time for (another) rant

Last year, I posted this big rant about one of my indie book reviews being [kind of] censored.  I’m not going to link to it because it turned into a mess, but I’m here today with another rant centered around an indie author. (Not naming her, fyi.)

And it’s worse?

Earlier this year I had the privilege of beta-reading a dystopian trilogy for an indie author whose books I enjoy.  She’s not my favorite indie author, but she’s written some good stuff and created at least one character I really like so I jumped at the chance to help her out in the beta-ing department.  I read all three books, gave her my comments, and that was that.

Until yesterday, when I saw that she’d posted the final book to Goodreads (so it was now available for rating/reviewing).  I added it to my shelves and rated it two stars. 

EXPLANATION: I was stressed yesterday about completely unrelated things.  I was in a hurry to get the book on my shelves, wasn’t really thinking, and since the book left almost no impression on me…I rated it two stars.  I admit that I should have taken more time to think about my rating and maybe leave a short review, but I didn’t. (And, I mean, it’s not like I’m required to by law.)

Later that night, I opened up Facebook Messenger to find a super long message from the author in question.  Why, she asked, did I dare to rate her book only two stars?  If I had issues with it, why didn’t I bring them up when I beta read? (To be completely open with y’all, I pointed out any typos I found when I first read the book and honestly answered all the questions she had for the beta readers.  It’s just that the story/characters didn’t connect with me and I definitely didn’t like it as much as some of her other books.)

“I was planning on offering my beta readers paperback copies in reward for their assistance during the process.  Sorely disappointed I can’t do that for everyone involved now,” she said, passive-aggressively. (Spoiler alert: I’m grateful for the gesture but I have limited shelf space and that offer doesn’t tempt me to raise my rating.)

Still, none of the above would have been enough to prompt this blog post.  Yeah, I’ve bought all of her books and reviewed some and helped her in any way I could and micro-managing reviews and ratings is Bad Form, but…I would have let it go.

Except that she blocked me on Messenger directly after sending the message.

I had a thoughtful response planned out, explaining that I’d not really been thinking and that maybe I could see my way to bumping my rating up to three stars.  But then I tried to send that message and, yeah, it didn’t go through.  I was ‘no longer able to reply to this conversation’.  In one of the most juvenile moves imaginable, she blocked me from her author page’s messaging system so I couldn’t defend myself.

So, yeah.  I’m kind of mad about that.

I’d been reading a different book by the same author and was really enjoying it until all of this happen.  I’ll still finish it, but the whole thing has gone sour for me.  Indie authors, please don’t try to keep your rankings high by following up with every single reader and asking them why they didn’t rate your book higher.  As a reader, I’m not required to post a positive review – or any review.  I’m sure that when I become a published author, I’ll get reviews that will make me shake my head.  But I’m not going to engage.

I’m not quite sure what the point of all this was, except to get my response out there since I couldn’t do it in private.  I’ll probably look back on this post in a couple weeks and roll my eyes because I thought this was such a big deal, but I’m honestly angry right now.

Grrrrrrr.

Have you ever had a similar experience with an author (indie or otherwise)?  Or do you have a happy author interaction story to share?  Let me know in the comments!

Eva

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the ‘Name the Cat!’ contest

So, remember how I said I was going to do some kind of giveaway thing to celebrate reaching 400 followers? (402 now, by the way!)  Well, I thought about it quite a bit and couldn’t come up with a good giveaway prize that wasn’t an Amazon gift card because you all have such varying tastes and interests.  I have varying tastes and interests.

But I was thinking about my novel yesterday (The Darkness is Past – working title) and I thought that my main character should have a cat and then I thought “Oh, what should I name it?” and then I thought “Why not make it into a contest?”

So here we are.

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Rules:

-You can submit up to five names through this form.

-Like the form says, identify yourself by a pseudonym so that I’m not biased.  And since I won’t have your email, make sure to check back here in a couple weeks to see if you won the contest.

The contest ends June 25th.

-That’s about it?

Other Important Information:

-My main character is a guy in his mid-twenties who has never owned a pet before.  The cat’s gender/color/breed are undetermined (probably going to be a random stray, tbh) so you can submit male, female, and gender neutral names.  Basically, I’ll pick the one I like most and figure out the cat’s gender after.

-The story world is dystopian America (though my MC finds the cat in Russia).  MC is American himself.  So futuristic sounding names are a good call. 😉 (Though not required.)

-This book is a dystopian retelling of the Apostle Paul’s life, so that might give you a few good ideas.

-Literary reference names are also awesome.

Prizes:

-The name you submitted will be used in the book – obviously. (If, for some reason, the cat ends up getting cut from the story [which I can’t imagine happening, but it could] I will use the name for something else.  Not sure what, but it will be in the book.)

