Your Story Dies With You

Your Story Dies With You. It's rather self-explanitory, but anyway, the idea is that every person on this earth (that's right, every last one of us) has a story to tell, and it should be told before it's too late. For thousands of years, storytelling has been a central part of how humans have communicated--stories have been passed down through generations, sharing knowledge, family history, and the odd tale with a moral that was forgotten years ago. Everyone has a story to tell, and you should tell it, now while you have the chance, because your story dies with you.

Monday, June 10, 2013

In Memoriam


In memory of good men, I’d like to share this with you today, because it has been over a decade since their passing. Please take the time to read this, because it isn’t fiction. I want you to read this only in the hopes that these men will be remembered. They don’t deserve to be forgotten. Nor do the people that loved them—murder affects not only the victim, but everyone who knew and loved them. Please take a moment to see that these men were and are more than just a name and a death date in a news report.

 This is what murder looks like from the eyes of a child.

                                            The Polka Dot Dress

 The grass is soft beneath my feet, springing up nimbly as my small shoes trod over it as I skip across the field, doll in hand, beside my sister while my mother and two younger brothers follow behind. We conclude our fruitless search of the grass for my sister’s lost doll shoe, and Samantha wears only one shoe home. Looking back, I think that shoe just might have saved our lives.

I glance up at the trees, my blonde hair swinging from side to side as I chase after my sister, the tall boughs far above my head swaying in the gentle breeze, the sun shining brilliantly. We cut to the left, towards the cracked sidewalk and street and away from the small cemetery that seems large to me from my small viewpoint. Being six doesn’t give you much height from which to view the world.

We run across the street, my sister and I, laughing, leaping over the grass and dirt of the front yard and up the two cement steps to the white porch and screen door. We are laughing as we pull it open, our arms laden down with carrying Kirsten and Samantha, our ever faithful companions. The robin’s egg blue floorboards of the porch are chipping under our feet, but we don’t even see them as we push open the heavier front door and step into the living room with its pale green walls and wood floors with knots and grease stains. Building toys are spread across the floor: Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, wooden building blocks, Legos, most of the morning’s creations stomped into the floor by small feet or swept aside by little hands. No matter, they will be rebuilt, bigger and better than before.

My sister and I slip off our shoes, still disappointed at the loss of the shiny black shoe that is absent from Samantha’s foot, but we will have to find boots for her to wear instead. Up the stairs with bare feet scuffing on the floor, we go, turning the corner of the hall and into our bedroom with its ugly, pink floral wallpaper that we no longer even see. We are hell bent on the tub that holds the doll clothes, in desperate search of shoes for Samantha’s feet. We find them, little mauve boots that are ugly as sin, but we think they are beautiful, and on they go, onto the little doll feet so that Kirsten and Samantha are now wearing matching shoes.

Mommy is calling for us downstairs, her voice echoing in the stairwell. Up we get, leaving the mess we have made and taking our dolls as we rush down the stairs, our little feet making a noise that could be likened to thunder.

“Get your shoes on,” she says. “Let’s go see Daddy. We’re already five minutes late.”

We scamper to where we have left our shoes beside the door, eager to make the short trek through the cemetery to the campus where Daddy teaches and climb the stairs to the little, dusty attic office where our artwork is taped to the door. Maybe we can go to the library, and run through the empty rows, listening to the echo of our footsteps or stand at the windows and stare at our house from stories up. Maybe. But we don’t.

Daddy comes through the door, but my sister and I aren’t paying much attention. We look up and smile, say hello, then focus again on putting on our shoes while the dolls sit beside us.

“There’s a gunman on campus,” I hear Daddy say.

Mommy doesn’t believe him. “You’re joking.” She almost laughs, but not quite. The shock keeps her from laughing.

“No, I’m not. There’s a gunman on campus.”

I don’t exactly know what is happening. Gunmen do not exist in my world. Or they didn’t, up until then. I imagine an old man with silver white hair and a hunting rifle. At least, I think I did. That’s what I imagined years later, anyway. Just then I was staring at my shoes on my little feet, and wondering if maybe we had left Samantha’s shoe at the neighbors’ or if it is still in the field beside the cemetery, waiting to be found.

 

I watch from the porch at times, from the screen door at other times, my hands pressed against the glass. The big white house I call home has become a safe house to more people than just me and my family. People come flocking over from the campus, through the cemetery, and stand on the porch or in the living room, their faces filled with shock and confusion.

