Thursday, May 26, 2016

Draft vol1.2

Look back last week for part 1. This is a series of blog posts for my fiction writing. This is a story I wrote a couple of years ago and is accompanied by some of my personal photographs. 

The children were universally vocal in expressing their displeasure when their mother announced that they needed to stop at some type of grocery store before heading to the beach. “Now, won’t it be nice to come back to our room and eat our lunch and some nice cold watermelon? Nobody is going to feel like going to the grocery store after spending all morning in the sun and water.” at the word watermelon the children’s protests began to falter except for Sophie who, being her typical stubborn self, whined “But we want to go to the beach now”  Lara gathered her purse and keys and bent down to look Sophie in the eye “Well, you have got two choices, Sophie. We can go to the store, buy a few groceries and then go enjoy the beach or you can continue to complain and we will go to the store and then come back to our room for naps.”
“I want to go to the beach” Sophie whined
“I do to” replied Lara kindly “what do we need to do before we can go to the beach?”
“Go to the store” Sophie sulked
“And what kind of attitude are you going to have from here on out?”
“A good one.” Sophie looked up at her mother from under those long dark eyelashes, a pout still tugging at the corners of her mouth. Lara reached down and kissed the top of her nose. “Alright Ladybug, let me see that good attitude on your face.” the corners of her mouth began to twitch and a soon a smile replaced her pout. 

“All right now” said Lara as she stepped into the sunshine, holding her children’s hands, and with a light swing in her step, that always came in the sunshine and something to look forward to. “Let’s see where we need to go.” and she pointed her small herd in the direction of the front office. 

A little bell tinkled as the door opened. Behind the counter a kindly, middle aged woman looked up from her book. She was very much like her hotel. Economical and yet with an air of elegance, kindness and friendliness. Her short thick hair was steel gray, her eyes, blue, face tan and lined, but in all of the right places. She adjusted her glasses and said with a smile “Well, hullo there! I’m Mrs Gerald, my night desk clerk told me about you when I came in this morning.  That was quite a pour-down now, wasn’t it? I hope you got a good night’s sleep. Lord knows you must've needed it driving all that way. And how were your rooms? Is there anything I can get you?” 
“Our rooms are perfect," replied Lara "really, you have a wonderful place here.” 
Mrs G smiled warmly and looked over her glasses at the children “And now what are all of your names and ages?” 
“I’m Clara and I’m 8 and I just finished second grade. My sister’s name is Sophie, she is seven.” 
“I’m almost five!” said Connor enthusiastically.
“And your name?” asks Mrs G.
“I’m Connor James McMullen. My Daddy died.”
“You have my deepest, deepest sympathies for your loss.”
Mrs. G looked up at Lara “You have such a beautiful family Mrs. McMullen.”
“Thank you so much” said Lara with a proud smile, “and please, call me Lara” 
“All right then Lara, so you’ve come from Georgia have you?” 
“Yes, just south of Atlanta.” 
“How nice, are you from there?”
“Yes, for the most part.”
“So, are you passing through? Staying for a few days? How long do you think you’ll be with us?”
“I think, for now, we’ll just take it day by day. We don’t have any definite plans, at least, not the moment.”
“Well then, I hope you enjoy your visit very much, and stay just as long as you’d like.”
Lara got directions to the nearest grocery store and headed for the door.
“Now you make yourselves at home and if there is anything, anything at all, that you need, you let me know.” 
Mrs G. looked very directly at Lara with a soft, kind look in her eyes 
“anything at all I can do to help. Now don’t be shy.”
Lara nodded with a smile and darted out of the office after her children

Lara and her little brood wandered up and down the isles of the little grocery store, buying only enough for about a day. Some pre-cut watermelon, raisin bagels, milk and juice boxes, stuff for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Lara's kids were in a hurry to put their feet into water and, if she was honest with herself, so was she. They deposited their groceries in their room and made a bee line for the beach. 

Before long Lara was walking along the beach with her three little ones, who stopped to inspect anything and everything interesting along the way. They walked until they found a good spot,  dumped their stuff into the soft warm sand and ran for the water. The children ran into and away from the waves, letting the water wash around their ankles. Lara just stood there. Sun on her back, ocean breeze on her face, waves rolling over and around her feet, and she cried. Part physical exhaustion and pent up nerves from the last twenty-four hours of travel and part gut-wrenching grief from the disaster that had been the last twenty months. She cried from soul weariness and tired-of-life-ness. The weight of the world on her shoulders. But then, here came Sophie bounding towards her with her newest most beautifulest shell. And there was motherly Clara, helping little Connor wash sand off his shell.

