The Forest of Heldbreath


Imagine your mind is a forest. The edge of the forest is a place where you pause and get distracted–a place of heldbreath, of course.

Sometimes we wait at the edge of heldbreath for days, months, or years. I’ve been lurking there for several weeks, skillfully talking myself out of a very important task.

Should I start editing now? I asked myself, then laughed and shrugged it off, eager to examine the next tree.

Some writers enjoy edits more than they do writing. I have never been one of those writers; in my haste to move on and write other stories, I put off edits again and again…and again.

In the forest of heldbreath, it’s easy to pretend we aren’t procrastinating. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in that place; the only difference now is that I’m writing about it, giving this place a name and personality.

Heldbreath is procrastination.

I inched away from editing until it was a small place hidden by the trees. I know where it is! Somewhere in that general direction – between two oak trees – it might be that hollow, or perhaps the one after?

Two weeks ago I searched the forest of heldbreath, looking for the corner where my manuscript for The Autumn Prince was. I found myself surprised by the short length of the novel, and thought this couldn’t take long.

It would be quicker if I would keep walking and stop procrastinating.

It’s easy to get distracted while searching the forest of heldbreath; we can convince ourselves we are where we’re supposed to be, when it’s quite far. I want a decent, clean version of The Autumn Prince this summer; I will wander the forest heldbreath in circles until I make it.

Have you been to the forest of heldbreath? Of course you have, we’re both human! Let’s meet at the edge and talk about the goals we will meet someday.

Old Souls & Poetry


My WordPress has been dead since our arrival, but if you’re following me on Instagram, you’ll find I’ve developed new interest in the written word shared visually.

I’m going to keep my blog alive. It’s just taken a few weeks for me to wake up again, after our long flight back home. We spent almost three days in airports. That’s enough to keep you half-dead for a week.

In my pause and time of recovery, I’ve written several poems and found my Muse to be very generous. Being back in my room, with my books and all my things, I’ve reencountered the old soul I left behind–but she’s also grown up.

She’s grown up in the sense that she is stronger. She’s not as scared to speak. She doesn’t care about borders anymore, so her poems dance off the page–and are by no means in straight lines. She cares for those who love her, and when she has to, she chooses herself.

Sometimes, you just have to choose yourself.

I have a few short stories to share here in the future. If you want to read short fiction, I do have two pieces on Instagram–The Flight and The Meadow. There will be a story on there every Friday, so if my blog is dead, check Instagram.

I’ve grown a lot; I’m glad about it. I pray the words keep coming, because poetry is a new form of freedom.

Farewells


I’m writing this in Fort Lauterdale, Florida.

I can’t describe the feeling I had when the plane lifted off the ground. Six months in a foreign country where most people weren’t too kind? Never again. I remember hugging my teddy bear and shivering with anxiety as I waited for the plane to get in the air.

Once in the air, it was the longest flight ever. I didn’t sleep a wink; for some reason, my mind was full of twelve different songs that mixed into a weird, warped playlist that drove me insane. I turned on my iPod and went through five albums (Cleopatra, The Lumineers–The Undoing, Steffany Gretzinger, Pines by A Fine Frenzy–among others.)

I left another Mariella behind in Lima, Peru. She’s in the past; the pressure is off, and when I arrive at home, I’m going to be a stronger woman. I won’t be the person I was when I left. I’ve grown too much, mentally and emotionally.

There are more adventures to come. I’m exhausted; I’ll sleep for a few days, and then I will come back to life, and I am going to shine. There’s no room in my life for people who don’t appreciate me.

You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your friends–and they become like family. I have a family of people who truly love me, aside from my parents and brother. I’m not alone; I will recover.

I can’t wait to be a full-time writer again.

Good-bye, Peru. I’m looking ahead–to home.

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Drained of Youth


These past six months, I’ve gotten older.

It’s a bizarre thing: colors seem darker, and smiles don’t come easily. So much has happened. It’s been a trip full of ups and downs; if I wrote a story about it, the reader would finish in a melancholy mood.

Does this mean it was a bad experience? No. It’s not a bad thing to see things with clarity. Hurt me with the truth, but do not shield me with a lie. I’ve always said I live by a policy of honesty: if I have to talk, I’m going to tell you how I feel, whether you like it or not.

Be careful encouraging me to opine.

Because of this policy, I didn’t know how to deal with liars. People I thought were genuine turned out to be faking with me. Please, don’t act like a friend when you really aren’t.

Since I’m a writer, I learned from this. It’s one reason why we write: to pour emotion into a tale readers can relate to. One thing I gained from this trip is emotion, the words for books with more depth.

