Map of the World

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Photo by Lisa

There is nothing worse than being directionless, the young man thought.

He stood immobilized, turned to stone in the face of decision. Each arrow pointed accusations at him. Not smart enough. Not experienced enough. Not good enough. Never good enough.

Which way is the way for me, the young man thought.

He couldn’t decide. The name of each city written on the arrows rolled around his mind, foreign and frightening in their unknownness.

Which way, which way, he begged the universe.

In a world filled with directions, his compass was broken and he didn’t know how to fix it.

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Winter Wonderland

The snow started yesterday morning and it’s still snowing now. It’s beautiful and peaceful, covering the ground with its gentle kisses. I’m hoping to take my camera outside soon to take pictures before the pristine wonderland disappears.

So far, I’m fortunate with where I live in the Hudson Valley. There hasn’t been a devastating amount of snow, though it’s still snowing so that could change. But we filled up pots with water and we have our fireplace for warmth and candles for light. And if the power goes out, it’s fun to build blanket forts and huddle in them, reading and staying warm.

I hope that wherever you are, you are staying warm and safe (or cool and safe if you’re down south!). What is the weather like where you are?

Flying Missives–Flash Fiction Friday Series

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Photo by Lisa

“Stop moving!” the man bellowed up at the ceiling. “I can’t concentrate!”

The small, metal airplanes above his head stopped zooming around. They hovered, turning their noses to the man. He glared up at them.

“Every single damn day,” he muttered to himself. “Unbelievable.”

The airplanes began quivering with pent-up energy. They weren’t made for stillness. They were made for movement and flight until the messages they carried were delivered.

The man hunched back over his desk, returning his concentration to grading his students’ assignments. He only felt accomplished when there were more red marks from his pen than black ink from his students. More red meant a worse grade and a happier teacher.

Boom! The first airplane exploded. The man fell to the floor with his arms over his head. He crawled under his desk as the second airplane exploded.

“Damn them all,” he mumbled, shaking his fist at the airplanes from the safety beneath the desk. “Just two more years…”

Two more years until he could retire and stop receiving exploding complaints from parents. Two more years until he no longer had to deal with idiotic students. Two more years and then he would be happy.

The last airplane exploded. It was safe to come out. Until the next day, that is.

2015 Reading Challenge Reviews–January Roundup 1

I’ve been reading a lot more than I expected to, so this month I’ll be breaking up my reviews into several posts. If you want to participate in the challenge, you can find my original post here!

9781455527076_p0_v1_s260x420A Memoir: Pastrix: the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

I found this memoir to be incredibly powerful. As someone who thinks a lot about the future of organized religion in our country, I loved reading about Nadia’s story. She’s a heavily tattooed, foul-mouthed Lutheran minister who founded a holy space, the Church for All Sinners and Saints where everyone can feel accepted for who they are. This is a must-read for anyone questioning whether religion is for them or are simply struggling to find God’s meaning in our world.

9780486112886_p0_v2_s260x420A play: Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen

I couldn’t get past the blatant sexism rampant in the play to even begin to determine its merits. It just made me really angry with the remarks about tainted women and the men interrupting the women because men’s thoughts are more important. And the self-righteousness of the priest who, in my opinion is wrong in his beliefs. Terrible play. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

9780802734310_p0_v3_s260x420A book with one word in the title: Fracture by Megan Miranda

This started out as a usual accident/recovery story when Delaney Maxwell falls through the ice covering a lake in her neighborhood. She should have died, but instead she wakes up with a fully functioning brain and the ability to sense when people are going to die. Instead of the heart-rending recovering story I thought this was going to be, it becomes a thriller when Delaney meets a boy with the same ability she has, but he’s not as innocent as he seems. I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this book in one sitting. Amazing writing, wonderfully real characters, and a plot that leaves you guessing all the way to the end. I recommend this without reservation.

