The Tellings Chapter 2

Shara

They said our town was cursed. 

I remember the time I first heard the legend of Bricton; I was twelve years old and playing with other kids around the neighbourhood. We were daring each other to jump from different crumbling stone walls and to jump over the biggest puddles. Most of us wore sweaters that were big enough to fit at least one other person inside. Our rubber boots always had a habit of coming off as we jumped in a puddle. 

“They say the town is dying,” a loud boy announced to the group from the top of a moss covered wall. 

“Who is they?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest. 

The loud boy shrugged, jumping from the wall before darting off with another boy to play tag. 

Another boy came up to me, looking grim. “Once upon a time,” he started, “The town was ruled by an angry warlock. He had all the churches built to worship him, but no one ever attended. To punish all the people, he left and cast a spell so no one would ever come to the town again.”

Everyone sighed and rolled their eyes.

“They say it’s the stranger,” one of the girls whispered to another, “I heard he brought the curse to the town. He steals young girls in the night and does a ritual with their dead bodies.”

“That’s all lies,” I said. “The stranger doesn’t do anything.”

Not so long ago, a mysterious man wandered into Bricton. At first, he was just another person in the town. Us kids would see him walking to and from the market square. Pa said he saw the stranger at the pub, chatting up the bartender, the locals, and pretty much anyone. 

“He seems fine to me,” I stated loudly. I’d never seen him do anything but what everyone else did in town.

“They say he’s a wizard, or a ghost. Something unnatural,” said the boy. 

I stomped up to him. “That’s stupid! Nothing’s gone wrong here, so how do you know it’s cursed?”

He turned towards me. “Traders don’t come here anymore, outsiders don’t go to church.”

“So?”

He pointed at the sky. “Have you ever seen it rain?”

“No.”

“Then why are there giant puddles everywhere?”


At dinner that evening, Pa came home all flustered. 

“What happened, dear?” Ma asked him as she took his patchy brown coat. 

“That stranger. He got into a fight with Jim,” Pa answered as he sat down at the kitchen table with me.

“Who started it?” I asked as a swirled around the mashed potatoes on my plate. 

“Jim did. He kept saying that the stranger was ruining the town. Jim threatened him.”

“But, the stranger hasn’t done anything wrong,” I said indignantly. 

Pa nodded. “I’m just worried about the effect he’ll have on the kids.” 

I frowned and crossed my arms over my chest. “He doesn’t even come near us.” 

Ma clicked her tongue against her teeth and shook her head. “I saw him talking to Lily Evers one morning. She’s only fifteen.” 

“What happened with the fight?” I asked, trying to divert the conversation back. 

“The stranger just left. He looked angry, though.”

Ma seemed to pay no attention, and put her hand on her forehead. “What will we do, Shara’s almost thirteen. What if the stranger takes a liking to her.”

“I’m right here, Ma.”

Ma and Pa looked at each other, using their secret language I didn’t understand. I just frowned and shoved a forkful of potatoes into my mouth. Even if the stranger tried to talk to me, I doubted we’d have anything interesting to say to each other. The only appeal he had for gossip was his “newness” and mystery.

After a few minutes of silent conversation, Pa looked at me with stern eyes. “I don’t want you going out to play with the other kids, anymore. You will help your mom around the house during the day.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but the look in Pa’s eyes made me decide against it. With a silent nod, I ate the last of the potatoes and excused myself from the dinner table. 

My bed made a satisfying groan as I threw myself down onto it. They couldn’t make me stay home, they weren’t the bosses of me. Frustrated tears stung in my eyes and a rubbed them away.

From the bed I could see the world outside my window. It was dark, the sky twinkled with tiny sparks and the town twinkled with windows coming alight. Without another thought, I stood and walked over the window. I opened it slowly, listening for any sound of my parents’ approach. The tiniest of squeaks from the window made me freeze, but my parents didn’t appear. 

I remembered last summer when I used to sneak out to see Billy. He had been my best friend until his family moved away. He always came to my window and hit it with a pebble or two. Together, we would run through the quiet streets, laughing to ourselves for being so clever. My parents never did find out. 

It was easy enough to slip out of the window and I hit the ground with very little noise. I crept away from the house. A small breeze seem to guide me down the road, towards a loan bench under a lamppost. 

Sitting on the bench was a man wearing a black trench coat and black heavy boots.

I stood there watching him for a moment, wondering if it truly was him. I approached slowly, noticing that, under the light, he looked a lot younger than I thought he was. I didn’t ask questions, nor did I want to. I sat beside him without a word. 