-$5 Amazon gift card!

-An autographed copy of the book sent to you when it’s published. (I don’t know when that will happen, but it will happen and one day you’ll check your mail and there’ll be a mysterious package inside and then you’ll remember winning this contest…)

Contest is open to residents of Canada and the continental US.

That’s about it!  If you have any other questions for me about my main character or whatever, let me know in the comments. 🙂

Eva

‘two suitors’ (or, why fourteen-year-old Eva was a sucky writer)

Yesterday I discovered some of my old writing.

THE CRINGE IS REAL.

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I was fourteen or fifteen when I wrote a certain trilogy of novellas set in Regency England.  At the time I was high-key obsessed with all things Jane Austen and, guys, I plagiarized lines from the books AND the movies in this trilogy.  Also names.  And as I read through the novellas last night, there was a definite Elsie Dinsmore influence as well.  My heroines were forever bursting into tears and some lines of description are almost verbatim from the Elsie Dinsmore books.  And the sad thing is that this isn’t a case of #copypastecris – I didn’t copy and paste lines from Elsie Dinsmore.  I’d just read the books so much that they were ingrained in my brain. (But that’s a story for another time.)

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to post some excerpts from the cringiest book in the trilogy – The Two Suitors – along with commentary from moi. (The title= #lovetriangle #subtle.)  I might add some stuff from the other two novellas but, honestly, it’s going to be a struggle to leave quotes out from Two Suitors because everything is a joke.  Including my chapter titles (we’ll get to those).  Annnnd you’re probably going to hear variations of ‘cringe’ a lot because, yeah.  It’s unbelievable.

(I recognize that every author has to start somewhere.  And since these novellas were what really set me on the road to a writing career, they do hold a bit of a special place in my heart.  Plus, grammar and spelling are on point.  So that’s nice.  But overall… *shudders*)

So, the title page (#professional) reads Two Suitors: The tale of a girl who knew her place in the world. (At this point, we’re all vaguely alarmed…and it’s just the title page.)

Basic plot (from what I gathered in my skim-through): The main character is named Marianna (totally not based on Marianne Dashwood) who’s really snobbish (totally not based on Emma Woodhouse) and who falls in love with this probably-a-villain guy named John Albertson (totally not based on John Willoughby).  But there’s this other guy named Thomas Hilton who also loves Marianna (heaven knows why – she’s always super rude and snobbish toward him because ‘his family made their fortune in trade’ and doesn’t THAT sound familiar).  Marianna ends up becoming friends with Thomas’s niece, Anna Taylor (I CAN’T), and falls out of love with John super quickly because the plot demands it.  Thomas proposes again (oh, yeah, he proposed after dancing with her, like, one time but she refused) and amid plenty of happy tears, Marianna accepts him.

Ugggggh.

Now onto the quotes! (I also put a really pretentious ‘introduction’ before the story began but the one for Two Suitors is pretty tame compared to the introductions for the other books so I’m just going to skip it.)

Marianne called Emma her aunt even though she wasn’t quite her aunt. Her mother had been Emma’s cousin. However, Emma had wanted Marianna to call her that so she did. (Lol, wut?  Trying to figure out the familial connection is making my head spin.  And I’ve never heard of someone wanting someone else to call them ‘aunt’.  ‘Mom’ or ‘dad’ maybe, but not aunt.)

She was two years younger than any of his children and was quite used to being the center of her little world. She was the established head of her group of friends and she made sure it stayed that way. (Marianna sounds like a brat, tbh.)

“May I have this dance, Miss Arlington?” [John] asked eagerly.
“You forget…we have already danced our allowed two.”
He frowned. “I’m sure no one will notice,” he said with a smile. (Try to picture that in your mind.  He frowned…he said with a smile. *face-palm* Also, when I read this part out to my sister, she was like, “Flexing your knowledge of Regency customs, eh?”  And, yeah, if there was one fact I knew about Regency customs, it was that a couple couldn’t dance more than two dances together.)

“He has made his fortune in trade,” Marianna replied shortly.
Emma sighed. When would Marianna stop being so…snobbish? she wondered. “But Marianna, he is a true gentleman.”
Marianna did not reply and excused herself. (Head-hopping!  And I was right about Marianna being a brat.)

“Aunt, I am hardly old enough to be thinking about marriage,” Marianna said. (What I meant to put there was “said no eighteen-year-old girl in Regency England ever”.)

She met Mrs. Pratt on her arrival in town. Mrs. Pratt was the widow of a certain Mr. Pratt, the town constable. Mrs. Pratt was the be all and end all of all the town gossip. Every bit of news was weighed and sifted by her. If you wanted to know anything that was going on in the town, she was the one to go to. If you wanted to know something about yourself that you didn’t know about, she was the one to go to. (Nope, nothing stereotypical or cliched about Mrs. Pratt at all.  Also what does that last sentence mean?)