Lara smiled, even as she wiped away a tear. Here it was. Sadness and joy all bundled up together, occupying the same space, happiness and grief stacked tip to toe in this funny thing called life. And just as we are dipping our toes in despair (or barely coming up for air) there are those perfect moments that turn the world right side up again, if only for a moment. A second that makes getting up in the morning make sense again. So Lara wiped away another tear on the back of her hand and exclaimed “Well, look at that!” with genuine joy, a proud smile and a kiss for the top of Sophie’s head “It’s beautiful - just like you.” 

Lara, Clara, Sophie and Connor declared their love for the beach over and over and said that they never ever, ever wanted to leave. But eventually their stomaches disagreed and they packed up, heading back to their room. They showered and changed. Lara put their wet things in the washing machine, grateful from the bottom of her heart that this suite was so well equipped. The kids enjoyed their watermelon and sandwiches. Lara enjoyed the quiet and solitude, this moment. Their little family - not at her mother’s kitchen table, no one hovering in the background. Weary and broken-down as she was, a shipwreck of a woman, but a mother, their mother, here, now. With the ocean outside, a breeze blowing through the open patio doors, and her children, three perfect miracles. Moments later she might be screaming, they might be fighting and acting like hooligans, but now, this moment, it felt perfect and finally Lara felt a little like she was at the beginning of being okay again. Maybe.

Half an hour later Lara found herself in the middle of a heap of her children, watching TV. Clara curled up under her blanket on one side, Sophie on the other, Connor asleep in her lap. Lara closed here eyes and let herself fall asleep. Content. 

The next few days were pretty much the same. Breakfast, beach, lunch, naps. After naps they sometimes enjoyed the pool at the hotel, sometimes went off exploring, sometimes in the car, usually on foot. Then they walked to the grocery store, bought something for dinner if they hadn’t stopped anywhere else, paid for another night at the hotel, played on the beach for an hour or so as the sun set. Lara would fold laundry while her kids watched something on TV before bed. After the kids were in bed Lara texted her mom and sister and checked her email. Before she had left for Florida she had submitted an entire month’s worth of content to the various blogs, websites and magazines she contributed to so there wasn’t much work to do, just a few emails mostly. She kept in close contact with her editor and best friend Marleigh and there was usually something from her to reply to. Lara began and ended her days in the same way. On the patio, eyes closed listening to the ocean, the crash of the waves her lullaby.

Lara sat on the balcony sipping her coffee. This morning was particularly clear and bright, the ocean blue, the sky clear like the whole world had suddenly decided that it was time to start over. Even the birds seemed a little less raucous this morning and called to each other in a symphony of oceanic glory. Lara had her own reasons for feeling a sense of renewal. Her monthly check from her late husband's social security  had automatically deposited into her bank account and her financial month had started over today and she felt the freedom to do whatever she liked and she felt giddy with the idea of planning out the next month. 

At the end of the first week of her stay at the beach Lara had inquired at the office about a weekly rate and paid for another week, and then another, and then another until one morning she realized that they had stayed nearly an entire month in this little hotel and this tiny bit of beautiful beach. They had barely made it past the barrier islands, and Lara thought maybe they should venture farther. 

At breakfast that morning Lara spread marmalade on an english muffin and asked the kids what they thought of her plan “I was thinking it might be fun to explore some other beaches? Maybe see what the beaches on the gulf of Mexico are like. I’ve heard that the sand there is white. Or maybe we could drive down to the keys? What do you think? Does that sound exciting?” Sophie was the first to pipe up “Can we go to the pool today? My new friend Emmanuel, he said that he’d be at the pool today, in the morning. He’s leaving tomorrow so I really want to play with him today.” “Sure Sophie, that would be just fine.” replied Lara, swinging between amused and frustrated. Clara, in her typically cautious, noncommittal manner offered “Visiting another beach could be fun.” Connor quickly added “But after we visit a new beach we’ll come back here, right?” he was carefully examining his bowl of cereal, scooping out every last bit of banana that he could discover. “I think we could do that” said Lara smiling and something inside her clicked, like a puzzle piece finally fitting into place. They were staying.