The field that just minutes before had been subject to a search by children for a doll’s shoe is now a parking lot for emergency vehicles. Ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, news vehicles... They fill the field, trampling the soft grass into the earth with wheels and feet much bigger than my own so that it cannot spring up again and be just the same as it was before. Off in the distance, I see a helicopter land. It comes down slowly, touching down in another nearby field. It’s an emergency helicopter, but I don’t care. I don’t care that it is here to airlift injured people to the hospital because the ambulance is not fast enough. Life Flight means nothing to me. It’s just a helicopter, and I don’t often get to watch one land, so I cannot take my eyes from it. I can feel my sister beside me, her eyes fixed on it as well, captivated as I am.

“Mommy! There’s a helicopter!” I yell, and Mommy comes over and watches the helicopter for a minute, but it isn’t as fun for her as it is for me. It means something different to Mommy.

After a while Mommy and Daddy put on a movie and I sit between my brother and sister on the sofa, watching The Hobbit unfold on the old TV. I’m not even distracted by the people milling around. All I care about is the story.

“Can we check the news?” Daddy asks nicely just as we reach the part where Smaug is lying on his bed of gold.

My siblings and I nod, knowing that Daddy is only being polite and they are going to check the news anyway. On the table next to the TV is a little black radio, a little dusty, and a voice is issuing from it. I don’t pay attention to the radio, but watch as black and gray fuzzy lines wave across the screen and obscure Smaug from view.

The gunman shot four people, all of them monks. Friends of ours had to lock themselves in the basement and pray that they would be safe. Of the four shot, two died. The gunman, once he had wreaked havoc on this little world of monks and people living together in peace, entered the church, and slipped into the back pew where my family always sat. And shot himself.

Daddy is going to the funeral Mass. Daddy always went to work without me, so I don’t feel left behind. But then he comes home so that Mommy can go, too. And then I want to go. Mommy never goes anywhere without me, and I fuss to be brought along. But the answer is no.

Mommy cries.

I watch as Mommy dresses for the funeral. She never really wears dark colors, so she only owns a navy dress with big white polka dots. I watch her as she stands in the yellow bedroom, slipping into that dress, and then I watch as she walks to the full-length mirror with its big oak frame, where it sits in a corner. She is crying. Tears are sliding down her face, her hands pulling at the dress to straighten it. I am still unhappy that I am not going with her, but I am sad that Mommy is crying. Mommy does not cry. It is the first time I can ever recall seeing Mommy cry. But cry she does as she walks out the door and across the street and through the cemetery to the funeral, her back to me as I watch from the porch window, this time all alone. I watch her go, and then I turn and go inside to play with my brother and sister until Mommy returns. I don’t remember if she was crying when she came back. I don’t remember her coming back at all. She did, but all I remember is watching her walk away in the polka dot dress.

On Sunday, Mommy walks into the church, beautiful and composed. Mothers are always beautiful, but not all mothers are strong. And mine is strong. My mother is brave. She leads the way, carrying my youngest brother, and enters the pew. The very last pew. And we follow her, never questioning. All throughout Mass I am bored, and I stare at the wood of the pew in front of us, wondering if there is still blood on it. Everything had been cleaned away, but not a soul there can ignore the fact that the peace of the little world, even in the sanctuary of the church, had not gone unaltered.

After Mass, Father comes and kisses Mommy’s forehead, tears in his eyes, and he thanks her for taking her seat.

This pew is where Mommy always sits, kneels down to say her prayers, and scolds us for misbehaving, and she will take her seat, blood or no blood having been spilt there. That’s the kind of strong Mommy is.

I skip home, through campus and across the street, climbing the steps to the cemetery under the shade of the tree, innocent and happy, flanked by my brother and sister. But only a few steps into that blessed yard of stones, Mommy calls to us, telling us to stop and pray. She leads us to the graves, no stones marking them, and tells us to say a prayer for the poor souls who had died. She knows we can’t put faces to the names, because the good men we had lost were people to us, not just the names on the little plastic markers.

We say our prayers quickly, eager to go home and change into clothes for play, but as my brother toddles away and my sister hurriedly concludes her prayer, I slow down to finish mine.

 

 

Pray for us sinners,

 

Now and at the hour of our death...

 

I can smell the grass and the fresh turned earth as I crouch next to the two fresh graves, all the colors saturated and the breeze blowing, stirring my hair and clothes. I can’t resist, and I reach out, almost guiltily, knowing that I should leave the grave untouched. My small fingers touch the fresh dirt and I scoop up a small handful, letting it trickle down through my fingers, leaving a fine dust on my hand along with the scent of earth.

“Amen.”

I finish the prayer and stand up quickly, dusting my hand off on my skirt, and run over the grass towards my family, eager to catch up with my sister so I’m not alone, leaving the graves behind me.

 

We never did find that shoe.

