Creativity in Quarantine


I would love to say that I am #StayingAtHome, but I found this situation more complicated—and emotionally loaded.

When we first arrived in Peru, we were staying in a hotel. This was where we were when, halfway into our trip, a quarantine and curfew were set; all of the stores closed. Any place that we might have gone to have fun has been shut down for weeks.

After that, we left the hotel to spend the remainder of our trip at our grandmother’s house; there is still nowhere to go except for the grocery store.

Boredom can be painful.

I expected that quarantine of such a nature would give me inspiration to finish a book. Instead, I’m writing a few chapters, but they are good ones.

It’s hard to focus on creative writing when the media makes you so hyper aware of the bad things happening in the world. We are all feel a little out of place. We are all celebrating small victories, like finishing a chapter or reading a long book.

As we wait out the last three days, hoping the U.S. Government will get us home, I’m allowing myself to feel the negative feelings. They can lead to clarity. They can serve as inspiration. Ultimately, they can guide us.

I hope you’ve found something to keep you sane during this time. We are all seeing the world in a different way; how have these events changed your viewpoint?

New Book – The Mermaid of Rose Hill – Out Soon!


Here is a photo of me with a case of lazy bed head, holding a proof copy of my new novel, which I plan to release this month.

The Mermaid has been my project for the last two years or more. It began as an urban fantasy, but I decided to challenge myself and write it as a historical fiction. It was a much more complicated but rewarding experience; it will be the first book of what I foresee as a long series with lots of novella spin-offs.

I’ve been sharing teasers on Instagram and Twitter. I am very eager to be an active indie author again.

If you want to know what it’s about, here’s a blurb I wrote a while back; it isn’t perfect, but close enough!

While I haven’t decided on a release date yet, it’ll be before the 20.

Here are a couple of the teasers. I do hope you enjoy this book; it’s my baby!

I might be sending out some ebook copies for review; if you’re interested, let me know!

-Mariella x

Mythology of the Butterfly


ryosuke-yamaguchi-a5GEChK82mM-unsplash

The butterfly is a flying flower, the flower a tethered butterfly.
—Ecouchard le Brun

Every spring we look into the flowerbeds, hoping to see their fluttering wings. They’re the daydream of the child, and the memory of the gardener. They inspire awe and wonder, and we create environments hoping to attract them.

Butterflies have enchanted poets and artists since the beginning of time. They are documented in field guides. We watch from April to September, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Swallowtail or a Monarch.

Many people do not know the rich collection of mythology concerning butterflies. Perhaps you’ve heard it said that they carry messages to heaven; you might count the spots on their wings to predict how many children you’ll have.

There are many more tales where those came from. Butterfly mythology is fascinating. Knowing what our ancestors said enhances the thrill that we feel, watching them vanish into the sky.

Here are three pieces of folklore involving these lovely insects:

  • Native American lore is rich. One of their stories is that the serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, was born of a chrysalis. Native Americans are not the only ones to make symbolism of the cocoon; to many, it represents the struggle as we move from one phase to another. We break our cocoons to face fresh challenges with wings and wisdom. The butterfly cocoon is often more beautiful than the creature itself.
  • In many parts of the world, pagan tradition has a special place for this elegant insect. In Ireland, it’s considered bad luck to kill a white butterfly—they’re believed to symbolize the human soul after death. Most of us don’t think much of the white butterfly, our eyes seeking out color instead. In Ireland, this cannot be; we must pay attention, lest we pass a spirit and not pay it due homage.
  • In other places, we should look for the red butterfly. According to Icy Sedgwick, red butterflies often mean important news is on its way. However, the Scots believed red butterflies were witches, an example of how two cultures can see a thing differently. It doesn’t end there: if a sailor saw a yellow butterfly, he might perish on his next journey.

Special mention: if you want a fascinating read, visit Dealan-De’s account of The Wooing of Etain.

When spring comes back around this year, keep an eye out the window for a red butterfly; it might be a witch. And if you are a sailor, be kind to the yellow butterfly, lest you get into a boating accident! Remember that, out in the garden, anything is possible.