A few hours later Lara was at the pool, watching her children play with their friends old and new. Well, really they were all new friends. Some were just newer than others. Sophie had found her friend Emmanuel, Clara was with a girl her age who had arrived yesterday, Connor was playing with his newest “best friend” whom he had met a matter of minutes ago and who’s name he did not even know. Mrs G. came around to sit with Lara for a few minutes. They chatted about the kids for a minute or two. 

In all honesty Lara had half-expected Mrs. G to come knocking on the door any day to announce that she had reservations for this room and that Lara would need to pack up and leave. Mrs. G, equally, had expected Lara to check out any day. She had never come across anyone quite like Lara and her little brood. Usually people had plans. Usually people paid for the number of days they were going to stay and then left. Rarely had she ever seen a vacationer fall in love with this little piece of beach and this ramshackle old town. 

It had once been a pretty piece along the A1A, a bustling strip of mega-motels, but that was nearly a decade ago and with the nearby cities paying a small fortune in advertisement, and being closer to the interstate, this little town had felt the full effects of the recession and little of the recovery. Most of the nearby hotels had converted into low-rent condominiums, filled with commuters working in the neighboring attraction-filled cities. Mrs. G had a handful of regulars, a steady stream of guests during prime months - enough to keep her doors open, but not much more. Over the last few weeks Mrs. G had developed a soft spot for Lara and her sweet little family, and it grew day by day. She was just heading into her busy season, such as it was, but had already made up her mind that she’d bend over backwards to make sure that this sweet family could stay every day that they wanted to... Not that it had been a struggle, even in the thick of her busy season there were usually plenty of vacancies.

“I’ve been thinking,” began Lara “about possibly exploring some more of your beautiful state.” here it comes thought Mrs. G already feeling disappointment that they’d be leaving, “But” continued Lara "when I asked my kids what they thought about that idea, they were mostly just concerned that we be able to come back here.” A cloud of confusion crossed Mrs. G’s face “So I was thinking, it if was possible, I’d like to pay for an entire month, up front. to keep our room. Don’t worry, we won’t leave it vacant more than a day or two at a time. I was just thinking maybe seeing the Gulf, or oh, I don’t know. But we all love it here, so much. It’s been so good for all of us...” Lara’s voice trailed off a bit, but she snapped back into reality “of course, if it’s too much trouble or the room is already reserved or something…” Mrs. G interrupted her, put her hand on Lara’s knee and said “No worries, my dear. No worries. We are more than happy to see you stay here just as long as you like.” Lara smiled and let out a happy sigh. “Let me ask you just this one thing?” asked Mrs. G in a very low, motherly tone, “Of you don't mind my asking - what does your family think?” 
“About this?”
Mrs. G nodded
“I don’t think they understand, but I guess they are coming around. My mom didn’t like the idea of me going. I moved back in with my parents for about year after my husband’s accident, and it was wonderful, especially at first, but you know, here, just the four of us, it feels right. For now anyway.” 
Mrs. G patted Lara’s knee again and stood up. Stood and turned to walk away, but turned again. “I do really love having you here.” and she walked away. 

Lara expected a show-down of epic proportions with her mother over her decision to stay another month in Palm Coast. She did not expect her mother’s response. 
After a long pause her mother simply said “All right then.” Another long pause “You’re?” 
“We’re fine mom. We’re really fine. It is really really nice here. It’s good for the kids to get all of this sunshine and fresh air. And well,” Lara let out a little sigh “it’s been really good for me too.” 
“I’m glad to hear that, Lara.” 
The next day she sent an email to Lara asking to arrange to come visit them in a week or two, and for an address to forward the few bits of mail she’d received. So Lara spent the day setting up a Post Office Box and getting a library card and she felt like an official temporary resident. 

I'll post the next part of this story next Thursday night. If you want my story to land right in your inbox please subscribe to posts in the sidebar! (if you're viewing on mobile you may need to scroll to the bottom of the page and tap "view web version"). Thanks for reading!

Draft vol 1.3

I feel like this post needs an introduction, in which I confess how aware I am that this part of the story is deeply flawed and my ability as a fiction writer is sorely lacking. I also want to re-invite you to leave any suggestions you might have for improvement. I will write more by way of explanation at the end of this post as well  but for now, here we go...