 

In memory of Father Philip Schuster, O.S.B., and Brother Damien Larson, O.S.B., gunned down in their monastery on the morning of June 10, 2002.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Teen Ink

The May issue of Teen Ink's print magazine is publishing one of my non-fiction/memoir pieces If I Hadn't Looked Back. Go check it out and tell me what you think!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Teen Ink: If I Hadn't Looked Back

Teen Ink is publishing one of my writing pieces "If I Hadn't Looked Back" in their PRINT MAGAZINE! This is my first publication in a physical magazine, all of my previous publications being online. This issue of Teen Ink is estimated to have a half-million readers. I have had very favorable experiences with Teen Ink in the past when they awarded me with multiple Editor's Choice awards, but being published in their print magazine is by far the best. This is a very exciting day! :-)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

IMPORTANT: The Box of Secrets

After much consideration, I have decided to retire "The Box of Secrets" for the time being. It is my first (and only) published novel, and when I published it I thought it was in final form. I thought it was perfect. After receiving feedback, I've come to the conclusion that it is not quite ready to be published and read by the good people who deemed it promising enough to pick up. I will work on editing it and hopefully republish it in the Amazon Kindle store when it is in better shape. It can and will be a better book. :-)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Free historical short fiction

Burning: the story of the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire is free in the Kindle store today. So if anyone wants a free copy (and of course you do!) head on over and pick one up. :-)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Box of Secrets Free April 4th

The Box of Secrets is free in the Kindle store tomorrow April 4th. Get your free copy and enjoy a few hours of reading. :-)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Buried Alive Free April 1st

To celebrate the release of Burning I've decided to make the first piece in the series (Yes, it is a series of short historical fiction) free in the Kindle store on April 1st, which is tomorrow! :-) So don't forget to get your free copy of Buried Alive and then go read Burning! Please leave a review if you like it.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Burning now available

Burning is now available in the Kindle store. For today only, it is also free! And if you didn't guess, it is about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Today, March 25th, is the 102nd anniversary of the fire. Check out the short story, and don't forget to leave a review to tell me what you think!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Coming Soon

Don't forget, on March 25th Burning will be released. It is in the final stages, and almost ready to be made available in the Amazon Kindle store. Has anyone guessed what it is about?

Friday, March 15, 2013

American Voices Medal

Today the winners in the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were announced (The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is said to be the highest honor for teens with exceptional artistic and literary talent)! According to their Facebook page, the total number of submissions for the 2013 awards (nationwide) was 230,000 entries. Of those 230,000 entries, only 1,900 received a national awards. I am proud to say that I was one of them!
I was honored with the "American Voices Medal," which designates my short story, "The Parishioner and the Pastor," as the best in all the writing entries for my region, which consists of 52 counties. And if the list is correct, only 34 "American Voices Medals" were awarded this year.
My region received only 47 national awards--and my "American Voices" is the highest award in the writing category! This is an incredible honor, and I am so excited to have been awarded this medal!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cover Reveal

I have finally put together what I hope will be the final cover for my new historical short fiction release, Burning, which will be available for purchase in the Kindle store on March 25th. Hope you like it, and don't forget to tell me what you think!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

NEW RELEASE coming soon

It's been several months since I have released anything new on Amazon.com, and finally I am ready to do so again. Since Buried Alive: the story of Octavia Hatcher has been the most popular, I've decided to continue it in the form of a series of short stories based on historical events. My next release will be on March 25th, 2013. That date is very important in revealing what the story is about. Feel free to guess, or you can wait and see. :-)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review

It was just called to my attention that one very awesome person took the time to not only read, but also review, one of my stories Buried Alive: the story of Octavia Hatcher on Amazon.com. The reviewer says:

"This is a very short story, but a good one. It was short and to the point and well written. It's hard to say it's a good story (which it was in regards to the author) when it is a story of such a sad and horrible event. It's also hard to say I would recommend it because I know a few people who really could not read it because it would bother them too much. It should be considered a horror story based on a true event.

So with that said, if you can read about horrible events without it bothering you very much then I would recommend this short story because it is so well written you almost feel like you are going through the same events with Octavia and her husband James."

I'm thrilled to have such a postive and honest review of my work! Thank you to all who have taken the time to read my writing. And please leave a review if you like it. :-)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Box of Secrets--Free Valentine's Day Promotion

The Box of Secrets is free in the kindle store on Valentine's Day only, so head on over on the 14th and get your free copy. :-) Sit down and enjoy a love story in honor of the day. Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Thank You

Today I had the honor to walk across the stage and receive not only a Gold Key award from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, but also an "American Voices" nomination. I got to see many other teen artists and writers in Indiana and Ohio, who earned recognition for their work; after watching them receive their awards and catching glimpses of their works, I felt even more honored to have received the awards I did, especially the nomination for "American Voice." I wanted to say thank you to all the people who have read my work--thank you for your encouragement, and for taking the time to read my writing. And thank you for your suggestions in helping me make my stories better.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Free Short Story/Poetry

Love Me Anyway is free in the Kindle store this weekend!