“The assembly ball has been moved up to this Saturday.”
“Ah, now that is good news. I have wanted to go [to] an Assembly for so long.” [Marianna said]
“That’s right…you have never been since you have only just come out. Well, I hope you’ll not be disappointed. But I doubt you will be as the assemblies are very enjoyable. May I secure the privilege of the first two dances?” [John said]
“I’d like that very much.” (I’m sorry but what is this dialogue?)

Miss Arlington,
I write to you on a matter which has become (to me) most urgent. I am, in short, in love with you. Please accept my proposal and make me the happiest of men.
Yours truly,
Thomas Hilton (Hate to break it to you, bro, but there actually wasn’t a proposal of marriage in that whole, very long, very eloquent letter.)

Even though her money was a strong pull, [John] could not be around her often and not be fascinated by her beauty, wit, and charm. However, he constantly reminded himself that if she was poor he would not try to win her. But as she was rich, it was just an added bonus that she had many other attributes besides. (Cue the creepy villain music.  And the ‘if she wasn’t rich, he wouldn’t try to win her’ is totally from when the fortune hunter was trying to marry Elsie Dinsmore.)

“You must try some of this beef,” John said to her, “It is quite delicious.”
“No, thank you,” she said quietly, “I’m not very fond of beef.”
“You mean you don’t want it because I suggested it,” he said teasingly. “I’m sure that if old Dr. Davis asked you to try some you would have.”
“You are impossible!” she said, smiling broadly.
“Maybe my impossibility springs from the fact that I am sitting next to,” here his voice lowered to a whisper, “To a beautiful lady.”
She blushed. “You flatterer!” She struck him playfully with her fan.
“Then tell me what I can do to atone for my flattering (though truthful) words.”
“At present I can think of nothing,” she said striving to hide her smile. But she could. Marry me was in her mind. (IS THIS HOW I THOUGHT RATIONAL PEOPLE FLIRTED???  PLEASE NO.)

Again she felt that something about John was not right. Something bothered her about him. She felt as though she did not quite trust him. (These doubts came out of nowhere.  I obviously just put this bit in so that Thomas could win Marianna’s heart eventually.)

[Context for next quote: Emma tricked Marianna into talking with Thomas’s niece and she actually had fun.] Back in her room she thought hard. Why am I not angry? Why am I not embarrassed that I chatted with Thomas Hilton’s niece? She could not know the answer. (ughhhhhhh – makes no sense)

(Just found a part where John asks Marianna “Will you grant me an interview?” which is snatched directly from the screenplay for ‘Sense & Sensibility’ (1995).  Whyyyyy, Eva?  Whyyyy?)

That night as Marianna lay in bed, she found that she was crying. Why? she asked herself. I’m almost certain that he’s going to propose. I’m sure we will be very happy. I shall be happy. And yet… She could not lay aside her doubts and fears until she fell asleep. (I was such an obvious writer.)

Okay, okay, in my plot summary I forgot that one day, out of the blue, Marianna’s uncle-figure, Edmund, announces that the entire family is ruined.  None of them have any money left.  So they have to move to…Bath.  And Marianna hates Bath and I’m ripping off Persuasion so bad. *cringes into infinity*

Marianna almost never thought of John anymore and when she did, she was almost indifferent. She was quite certain that he had only courted her for her money. Her reason for believing so was this: he had always visited their home whenever he had made a request to do so and was granted a visit. He had never forgotten or had been detained. He had also not come on subsequent days. (What is this ‘logic’?  I literally can’t understand what I was going for here.)

She had always felt slightly uneasy about him and now she felt justified in her doubts. (I don’t know why you feel justified because he’s really done nothing to make you think he’s a fortune hunter.)

“Your uncle and I have been worried about you.”
“How so, aunt?”
“To be frank – you have not spoken of John Albertson lately and we were wondering if you had had a lover’s quarrel before we left. Please correct me if I am wrong but if I am right, tell me that too.” (The quality of the dialogue hurts me.)

(A little later, Marianna finds out that John has just married a girl named Kitty [no originality in the names].  And she’s totally chill with that.)

“He is married,” Marianna declared as she walked into the house. (Way to be dramatic, Marianna.)

Another, sobering thought came to her. She must never flirt and carry on so outrageously with any man, no matter how charming he was. Her infatuation with John had caused her friend and even her aunt and uncle to suspect an understanding between them. From now on, she determined to be more discreet in her admiration of any man. (I’m thinking of deleting this novella.)