Now I can write about heartbreak and feel it. I can describe disappointment. I know what it’s like to be stabbed in the back and see those I love cry. I even know what it’s like to live without water.

I know how to stick up for myself. I remember the day I stood up and said what needed to be heard. It was satisfying; I could tell by their reactions that someone had to tell them. My words were a long time coming.

Words are powerful.

Most of my stories so far have been hopeful, but we do need balance. In life, there is heartbreak and pain. This trip has put me through shadows, so I can write about darker emotions.

I have shed tears. I can write stories that shed tears.

Each experience made me stronger, made my future tales more powerful. I will be digging into sensitive parts of my memory.

Storytellers use our dark experiences to connect with readers. We see the positive side of suffering. We use our heartbreak to speak to those who read with broken souls. If this trip allowed me to one day help a person who’s hurting, I’m grateful for every tear.

I wouldn’t take back the memories. Everyone goes through times of suffering. I want my stories to mean something to you when, one day, you’re also hurting.

I leave this country with mixed feelings, a sore heart, and plenty of stories. I’m eager to share them. Reading got me through the darkness; one day, I hope my stories will help you get by, too.

Nothing in life is in vain, not even heartbreak.

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A Drop in the Ocean


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1, NIV

I am a daughter of the Word, blessed with competency to work with words, unable to find appropriate words to speak of the beautiful Word.

I’m a writer; I can make sentences look pretty. When I’m writing fiction, it’s easier to do. When I’m writing about God the task is harder, because how do I put Him in words?

It would seem easy. After all, He is the Word (John 1:1). Nothing exists without Him, not even the fiction I write in my novels. He is the source of all things, including my creativity. So why is it difficult to write about Him?

Can a drop of water describe the ocean from which it came? Can a gust of wind whisper of the storm that sent it? If so, what would they say?

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.
Psalm 98:7-8, NIV

My words try to glorify the Word, and they’re going to fall short. There is so much more where they came from; He whispered the universe into existence (or maybe shouted it). I put my words on paper and do the best I can, but even when I do a good job by human standards, I can’t do Him justice.

My words come from the One Who wrote everything in His book (Psalm 139:16). He also wrote the galaxy into existence and the colors of every fish in the sea. I can write a decent story, but it doesn’t come without practice and editing; He created everything that exists without effort. There were no rough sketches for Him, no outlines.

Sure, He spends a lot of time managing His-story for our sake, so that we can get back to Him–but He doesn’t​ have to, because He is God. To whom do we dare compare His work? If He chose to leave us as we were after the Fall, rather than send His Son, to what standard would we dare hold Him? He would still be perfect.

Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor?
Isaiah 40:13, NIV

Words fail me when I try to speak of Him. I want to write like my Father creates, but I can’t. He gave me the gift of creativity, though, and because I am His child, He’s pleased to see me imitate Him.

Like a drop of water glorifies the ocean, my words always drift back to the Word, because He is good. I will spend my life trying to speak of this goodness, because from the Word comes everything beautiful–every good deed, emotion, and story.

And even though I’ll always fall short, I know He’ll smile because He loves me.

The Autumn Prince Returns


In October of 2015, I released a serial on my blog called The Autumn Prince.

It became more popular than I had anticipated; one reader called it the “highlight of her month,” and I am still humbled by that. The following year it was adapted into a short story for the Crows on Heartstrings anthology, where it shines among dozens of beautiful tales and drawings.

After the release of Crows on Heartstrings, different projects related to my Fallen Faery Tales series distracted me from The Autumn Prince. It managed to slip my mind for a long time, until now.

When the serial finished on Halloween of 2015, the story just wouldn’t get out of my head! I wrote it again as a novel that November because the characters and ideas were still so vivid.

A week ago, a friend encouraged me to find that draft and read it again. I couldn’t believe I had written it! I found myself wanting to know what happens next. So The Autumn Prince is back.

This April I’m working on edits for The Autumn Prince. My plan is to have it shine by the end of the year so I can query it in the winter. For this book, I am going to seek traditional publishing. The Autumn Prince has a different feel from Dissonance and Serenade; it wants to take the different road.

It wants to hit bookstore shelves. It wants to be your autumn read. For that, I need to work on it.

If you enjoyed The Autumn Prince when it was a serial on my blog, I hope you’ll like it all the more as a full-length novel. I’m surprised at how well I did adapting it into a book; it may have been a first draft, but it didn’t make me cringe!

I enjoyed reading it, and being the author, that’s saying something. I hope and pray you will enjoy it too.

Of Ghosts and Old Doorbells


The old doorbell had been silent for over twenty years. After this house was abandoned, people eventually stopped coming to visit, or even to try and sell things. It had been so long, in fact, that the ghosts started to assume it was too rusty to ever make another sound.