2940045956437_p0_v2_s260x420A book with non-human characters: Xoe by Sara C. Roethle

Step aside, Bella Swan, there’s a new player in town. Set in the small town of Shelby, Oregon, this short book follows the story of Xoe Meyers as her best friend is turned into a werewolf, her new boyfriend turns out to be a vampire, and she discovers the secret to her own ancestry. Although similarities to Twilight are evident, they don’t detract from Roethle’s originality and skill. There are some typos, grammatical errors, and some stylistic decisions that I didn’t enjoy, but Roethle’s skill at weaving an engaging story overshadowed all of that. The characters are believable and unique, the relationships between them are healthy, and the plot is interesting. I even bought the sequel immediately after finishing the first book because I couldn’t bear to not know what happened next! I enjoyed this book and fans of Twilight and other supernatural stories should check it out!

9780547844169_p0_v1_s260x420A Non-fiction Book: The Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev

I don’t usually read historical non-fiction books, but my friend told me about Caterina Sforza and recommended her biography to me. I love my friend, so I persevered through a book I normally wouldn’t have picked up. Elizabeth Lev’s ability to bring historical events to life is evident on each page as she skillfully weaves Caterina’s colorful life history together with the backdrop of intrigue that plagued 15th century Italy and affected her life. The only thing that detracted from my enjoyment of the book was that the names of the numerous historical players were difficult to follow at times. Although this kind of book is not my go-to genre, I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the oft-forgotten medieval history of women.

What books have you read this January? I would love any and all suggestions you’d like to leave in the comments!

In Remembrance: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The memory of Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States is impressive. He stood at the forefront of a movement that made many people uncomfortable in their complicity with the system and for that, he was brutally murdered. And now he has a day of celebration where we white people can congratulate ourselves on how far we’ve come because his memory has been washed out and diluted.

Until yesterday, I’d never heard the entire “I have a Dream” speech. I wept through the entire speech because of how little has changed since Dr. King delivered it in 1963.

He spoke of police brutality and I thought of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and all of the others killed this year and in years past who have not seen justice done. He spoke of equal rights and I thought of a school system that has failed so many children of color. It has been 50 years since he gave his speech and it is still as relevant today as it was then.

Today, on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2015, as we pause to celebrate the great man who still inspires us, take some time to remember that the work he stood for is not yet finished.

Inspiration–Writing Workshop Sunday

One of the most common questions writers are asked is “where do you find the inspiration for your stories?” Personally, I find this question difficult to answer because inspiration can come from anywhere.

My first book is based on a weird dream I had. The dream swirled around my mind for a few weeks before I decided to write it down. A few words turned into a few pages and before I knew it, I had a novel.

My second book’s storyline is not so clear-cut in its origins. Several separate ideas percolated in my mind for months before a coherent plot emerged from the individual parts. In this case, I can’t point to one event, like my dream, that led to being inspired.

I do know, however, that I draw heavily on my life for inspiration to write. This is especially true when I write poetry but also holds true for some of the characters who show up in the fictional stories I write. And, unfortunately, that inspiration is sometimes born from being treated poorly by people I interact with.

As Anne Lamott said: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. IF people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” This quote is a favorite of mine. I really need to print it out and hang it above my desk to remind me that it’s not my responsibility to censor my writing based on other people’s feelings. If I have something to say, especially since I write fiction and people would be hard-pressed to find the real-life inspiration, I should not feel bad about saying it.

It’s not my fault if people treat me in such a way that the inspiration I draw from them is less than flattering. And I will never feel bad about incorporating the ideas they give me into my writing.

Padlocked–Flash Fiction Friday Series

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Photo by Lisa

My dearest love,

This letter is my final goodbye. I would apologize for leaving in such secrecy, but it was necessary. If you’d been awake when I left, your pleading would have haunted me for days. And yet, even as I walked out the door, you turned your sleeping face to me. It was almost as if you understood the situation, even in your dreams.

Please remember how much I love you. You are the sun and stars, and our shared memories will always help guide me home. It pains me to say farewell, but I must leave you now.

You will be gone soon, too. If you’re reading this, you’ve found the lighter and blanket I left for you. Don’t bother trying to escape. The door is padlocked from the outside.

I love you with every piece of my soul. She can’t have you.

-A