After [Thomas] had taken his leave, Edmund and Emma stayed and talked to each other, but Marianna excused herself. She ran to her room, almost in tears. Tears she did not know the reason for.
“He did not even look at me or speak to me,” she sobbed into her pillow. She stayed there for a long time, crying bitterly. (#elsiedinsmorediditbetter)

“What did you think of Thomas Hilton, Marianna?” she asked. “Did you find him very disagreeable?”
“Not at all,” was her short reply.
“Well,” Edmund said, setting down his paper, “I am very glad to hear that. I always thought him a very gentlemanlike person and I’m glad you don’t have any aversion to him.”
“Yes, ever since his…well, you have not been so averse to him for quite some time. Or his niece.” [Emma said]
“Yes, I misjudged him. I believe I’ve misjudged him very much.”
Emma looked at her questioningly, but Marianna resolutely kept her eyes fixed on the pages of her book and Emma did not revive the subject. (ARE THE SHADES OF PRIDE & PREJUDICE TO BE THUS POLLUTED?)

At the mention of Marianna, Thomas glanced over at her. He gave her a strangely, searching look and then turned his attention back to his niece. “Why does he hardly acknowledge me?” Marianna thought, almost miserably. “It must be because I refused him…oh, how I wish I could change the past.” (Angst some more, why don’t you?)  

Marianna sat in her room, looking at the tranquil twilight that was settling over the busy city. The sun was going down, leaving the sky a mixture of pink, yellow, and mauve. A tear trickled down her cheek and landed on the window seat, leaving a spot of brightness in the light dust…She sighed deeply. Was [the reason for her unhappiness]…could it be…Thomas Hilton? At first her mind refused to accept it but she finally admitted that she loved Thomas Hilton and would until the day she died. But it was hopeless. She admitted it. Ever since she had met him in Bath, he had kept aloof and plainly showed he was not and never would be interested in her. (See?  Angst everywhere!  And I doubt I even knew what ‘mauve’ looks like, ’cause I still don’t.)

Thomas looked at her for a moment and then continued. “I came here to tell you that my feelings have not changed. If you still do not feel for me, please tell me at once. I cannot bear to go on, not knowing. But if you do care for me, please tell me. Your words will decide whether I enter this house again.” (ALERT! ALERT! S&S and P&P plagarism!  And Persuasion, too, in that last sentence.)

“I convinced myself that I could conquer my feelings for you if I did not speak to you. But I deceived myself. Every time I looked at you, every time I heard your voice, I fell in love all over again.” [Thomas said] (*muffled groans*)

“Sir, I remember a time when I asked your permission to marry your niece, Miss Arlington. May I ask you again?”
Edmund was astonished. “But I thought she always disliked you,” he said at last.
“Perhaps she did at one time, but she and I have both greatly changed. For the better, I believe.” (Soooo many things.  First of all, does he really have to ask for permission again?  Secondly, the dialogue is vaguely ripping off Mr. Bennet’s concern about Lizzy marrying Mr. Darcy.  And thirdly, Thomas did not change at all.)

Anna, Thomas’s niece, suddenly faints and gets deathly sick at the engagement party.  It comes out of nowhere and adds absolutely nothing to the plot except that this guy comes to visit Anna when she’s sick and they end up having a double wedding with Marianna and Thomas.  Let’s pair those spares!

I always added a cringy ‘Postscript’ to the end of my novellas.  The one for Two Suitors included this interesting development: A few months after their marriage, Thomas fell off the horse he was riding and broke his leg. The doctors were able to set it but he always walked with a limp afterwards.  They had six children.  Why???  The leg breaking bit isn’t important information.  I don’t even know what to think anymore.

And then there’s the chapter titles: ‘Preparations’, ‘Marianna’s History’ [info dump], ‘The Come-Out Ball’, ‘After the Ball’, ‘Visits’, etc.  Only, by the time I hit chapter eleven I was apparently tired of coming up with such fascinating chapter titles and I just called the chapters by number after that.

So, yes.  That’s some of the cringy bits, with commentary.  If you want me to do the same with the other two novellas, I totally can. 🙂

Is this the worst writing you’ve ever read? (Personally, I’ve read worse on Wattpad, but not by much.)

Eva

 

the narnia writing tag

I didn’t have a good idea for today’s post so I hunted down some tags and look what I found:

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Narnia = the best.

Writing = the best.

Together = YAAAAAS.

Let’s get into the tag, shall we? (I’ll be answering the questions based on my current WIP, The Darkness is Past.  It’s a dystopian retelling of the Apostle Paul’s life.) (And I made a few tweaks to the original tag – feel free to use whatever version you want.)

Narnia: Where is your story set?

