she said, still grinning. “See, the cops couldn’t find anything on you, but I knew better. I’d seen you hanging around the bus stop for days before Sammy vanished, I knew it was you right away.”

Frank looked up quickly. She looking at the road, that grin on her face. “You know, she died slow too, after you left her on that bench.”

She moved quicker than he would have imagined. He hadn’t even seen the knife, stuck into the cushion under the girl. But before he could move she’d removed it from the seat, and planted it into his stomach. “You will too, I bet. Sorry you didn’t like the food, though.”

After Three Years of Writing Woven

I’m writing this on July 20th. So while you’re reading it, somewhere down the line, this day has passed. But today, July 20th, is a very important day to me.

As of today, I’ve been working on my book series, Woven, for three entire years.

Three years, three books (including the one that I’m working on now) 54 query letters. Not a day has passed that I haven’t at least thought about Woven. Three years of slow progress, inch by inch, to get to where I am. By the way, I’ve only been at my current day job for two and a half years, and I’ve been married for a year and a half. Just saying.

I want to talk to you for a minute, though, about those 54 queries. It took me something to actually share that number, because that means 54 people have politely declined my book. That’s okay, I’ll keep sending it to new places, trying new agents and new publishers. Eventually, I know, I’ll find someone who wants to represent Woven.

But, hey, maybe I won’t.

I think I’ve told you before, the story of how I prayed and prayed over Woven, over especially Devon, who was the first character I came up with. Of how I sat in Diamond Park here in Butler, PA, (the same park that I would later be married in) and prayed on paper.

I prayed that I wouldn’t lose this one, that I would be able to see this story through until the end. Now, at the time I’ll admit I didn’t think the end would be after thirteen books, but still. I prayed that I would finish them. I prayed that I wouldn’t lose this story.

I didn’t pray that it would get published.

There’s a chance that I’ll never be able to sell Woven. There’s a chance that someday I will get tired of waiting and publish it myself, or simply go on to write something else and keep trying to sell Woven on the side. I’ll never stop writing, I’ll never give up. But there is a chance that Woven will not be traditionally published. And I’m okay with that, because Woven was there for me when I needed it to be.

When I started writing Woven, I was in a really bad place. I hated my job, and I worked way too many hours. So, I started writing to give myself some sort of outlet, something to take personal pride in.

Then, my daughter was kidnapped from school by her birth father. Then I was fired from my job the day after Black Friday. Then my husband ended up in the hospital the day after Christmas with his heart. Well, they say bad things always come in threes.

Here’s the thing. When you’re dealing with custody law, and looking for a new job in the middle of the Christmas season and dealing with a serious medical issue, or even all three at freaking once, there’s a lot of down time. There’s a limit to how much you can do emotionally, and realistically as well. When all this was going on, I had this constant need to do something, and lots of time when there just wasn’t anything to do. Especially during the time I wasn’t working. I was terrified of sinking into a depression that would have rendered me incapable of doing what I needed to do to fix these situations.

Working on Broken Patterns saved me then. It gave me an escape, and something to pour my panic minded energy into when I had nothing else to do. I finished that rough draft in six weeks, a feat I don’t think I’ll ever be able to duplicate.

Don’t worry, all is fine now. My daughter came home nine months later. I got a way better job where I make more money and work less hours. Also, the whole being treated like a valued human being thing is a fun perk. The husband is loads better and now part cyborg. (He had a defibrillator put in.) And I had a novel.

I’ll keep writing, no matter what happens. And on this day, every year, I’ll mark how far I’ve come and what writing has given me. Even if I’m never published, this has been more than enough of a blessing.

From Girl to Woman

Most of you know that I recently turned 30. It’s a milestone birthday, one that I considered pretty significant. I feel like I’ve now fully transitioned from a girl to a woman.

Okay, I know how monumentally stupid that has to sound to a lot of you who’ve read PBW for a while. I have two, not one but two, children who are turning twelve this year. How could I have possibly still considered myself a kid when I had kids myself?

Because I was. Here’s a secret that most people don’t know. Having a baby doesn’t mean you grow up right away. Being responsible doesn’t make you a grownup either. Lots of teenagers have serious responsibilities like jobs, caring for sick relatives, looking after younger siblings so that their parents can work.

This is different for everybody. It’s a very personal thing, growing up, and no one can really tell you at what point you are now an adult. Here, though, is what this transition looked like for me.