“I didn’t cause the business to die,” he said to no one in particular without turning his head or looking at me. Up close, he looked younger than I’d originally thought. He didn’t have the deep lines on his forehead like Pa and there was a child-like wonder in his gaze.

I didn’t say anything. Should I be scared? I thought. I didn’t feel scared. “Are you going to steal me away?” I asked, trying to ignore the shake in my voice.

He laughed as pulled his hands from his pockets and rested them on his lap. “No,” he said.

“Did you curse us?” I asked, as a sort of timid feeling crept into my chest.

“This town was cursed before I came here,” he said, taking a few breaths before continuing. “As long as people from the outside consider this place good enough for them, it’ll stay intact.”

“Other cities don’t like us, though,” I stated, matching his posture. “Hardly anyone comes here anymore and lots of people are moving away.”

“The people will slowly disappear. The town will be empty. Haunted.”

“That’s a lie. Just like all the boys say. It’s not true.”

“Why would I be lying, child?” His eyes held a sincerity I could not deny. 

“If the town is cursed, what are you doing here?”

“I’m a type of a ‘caretaker’, to keep this place alive,” he finally looked at me and smiled. 

“What if I don’t want to disappear?” I asked, gripping the bench beneath me as if it was an anchor holding me in reality. 

His smile became bigger. “You could become a caretaker like me.”


Chapter 1

A Forest in Spring – Earth Day composition

The forest in Spring was a sleepy sort of place. Even the dappled sun between the branches was like light filtering through drawn curtains. Birds chirped freely to remind the sleeping giants it was time for waking. The trees stirred from slumber and stretched towards the glow.

A rabbit scampered through the sparse underbrush, feeling a vague sense of relief for the coming growth. Food in abundance was a promise on the wind. The smell of damp earth was the smell of renewed hope.

This feeling spread through the soil as the trees shared their greetings, secrets, and nutrients. Soft conversations between roots; that interconnected system of infinite wisdom beneath the stand. The crowns were still bare, but a whole world existed below.

The wind was a sigh of relief as it passed gently in the weave of branches. A cloud, heavy with rain, drifted by and left puddles as it went. Small streams burbled and bubbled with rain and newly melted snow. A cheerful robin, just returned, hopped about the puddles and looked for worms amongst the mud.

As the trees woke and leaves unfurled, a joy returned to the hearts of all the beings there.


Happy Earth Day!

This is just a happy whimsical thing I whipped up to celebrate. This is also part of a project that brings together artists, writers, and other creatives for the Earth and celebrate 50 years of Earth Day. You can read more about it here.

This will also be published up on my Instagram account!

I hope you have a wonderful day and take a moment to appreciate the amazing beauty of our little blue planet.

Am I not Smart Enough for This?

Do you ever feel like everyone in the world knows more than you about everything?

Okay. Well, maybe not everyone. But many many people.

I often feel like I’m missing out on some great knowledge, though it only seems to be some vague idea of knowledge and not actually something tangible. Maybe I haven’t read enough books. Maybe I haven’t spent enough hours researching.

It could be my utter lack of being able to articulate my ideas into some sort of coherent sentence. Even in university, my ability to pontificate about the theme of my paper was fairly sparse. And my ability to pull random facts and anecdotes out of my brain is non-existent except for random moments where tidbits about Henry VIII’s wives are not needed.

Does this mean I’m not smart enough to write anything but these weird little rant-y blog posts?

Should I keep all opinions to myself lest I have to defend it with words I don’t have or ideas I can’t seem to bring forth?

Where are those pesky words, anyway? Where do they live in my brain? The inaccessible parts that can’t be reached for the darkness and cobwebs.

What books should I be reading or not reading or thinking about or daydreaming of being one day? Is there a limit to the knowledge one person can cram in one’s brain?

Sometimes I wonder about all the information I could fit into my head if it wasn’t filled with endless song lyrics and cat memes. Would I have more room for discourse on the emergence of the YA genre in the 1940s or how Catcher in the Rye and The Outsiders were the major catalysts of the genre becoming a popular one? Maybe not.

I guess Socrates would be proud of me for admitting my own utter lack of knowledge. The first step to learning is admitting one’s own ignorance.

Well here it is! I know that I know nothing.

