Watch this space for some fun, spooky posts, stories, and shenanigans.
Watch this space for some fun, spooky posts, stories, and shenanigans.
Today is Easter Sunday, and as has been our family tradition the past few years, we hopped in the car and headed for Millersburg to attend services at my home church, Trinity UCC. We left in plenty of time to make the 9:00AM service, and with light traffic, we arrived around 8:45.
As we drove up the street and passed the church to turn into the parking lot, I glanced at the sign…which read “Sunday Services 8:30 AM.” SURPRISE! For the first time in my 49 years (at least in my not-so-reliable-anymore memory), they had changed the service times. So we found one of the remaining spots in the parking lot and snuck in the back, trying to be inconspicuous.
The service, at least what we saw of it, was nice, very much like the ones I remember from the many years I attended there, and I got a chance to speak to some of the folks I’d grown up seeing in that church.
But as I looked around, I realized that there were quite a few unfamiliar faces in the sparse crowd in attendance. While I was happy to see some new faces, especially some younger families, a part of me waxed a bit nostalgic.
When I was growing up in Millersburg, one of the things I hated was the fact that nothing seemed to change. Millersburg seemed to be one of those places that time and the world passed by, leaving the little town mostly untouched, but in recent years, I’ve seen more and more things changing. The momentary shock and surprise of my home church’s change in service time, though a small and insignificant thing, quite honestly made me just a bit sad.
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My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When I first read the blurb for this book, I was absolutely delighted–a book in which someone’s ghost is the main character? How unique! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. This had the potential to be a phenomenal read, which is why I wrestled with the rating I ultimately gave the book.
Let me start off with the positives. Again, the premise is unique, very different from a lot of the ghost stories I’ve read. The story line, too, was very good, and the pace was just right–not too fast or too slow. While there was never any mystery as to who the killer would be, the progression of the plot did keep me wondering when and how it would happen. The ending was suspenseful, with a disturbing twist that I admit will very likely have me picking up the next book to see what happens.
Here’s where it fell apart for me. The writing seemed very rough and unpolished, as if the author skipped the editing process altogether. There were numerous places where I found obvious typos, wrong words being used, and other grammatical errors that pulled me out of the story. Also, there were quite a few places where the descriptions felt more like info dumps that pulled me from the action. The characters, too, often felt two-dimensional and their actions unrealistic. There were also some loose ends that were just left hanging; I’m assuming they will be addressed in a sequel, but it just felt unfinished.
I truly wanted to give this book 4 or 5 stars, but it is in dire need of serious editing.
On Saturday, I had a table at a craft fair/vendor event that ran in conjunction with Carlisle’s Ice Fest. This particular event was a benefit for a young cancer patient, so I figured even if sales weren’t great, as they usually aren’t at these things, at least the money was going to a good cause.
The event began at 9:00AM, and we were told that we couldn’t get in to set up until 8:00. That really didn’t concern me, as I only sell my books, and it really doesn’t take long to set up my display.
But here’s where the day took a bit of an unpleasant turn.
We were notified by the person in charge that the event was going to be on the second floor of the venue. Okay, so what’s the problem? Well, first of all, getting inside the building was a trip. Here are the instructions we were given regarding unloading and getting set up:
All spots are on the 2nd floor you will unload your vehicle onto an elevator take it up stairs unload it come back downstairs and move your car will have A-line forming in the front and a line in the back.
And this is what it looked like trying to get maybe thirty vendors unloaded and parked:
Now, add to this the fact that the elevator we were to use was a small, one-person elevator that had to be operated by someone in charge of the building. Remember, there were around thirty vendors unloading, taking their things up, and coming back down, not to mention the fact that several vendors had to make multiple trips on the elevator. Needless to say, very few, if any, had enough time to be completely set up by the 9AM start time.
Quite a few of us finally decided to just go park in the main lot and haul our stuff in by hand and carry it up the stairs. I was among that group—thank heavens for the kindness of one of the other vendors, a gentleman who offered to carry my table and crate full of books upstairs.
At this point, many of the vendors, myself included, were grumbling about the entire turn of events for the day. A few of the words being tossed around to describe our experience up to this point were “$&!^ show” and “cluster%$&,” and a few of us considered cutting our losses and just leaving.
The venue itself wasn’t that bad. It was quaint and charming, although the heat didn’t work so well. Thankfully, it wasn’t any colder than the thirty-seven degree high temperature for the day.