22nd century North America.  It’s a dystopian world based on some current politics (though not totally, because that would just date my book).  I do like to think that the world of The Darkness is Past is different from a lot of dystopian worlds in books I’ve read.  Time will tell…

The Magician’s Nephew: How did you come up with the idea for your story?

This is slightly embarrassing, not gonna lie.  But I was thinking of writing a Christian dystopian parody (because some of the Christian dystopias I’ve read have been rather cliched).  And I thought “What kind of useless ability could I give the protagonist to make him or her the Special One?”  The ability I came up with got me thinking and while I’m not sure when Paul came in, he did and that was that.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: How do your characters meet?

Um?  In a bunch of different ways at a bunch of different times?  I honestly don’t know how to answer this.

The Horse and His Boy: Are there animals in your story?

Nope.

Prince Caspian: Which of your characters turned out different than you’d expected?

There’s this one character who’s a mashup of Barnabas, Peter, and Annanias (that last one is the guy who laid hands on Saul/Paul to give him back his sight) and at first I thought he’d be this nice, kind, gentle pastor who is Very Wise and Laid Back.  Ha.  Come to find out, he’s a warrior with a tortured past who lays down the law and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer (though he is still wise and nice and kind and gentle…in the proper time).

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: What is one of your character’s personal quests?

Sol, my main character, wants to save as many lives as possible to make amends for all the ones he took before he was saved.  He feels tremendous guilt over his past actions, but the problem is that he tries to solve that guilt apart from God.  So it doesn’t work.

The Silver Chair: Who is the villain?

There actually isn’t anyone who I’d classify as an honest-to-goodness villain.  There are antagonists but no straight up villains.  The character who’s closest to being a villain (Ryan) still has redeeming qualities.  He makes some very wrong choices throughout the story but there’s still good in him.  So there’s no truly villainous villain in The Darkness is Past, but still plenty of conflict.

The Last Battle: Does your story end the way you expected it to?

Yes.  And if you’re at all familiar with Paul’s life, you probably can guess how my story ends. (Though I hope I have a few surprises for you!)  I delayed writing the final few scenes for days and days and when I did…my pulse raced, my hands actually shook, and I was a mess.  It was both thrilling and horrible to feel such intense emotion for characters I created.

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I’d love to see your answers to this tag on your blog or in the comments!

Eva

why I’m pursuing traditional publishing (instead of self publishing)

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There have been multitudes of blog posts and articles written about the pros and cons of traditional publishing and self publishing.  There are plenty of things to be said about both methods and this post will simply be my thoughts about why I, personally, am going with traditional publishing.  I know of several indie authors who do a brilliant job at writing/editing/marketing/etc., so there’s definitely merit in self publishing.  It’s just not for me.

Why?

Well…

I’m a perfectionist.

I’m not a perfectionist about everything (#chores) and I’m not OCD, but when it comes to my writing, I kind of am.  If I were to self publish, I’d want my book to look just as good – if not better – than traditionally published stuff.  I’d want my release schedule and marketing plan to be The Best Ever.  I’d never stop tweaking and changing things.  And the thing is…if I was going to design/market/advertise my book perfectly (or as close to perfect as you can get) I’d have to spend thousands – if not tens of thousands – of dollars.  And that’s money I definitely don’t have.

I want the validation.

When I decided to go the traditionally published route, I already knew it would be a long, hard slog (unless I get incredibly lucky).  Querying agents, querying publishing houses, having to go through several rounds of edits on top of all the drafts I’ll have done to get my book ready for querying…it’s going to be a ton of work.  But with so many people becoming ‘authors’ these days (more on that in a bit) I want the validation of seasoned industry professionals looking at my book and saying, “This.  This is good.  We’re going to give you a chance.”

Anyone can be an ‘author’ these days.

Like I said before, I know many indie authors who are killing it. (In a good way, lol.)  But if there’s one thing #CopyPasteCris has taught me, it’s that a lot of people are self publishing just to make a quick buck.  And since anyone can self publish (completely for free if you go through Amazon KDP and don’t hire anyone to format your book or create a cover) a lot of books are going public when they shouldn’t be.  What I mean by that is this: a lot of people (especially after NaNoWriMo) write a novel, think “man, I want everyone to read this”, and publish it without thinking things through.  Stuff like that gluts the market unnecessarily, which leads me to my next point…

It’s extremely hard to make money – or get your book noticed – when you self publish.

Trust me: I don’t have any illusions about traditional publishing being the gold at the end of the rainbow. (And I’m definitely not writing for the money.)  But when you self publish, you might not sell more than ten copies of your book. (Technically, that’s also true of traditional publishing, but usually you get more buyers with traditionally published books.)  According to this article, traditionally published books only sell about 3,000 copies.  Ever.  And for indie books?  250. (And from all the reading I’ve done, that’s super generous.)  It’s harsh, but true.  Your chances of your book selling are a little better with a traditional publisher; I want to get my book in front of as many people as possible.  So…yes.