Art is Magic


Art is something that comes alive and seeks to change us forever.

Wonder at how, so many years later, the Mona Lisa still has lines after lines of people impatient to see her smile. Think of how certain quotes from certain novels echo down through generations, while most of our own whispers vanish into oblivion.

Renoir, Young Girls at the Piano, close-up

Art is the only true form of magic and only art is immortal. It can thaw the frozen heart when nothing else could. It brings us centuries-old pain, and also relief from that pain.

Don’t cast a spell; a poem will do.

I’ve always held this view. I used to think my preference for classic works was a result of my personal desire to be the next Dickens—but art does not work that way. We all hold it differently.

There is no way I can be the next Jane Austen.

Now I think my fascination is a result of nostalgia, one we all feel for times past. We all have heroes long-gone that we would love one hour with. There always comes a moment when the present, fast-paced world is not enough.

So we take up art, this shapeless and fiery thing, to recreate what no longer is but still is close to our hearts. We write back into history. We conjure our heroes, create unicorns, slay dragons.

Art is magic, and art is alive.

Now I look at myself. My heart is in a place long-gone when grand balls were popular, women wore dresses of flowing silk, and carriages rattled. This is what I will recreate with the magic handed to me; it is a lifelong goal.

It requires much, though. To uncover gems of story, I have to do research. To make my characters feel real, I need to know where they would go, what they would eat, how they would dance. As I grow older researching, my heart will be more caught in that time than this one.

Come to my blog and learn with me. Our Elizabeth Bennetts might seem far away, but using the magic of art, we come closer with every step forward that we take.

Castles Brick by Brick


I am excited to be near the final edits for a project close to my heart.

The Mermaid of Rose Hill has been through several amazing beta readers; from each of these people I’ve received fantastic bits of advice, enough to polish it off. Enough, perhaps, to release it soon.

As you might expect, it hasn’t been easy. Even though I’ve always been an author of fantasy, I don’t think I’ve ventured this deeply into the genre. All of a sudden, I had to come up with folklore; it was terrifying.

Though Mermaid was meant to be a low-key historical fiction with fantasy elements that happened to be in it, the text lacked backstory.

I knew there were gaps that should be filled, and doing so would be fun, but fiction is scarier than reality. It needs to make sense. It might seem simple, from a distance, to add the “finishing touches” to a fantasy world; for some reason, though, when I thought of doing it, I froze up.

I think that the heavy book called Grimm’s Fairy Tales caused me to hesitate. I know that comparing myself to the Brothers Grimm is foolish, but I did not believe I could make up my own folklore. I looked at Tolkien’s imaginary world, as well, and knew I could never write something elaborate as that.

Still, something had to be done. I sat and started writing backstory in snatches and sentences. I quoted excerpts from news articles I might never finish about sightings that could be terrifying.

You build a castle brick by brick; I am building my mythology scrap by scrap.

This month, I am beginning what I hope is the final edit for The Mermaid of Rose Hill (though, if it needs more time, I won’t rush it). I think I have enough material to move on to book two.

I should have done this a long time ago, but I was afraid. Authors, when you’re intimidated, remember: castles are built brick by brick.

Imagine Success


2020 is young, and sweet progress is being made. I’ve written 10,000 words towards my first novella of the year. I am hoping for four of them.

As I wade through the tale of Isolde and Gareth, I can’t help reflecting on how my writing process has changed since I began. It’s more mature; for instance, though I do not outline much, I need a checklist of events. I sort through scenes in my head, and try to pick those that are absolutely necessary.

With a goal of 30-33,000 words max for The Price of a Unicorn, it is important to choose the most necessary scenes.

My writing prompt app said today, Imagine success. That sent a wave of excitement through me. Though success comes in many forms (for instance, writing 10k is success) the prompt made me think of what I want from my stories.

I have a mermaid series in the works, and a fantasy trilogy loaded with magic; now, I have my side project of novellas. These novellas play out in my head like television shows, more than my books did. I might rewrite them in screenplay form.