Have you ever read a book written in poetry? In my sixteen years of plundering the library shelves for anything and everything of interest that I hadn't read yet (when you go to the same library for several years, you have a chance to read most of the books on any given shelf) I've found some interesting books that have influenced my writing. One such book, (and since I have read several others) was written as poetry. POETRY! It blew my mind  that anyone in this modern day and age could write one huge poem and turn it into a book, even though the idea stretches way back to the times of the Ancient Greeks. I decided to try my hand at it, and even though I didn't succeed as much as I had hoped, seeing as I never finished the entire book, I gained a greater appreciation for poets. One of my e-books is available for free this weekend (Feb. 9th & 10th) in the Amazon Kindle store--it's written in free verse, and I thought you might like it, especially since Valentine's Day is coming up soon. What better time to dwell on relationships and the marks, both good and bad, they can leave on our lives? "Love Me Anyway" is a little off the beaten track, so if you get a free copy and read it, let me know what you think. :-) If you like it, feel free to leave a review on Amazon for others to see.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Hello again! Exciting news today: my work has been selected by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for three Gold Key awards and a Silver Key award! The three stories selected for Gold Keys automatically advance to national judging, which takes place in March. One story was selected for the "American Voices" award, one of only five stories in my region (my region stretches over 52 counties) to have the distinction of being the best the region has to offer. That story advances to the national judging for the "American Voices" award. :-)
Some of the stories, you have the opportunity to read here, on my blog! They are:
The Rope Swing: Gold Key
The Stranger: Gold Key
The Polka Dot Dress: Silver Key

The other story that received recognition in the form of a Gold Key award, is "The Parishioner and the Pastor." My works will be displayed in the Fort Wayne Museum of Art from Feburary 10th, after the Award Ceremony, through April 7th, 2013.

Thank you for all your support! Stay posted for more stories, and the release date of my next novel, which is currently in the works! :-)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

NEW: Lingering, a Short Story

It's been a while since we've had a new story here, so I decided to post one I wrote a while back for a competition--it was originally intended to be the start of a new novel that never took off. It didn't receive any recognition, and I thought I would give it a second shot at being read by someone other than myself, so here it is for you to critique:


My first thought was that I was dead. My second was that I hadn’t been that lucky.

 Everything was cold. So cold that it raised goose bumps on my flesh, the hairs on my arms standing on end like soldiers frozen in salute. The darkness that surrounded me was a wet darkness; dripping inky blackness that stained the floor beneath my feet, forming puddles that rapidly grew into an ocean that pressed in on me like the suffocating folds of a shroud, threatening to crush me with its sheer force. The scent of flowers lingered, sickeningly sweet, smelling at once both of the freshness of flowers just cut and of their decay as they begin to die, cruelly torn from the ground to decorate this barren room that is colder than the hands of death. I could still smell the flowers; long after the bouquets had been carried away, heads drooping, petals falling to the floor, only to be crushed underfoot by the quiet footsteps made by polished black heels that waver as they walk.

For well over an hour I had stood in those wretched heels, legs shaking beneath the dark folds of my dress. Face aching from the strain of not crumpling, lips twisted in some macabre smile, fingers throbbing from the shaking of so many hands, ribs sore from the repeated catching in backbreaking hugs of strangers as they attempt to assuage their own grief by pretending to comfort me in mine. The lights appeared garish, reflecting off the polished glass of the picture frames, disorienting as I made my way from stranger to stranger, exchanging words of comfort and empty embraces, limbs growing cold and vision fading in and out like some old black and white horror movie.

When the crowd finally disappeared I did not wish to linger. My freezing hands shook as I lifted the cold porcelain pots that held the flowers, funeral bouquets that would have been beautiful in any other circumstance, but that are ugly because they serve such a grim purpose, and began to make my way through the quiet halls, wobbling on my tired feet, until I can set the pots in the back of the car. I think with regret that the car will smell of the flowers for days, but there is nothing to be done; they cannot be left here in the empty rooms, rotting in the cold and the dark.

I returned to the room, crushing the fallen petals beneath my feet. The lights continued to grow dim, and I could feel the texture of the plaster walls beneath my fingertips, wondering why they are not as smooth as they appear in the instant before I fell forward into the merciful darkness, the scent of crushed flower petals lingering in the faded carpet.

 My first thought was that I was dead. My second was that I hadn’t been that lucky.

 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

Hey! Happy New Year! It's officially 2013. How about celebrating with some new reading material??? Love Me Anyway is free in the Kindle store tomorrow January 4th only!