I want my story and characters to get the best possible treatment.

I want my book professionally edited and vetted by professionals. (You can, of course, get professional editing for an indie book.  But with a publishing house, you’ve got so many eyes on your book.)  I want a shiny, beautiful cover. (Again, possible with indie.  But you’ll probably have to pay hundreds of dollars.)  I want gorgeous formatting and cool chapter headings and all those little things that make a book look like a million dollars (even if it doesn’t make that much).  I’m looking forward to the day when those dreams become a reality.

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Okay, so with all that said…I’m not ruling out self publishing as an option.  I’d be stupid to do that.  But right now, at this stage of my writing career, I would love to be traditionally published and that’s the goal I’m working toward.  So the above points still stand.

Are you a published author?  Which direction did you take?  And if you aren’t a published author yet, what path do you want to choose – traditional or self publishing?

Eva

‘the cat and the mouse’ – my first story (probably)

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Mom went through some of her old papers this morning.  In her yearly planner from 2005, she found what appears to be the first story I ever wrote (I would’ve been six or seven).  To preserve this historic document, I thought I’d share pictures (yes, there were illustrations because what little kid writes a story without illustrations?) and an easy-to-read transcript of the story itself. (I preserved all my delightful spelling and grammatical errors for the world to see.)

Oh, and in her 2004 planner she discovered a list of books I’d read that year.  They included the All of a Kind Family series, the Little House series (Laura Ingalls Wilder), and the Sadie Rose series.  Which is *cough* impressive for a six or five year old.  But what really made my day was the note Mom put after the list…“Too many books to count”.  YASSSSS.

But anyway.  To get back to The First Piece of Fiction that Eva Ever Wrote.

The cat and the mouse.

By Eva-Joy

The cat was with a shoe….. [I put the first line on the front cover.  AUTHORS SHOULD ACTUALLY DO THIS, Y’ALL.]

And it saw a mouse. It ran after it almost had it when it went into a hole. the cat was sad but it could not git in [repeat: all mistakes have been carefully preserved]

The cat angry that the mouse have gottin away. It thoute I will get it next time so it sat at the hole and wiated, and wiated, and wiated. [I am so proud of Little Eva using the Oxford Comma before she even knew what it was.] But it did not come out. Why dos’ent it come out. The mouse was smart. [The mouse is my favorite character in this story.  He was smart.]

[The End]

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You guys.  Despite its obvious juvenile failings, this little story makes me so happy.  Even back then, I was a writer!  From that story I graduated to co-authored ‘novels’ with my oldest brother. (The oldest siblings in our stories always had to be twins – a boy and a girl – so that there would be gender equality.  Very important to nine and eleven year olds.)  Then I wrote horrible Regency fiction. (Inspired by Jane Austen.)  Then medieval stuff.  Then a dystopian trilogy.  And so on, until I’m here, twenty years old, actively working toward traditional publication.

*sniffles*

It’s a good feeling.

And just for the record, here’s a snippet of my current WIP, The Darkness is Past.  It’ll make the comparison between my old and new writing complete.

“You’re bleeding,” Lukas said and shoved the twisted life jacket away from Sol’s shoulder. His long fingers probed the wound.

“One of the guards…he’s worse,” Sol said.

“Keep some snow on it,” Lukas said, bending down and pressing a handful of the stuff into his hands.

Sol brought it to his shoulder, gasping when the fiery cold seeped into his wound. His heart pounded from the pain. The cold.

Lukas came out of the hovercraft, supporting the bloody, unconscious guard.

Julius followed a few steps behind, carrying two bundles of supplies in his hand.

Blood water ran between Sol’s fingers. -Chapter Sixteen

So tell me: have you ever discovered pieces of your old writing?  Were they good or bad?  And isn’t it awesome, being able to see how far we’ve come?

Eva

tag-along: a Christmas short story

Kellyn Roth recently hit 1,000 followers on her blog (congrats, Kellyn!) and in honor of that amazing milestone, she’s hosting a short story contest.  Within minutes of reading about the contest I had an inkling of a story idea and, well, here it is!  Even if I don’t win first or second place, I’m so glad I entered.  Writing Tag-Along was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had as a writer – and I’m not just saying that.

(Oh, and according to this word counter, Tag-Along is 1,896 words long.  Just so that y’all – especially Kellyn – know that it meets the requirements for being between 1,000 and 1,999 words long.)

And now for the story!

(If I got anything wrong about the Great Depression, the 1930s in general, and/or Wyoming, I apologize.  The contest deadline doesn’t allow for tons of research.)