I’ve started actually caring about what I put in my body for healthy reasons.

I don’t care about being skinny, I’m just not built that way. I don’t care about being sexy, I already am. But I know that diabetes runs in my family, and I don’t want to lose a foot. So I’m careful about my diet. I’m eating less sugar, and more fresh food. More lean meats. And I avoid fast food with very few exceptions. Again, not because I care to look a certain way, but because I want to keep my health for as long as I can.

I’ve started caring more about my health in general.

Just overall, I’m becoming a healthier person. I’m taking vitamins, going to the doctors on time, exercising, meditating, getting enough sleep. You know, all the things we make our kids do when they’re little, and forget to do for ourselves. I’ve reached that age where I’m realizing that my day’s just a whole lot better if I’ve done these things.

I’ve learned what to invest my money in, and what not to.

Here’s a good rule of thumb. The longer you intend to keep something, the more money you should invest in it. If you’re one who likes makeup, consider the difference between foundation and lipstick. When you find a foundation that works for you, you can probably be comfortable using the same one, maybe a few different shades depending on the season. Lipstick, though, I change like the weather. So while I’ll put up to $30 on a good foundation, I’ll not spend more than $8 on a lipstick.

I’ve learned what to invest my time in, and what not to.

I spend a lot of time talking about time management, ironically, so I’m not going to bore you here. I’ll just say that I don’t watch as much tv as I used to. I don’t waste as much time as I used to. I don’t spend time with people I don’t want to anymore. I think this stems from the fact that every year, every single year, seems to be going faster. I swear it was just January last week. I can’t believe my kids are turning twelve, I’m convinced they’re still seven. It’s not so much that I pine for the time that’s passed, just that I don’t think that it feels real. I’m realizing, more and more, that I am going to get old. I’m not there yet, not by a long shot, but it’s coming.

This realization makes you value your time more.

I’m pickier about my entertainment.

This goes hand in hand with being more careful about my time. My down time is limited, so I am far more intentional about what I spend it doing. I just did a whole post about why I’ll abandon a book, and I have the same criteria for quitting on a movie, even halfway through. I just don’t want to waste my time on comedians, writers or musicians that I don’t like. There are too many out there I do like.

I’m quicker to say what I think, and slower to care about it.

And I can’t tell you what a relief it’s been, not hiding my honest opinion. My emotional health has skyrocketed, and my stress is way down. And it’s so simple! Be honest about how you feel, tactfully. That’s all there is to it. “Look, you’re a great person, but this thing you did pissed me right the hell off.” That’s all there is to it.

The important thing here, though, is accepting the same when people do it to you. That is to say, if you finally get the nerve to tell you aunt that you don’t like her turkey recipe, and she tells you that she doesn’t like your pecan pie, you don’t get to be mad.

You see how freeing this can be, though. You don’t have to put up with things you don’t like anymore. Sometimes those things are going to be people, and maybe that’s okay, too. But when I started being honest about my feelings on politics, social issues, food, music, clothing and every other damn thing in my life, an amazing thing happened. The people in my life respected that. The ones that didn’t aren’t there anymore, and I don’t miss them.

I’m thinking more about the future.

I feel like when we’re kids, we’re very in the moment. I have always planned, but mostly for the week, month or year I was in right then. I’m not that way anymore. I can appreciate the moment, don’t get me wrong. I’m having a good day today, and I’m living that day. But I’m also thinking about things like what we’re going to do when we retire. I’m thinking seriously about our house, whether we want to rent to own it, or if we want to move again. If we move again, should it be before or after the kids move out? What am I going to do when they move out? That day seems a lot closer on this side of ten. I have a lot of changes to plan for in my thirties, and I want to deal with these changes intentionally. I want to be playing offense, not defense. (Sorry, preseason starts next month and I’m already getting pumped. #Steelernation!)

So, what do you think? Do you consider yourself a kid still, or do you feel all grown up? Why? Let us know in the comments section.

Writing 101, Day 5

An older version of Letter on The Bar, for Throwback Thursday.

Paper Beats World

Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Alright, just tossed this together, not sure if the ending is strong enough.  What do you think?

I always hated working nights at the diner. I’d get the occasional family, some quiet people, but not many. No, most of what I got on those long nights were college students from the campus. Just a few years younger than me, a constant reminder of what I could have done if things had been better.