Connor had napped longer than usual that afternoon and so was up later than his sisters. Lara sat with him at the green formica table in the kitchenette, munching on store-bought brownie bites. Connor was chattering away, Lara was trying to listen but her thoughts kept wandering away. She pulled another brownie bite from the bag and thought how nice it would be to bake a batch of brownies from scratch, like she was used to doing on a late night. She had been enjoying store-bought treats and the occasional chocolate microwave bowl but as Lara sat there she realized that she really truly missed baking. At that same moment she bumped against the realization that this kitchen was not equipped to bake, because really, how many people want to bake brownies while they are on vacation? A tube of cookie dough maybe, not much more. 

Since making her decision to stay longer in Palm Coast she had started to bump up against these moments of inconvenience living semi-permanantly in a place that was meant to be temporary. They were few and far between and the benefit from this simple lifestyle overwhelmingly outweighed these few, minor inconveniences, but still. Like waves crashing onto the shore of Lara’s tired mind she swelled with excitement, crashed with disappointment and then had the realization that sweet Mrs. Gerald would possibly lend her what she needed. 

The next day Lara and the children paid a visit to Mrs. G in the office. Lara explained her craving to bake a bit of something and if she might borrow a kitchen tool or two. “Tell you what, I have an even better idea." Mrs. G replied "Why don’t you come on over after dinner tomorrow night and we’ll do some baking in my kitchen, maybe if we're lucky we’ll even convince Mr. G to clean up after us." 
“If it wouldn’t be an inconvenience?” replied Lara 
“Naw, honestly it would be a real treat for me. Our little cottage gets mighty quiet most nights and it would do me and Mr. G a world of good to have some company.” 
“I really appreciate it” replied Lara and Connor began to jump around with excitement.

Details were worked out, grocery trips were made and that night found Lara and her family at the Gerald's.  The evening was full of light and laughter and no small amount of chocolate. At the end of it Lara and Mrs G sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee, watching the kids as they played with Mr. G who was excitedly showing them his extensive collection of driftwood carvings that he had gathered throughout the years. 
“Mr G was asking over dinner tonight” began Mrs. G “and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before now - but well, I have a sister, who lives just a little bit farther inland, out in the country. I go visit her every chance I get and Mr. G asked me why not take you and the kids with me next time I go, for a change of scenery and whatnot. Anyhow, I’m going this Saturday and I’ve already called my sister and she would be delighted if you’d like to come with me for a visit. She’s got a massive blueberry patch you just would not believe, I usually help her with the harvesting and thought the kids would probably enjoy it. Anyhow, you’re more than welcome to come if you’d like, you know, if you think that’s something you and the children would enjoy.” 
“We would love to.” replied Lara

So the next Saturday found them all sqeezed into Mrs. G’s ancient Carola, heading North on the A1A. After an hour or so, over highways, through agricultural establishments and rustic, if not somewhat run down, old towns they arrived at a small white house with a large front porch and a small woman sitting on the front porch sipping tea from a mason jar. 

Mrs. G & Ms. May were like two sides of one coin. Mrs. G was a talker, Ms May was a listener, both busy in their own way, both economical and rather plain but where Mrs. G was a strait line, Ms Mae was a curve. Mrs. G was well-suited to be a businesswoman, Ms Mae was too much of a homebody for that. Her home was soft and cozy and one of the most inviting places Lara had been to. Ms Mae had lunch spread out on the back porch when they arrived - an assortment of cold lunchmeat, pickles, olives, deviled eggs and a big leafy green salad. A big pitcher of pink lemonaide for the kids and sweet tea for the adults. The kids scarfed down their food and ran to explore, watch the chickens, spy on the goat, and cuddle the kittens, which left plenty of time for the three women to talk as they ate lunch before heading to the blueberry bushes. 

"So tell me about yourslef." said Ms. Mae "where are you from then?"
"I'm from Georgia." she replied "though I lived in a lot of places."   
"And where did you enjoy living the most?"
"I thinked I liked something about nearly every place I lived. Though I think my favorite was Augusta. When we were stationed there we were nearer my family than ever, we bought our first house there, and Ian, my husband was talking about starting his own  business. He was thinking wedding and event planning, if you can believe it. He as so excited about it. We'd talk about it almost every day."
"That sounds very nice. What a good memory to have of him." 
"Yes, it's just that it made it very hard. So many dreams..."
"I know, dear. I know."