Tag-Along

Wyoming – 1934

When I was nine years old, I was sure that my brother, Tom, was the most ornery human being on God’s green earth. There were only three years between us but once he hit twelve, he acted like we were as many decades apart.

Most of the time he didn’t do anything…and that was the problem. We used to play in the ravine, making mud pies and wading into the water when the summer heat caught us.

But now Tom ignored me most of the time, too busy with his friends.

I stayed clear of him after he called me a tag-along. I was playing House in Pa’s shed and Tom walked past with his friends.

“Is Dorothy around?” Arthur Mitchell asked.  I’d been sweet on him for about forever and I placed my hand on the shed’s door, ready to go out and maybe walk beside him when Tom’s reply flattened me.

“Naw. Tag-along’s probably playin’ with her dolls’.”

They laughed, but I was crushed. How dare they all laugh at me? Especially Arthur…

There was a suspicious prickling behind my eyes that threatened tears but I sniffed hard and forced them away. I didn’t want to show up for dinner with red eyes and have Tom ask a bunch of stupid questions.

/

Besides Tom’s new attitude, the other thing in my thoughts was the singing contest on the 24th. It was a Christmas Eve benefit to help families in our community hit hardest by the Depression.

At that time, I didn’t care about homeless families so much as the prize for the best girl singer at the benefit. The prize was a shiny ring with five – five! – tiny red rubies set around the band.

Looking back on that ring, I know that the gold was some kind of cheap, painted metal and the ‘rubies’ were really just glass. But when I was nine, it held all the allure of the diamond mines in my favorite book – A Little Princess.

There was a special display at the general store that had a poster about the benefit and then all the prizes lined up, waiting for the winners. I’d press my nose against the glass and stare at that ring. Sometimes the sun would catch it just so and set it to shimmering and glittering until I had to look away.

And then Tom would come out.

“Hey, Tag-along, you buyin’ anythin’?”

I turned and glared at him. “You know I don’t have any money,” I snapped.

“Well, you’ve gotta go. Mr. Mitchell doesn’t like it when people loiter.”

I’d roll my eyes. But I always went.

Tom had gotten a job at Mr. Mitchell’s store only a couple months ago and if his head was swelled before, it was nothing compared to how he got now.

At first I’d been excited like Pa and Ma. Now I could go to the store and eat as much penny candy as I wanted! Now I’d get to see Arthur more because Mr. Mitchell was his pa.

But none of those shiny dreams came true. Since I could never afford to be a customer at the store, Tom always shooed me away sooner or later. Said that it didn’t look good to Mr. Mitchell and that he had to keep this job.

He was a pain.

/

In preparation for the benefit, I sang in our backyard, on the walk to school, and just about everywhere else. It was less than two weeks away.

And I was terrified.

/

“Now, Dorothy, there’s absolutely nothing to be worried about,” Ma said as she smoothed invisible wrinkles from my dress. “You have a beautiful voice.”

I wished it was true. But Tom had come out in the yard the other day to chop wood when I was singing and I’d asked him how I sounded. I’d waited for words of praise – I thought I sounded really good – but he just shrugged. His eyes looked distant as he threw another piece of kindling into the wood pile, like he was a million miles away, .

I ran into the house, hating Tom. He didn’t care about me! He didn’t care if I lost the contest and that ring went to some other girl.

Now, fifteen minutes away from singing in front of the entire population of Miller’s Crossing, the memory of Tom’s indifference rose up like a ghost to haunt me. It sucked all my courage away.

Ma and I stood backstage, waiting for me to be called. Pa was somewhere in the audience, ‘proud as anything’. I didn’t know where Tom was until he bounded up to Ma and me.

“I had to lock up,” he said to Ma. “When’s Dor’thy goin’ up?”

“After Patty sings.”

He looked over at me. “Ready?”

I nodded. I couldn’t admit that I was shaking.

The three of us stood together, listening to Patty Malone sing ‘Easter Parade’ – pretty much the worst song for a Christmas Eve benefit, I thought. She sang good, though, and I was getting more scared by the second.

I think Tom saw something of my fright because just before they called my name, he ruffled my hair – usually infuriating, but comforting right then – and said, “Here you go. Break a leg, Tag-along!”

Tag-along?

I stood there, stock still, as they said, “And now Miss Dorothy Jackson, singing ‘That’s What Life Is Made Of’.”

Mother gave me a gentle push and that was about the only thing that would’ve got me on the stage. But it wasn’t stage fright anymore, it was tears that threatened to spill out of my eyes and forever embarrass me. All because of Tom and his stupid nickname for me. He’d been so nice a minute ago and-and then he’d called me ‘Tag-along’. I hated that name and never more than that moment.