What I’m Reading this Month: April

After the longest March ever, we’ve finally made it into April. Time seems to have resumed a somewhat normal pace. At least in my house. We seemed to have settled into self-isolation/social-distancing/quarantine groove⎯as much as one can settle in.

As always, books are a source of comfort and escape during this harrowing time. Now I have almost endless time to sit down and devour a book. Last month was very much “nonfiction” month, but I missed my fiction. I’m a fiction lover. April seems to have brought a happy compromise between the two.

Currently reading

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I did see the movie before I started reading this. But that shouldn’t be held against me, for I’m quite enjoying reading this book. It was actually given to me as a gift by a family friend. After finishing my somewhat whacky self-help book, I wanted to stay inspired so I grabbed it off my shelf.

Now I’ll probably never hike the PCT, but reading about it has been a treat. I’d like to consider myself an outdoorsy person, but I’m certainly not THIS outdoorsy. But it’s nice to live it through someone else and travel with them on their emotional journey.

We all need a bit of healing sometimes.

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

This was one I saw highly recommended when I went searching for a book on mindfulness. Now is as good a time as any to become more mindful and delve into that realm of thinking. While it seems a bit “hippy-dippy” on the outside, it’s actually quite grounded.

My relationship with myself has always been a bit rocky, but I can’t help but feel hopeful as I start in on this book.

Howl’s Moving Castle (Wizard’s Castle) by Diana Wynne Jones

This edition is actually the first two books in the Moving Castle series in one book. Given to me by my parents a long long time ago. I’m a bit ashamed to admit I’ve only ever read Howl’s Moving Castle and never the second book. Maybe that will change this time?

My initial thought for picking this one off the shelf was to help me with my new novel that I’m working on. It has some similar elements and I wanted to read through to make sure my book wasn’t getting TOO similar. But I enjoy the story immensely, even without the practical reasons.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

This is the second book in V.E. Scwab’s Shades of Magic series. The first made the cut as one of my favourite books that I read last year. I was trying to have discipline and get through other books I was reading before starting it, but this month I was finally able to start.

Obviously, the book was under a lot of pressure to wow me after the first in the series was such an amazing start, but it hasn’t disappointed so far. I’m immediately invested in the characters and excited to dig into the story.


So that’s it for April. Obviously this doesn’t include the books that were started last month (or even earlier)! This is a good month for nice comforting books and hopefully you find some inspiration for your own reading list.

As always, I’d love to know what you’re reading. Leave a comment and let me know what’s on your shelf this month.

The Tellings Chapter 1

Sophie

My cousin Rose was getting married in Old Bricton. 

This might not seem significant but, for anyone who lived in the surrounding towns, it was. Old Bricton was a local legend. The town never made the news, though it was talked about. Whatever we heard, it was usually another business going bankrupt, or the plans to demolish a church. The plans never amounted to anything.

Old Bricton was a labyrinth of cobblestone streets and stone buildings, looking much too old to be standing. Some streets were so narrow you could lift your arms and run your fingers along opposite walls, while some were so wide, they allowed thirty people to stand side by side with breathing room. 

I ran my fingers along a cold brick wall, as my mother hurried me along towards the centre of town. 

“Be careful not to get your dress dirty,” she said as she marched along, the click of her heels echoing. She didn’t look at her surroundings, but kept her eyes fixed on a point ahead of her.

The day before the wedding, my father went on a “sudden business meeting” with his new attractive boss. He was hoping to get a “promotion.” So, it was just me and Mom walking through the streets of Old Bricton ourselves. 

“Careful of that puddle!”

I stopped mid-stride and looked down at my feet. Sadly, my mother’s idea of a puddle was a tiny splash of water. I looked up at the sky and practically clear except for a few wispy things.

“Did it rain earlier?” I asked.

She shook her head. “It’s been sunny all week, you know that.” She didn’t seem to notice that she had just told me to watch for puddles. 

I examined the rain-darkened brick around me. The buildings and the roads were like trees soaked after a storm. Even small patches of fuzzy moss poked out from corners. It had been raining, somehow, though I knew Mom was right about the weather.

The centre of Old Bricton wasn’t what you’d expect. There were almost no shops, too many inns and an over-abundance of churches. The churches were ancient stone giants, standing five-hundred feet tall. Each embodied the town; crumbling, but still standing against all odds.

We arrived at an intersection with four towering churches on either corner. Each was large enough to take ones breath away, if given the chance. Before I had a moment to look, I was pulled into a dark and widely detailed cathedral. 