After awhile the children joined them, eager to help. They picked blueberries by the bucketful. Lara was surprised by what enthusiastic little workers they were, and Ms Mae was kind and patient in her instructions and lavish in her praise for their excellent work. Lara ambled along more slowly, enjoying the sunshine, and watching her children, soaking in the happiness on their faces. 
Mrs G walked beside her “it’s so good for children to be out in nature.” she said 
“Yes,” Lara agreed “and I think they really enjoy being useful,” 
“Of course, they do. Everyone does. Work is what makes rest all the more sweeter.” 

Blueberries were picked and packed, children washed, dinner served. The women were chatting at the table over an after-dinner cup of coffee, the kids finishing up bowls of rainbow sherbet when the screen on the back door swung open and clanged shut. In ambled a tall, muscular man, nearly thirty, dressed in dirty work clothes. He waved in their direction as he stepped to the sink to wash his hands “Hey Ma!” he called from the kitchen, his voice soft and deep. “There’s a plate for you on the counter” his mother called back. “Mmmm, smells good!" he called out in the general direction of the women as he poured a tall glass of tea “Did you bring the peaches? Wow, these look amazing” he stopped dead in his tracks as he rounded the corner of the kitchen into the dining room. Recovering quickly he placed his plate, his tea and a large peach down on the table.  “You remember I told you Mrs. McMullen and her children were coming up today?” said Ms Mae “Yeah, right of course.” he replied extending a hand to Lara “I’m Matthew, nice to meet you.” Lara shook his hand “Lara.” 

The night wore on and the children got sleepy. “I’ve already made up a cot in the guest room, if you’d like to stay the night.” offered Ms Mae and Lara gladly accepted. She helped the kids wash and get into bed. She sat with them for a few minutes, rubbing Connor’s back until he fell asleep. Lara tiptoed out of their room and down the hall. 

At the dining room Matt sat talking to his mother and aunt. He had heard his aunt talk plenty about the family who had taken up residence at her hotel, and he had heard his mother inform him that the widow and her three young children would be staying with them, most likely for the night, still somehow Matt had failed to make the mental connection. The woman who had been sitting across from him at the dining room table could not have been more than thirty, and while her eyes were sad and tired her smile was warm and genuine and Matt noticed her gently prod each child towards bed, saw her laugh, smile, scold. He thought she must be a good mom. 

Ater a bit Lara returned to the table, a fresh glass of tea in hand. Ms Mae busied herself in the kitchen and Mrs G said good night and headed to bed with a jar of tea and a thick book. “So where are you from?” asked Matt in an attempt at small talk, something he, as a general rule, did not like, but seemed like the appropriate thing at the moment, Lara’s eyes stayed on her tea “Georgia” she replied. If only she weren’t so freakishly shy. “I moved around a lot after I married my husband, but Georgia has always been home.” 
“What part of Georgia?” 
“My parents live just south of the Atlanta airport.”
“Hey, I’ve got a friend who moved out that way. Someplace called PeachTree City, I think, is that nearby?”
“Yes, that’s fairly near where my parents live.”
Lara attempted to make eye contact. Matt seemed like such a nice, friendly man. This shouldn’t be so hard. Her eyes dropped back to her hands. 
“So your kids are in school there?” asked Matt
"Yes, my Connor went to pre-school three days a week and my girls went to school, right down the street.”
 “and they liked it?”
“Yes, very much.” The corners of Lara’s lips turned up slightly.
 "I’m really fortunate." Lara continued "My family really came through for me. They’ve been there for me when I’ve been a mess.”
Ms Mae sat down with them with her mason jar of water 
“Honey, we are all a mess, some of us just work harder at hiding it, that's all.”
Lara looked up at Ms. Mae with an appreciative smile.
Matt stared at his hands, for awhile. Trying to decide if he should say anything. His eyebrows turned down but his mouth was soft as he looked up.
“I can’t say as I know what it’s been like for you, or I know what you’re going through, cause I can’t but I do know what it’s like to suffer a loss like that.”
His mother reached out an touched his hand. 