They didn’t tip well, didn’t eat much. They came in as loud, needy groups, or by themselves laden with books and papers. I poured their coffee, cleaned up booths covered in ketchup and eraser smudges after they left, and hated…

View original post 431 more words


The night was dark, rain pouring onto the Notre Dame de Paris with such force that Father Quentin was sure it would cause damage. He went so far as to go outside, onto the steps, to look at the gargoyles on the front wall.

“What are you doing out here, Father?” Deacon John asked, coming out onto the steps.

“I’m worried that this rain harming the building.”

“No,” John said with a laugh, “The Notre Dame has stood for a long time. It won’t come down because of rain. You might get sick, though. Come inside?”

“Alright,” Father Quentin said, giving one more look towards the heights of the building. The hour was late, and so he closed the doors behind him, he locked them.

The father’s habit was to remain in his office just off of the sanctuary after securing the doors. It was one of the few times he could look forward to quiet. Tonight, though, it seemed that this was not going to happen. The rain was making so much noise, it was nearly impossible for him to hear anything over it at all.

That’s why it was surprising when he heard someone hammering on the front doors.

The father hurried to the doors. He unbolted and opened them to find a young boy looking up at him. He looked uncommonly small for his age, his coat patched and worn.

“What are you doing out by yourself?” Father Quentin asked.

“Please, Father, a man is following me,” the boy said. He pointed out into the rain.

Father Quentin could barely make out the man, standing in the downpour in a black raincoat. There was something strange about him, almost as though there was a darkened film through which they were seeing him.

“Hey, that’s my son!” the man called, pointing towards the boy. “Get back here!”

“That is not my papa,” the boy said, his eyes wide as the rain fell over his face.

Father Quentin set a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Sir, you seem to be frightening this boy.”

“That’s none of your damned business,” the man said.

“I am going to make it my business,” Father Quentin said, setting his hands the boy’s shoulders.

The man pulled a gun from his belt, and pointed it at the Father. “Let him go, now.”

“No,” Father Quentin said, pushing the boy behind him, “Get inside, son.”

The boy ran, screaming for someone, anyone to help.

Suddenly, something came out of the darkened sky, crashing into the man. Father Quentin heard a growling sound, and the scraping of stone on stone. The man with the gun was screaming underneath a huge, shadowy beast. The father ran inside, and shut the door behind him. He hurried to his office to call the authorities.

When the police arrived, Father Quentin went out to meet him. The man’s body was on the ground, underneath a stone gargoyle. “What a tragedy,” Father Quentin said. “This is such an old building.”

If you liked this, don’t forget to check out my short story collection, Days and Other Stories, available right here.

Update after the shooting in Baton Rouge: I wrote this a week before it was to be published, just like I always do. I had to do a quick update after what happened in Baton Rouge on Sunday. Are we ready to do something about this now, or is it going to take a few more senseless deaths?

In case you don’t know, there was a shooting in Dallas Texas on Friday, July 8. One man killed five police officers, and wounded several others. It was a terrible tragedy. The shooter claimed that he did this terrible thing, because of two events that took place earlier that week. Events in which African American men were shot and killed by police officers. In one instance, a man was shot in front of his wife and son.

I waited this long to write about this for two reasons. The first reason is that this is a big issue, way bigger than the stuff I usually write about, and I wanted to do it right. The second reason is that I figure there are people around this time that are forgetting about this shooting.

And we can’t have that.

Just after the shooting, everyone wanted to talk about it. Everyone was angry about it, and we should be. We wanted to talk about mental health. We want to talk about ‘anti police sentiments in our culture’. We want to talk about how African Americans are treated by police, and we sure as hell need to be talking about that.

There was another shooting, just a few weeks ago, in Orlando. A man walked into a nightclub called Pulse and killed a whole lot of people. Here’s the blog post I wrote about it. Everybody wanted to talk after that one, too, including me. We wanted to talk about the dark parts of our society that hate those who are different from them. Fools, liars, opportunists and hate mongers had a lot to say about Muslim Americans, as though Christians never kill people. Again, in short, everyone had a lot to say.

I know that in my Orlando piece I gave you some statistics about shootings in America in 2016. The updated number, as of July 11th, is 232. But no one wants to talk about that.

I thought I had seen the worst of it during the fallout from the Columbine shootings. I thought that nothing would ever be as scary as September 11th. I never thought that these kinds of horrors would become commonplace. American Privilege, I thought that these sorts of things happened in other countries, with unsteady governments and untrustworthy peacekeepers.