Everyone was there. My aunts and uncles stood around awkwardly, making conversation and trying to forget where they were. My female cousins stood in a corner, all dressed in pastels; soft and light colours. They looked at me and raised their eyebrows. 

I looked down at my dress. It certainly wasn’t a rosy pink or a soft lavender. It was long, shimmering gold. Much more bold than my cousins would dare.

Even with the sun coming in the high windows, the nave seemed to swallow light. It had the potential to be beautiful, but it was too dark to see. Something else also caught my attention and caused the hairs on my arms to stand. The ceiling was hundreds of feet high, yet everyone’s voices were muted and caused no echo. 

“When you get married, Sophie,” Mom began as we walked deeper into the Cathedral, “the ceremony will be held in that charming church in our neighborhood. It has so much more character.”

I didn’t respond but silently shook my head. Mom didn’t see as she was a few steps ahead, nor did she understand how wrong she was about me and the church. The one she labeled “charming” was a 50-year-old mid-century megachurch monstrosity without a smidge of character in it. But it was familiar and safe. That’s what mattered. 

Mother dragged me into a room at the back where cousin Rose was getting ready, insisting that we had to help. Rose was already dressed when we arrived, and just about ready anyway. 

She looked at Mother then me, then gave a knowing smile. Of all my cousins, she was the one I was closest to. We had a deep understanding and a love for all things odd and extraordinary; including this town and all its churches.

“Why don’t you go exploring?” Rose said as she walked up to me in her sparkling white dress.

I shook my head. “Mother would kill me if I left, and I’d probably get lost.” Not as if it was a bad thing necessarily, but if I was gone for more than five minutes, I’d be in so much trouble.  

She patted my shoulder. “Go on. I can keep your mom busy for a while.”

I got up from my chair by the door as Rose went to distract my mother. Wasting no time, I slipped out of the room. I looked back at Mom in time to see her chatting with my aunt, unaware that her only daughter was leaving.

The inner hallways of the cathedral were much darker than the rooms occupied by the wedding. I had to keep my hand on one wall so I didn’t run into it. 

A tiny breath of a draft danced along my arm, ushering me further into the building. My hand found a wooden railing and my foot found a staircase. I eased onto the first step, the wood underneath it groaned and creaked, but felt sturdy. 

I heard noise above me and stopped. Looking up, and a tiny window gave me just enough light to see the flight of stairs winding up. It looked as if there was a shadow standing a few flights up. 

I took off my shoes and then padded up the stairs, trying to be as quiet as I could in case someone was actually there. 

Quick footsteps echoed down to me, moving upward. 

I attempted to follow, taking two stairs at a time. My dress limited my speed and I silently cursed it. By the time I reached the top the landing was empty, but there was only one door in front of me. 

The door opened slowly with a soft squeak. I poked my head into the room, but all I could see was dust hovering in mid-air. It didn’t float to the floor like dust would; it swirled around slowly, as if it were dancing. 

As soon as I stepped into the room, all the dust fell to the floor like snow. My feet left footprints on the floor behind me. The room was large, each corner was a dark and mysterious cave. But, one in particular held a shadowy figure. Whoever it was, they were facing the wall, clothed all in black.

I hesitated, recalling what my mother used to say about strangers: Strangers are dangerous, especially those from Old Bricton.

The mysterious person mumbled something inaudible. They didn’t look at me or turn around.

“What?” I asked, not moving from my position close to the door. 

“You should not be here.” It was male voice and he turned around to face me.

“I’m not stealing anything,” I said, “and I wouldn’t have come here if you hadn’t run away.” Though, that was partially a lie. I might’ve come in my exploration, but certainly not on purpose.

I could hear him breathing loudly until he said, “Do you know what happens when people come here?” When I shook my head, he continued, “If people from the outside go places they should not, someone gets hurt.” 

While that statement was somewhat disturbing, it didn’t deter me. “I like this town better than my own home.” 

“No one likes this town, anymore.”

“I do,” I repeated.

“Interesting,” he said. “Most from the outside do not bother to explore outside of their ‘little bubble.’” He stepped out of the shadows, and looked surprisingly younger than be sounded. His skin was chalk-like under the grey light coming in from the windows.  

“Are you a ghost?” I said aloud without thinking. 

“You could say that all the remaining people here are ghosts, made so by the world that turned against them.” 

“What happens when someone moves in?”

He took another step towards me. “That does not happen anymore, the only people who come here are tourists and contractors.”

“The tourists are usually disappointed, aren’t they?” 