"Five years ago I married the kindest, gentlest woman I’d ever known. Her name was Selah, kinda like Kayla but with an S, like in the Psalms, it means “rest”, her daddy was a preacher. She played the piano at church. Selah and I were married for seven months. She got pregnant pretty much on our wedding night, with a boy. She wanted to name him after the writer of one of her favorite hymns. But then one day a storm came through, Selah was on her way home from her doctor’s appointment in St. Augustine,  but the storm got bad really bad, even for here. Kinda like the one that blew you in here, come to think of it, anyway an SUV hit her head-on and nobody walked away. The driver, my Selah, our baby boy. All gone”

His voice trailed off, his eyes raised again to Lara’s who were filled with tears for this man’s devastation. “I’m sorry, “ said Matt "it’s not like I tell my sob story to everyone who passes through town, just so you know, but you seem like you needed to hear this from someone who has lost someone near and dear to the heart,” he put his hands out on the table near hers  "you’re going to be okay. Now I’m not saying it gets a whole lot easier, the hole they left in my heart is pretty much the same as it’s ever been, but life has somehow healed around the hole and somehow it gets a little easier to live. That probably makes no sense to you at all.” 
“No, I understand what you’re saying. Thank you, for sharing your story with me.” Lara felt utterly lost for words. She hated how flat and hollow her words felt but she couldn’t find any more to express the compassion she felt for him, or how deeply she felt the bond of mutual loss. 

After a bit Matt stood up. “Well, I better be getting on home, it’s getting late.” said Matt gather his things and kissing his mama “Night ma.” “Goodnight son” said Ms Mae. “You don’t live here?” asked Lara “Naw, I’ve got my own place in town, closer to work.” “My son indulges me with his presence once or twice a week.” said Ms Mae “I get lonely here all by myself if he doesn’t come round.” “And I’m not one to say no to a home cooked meal.” added Matt with a wink. “Goodnight Lara, I’m glad we met.” said Matt as he turned for the door. “Goodnight, and you as well.” said Lara, wishing from the very tips of her toes that she didn’t always sound so stiff and formal when she was nervous. 

After the door had shut and the lights of Matt’s truck had faded Lara thanked Ms Mae for her hospitality and headed upstairs. Ms Mae had laid out towels and toiletries and a simple white cotton nightgown, Lara eagerly took them into the guest bath and started a hot shower, washing away the sweat and fine layer of grime she’d accumulated from being outdoors for most of the day. She heard the door to Ms Mae’s bedroom close and like a switch, finally turning off or a plug being pulled Lara allowed herself to cry. All the layers of strength, and self-protection from the overwhelming grief she’d been carrying with her for the past months, it all began to fall away and Lara sobbed. She cried for the years and the dreams she had lost. She cried for the days and the nights she had spent alone since then. She cried away the anger and the deep disappointment at the way things had turned out. She cried for the doubt and fear for her future that threatened to strangle her. She cried and cried till the water turned cold and she was all out of tears.

Moments later Lara was laying in bed, her children, snug and asleep nearby. A cool breeze blowing in through the open window and the moon shining in bright and clear and Lara breathed it all in. She felt as though she could see herself like a beach. Her shores were storm-tossed, the shipwreck of the past months strewn across her shores, but she also saw the waves, slowly, gently, sweetly, carrying her debris away, clearing bit by bit the sandy beach, slowly starting to clear and Lara felt an unfamiliar tug at her heart. What was it that danced along the edges of her emotions? “oh,” she suddenly realized “that’s hope.” and she smiled and fell asleep. 

Back at the hotel, Lara sat near the open window, listening to the sounds of the rain and the pound of the surf. Nearby her three were playing a card game Clara had learned from Mr. G. Lara sat back in her chair and sipped her iced tea, thinking back to those first few intense years. It had been so hard giving birth to three children in the span of four years. It had felt like she was drowning, constantly needed, constantly touched. Now, here she was. She sighed contentedly. 

Breathing in gratitude. Lara had spent the last few minutes writing an email to her editor, Marleigh, with fifty good ideas for articles. Okay, well maybe ten good ideas and forty lame ideas and of those ideas only two or three might ever be printed, but as Lara typed, her thoughts flowing freely, she felt like a part of her had come back to life. Like a piece of her brain that had been asleep for the last year had finally been able to push through the fog and wake up. Lara scanned over her email for the twentieth time, hit send and shut her laptop. She walked over to where Clara, Sophie & Connor sat in a circle and watched as they finished their game, gently stroking Connors sun-bleached blond hair. “Do you want to play with us?” asked Sophie, Lara smiled hugely “Yes!"