The only sales I made were to other vendors, which is also quite typical of these types of events, but I made enough to cover my table cost.
Now, here is where events became a bit serendipitous.
A woman stopped by my table and began asking questions about my books—questions that were a bit more than potential-reader inquiries about plot and intended age group. My head is still spinning from the huge amount of information she gave me, but let me do my best to sum it up.
The first thing she did was to write down information for a weeklong book festival held at a local library in October (Celebrate the Book Festival at Bosler Library in Carlisle, PA, if anyone is interested). This event attracts authors, illustrators, publishers, and other industry professionals, and she said it would be a great place to network and maybe sell a few books.
Next, she gave me information on the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, including cost of membership, the various national chapters, the conferences they hold, and the benefits of membership.
After that she pointed me to two local writers’ groups: Pennwriters, which I am already familiar with, and Writers Wordshop at the Bosler Library. I told her that I already belong to a critique group that I am quite happy with; the only drawback is that with it being a church-based group, I cannot share much of what I write (paranormal fiction). She encouraged me to find a second group where I can freely share my main genre of works.
Finally, she gave me a bit of homework to do. She advised me to sit down and write a query letter, a pitch page, an elevator pitch, and a two-sentence Library of Congress description of each of my books. Admittedly, a couple of these I hadn’t even considered, since I am independently-published and have no need to pitch to an agent. However, her advice was food for thought, and I’ll undertake those tasks, if for nothing else, to hone my skills.
The whole point of this bit of a ramble is that sometimes the events an author—or any other independent business owner—signs up for don’t result in many, if any, sales. I’ve lost count of the times when my costs far outweighed the money I brought in.
However, I constantly have to remind myself that if nothing else, these events provide the chance to network and make important contacts. Today handed me a very fortuitous opportunity to meet someone in the business who gave me a goldmine of information on the craft of writing and the publishing industry.
I thought I was there to sell books, but I wasn’t. I firmly believe that God put me there to make those connections. For what purpose? At this point, I don’t know. But I do know that I’m going to follow up on the information and the opportunities I was given and see where they lead.
This is a newly-written piece of a story I hope to finish someday, called The Knight and the Not-Quite Lady. The main character, Wynifred (Wynne) deWyck, comes to Camelot to learn how to be a proper young lady. She soon falls in love with Sir Gawain and seeks to win his heart. However, this scene is just before she notices him, and anyone familiar with Arthurian Legend will recognize this scene as borrowed from “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”
Wynne picked up the slice of sweetbread on her plate and looked at it with something akin to disgust. Sighing, she took a bite and chewed. She chewed and chewed until the already-moist pastry turned to mush in her mouth, then swallowed with some difficulty. Grimacing, she tossed the offending sweetbread onto her plate and sat back in her seat to gaze around the room. Ladies of the Court danced around the room, trying to capture the attention of their favorite knights, hoping to meet beneath the mistletoe. Knights and squires piled around tables, drinking mead and regaling one another with tales of their adventures. Jesters, harpers, and troubadours made their rounds of the Great Hall, providing entertainment for the guests.
Eight days into the Yuletide Feast, and everyone at Camelot was still as jolly and animated as they had been when the Feast began on Christmas Eve. Everyone except Wynne. She had enjoyed the revelry as much as everyone else when it first began, but now all the gaiety and gluttony were nothing more than an assault on her senses, and she wished to excuse herself from the gathering, if only Lady Magdalen would allow it. Why, she almost wished to be seated in the solarium with her needlework, so tired was she of playing party.
Tearing her eyes away from the scene before her, Wynne slipped her fingers inside the neck of her gown and drew out the lovely pendant her father had sent her as a Yule gift. She held it up and gazed at it adoringly, admiring the way the torchlight glinted off the gold and made the jewels sparkle. She knew it wasn’t as costly or as fine as the jewels many of the other young ladies-in-training had received, but to her it was still precious. She amused herself by slipping the broad circlet of gold on her finger, wondering if she would ever find someone who would stir her heart to love, or more importantly, someone who could love a clumsy, improper young lady as herself.
Tucking the pendant back inside her gown, she let her gaze roam the room once more. To her right, she saw two jesters juggling pieces of fruit for King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Both appeared enthralled, as though they had never seen a feat so fascinating. Wynne curled her lip, bored by the now-dull display; one could only watch jesters lob apples and pears for so long. A sudden vision of what would happen if she rolled an apple under their feet made her smile for the first time that evening. Now that would be entertaining!