“I would not say that. They tend to get lost in the city’s individuality.”

My stomach dropped as I caught on to the second meaning in his words. “You mean, the tourists never leave, do they?”

He shook his head and took another step, he was close enough now that I could see the grim smile on his face. “It is how the city survives, smart girl.” 

I knew I should have run, but I didn’t want to. I thought of my mother, who was still downstairs, my cousin, and of my dad, who was probably being seduced by his boss. I knew I didn’t want to be apart of that life. 

“I want to stay, but I won’t be a tourist.” 

He nodded in recognition. “I understand. You will fit in here.” He reached out his hand. 

I took a deep breath, sure of my decision, before taking his hand. It was cold, but I wasn’t surprised.

“I must warn you,” he said, “the deeper you get, the more lost you become.” 

Coming Soon: The Tellings

It’s time for a story. Get ready.

In the coming months, I’ll be publishing one chapter a month from a story I’ve been working on for a while. If you followed my blog posts back when I was in university, the first few chapters will be familiar. But I wanted to finally get the thing finished.

The Tellings is a story about a ghost town where people visit but never leave. There’s a secret magic that permeates the ground, but it’s failing. Those who are left feed it as they can, but a force is moving to reclaim what was taken. It’s spooky, it’s moody, it’s full of magic.

So hold on to your hats because the first chapter is coming very soon.

What is This Blog Even FOR? (Plus: bread making adventures)

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

It’s almost been two years since I started THIS blog⎯I’ve been blogging for years before on a different platform. When I posted for the first time, I had a grand idea for what I wanted it to be. I wanted to write lots of book reviews, share my experience in writing/querying/publishing, and posting plenty of short stories.

Looking back, I’ve only somewhat succeeded. I’ve written a handful of book reviews, though I’d like to write more. Certainly I’ve shared my experience with writing, that seems to be the one thing I do regularly. But, I’ve only ever posted one story and a couple of poems here.

Is it worth continuing to update my audience on my writing life, when I don’t even post writing for them to read?

My close friends and family, who know what I’m working on, read my updates with proper context. But what about people who don’t necessarily know me? What if they’ve never read anything of mine before?

So many of my creative projects exist outside of this blog: my paintings, my novel, etc. Then what is this blog for?

At the moment, it’s just been a place where I can vent my creative woes. Basically it’s just an online diary, with occasional book reviews/recommendations.

I want this blog to be so many things. To be a place where I can share the outpourings of my brain, fictional or otherwise. But the life updates and personal posts seem to leave me feeling like I’m not truly being creative. Where are the poems I long to write, the stories I want to tell?

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t have plans. I’m in the process of editing some long-lost stories to post as a serial style novel here. Though, as per usual, it’s procrastination central over here. But, I’d like to get the first chapter up by the end of the month or, at the latest, the beginning of April. So… stay tuned for that, I guess!

Perhaps, instead of focusing what I wanted it to be and being disappointed that it’s not, I should do my best to make it what I want. That’s basically the story of my life: stop worrying and wanting and moping, and start doing!

Perhaps it’s the all craziness that’s going on right now: coronavirus, economic recession, etc. So let’s all do our best to stay positive.


On a happier note, I made a loaf of bread from scratch for the first time this week. Specifically, it was a loaf of sourdough.

I’d been wanting to make a loaf of bread from scratch for a while but hadn’t gotten around to it until now. As I wrote in a Medium article about sourdough bread and mindfulness, it was a recipe I found in a French cookbook that finally inspired me. It provided a step-by-step guide on how to get a sourdough starter going through to the baking, even including a troubleshooting page.

Getting the starter going was a little intimidating, considering I was basically growing the yeast I’d need for the actual dough. But it worked! It bubbled and ate and eventually was used to make the dough.

Making the dough was an adventure. Buckle up!

The recipe, written by a professional French baker who has been baking for years and knows exactly what he is doing, told me to make the dough by mixing all the flour on a worktop then pour the wet ingredients into a dent in the mountain of flour. Do you know what happens when liquid is being held in my a wall made of flour? It leaks.

Liquid and flour went absolutely everywhere. In the process of trying to block the leaks, more leaks occurred. The mound was leaking, I was covered in wet flour water, it was all over the floor and the countertop.

Eventually, I managed to grab a bowl and scoop as much as I could into the bowl. Imagine: I’ve got a big metal bowl suspended between my stomach and the counter, as I try and shovel flour and liquid into the bowl while it slowly spread farther and farther on the counter. I could only reach so much with my short little arms.