Could this be any more obvious, or cliché? I know, I know. I've been cringing about this part of the story all week. Here's why I included it: I liked how Matt was bare-faced and without an agenda. I like how he sees someone hurting and is willing to say "I've been there, and things are going to get better" I also liked Matt's voice in this passage. I felt like it was clear and distinct from the other voices in this story so far which is why I didn't delete it all!

Also - I wanted to include this link. I hope it works for you. It's something I've been thinking about this week.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

#FaithRaiderReads - Alan Bradley

I feel most like myself when I have a good book to read. I grew up going to the Library every week, and have been an avid reader for most of my life. However it's become more difficult to find my next book. I don't want to read anything and everything and I get frustrated when I pick up a novel from the new adult fiction table and it's just not at all something Inwant to be putting into my mind. 

So one of my goals for this blog is to have a weekly post with one book, or maybe two or three that are similar, that I enjoyed reading. I post about this on my Instagram using the hashtag #faithrphotogreads but I don't always write much of a review/description and that's what I want most from a recommendation. So here we go:

I requested this book from my library because it was recommended on Jen Hatmaker's blog - so I thought it was worth a try. It so was. I was totally engrossed. I wanted to become a super-reader or skip to the end or something because I just could not stand waiting to find out what happened!

It's about the most precocious little girl who is trying to solve the mystery of the man who she found dead in her garden. She is a character that is so vibrant and quirky. 

For a content rating I'd give it a PG. It's a strait-up murder mystery so there's that but there's not a lot of violence (just one scary scene!), lust or bad language. Because of the subject of the book I would not recommend this for older children. My oldest daughter (an advanced reader in 8th grade) read one of the books in this series but didn't enjoy it. But if you're looking for something good and clean yet clever and engaging I would give this one a try.

At some point this later year or early next I want to start sending a monthly email. I'm not 100% sure what it will be yet - maybe some kind of an online book club type thing? Definitely with book recommendations and helpful/interesting links. If you're interested sign up here. (You can unsubscribe at any time). 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Draft vol1.1

Something that I want to do on this blog is share my fiction writing. So I'm starting a new series of blog posts with a story I wrote two years ago. I hope you enjoy it - and I welcome any constructive criticism. The pictures in this post are my personal pictures from a few years back. 

It had seemed like a good idea at the time. On that beautiful, warm and sunny afternoon, the first time she suggested this trip. But like a bad joke that sounds funnier in your head or like a snappy comeback that falls flat, here she was, with her three precious children sleeping in the back seat, in a torrential rain storm - lost. 

She squinted at the road ahead, desperate for some sign, any sign, of a gas station, or food or anything, some sign of civilization. She tried to stay strong for the sake of her children. The last thing she wanted them to wake up to on the first night of their summer vacation was the sight of their mother blubbering, in the driver's seat, stranded in the middle of nowhere.

This would never have happened if he were here. They used to go wandereing off together all of the time and had never been so truly, hopelessly lost as she was right now. An analogy of her life in general. Lara sighed and said to nobody in particular "what was I thinking?" 

It had been a beautiful, perfect day, the first truly hot day late in the spring. She had been walking with her son Connor to pick up her two daughters, Clara & Sophie, from the Elementary school at the end of the street. It had become her favorite thing since moving to live with her parents, this ritual of walking, rain or shine, to and from her children's school. A rock of predictability in the ocean of upheaval that had engulfed their family after the accident. 

On that bright sunny day Connor had been chattering away as only a precocious little four year old could do, about his day at pre-school and about one of his friends who had gone to the beach for spring break, when he asked "Mama, when will we go to the beach?"  They had gone to the beach every summer for as long as he could remember, except for last summer, but that didn't count. "when are we going?" he asked again.

In that moment, in the sunshine, it seemed like a glorious thought as it popped into her head so Lara spoke it without a hint of hesitation. "We'll go on the first day of summer vacation. After your sisters get out of school for the summer. We'll pack up the car and just drive, until we find a pretty spot and then we'll stay there. What do you think of that?" Connor threw his arms around her leg and gave her a sqeeze. "You're the best mom ever." he said and skipped all the way to school. 