The sound of tinkling bells drew her attention, and she turned to see one of the younger troubadours approaching. The pimply-faced lad, not much older than Wynne herself, stopped in front of Lavinia and Bronwyn. As he gifted them with a wide grin, they exchanged a glance, their expressions full of distaste. Feeling sorry for the young man, Wynne narrowed her eyes at the two young hoity-toits. She sent forth a fervent wish that he would further scandalize them by composing, on the spot, a ballad that praised their beauty and confessed his undying love. The thought made her erupt in amused giggles as she imagined their mortification over Lavinia’s Lay and Bronwyn’s Ballad.
Unfortunately, Wynne’s giggles turned to groans as the inept young musician began plucking the protesting strings of his lyre. It was obvious he knew only one song, the same song he had strummed no fewer than five times already that evening. It was also painfully obvious that in his case, practice was not leading anywhere near perfection. Wynne clapped her hands over her ears, slumped in her seat until her head rested on the table, and let out a moan of misery.
What happened next erased all traces of boredom and misery from Wynne’s mind, wiped the unladylike grimaces from the faces of Lavinia and Bronwyn, and made the troubadour drop his lyre and let out a voice-cracking, unmanly shriek. Without warning, the outer doors to the Great Hall flew open with a thunderous crash. A frigid wind rushed into the Great Hall, bringing with it a shimmering whirlwind of ice and snow. The festive atmosphere erupted in chaos as ladies screamed and swooned.
Before anyone could react, a strange personage on horseback charged into the room. He wore no armor or helmet, yet Wynne was certain he was a knight. Likewise, he carried no sword, mace, or shield, only a large holly branch that had been polished so finely that it seemed to glow. Although he carried no sword, he wore a jewel-encrusted baldric that glittered gold and green in the torchlight.
The strange knight was dressed from head to toe in all the shades of green Wynne had seen in the fields and forests surrounding Camelot: His breeches were the deep green of moss, and his tunic the rich, robust green of the evergreens. His mantle was the vibrant green of dew-wet ferns, and it was lined with white ermine and embroidered with darker green leaves and silver and gold butterflies that were so lifelike their wings seemed to flutter.
He was a giant of a man; even astride his great beast of a horse, she could tell he was at least a head taller than the tallest knight of Camelot. That alone made him a strange sight to behold, but even stranger still, Wynne saw that the knight’s complexion matched the green of the jester’s pears, and his shoulder-length, corkscrew-curled hair was green as the leaves embroidered on his mantle. Likewise, his steed was the gentle yellow-green of the spring buds on her favorite pear tree, with mane and tail the darker green of the lily pads in the moat.
Wynne tore her eyes away from the spectacle long enough to chance a look around the Great Hall. Not surprisingly, the other ladies-in-training also sat staring at the knight, their mouths agape in most unladylike fashion. Even Lady Magdalen seemed to have forgotten her ever-precious propriety as she openly gawked instead of remaining aloof and unaffected.
It quickly became apparent that the knight, imposing though he was, had not come to Camelot looking for a battle. As that realization sank in, the tense mood in the Great Hall lessened, and everyone looked to King Arthur to see how he would handle the situation.
Obviously having the same thought, Spook quipped, “Faster than a galloping ghost, it’s the Caped Kyr-sader!”
It’s so cold that even the moon needs a blanket.
This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner, I’d encourage you to join in on the fun. You can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants. This is part of #JusJoJan – Thanks Linda and others for the prompts!
Our church had a potluck last night to celebrate the New Year. My sons did a violin duet for the first time.
Oh, the drama we had in getting those two onstage together! Arguments over the song choice, practicing, how to play the song, etc. And then because of the low humidity and extreme cold we’ve had here, their violins went out of tune, and the pegs began slipping.
I’d love for them to do this again, and be more prepared for their performance, but I’m not sure if our house could take it.
For any writer friends who may be interested.
It may be my love for writing or it might be my joy in sharing my passion, but I love to inspire people. Writing is one of the best ways of expressing ourselves, and certainly a wonderful method for organizing our thoughts and putting things in perspective. I find the latter to be essential to many of us here in the north in January, while we’re stuck inside and deprived of sunshine.
For these reasons plus one more, I developed Just Jot it January. Whether you write a story, a poem, an anecdote, or your plans for the future, JusJoJan will, I hope, give you an excuse to jot something down every day in the month. What’s the one more reason? Writing is fun!!
In the post following this one I will ask for you to give us all a prompt, one of which will be posted on each of…
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