It was then mixed together in the bowl on the floor. While the counter was covered in gross flour water, which dripped down the cabinets and onto the floor. But, in the end, the dough was made!

I made the biggest mess in the entire world, but the mess eventually made into bread. Of course, after some time rising, and some kneading, and all the things a dough needs before it becomes bread. And bread it indeed became. Somewhat successfully.

The loaf has a fantastically crisp crust and a wonderfully robust sourdough flavour. It’s a little dense, but that can be remedied through experimenting with different flours and rising times. Despite that, I’d call my first attempt at bread a decent success. It was eatable at least and it looked like an artisanal loaf of bread. More importantly, it’s inspired me to continue on this bread-making journey.

So more bread adventures will be had in the future!

The Future of Winifred McQuary

Here’s a question: how much different rejection does it take before you realize something is not working?

It took me 6 years to finish The Curious Adventures of Winifred McQuary. While it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, but I felt confident in my work that it would be publishable at some point.

With the first chapters of my first draft, I was accepted into a highly competitive creative writing program. I worked with a mentor to finish most of the first draft, and he told me my story was publishable. That it was a solid idea.

After rounds and rounds of edits and read throughs from many different people, I thought it was ready. The feedback I’ve had from readers has been generally positive. So when I started sending it out, I expected rejection but thought maybe this book would fall into the right hands and find someone who’s as excited about it as I am.

But the more time I spent querying it and getting rejected, then not getting accepted into a Twitter-based mentorship program, the more I started to think that maybe something was missing or not quite right with the book. But since I spent 6 years working on it, I don’t know if I want all that time and effort to be in vain.

So I figure I have two options:

  1. I continue querying and hope that with an improved query letter I can find the right person to represent my book.
  2. I put the manuscript away for a while, work on different projects, then go back to it and see about edits or rewrites.

At the moment, I’m leaning towards shelving the book and going back to it later. But it sort of feels like I’m betraying it. Six years of work seems like a huge amount of effort to have it all come to nothing.

Sometimes I feel like I’m giving up too soon, when people have sent their book to hundreds of agents before giving up. In my opinion, that bordering on over-saturation. But should I keep sending it out when I feel in my gut that something isn’t quite right?

But I don’t believe it was for nothing. I learned so much about myself as a writer and about writing in general. I’ve discovered what the book has been missing since I started reflecting on it when the rejections kept coming in.

Despite the fact that it took 6 years to finish, I think I was trying to finish it as fast as possible so that I could get it published and start my life as a writer. But in that rush, I didn’t take the time to do some deep digging into the heart of the work. The story itself was fine⎯whenever I described the story to anyone it was met with positive feedback⎯but the storytelling wasn’t where it needed to be.

Poor Winifred doesn’t have a soul. The plot jumps from one point to another, giving Winnie plenty to do but nothing to struggle over. Her internal arc isn’t as developed as it should be. Her desires aren’t what drives the plot and, even in an adventure-like story, that needs to be what does.

I truly believe it’s not the end of Winifred’s adventures. The story isn’t worth giving up altogether, but I need time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder as they say. And, after all those years I spent working, I need time away to really appreciate it again.

I’m working on something new right now and giving it my very best. This one seems to have much more personality than Winnie’s book, the heart will come now that I know what to do.

So The Curious Adventures of Winifred McQuary probably won’t be my debut novel, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever.

If you’ve shown me support on this project, thank you so much. Please know that your kindness and encouragement is truly appreciated.

On to the next.

What I’m Reading Right Now: March

Hello and welcome to March.

It’s that month that is the teasingest of all the months. In the morning it feels like spring is imminent, but by the afternoon it’s snowing. But, one consolation, it’s not February. And we can all live in the knowledge that spring will eventually arrive, whether it wants to or not.

As I was gathering up all the books that I’ve been reading so far in March—besides all the books I’m still reading from earlier in the year—I realized that these were all actually non-fiction books.

Wow!

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m trash for fiction, especially fantasy of all sorts. But February left me feeling stuck and in need of some change. So in the last week of the month, I took some time off from social media and I’ve actually started reading more non-fiction books.

Currently reading

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

I started reading this actually back in February as inspiration when I was feeling quite low about all the rejections I was getting. I thought it would be a good motivational tool for me to keep writing, and not just give up and crawl into a corner to die like I wanted to.