When the new year began, I made plans for the next ten years. I want to read all the classic novels, including obscure ones you won’t find in bookstores. I want to be decent at the piano.

Most importantly, by the time 2030 comes around, I want to have plenty of stories published. I have all that I need to succeed as a storyteller; until this year, I only lacked motivation.

You ask me to imagine success; I see a shelf full of books with my name on them. I see journals of poetry. I see memoirs of my travels, articles, and anthologies.

The next ten years, God willing, shall be full of ambition and learning. It’s possible, when I quit procrastinating. It’s possible, when I believe in myself. I have so many stories to tell!

When you imagine success, what do you see?

What Excuses are you Making?


On my iPhone, I have an app that generates writing prompts. Yesterday’s prompt was “What excuses are you making?” When those words popped up, at once I pictured dozens of things I’d convinced myself were more important than my writing.

The foremost was, “Reading isn’t wasting time! Writers read.” Reading is important, but when it makes you so busy that the story is never written, you wind up wasting opportunities.

All sorts of excuses followed. I’m helping friends; I’m world building; I’m waiting for the right month in the summer. These were my excuses but, minutes away from beginning a new year, I could no longer allow excuses to slow me down.

If I wrote all the ideas in my heart, I would have a shelf of work. No doubt, the reading I’ve been doing would have helped with it—but, even though writers read, what they must do is write.

Here are my plans for this year:

My beta readers have given me fantastic feedback on The Mermaid of Rose Hill, so I will begin my (hopefully) final edit later this month. Before I go back to editing, though, I want to have a bit of fun.

I’m writing a series of fantasy novellas loosely based on the TV show Once Upon a Time, though the storylines aren’t the same. Knowing my writing speed, I can finish a novella in two weeks or less; today, I have been outlining it, crafting the characters, and trying to make everything tidy as possible.

I have another novel I wrote a couple of years ago that I’m also considering self publishing. Whatever happens with Mermaid, I will always favor the indie path, and a lot of people enjoyed the novel in question. I’d love to share it with you.

What excuses are you making? Every moment is a chance for you to improve as a writer, in ways that might surprise you. I’m planning my career for the next ten years, outlining novellas and giving ideas the attention they deserve. I’m applying dedication to the craft that I should have done earlier.

By the time this decade ends, I might be a successful author; I might not. At least I’ll have done what I loved, the craft that creates new worlds.

My plan for the new roaring twenties is to reach my full potential and stop making excuses.

Happy New Year! I hope you have a blessed one!

Nine Ladies Dancing: Clinging to Youth


It’s frightening to grow up. Taking on responsibilities, leaving old habits behind, speaking of childhood in the past tense—it’s no wonder so many people take their time, whether or not they realize it. The world is a scary place, after all.

I believe this message was the strongest theme for Nine Ladies Dancing, the fourth novella in the Belles of Christmas collection, which I have been enjoying thoroughly.

Add to my above list the future inheritance of a grand estate and title. It’s no wonder the male protagonist, Matthew, has not yet grown up, seeking comfort in the things that make him feel free…such as horses. His parents have noticed, though, that he isn’t getting any younger, and neither are they.

With this in mind, his mother strikes a deal with him: he must get to know nine ladies before Twelfthnight. If he does not fall in love with any of them, she will finally stop telling him what to do with his life. To make the deal sweeter, his father promises him a new horse if he doesn’t fall for any of them.

As a reader, I laughed quite a bit at the horse detail. He prefers a horse to true love! But, back to the review.

It sounds easy to not fall in love, so Matthew accepts the deal with his mother. The catch, which he does not realize until several embarrassing incidents later, is that he was already in love…but with the last person he could have imagined. Meg does love him, though, and puts up an admirable fight.

Too bad he’s so obsessed with the new horse that, eventually, Meg gives up. When Meg gives up fighting for him—well, something doesn’t feel quite right with his head…or is it his heart?…he cannot decide. Suddenly, though, he’s far more interested in her and what she’s doing—and the gentlemen she’s talking to.