I was wrong. School shootings, domestic terrorism and hate crimes have all become commonplace. It keeps happening, and happening, and we can’t seem to cause it. And I think I know why.

Here’s a list of things that American’s want to talk about after a mass shooting.

  • The availability of mental health resources.
  • School security guards.
  • Bullying.
  • Bad parenting.
  • Racism.
  • ‘Bad’ Music.
  • The Catcher in the Rye, and other dangerous books.
  • Drugs.
  • Underage drinking.
  • Violent tv.
  • Violent video games.
  • Single parents.

Here’s a list of things we don’t want to talk about after a mass shooting.

  • Gun control

Now, I told you all that to tell you this. There’s this thing called the TPP, it stands for Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is already a thing in a lot of countries, like Canada for instance. Some, like the President, would like it to come here. I can tell you why this is a bad idea, but I think it’s better to let Elizabeth Warren tell you, since she’s so much better at it.

Click here to watch her video to Credo members about the TPP

Basically, our laws would be subject to a board that has no oversight, at all. And that includes gun laws.

So often, I feel like everything’s going to hell, and there’s nothing I can do. But here’s something small you can do. Here’s a link to a list of all current state representatives, alphabetically by state, and their contact information. Please call, write, email and otherwise let them know that you’re not going to stand for TPP, and that you’re done talking about everything else but what we should be talking about.

Some Thoughts On Episode VII, Mostly Rhea

It’s been months since I’ve seen Star Wars, Episode VII, and I’m still not done being amazed by how brilliant it was. The special effects were superb, the character development made sense. (Even if some of it made me cry like a fool in the theater.) There were several moments that just made me nerd out in the worst way, like when Han Solo walked onto the Millennium Falcon for the first time in years, and said, “Chewie, we’re home.” Ugh, I’m tearing up right now.

As much as I love science fiction, fantasy, comic books and just about all of geekdome, it doesn’t always love me back. Sometimes it’s really hard to be a geek and a feminist. You know what I’m talking about. The half-naked female leads. The shitty female characters tossed in to ‘placate’ feminists like me that are nothing more than one dimensional eye candy there to make boys hoot. The very short list of movies that actually pass the bechdel test. It all makes loving the things I love hard.

Then Episode VII happened, and I couldn’t be happier with Rhea.

Rhea isn’t what anyone would call girly. She’s tough, breaking every single stereotype that could possibly exist. She wasn’t overly emotional, but also wasn’t a stoic robot like Alice from Resident Evil. (One of the best examples of failures, in my opinion.) I think, for some reason, Hollywood thinks that women who aren’t emotionally driven cry machines are psychopaths.

It was also nice to see a female character that A. Didn’t have sex, B. Didn’t have a love interest. C. Didn’t have to fight off a love interest to prove how ‘uninterested’ she was.

Also, it was nice to see that her role model was not Lea, but Han. Not that there’s anything, at all, wrong with Lea as a role model. Carrie Fisher is actually one of my real life role models, especially in seeing how she’s dealt with aging. But a girl doesn’t need girl role models all the time. It was nice to see that, for a change.

Finally, not a single man around Rhea talked down to her. No one thought she couldn’t do something because she was a girl. She wasn’t fighting against that stigma. And that is something that I, as a writer, fall into myself that I’ve got to stop doing. It doesn’t always have to be a struggle because we’re girls! Sometimes people will, surprisingly enough, doubt a female character because they’re young, or inexperienced, or poor, or from a country that isn’t usually good at this one thing. In short, a female character might just have to prove herself against all of the things that a male character might. Shocking.

Don’t Do This When Submitting Your Writing

Happy Throwback Thursday!

Paper Beats World

If you’ve been a writer for more than an hour, you know that there are a whole freaking lot of reasons why an agent or editor will reject your work. There are a lot more reasons for them to reject you than accept you. To start with, anything in their huge pile that’s better than your work.

Maybe it’s too long, too short, not in a style that’s consistent with the rest of their magazine. They’ve already been pitched three other books about carnivorous office supplies this week, and yours isn’t as creative as the first three. There’s just no end to that list.

That’s all really subjective stuff, though. If you’re rejected because your work isn’t the right fit, or because there were others that were better, that’s not a negative reflection on you. It’s just part of the game we play as writers. They say getting published is…

View original post 1,124 more words

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