The book’s main goal is to show the reader how to write a first draft based purely on character arc, rather than simply plot points. A character-driven book is more appealing to audiences than something that is more plot-driven, according to Lisa Cron.

So far it’s been an excellent book. I’m in the midst of writing a new first draft and I’ve been given so much useful insight in how I should go about making this a much better book. So huzzah for that!

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

While on my week away from all sad internet things, I read this book to see if it would/could help me. And⏤somewhat surprisingly⏤it did. Some may find this book a little too self-helpy (there’s talk of Source Energy and vibrations and positive affirmations), but the writing appealed to me.

It’s been fairly easy to read and has actually made me feel like I could shift myself into a better sense of self. But I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you don’t like hippy-dippy stuff about energy and manifestation.

A Brief History of the Celts by Peter Berresford Ellis

To be honest, I started this book a while ago as I was starting research for a potential novel idea. I was going to set the story in a fantasy world based on a mishmash of Celtic/Nordic/Anglo-Saxon cultures. But because of my fiction addiction and moving on to other projects, research stalled.

Now I’m making another attempt to finish it even if it’s just for historical curiosity. There’s a part of me that kind of misses learning new history things. So this is my valiant effort to get back onto the fun-history-learning-time train.

So if you’d like a bite-sized overview on the history of Celtic people, this book is a good place to start.

Last but certainly not least, I’ve been poking around in this book very recently.

It has something to do with a super-secret announcement I’m going to be making on my newsletter in a couple weeks. So if you want to be privy to the news when it drops, you can sign up HERE.


So that’s it for March. Not many books this month, but I’m still reading like 3 books from past months because I take forever to read and I’m always starting new books.

As always, I’m interested in what you’re reading! Let me know by leaving a comment.

My Week Away from Social Media: Lessons in intentional living

Photo by Aditya Saxena on Unsplash

As my last blog post suggested, I’ve been struggling a lot recently with negative vibes swirling around me like a hurricane of badness. I needed to do something. I thought it was changing up my creative projects, but I came to realize that I couldn’t focus on my new things with all the negativity I was holding onto.

Then it hit me: I should take a break from social media. Specifically Twitter and Instagram, where I spend most of my time nowadays. I also didn’t worry about publishing on Medium or here, because I wasn’t feeling good about what I was writing either.

These are places where I’m trying to grow my online presence for professional reasons. But in the process I was focusing too much on numbers; how many likes I was getting, how many comments, etc. Obviously I wasn’t getting the numbers I wanted, my engagement was minimal. It seemed no matter what I did, I couldn’t get people to notice me.

I was stuck in this spiral of suck, where I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t doing what I loved. The only way to break out of it was to take some time away from the things that were making me miserable. So that’s what I did.

The past week, from Saturday to Saturday, I didn’t check Instagram or Twitter nor did I write anything new for Medium or this blog. If I had any ideas, I’d write them down or take the picture for Instagram, but I wouldn’t post them.

This is what I learned:

I actually had ideas

Without the pressure of Social Media I had a strange newfound inspiration. There were beautiful pictures everywhere, new ideas for writing, endless possibilities.

A bowl full of blueberries, the view from my window, images of ice taken by a favourite photographer. I was noticing things that bring a little joy into my life, things that I wanted to share. The fact that I wasn’t sharing brought a sort of freedom to my ideas that I hadn’t experienced in a while or maybe ever.

This is going to sound obvious but trying to force it wasn’t working. As soon as I stopped forcing it, the ideas started flowing. I didn’t think it would be that easy, but⏤weirdly⏤it was that easy. I wasn’t even off Social Media for a full day when I started to feel this freedom, this lightness.

It wasn’t as hard as I thought

Like many people, I’m a little addicted to my favourite apps. I spent way too much time mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Twitter like it was my job. I’m going to sound a bit like Marie Kondo here, but it wasn’t bringing me joy.

I thought it would take me a couple days to stop wanting to fall back into my scrolling habits but, while I would occasionally open the app without thinking, I didn’t really feel the urges almost right away. It was as if I was truly ready to let go of these miserable-making patterns.

Now that I’m “back,” I don’t feel the need to look at it every five minutes like I used to. So perhaps it was a turning point for my routines.

The numbers don’t matter

Numbers are just that: numbers. They seem like this all-powerful important meaningful thing, but the world didn’t end when I stopped looking at the numbers. In certain situations the numbers matter, though when it comes to passions, the numbers don’t matter.