Connor proceeded to announce this happy news to his sisters as soon as he saw them, and to anyone else who would listen, much to the dismay of his grandmother, who went to great lengths to try to dissuade her daughter from these plans which seemed to her to be a greatly foolish, not to mention reckless endeavor. Lara, however, was a rock of determination. Once she'd made up her mind she didn't budge an inch. But now, here she was, in the middle of a torrential downpour.  Maybe her mother had been right. Maybe she was foolish, maybe she had been behaving recklessly. She felt like an idiot for thinking she could do this on her own.

The rain came down harder still, torrential, tropical. Lightening ripped across the sky, thunder boomed seconds later. A little sleeper began to stir in the back seat. "It's okay" Lara said to herself quietly. "Everything is going to turn out okay." Maybe she'd turn back for home in the morning. Surely there had to be something coming up soon. She glanced at her phone, still no signal. "Come on, come on."Lara whispered straining her eyes against the black, willing a town to appear around the next bend. Refusing to give her anxious thoughts any room in her brain. "Not long now" she whispered. 

Suddenly, like a beacon of hope, there appeared the dull glow of a small town in the distance. She stopped at the first neon sign that read "vacancy" and got through the next hour on adrenaline and pure stubbornnes. Willing one foot in front of the other.  Struggling to unload her three sleepy children, and all of their paraphanelia, out of her car and into their room. She piled them all into one big bed and collapsed beside them.

For a moment, in the darkenss, with the sound of the rain and storm outside Lara though she'd never sleep. She closed her eyes, breathed in the smell of her son's sweaty head, and drifted off. 

How it could be possible to fall asleep in such withering despair and wake up to such peace and tranquility, Lara did not know. It was like the world had had a good cry, gone to bed, and felt better in the morning. 

Lara sat up, looked around herself and took in the room. There was nothing fancy about it. Everything was economical, and yet not in the least bit shabby. She closed her eyes and just listened - to the sound of the ocean outside the window and the birds calling to each other. She extracted herself from the tangle of arms and legs of her children and quietly got up. Tip toeing down the hall throigh the tiny sitting area she noticed a little basket of coffee things on the counter of the kitchenette. Lara found the mugs in a cupboard above the coffee pot. Simple sturdy cream colored mugs that reminded her of her grandmother. 

She sipped her coffee on the balcony. Listening as the waves rolled in, feeling the gentle ocean breeze on her face. She inhaled, eyes closed, not just the smell of coffee or ocean but she inhaled a deep feeling of peace. She sat, feeling calm, tranquil, content. She’d made it. Despite her moments of doubt, they had arrived and this was going to be a wonderful vacation. They were going to enjoy the outdoors. Sunshine, fresh air, swimming, sea shells. It would be good for her kids. It would be good for her too. She needed some fresh air and sunshine and time with her children.

From the bedroom came the sound of stirring little ones, Lara took another sip of her coffee and turned to see her sleepy, blond-haired boy stumbling towards her. “I’m right here” she said quietly, soothingly. He scrambled into her lap and nuzzled his face against her neck. Together they listened to the ocean, snuggly and quiet for a few moments before the girls woke up. 

How was it that her girls made so much noise in the morning?! So full of life, ready to seize the day and whatnot. They were in their suits and terrycloth coverups, pails and shovels in hand before Lara’s coffee so much as had time to get cold. 

I'll post the next part of this story next Thursday night. If you want this to land right in your inbox please subscribe to posts in the sidebar! (if you're viewing on mobile you may need to scroll to the bottom of the page and tap "view web version").

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Hey! Thanks for stopping by. I will be posting here soon. I'll be writing about novels that I'm reading and sharing fiction samples. If you'd like to read these posts please subscribe to my blog in the widget in the sidebar (if you're on mobile go to the bottom of the page and tap "view web version" and you'll see it).  And if you have a blog please please please let me know about it. I'd love to follow you!

About me: I'm a momma to six kiddos ages (currently) fourteen to eight months. I just started homeschooling my youngest couple of kids (turns out that is so much harder than I thought it would be!) I've been scribbling stories in notebooks and tapping them out in front of computer screens since I learned how to (barely) spell. I've been writing a blog since blogging became a thing - it's my outlet, the more stressed out I am the more I blog. This is my first attempt at a blog centered around fiction reading and writing so if you have any wisdom to share please do leave a comment, send me an email or leave a message for me on social media. You can connect with me on goodreads to see what I've been reading and to share what I should read next.