Eventually, the horse is no longer so enticing.

My heart ached many times over the course of this book for Meg and for silly Matthew. It’s a well known truth that you do not know what you have until you lose it; however, this book has a happy ending, which soothed that ache. Matthew finally does grow up.

I waited eagerly for this book to release, and finished it in a day. All of the novellas in this collection have me enchanted, and I’ll be sad when there are no more. Also, I think the cover for Nine Ladies Dancing is the most beautiful of the five. However, they all make me dream.

I’m already reading the final novella, A Duke for Lady Eve. Thankfully, there are more sweet Regency novels from these authors, and I won’t have to say good-bye to the magic that is in this collection. I am so glad to have found it; every book was worth the read!

Strength in Song: The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir


919yKVACdPL

Two words describe The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir–heartbreaking and hopeful.

I liked the way it was written, a first person novel following the points of view of several members of an exclusively female choir. While the notion might not seem unusual now, it was previously unheard of in the book, and only formed because all of the men in the choir had gone off to war.

This choir unites the young and old, the foreign and the native, in a delightful example of how diversity can create the best music. This is, after all, what happened during WWII: people who wouldn’t have met otherwise were side-by-side in the struggle to survive, mentally and spiritually.

The ladies in this choir bond through their music. It can be seen in their letters and journal entries that, in the most desperate times, they are stronger when they come together. I think it is true that all of us are stronger when doing something we love with people we love.

Since these ladies are in different phases of life, we see the world through different lenses. We have the innocent perspective of fourteen-year-old Kitty, as well as her sister, Venetia, who is in the bud of womanhood, discovering new things. There is Silvie, a Jewish girl who is staying with them because her country is under attack. I thought it fascinating that, though Silvie’s journal entries were few and short, she was more alert.

This book shows how no woman sees the world in the same way, but friendship wins even in the midst of war. If war can bring about such growth in people so different, imagine what we could do if we would set aside our differences in times of peace!

The war inspired many stories, but The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is one I will remember because of the different colors each woman contributed; I will let it remind me that there is only so much we can do alone.

I will cherish this book, and hope that I can be strong as them, when adversity comes.

Q&A With Author Ashtyn Newbold


The Belles of Christmas collection has been the highlight of the season for me. Each novella is short and sweet enough to make the wait for Christmas Day more bearable! No two are the same, though they share similar elements–like handsome gentlemen, sweet dances, and the Happily Ever After!

Last week I got to interview author Martha Keyes, who wrote Goodwill for the Gentleman (read my review here!); this week, I interviewed Ashtyn Newbold, whose story The Earl’s Mistletoe Match (my review here!) played with my emotions in all the right ways.

Follow her on Instagram and on Facebook!


1- Where did you get the idea for The Earl’s Mistletoe Match?

The Earl’s Mistletoe Match is part of a multi-author series. Martha Keyes came to me with the idea for the series this summer, and it sounded so fun, that I had to join! The five of us authors collaborated on the idea to link our stories together by putting our characters all at the same masquerade ball at the beginning of each book. As I brainstormed my story, I wanted to play up the mistaken identity aspect that could come from a ball like that. I loved the idea of using mistletoe as well. The ideas came together and developed slowly as I came up with a title, my cover, and characters.

2- Do you believe in happily ever after?

Of course! I’ve been a hopeless romantic ever since I was a young teen, reading all the sweet romance books and watching all the cute romantic comedies. I’m a believer that books and movies should have that HEA, and that it can happen in real life too. Happily ever after encompasses so much more than romance though, and a theme I always try to put in my stories is that happiness is also a choice. No matter what life gives us, if we are always wanting or waiting for something more, we might miss out on the happily ever after we already have.

3- Do you have a Christmas tradition or memory you would like to share with readers?

I spend Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house every year, where we have soup for dinner, sing Christmas songs, exchange gifts, and watch the younger grandkids act out the nativity. For as long as I can remember, this has been how my family spends Christmas Eve, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Q&A With Author Martha Keyes


img_4797Goodwill for the Gentleman is one of the warmest stories I’ve read this year. If you want to know why, check out my review here. It is an amazing joy to have contacted the author, Martha Keyes, with questions about this charming Christmas story that had me believing in happy endings again.