Three generations of ghosts dwelled in the old house; they drifted lazily up and down the stairs, reenacted balls in the parlor, had the same conversations that had echoed in the halls for hundreds of years. They spoke of wars long finished and weddings whose couples had long been buried together.

In the midst of this nostalgic echo, this perpetual sigh, the doorbell rang. It was really just an old bell situated somewhere by the front door; someone outside rang, and a string caused it to rattle. It wasn’t the loudest sound, and it hadn’t been touched with the greatest strength—the noise it made was indeed feeble—but when that doorbell rang, everything stopped.

The ladies dressed in ballgowns stopped their repetitive gossip to look at the door, wide-eyed. The butler, who had long run out of things to do, stopped mid-pace with his hands clasped behind his back. The scullery maid got to her feet, bouncing; an old greyhound who rested by the chilly fireplace lifted his head, whining.

“Visitors!” cried one of the ladies, fanning herself (in vain, because she could not produce any air with a ghost fan.) “I do miss playing the piano!”

“Stop it, Dinah,” said her companion with a deep, dramatic sigh; “you know as well as I that we cannot touch anything. Not even the door.”

Dinah played with a lock of her long blonde hair; it had come out of her elaborate knot, somehow, over the course of her years being dead. “Then who’s going to answer the door, Annie?”

Her companion, clearly the wiser of the two, shrugged with a regretful smile. “None of us can. We cannot touch anything.”

“But we should be polishing the silver,” said the butler, speaking for the first time in centuries. “Lighting candles. Dusting the curtains!”

“We can do nothing of the sort, Mr Brown.”

The dog whined, putting his head back on the ground, nose twitching as if struggling to hold back real tears.

The doorbell rang again, a bit more loudly this time. The ghosts stared at the bell as it rattled into silence, some hugging themselves, some breathing heavily, all knowing perfectly well that they could do nothing about it; they had no physical hands with which to open the door for them, no real voices with which to greet them or sing happy music.

“Then what did we get from any of this?” asked the maid sadly, sitting back down on the ground and crossing her legs as they listened to gravel crunch—their visitor was walking away, having realized no one was home to answer them.

Annie paused, gazing at the bell as she forced herself to think, really think, for the first time in a while. “It woke us up, Dinah. I think that’s good enough. It woke us up.”

With that, she took a step back and crossed to the other side of the room, where she lifted her chin and stood with her shoulders back.

“And I propose,” she continued, “a change. Shall we spend the next twenty years in this corner, rather than that one?”

Dinah watched Annie with a quaint frown. At last she shrugged, seeing as there was nothing for her to lose anyway; she crossed the room as well, while the baffled Mr Brown watched, himself reluctant to do anything differently from how it had been done a century ago. “I say,” she exclaimed, “it’s sunnier in this corner.”

The dog got up and crossed the room after her, where he sat down at her feet in the exact same position to listen. Annie smiled, taking Dinah’s fan and using it herself—it was her turn, after all.

“Now, then,” she said to her friend, as the other ghosts slowly began to shift position until the next person rang the doorbell, “tell me about your wedding plans.”

3 Reasons Why We Need Dreamers


It’s recently come to my attention that I am too much of a dreamer…and I don’t want to change.

These aren’t the sorts of dreams with a set goal at the end of the tunnel. When your chosen career is storytelling, it’s easy to forget the ‘rules’ and stand out even in your own crowd. For example, if you blog about books and are passionate about classics rather than trending novels, you aren’t going to review books like other readers.

You’re a dreamer. You’re different. You’re facing a challenge similar to mine.

I’ve been told multiple times to “wake up,” which implies there’s no place in the world for dreamers like me to splash some color here and there. I’m not growing out of this – I’ll always be a child at heart. And recently, I’ve decided to embrace it.

I’m not apologizing anymore for being a dreamer, and here are three reasons why you shouldn’t, either–three reasons why the world needs people who don’t conform to the standards of what is ‘right.’

We need dreamers because growing up can be toxic. It’s important to be more mature, of course, and learn to handle things in a manner befitting of your age–but when this proper behavior puts out the light of enchantment, the world becomes a dim place.

People want to be reminded of the freedom of childhood. Even when it seems you’re being mocked because you’re different, trust me, your fresh outlook on the world is helping someone now far more than you think.

We need dreamers to break the rules. Already in the world of blogging we see dreamers and creatives making a comeback, showing that it’s acceptable–if not necessary–to break the rules for success. And I might add that, with the Internet, we are free to be ourselves, unconventional though we may be.

We need dreamers to make art. Where language is a barrier, art will get the message across. A picture can mean the same thing to two people who have nothing in common–or it might mean something completely different! Without dreamers and the artists to create pieces that speak universally, what would our world look like?