I swallowed hard as the piano tinkled out the opening notes of my song.

Good thing I’d spent every spare minute singing because I don’t remember a single word I pushed out of my aching throat that evening. But the applause was loud. I saw Pa in the crowd as he stood and led everyone else to.

I’d gotten a standing ovation but it didn’t matter. Tom hated me.

I stumbled off the stage and into Ma’s arms. She hugged me tight. “What did I tell you?” she said proudly. “You were wonderful, darling!”

Tom wasn’t around, I saw, as I peeked around her arm. Good thing, too, or I’d probably have shouted him.

“Can we go home?” I asked.

She held me away from her, surprised. “No, we have to wait and see the other acts and then find out who won the prizes.” She smiled. “Don’t you want to know who the winners are?”

The idea of seeing those prizes given out – especially the ring – made my heart sing. I wouldn’t win. If the performer couldn’t remember her own performance, could anyone else be expected to?

But I didn’t want to worry Ma. So I just said, “All right.”

/

I didn’t win. The prize went to a girl who was here visiting her aunt and uncle. Was that allowed, to enter when you didn’t live here? I didn’t think so but the judges were the ones whose opinions mattered.

On the way home, Pa and Ma and Tom tried to cheer me up by saying that I’d sung very well and, no, of course that girl didn’t qualify and what were the judges thinking? Well, it was mostly Ma talking. Pa didn’t say much anytime and all Tom offered was a smile. I pretended not to see.

I went straight to bed when we got home though Ma offered to let me stay up late and have some cake and listen to the radio. But my stomach churned too much for cake to tempt me.

As soon as I crawled into bed, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, I squinted at the clock in the light that came from the hallway. Only about an hour had passed. I could hear the radio playing from downstairs. All my anxiety had left me thirsty, so I crept down the stairs toward the kitchen.

“I only need twenty-five cents, Pa.” That was Tom, in the kitchen. I paused at the closed door.

“That’s fine, son,” Pa’s voice rumbled. “I already told you that the money’s your own.”

“Oh, Pa.” I could hear the eye roll in Tom’s voice. “This is all I’m goin’ ask for, ever. Promise.”

“And I won’t hold you to that promise. But I appreciate it. I know your ma does, too.”

Part of me wanted to push open the kitchen door and see just what they were talking about. But there was something serious about their voices that held me back.

So I returned to my room and fell asleep again. Eavesdropping had made me forget about my thirst and I slept good the whole night.

/

As soon as I woke up, I remembered that it was Christmas day.  I ran to the mantel and tore down my stocking. Tom’s was still hanging there, which puzzled me, because when it came to Christmas he was just as excited as me. He wouldn’t still be sleeping.

After I found the candy, the nickel, and the hair ribbons in my stocking, I asked Ma about Tom.

“He’s out an errand,” she said, a funny smile on her face.

I made a face. “An errand? On Christmas?”

“Eat your breakfast now,” she said, pushing a plate of pancakes in front of me. Pa smiled at me across the table.

I was halfway through the pancakes when the kitchen door opened and shut. Ma left the table and I could hear her and Tom talking in the kitchen. Then he came into the dining room. He still had his boots and coat on and was tracking snow everywhere. I expected Ma to scold him, but she didn’t.

He came and stood by me and dug into his coat pocket.

“Merry Christmas,” he said, handing me a tiny box.

I didn’t breath for a moment. I knew what came in this kind of box.

I got it open and stared. There, nestled on a tiny bed of velvet, sat a gold ring studded with five rubies. “Oh…” I whispered.

“I had to ask Mr. Mitchell to open up the store special so I could get it,” Tom said, the words spilling out of him in a kind of happy breathlessness. “At first he wasn’t too happy, but once I explained, he got the store keys real quick and sold me the ring.”

I looked from the ring on my finger to Tom.

“Thank you, Tom! Thank you so much.” And then I hugged him, even if it did embarrass him for forever.

“Well, you deserved it,” he said. “You should’ve won that prize, Tag-along.”

I was about to get mad again when he grinned and then I could see the mischief in his eyes. But seriousness, too. He really thought that I should have won and he got me this ring because of it and he didn’t mean anything bad by calling me ‘Tag-along’.

Joy welled up in me. I had the ring and, more importantly, I had my brother back.

It was the best Christmas ever.

THE END

_________________________________________________

What did you think??? (And do you like the cover – I made it myself because Canva is awesomeness.)  Tag-Along was inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, and Flipped.  Mainly the tone of all three, y’know?  And I listened to a bunch of fun, upbeat 1930s songs while I wrote it – I hope that translated into the story!

Merry Christmas, everyone. ❤

Eva