By constantly checking how many likes I was getting, how many reads, how many views, I was giving those numbers much more weight than they actually need. But that’s not what should matter to me. What needs to matter is my feelings, my love, my passion, my enthusiasm for what I’m creating.

To a certain extent, in order to grow and potentially make more money⏤which, y’know, helps me be able to continue creating freely⏤the numbers need to matter a little bit. However, the numbers don’t deserve top priority in my life. My art is what matters and everything else is just secondary.

I needed to properly prioritize in order to set myself free. And that meant putting the numbers where they belong.


Another thing I did for myself was read a self-help book (dun dun duuuuun). But weirdly enough, it’s been helping. Who’d’ve thought?!

I purchased You Are Badass years ago but it sat on my shelf unread until this past week. It’s as if the book has been waiting until I needed it. Boy, did I need it. It was the perfect companion for my Social Media hiatus, as it showed me how I could live more intentionally and how I wanted to live.

I have this image in my head of this whimsical life where I can write and paint and bake without fear and I can support myself from it. It seemed too far out of reach until I started reading this book.

Yes, self-help books are cheesy⏤this one is especially “rah-rah”⏤but it’s my kind of cheese.

Rejoice in the cosmic ridiculousness!

Jen Sincero

This was a line that really stuck with me; a reminder not to take life so seriously.

Here’s what I’ve taken away from what I’ve read so far:

Live like you’ve already got the life you want

Do the things you envision yourself doing in your dream life, or figure out ways that you can start doing those things. Be proactive and intentional with your decisions.

For me, that means writing and painting and doing all the things that bring me joy. Yeah, I still have my day job, but if I spent less time feeling sad about the fact that I have to have a day job or wistfully longing for my dream life or on my scrolling on my phone, I’d be able to do the things that I dream of.

I’m going to have to work some internal fears, but that’s part of it. Pushing aside the feelings of suck to make room for the awesomeness that’s ready to take its place. We constantly tell ourselves excuses for why we can’t live the life we want, these are rooted in fears and negative beliefs that we carry around in our subconscious. But, if we instead tell ourselves positive stories about us, we can shift our thinking and in turn our reality.

If I can get to a place where the fears don’t keep me from living, I can do all the things!

Be wholly you with as much enthusiasm as you can

Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you.

Dr. Seuss

I think that sums it up nicely. You need to own your special brand of weirdness because there’s no one else that’s going to do it. Embrace it. Live it. Live it loudly!

I was trying too hard to be like the people I admire. And why wouldn’t I? They’re awesome people! They’re successful and other people like them. But I’m not them, I’m me. I can’t do things like them, I can only do things like me. I can’t succeed in the way someone else has, but I can succeed in my way.

These people can inspire me, but in the end, my work needs to come from me. They need to come from my own truth. They need to come from a place of passion and love, from the place that is wholly me.

And I need to be me. In the most ME-est sort of way. I want to love what I love without fear of judgment, wear what I want to wear, create what I want to create. Someone else that’s been a “be yourself” inspiration superhero for me is Bernadette Banner, who makes and wears her own historical clothing and is a general sunshine person. She embraces her interests with a crazy amount of enthusiasm and isn’t afraid to show it.

I’ve spent too much time concerned with what other people think of me. But, the thing is, what other people think of me is actually none of my business. It’s been hard to wrap my head around, but it’s true.

The only opinion about me that matters should be me.

Live in the moment with gratitude

The moment is where it’s at! Literally. Live for the moment that you’re in and be grateful for all the amazing in the world.

Some of my happiest little daily moments are when I’m simply loving the world around me; gazing at the clouds, listening to a singing bird, feeling the fresh air in my lungs. If I could live like that all the time I’d be set.

Unfortunately, it’s not totally possible to live in a state of constant gratitude all the time, but it’s a noble goal. When we see everything through the lens of thankfulness, even the negative can have a silver lining.

All of the rejections and setbacks I’ve been having lately are all a lesson for me to learn, a way to teach me that something wasn’t working. I’m thankful things didn’t go the way I wanted or I’d be somewhere I shouldn’t be. And I’m so grateful for the time I gave myself this week and for the new inspiration and motivation I’ve gained from it.


I can’t recommend this enough: take time away if you need to. The internet will be there when you get back. The people who are important will understand that you need to take care of yourself.

The world is wide and wonderful; there’s so much more to it than what’s on Instagram or Twitter. It just took some time away from it all for me to realize it. Now I’m ready to go out there and do so much more than I was doing before.