I believe that speaking with the author and seeing their view of the world adds depth to a story, and the answers to these questions certainly did that. If you have not yet started the Belles of Christmas collection, I highly suggest you do so; each of these tales will leave you with a light heart and a great deal of hope.

Be sure to check out Martha’s new novel, Cecilia, which was released this weekend. I can’t wait to get lost in it!

Without further ado, here are the questions!


1. What was the inspiration for Goodwill for the Gentleman?

A few factors played into this, actually. Because the book is part of a multi-author series, we had to decide a few ground rules at the beginning. One of those was the year the story was taking place. The year we chose (1813) was a very, very cold winter in England. They had very intense winter weather, and I thought about that quite a bit as I tried to decide on a story. Interestingly, I decided upon a title before anything else. I had been brainstorming things we associate with Christmas—words, phrases, smells, etc.—and I came upon the word “goodwill” and the phrase “good will toward men/man” from a couple of well known Christmas songs. I thought that was an interesting concept if I just changed it to “goodwill for the gentleman.” And from that, the beginnings of the story were born!

IMG_9452.12. Is there a message you want readers to learn from it?

I really wanted readers (and myself) to think about the way we view the people around us. We are always operating with limited information as we make judgments and assumptions about others, just as Emma is in the book. She has taken the behavior of Hugh in jilting her sister and kind of assumed the worst of him. As she comes to know him, she realizes that there is so much more to him than the one thing she has judged him on and that even that action wasn’t as selfish as it appeared. I am a religious person, and I find that Christmas is a wonderful time of year for us to reevaluate any grudges we are holding and try to do for others what Christ does for each of us—believe in us and the believe the best of us. I hope that those things come through a bit in the story.

3. Do you have a nice Christmas memory or tradition you would like to share?

I grew up in a family that focused heavily on music, and one of our Christmas Eve traditions is for each of us to choose our favorite Christmas song or hymn to sing together while my mom plays the piano. There are eight kids in my family (plus a number of spouses), so it actually takes quite awhile to do this, but I think it brings a special spirit that only music can. Over the past five or so years, we have shifted things a bit to where we don Santa hats and go caroling to a few of our neighbors who are home-bound or elderly, bringing along a bag of caramels to gift them. I live in Utah, and we often have snowy Christmases, so we are all ready to cozy up when we get back from doing this. I love bringing a bit of Christmas cheer to people who might otherwise spend Christmas Eve alone.

Broken Hearts & Happy Endings: The Earl’s Mistletoe Match


The Earl’s Mistletoe Match by Ashtyn Newbold is the third book in the Belles of Christmas collection. However, it seemed to me the most powerful.

It must have been the characters; their attitudes and motives are very real. They are not perfect, and they know it. They make decisions they regret. They struggle.

It starts out with romantic drama. Olivia, a spinster, pretends to be her cousin Esther at a masquerade, when she suspects an earl plans to court her.

Olivia does this out of mistrust for the earl, Andrew. She has been hurt in the past by men of rank; being in charge of her cousin now, she does not want Esther to endure the same.

Olivia does not count on the earl falling for her, instead.

Their conversation at the ball was short and did not end well. However, it was long enough for Andrew to fall in love with the lady behind the mask, the one he believes to be Esther.

When Andrew goes to Esther’s house to apologize for his behavior at the ball, he is no fool. The Esther he meets sounds and acts nothing like she did while hidden behind the mask.

It’s not long before he spots Olivia and realizes there was a switch. What he cannot figure out is why. How come Olivia mistrusts him so?

High expectations from families and a fear of disappointing are the driving forces for these characters. How I love it when, in a story, expectations are tossed out the window and love wins, as it should.

The Earl’s Mistletoe Match is a quick read that will lift your spirits. I promise there is a happy ending; we can all certainly use more of those.