Of course, not all dreamers are the same. Not everyone who makes art will be engrossed by tales of faeries, obsessed with glitter and small animals (like me, heh heh.) The point of this post is that it’s fine to be different, and you shouldn’t allow people to bring you down or prevent you from expressing yourself

You might be a more organized dreamer than I am. You might specialize in painting while I write novels. You might love pop music while I prefer indie–you might find enchantment in black and white, while lately I’m obsessed with pastels.

It’s okay. Be yourself.

This year I’m going to stop apologizing for being a little different, and I choose to be grateful for it instead. Embrace your unique personality and see how it affects your career and life.

If you’ve been put down for breaking the rules, I hope this year you’ll find the courage to accept who you are–unique and capable of true magic.

The Book Inspired by Peru


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It took a few weeks, but I was right: a new environment will inspire you with dozens of ideas. My idea for a book set in new territory has finally come to me!

When we first arrived in Peru back in December, I knew it would happen. Perhaps I would meet a person who wanted to be a character, or hear of a historical event that needed to be written, or describe a beautiful street.

Now I have a new book waiting its turn to be written. It’s still in the brainstorming stage, but it’s different from my other work, inspired by the sights, smells, and sounds of the busy Peruvian streets. I’ve been writing quick descriptions of every place I go so I can use them as reference when the time comes to write.

I don’t know yet if the story is going to be set in Lima or in a fictional place similar to it. I have a “filler” character name so I can build a backstory for the MC, but that name is likely to change. I don’t know much about the setting—what time of the year will it be? Winter or summer? How detailed do I want to be? Will I mix in Peruvian folklore to give it more personality?

This is the time for taking notes, character building, and seeing. Meanwhile, I’m finishing up the first draft of Allie’s third adventure (it’s currently at 44k, and it’s going to be the longest book in the series so far.) I also write short stories when I have the time, because I’m planning to put together an anthology (it’ll keep the plot bunnies happy.)

Back in December I decided 2017 would be a year for writing new material. Rather than scrambling to edit and publish new work, I’m going to spend the next twelve months practicing the craft, improving my prose and developing ideas. If something happens and I realize I have a manuscript ready later on, perhaps I’ll think of releasing it.

However, my fingers itch to increase the word count every day—I write 2,000 words before bedtime, and it may not seem like much at first, but look at my manuscript now! 44k!

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The book set in “Lima” is going to take some time. Since there is research involved, I don’t think I’ll be able to throw out 2,000 words every night—not if I want them to be good words. It’s fantasy, but not everything is going to be just made up. I want to stay as true as possible to my experiences and memories walking the streets myself.

I can’t even tell you what it’s going to be about yet—only that it is original and outside of my comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge.

A visit to the Museum of Peruvian Literature doubled my motivation for this. I don’t have illusions of my work making it into this museum, but it helped me gain perspective. I will read Peruvian literature, study their folklore, pay attention to the people—I still have time.

I will work hard this year to produce a piece that’ll do justice to this wonderful adventure I’m living. I hope you will enjoy it!

Being a Traveling Pantser


DSCN9349.JPGI will always be a pantser, no matter where in the world I’m writing.

I had a loose outline for the third book of my series. I even made index cards by taking a notebook and cutting its pages into rectangles – I guess it’s easier for me to use index cards that aren’t real and not be afraid I’m wasting money?

Anyway, it’s a good thing I didn’t spend money on index cards, because the outline I made on these makeshift cards turned out to be a waste. I’m 20k into the first draft, and it’s nothing like I’d planned. At least for the Fallen Faery Tales, I will always be a pantser.

The story is coming along so easily! Words are spilling onto the page (or into the document) and I’m resisting the urge to edit, meaning I make faster progress. I think it’s the different location that keeps my Muse busy, making her feel generous.

dscn9350I’ve been trying to start a bullet journal, and though it isn’t pretty (certainly not Pinterest worthy!) my favorite feature is a writing goal tracker. At the end of the day, I fill in a box with the daily word count goal. I keep the goal small, just 2k a day, and have been able to fill in all of the little boxes since January 1. I hope to finish a new draft by the end of January, and if it winds up longer than the first two books, I’ll still be filling in little boxes come February.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading (The Count of Monte Cristo is quite a feat!) or enjoying the Peruvian summer (if it’s not too hot to enjoy.) We’ve gone to the beach and seen different parts of the city. All this helps with my projects.

Travel is a great for any artist. If you can get somewhere new, just for a little while, do it. Your story will thank you, your Muse will love you, and even if you don’t write during the vacation, there’ll be plenty of material to work with at home!