30 November 2011

Final Excerpt and Triumphant-ness

Another year, another novel.
Although this year, my novel is only about halfway complete, at 50,000 words, making it more likely to be a real book when it is finally completed. I will probably take a break from it, like last year, and then pick it up again to finish for real. Or maybe I'll write the next half next NaNoWriMo. Who knows?
Here's your last excerpt:

Kevin rose from the bench and briskly wiped the crumbs off his hands. “Come on, guys,” he said, pulling on his gear. “Let’s get moving so we don’t have to climb the mountain in the dark.”
            They complied, and after everyone was suited up they started along the road, heading past the village. Joshua continued looking above the treeline, hoping to see the mountain. He was disappointed.
            A few miles beyond the town, the trees began to thin out, making it easier to see. Joshua was starting to get anxious about reaching Mount Chanhassen, when he noticed a bigger break in the trees. As they approached it, they all stopped dead in their tracks.
            “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Kevin grumbled. “This is their idea of a mountain?” Standing in front of them was a hill. It was covered in lush vegetation, and couldn’t have risen in elevation more than a few hundred feet.
            “Well,” Joshua said cautiously, “Silas did say it was the tallest rock out here. And there’s definitely nothing else bigger.”
            “No wonder he said all paths to the top were safe,” Kevin replied, disgusted. “It’s just a hill!”
            Jason started to snicker. “It sounds like you guys were making a mountain out of a molehill!” he cried, dissolving completely into full-blown laughter. He bent in half, clutching his stomach and wiping tears from his eyes. Joshua elbowed him and he toppled over, still laughing like a hyena. Joshua left him lying on the forest floor and turned right off the path to head toward the so-called Mount Chanhassen. The others followed him. Natalie had a hard time getting Jason to his feet, but eventually he recovered enough to get up. He pulled leaves out of his curly hair as they walked up the hill.
            “Do you think we’ll reach the top before it gets dark?” Jason asked them. Joshua could hear the laughter straining to escape his friend, so he ignored him and kept walking.
            “Do you need any help?” he asked Danae, hoping the gentle incline wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for her.
            She shook her head. “No, I think I can manage,” she said, smirking.
            It took less than a half-hour to get to the top of the hill. They dropped their gear and looked around. Instead of being able to see the entire kingdom, as Joshua had envisioned, they could only see the tops of trees. It was easy to see that Silas was quite right: there was nothing else this tall for miles. Kevin cleared some rocks out of the way with his foot and began setting up the tent. It was a pretty simple affair, just a metal frame draped with a canvas that was anchored to the ground. Joshua gave him a hand, and they finished in minutes.
            “Well, we made it to the top of the mountain, the tent is up, and there are hours to go until the blue fire shows up,” Kevin said. He rested his hands on his hips and surveyed the tent, looking pleased with his handiwork. “What do you guys want to do now?” he asked.
            Danae sighed. “I should probably take a nap. Even if it wasn’t a hike up a mountain, that walk still tired me out,” she said. Kevin and Joshua piled up the quilts inside the tent so she could lie down comfortably. “Wake me up when it starts to get dark,” she instructed them sternly. “I don’t want to miss any blue fire.” She crawled into the tent, shutting the flap behind her.
            “Speaking of fire,” Kevin said, “we should probably get to work on building ours so we can cook dinner.” He got to work, rummaging around the bag with the firelighter. “Go find some wood,” he told Natalie and Jason, who obediently set off down the hill to the forest, hand in hand.”
            “You shouldn’t have asked them to go get wood alone,” Joshua commented, sitting down next to Kevin on the hard ground. “They’ll be gone for ages.”
            Kevin let out a snort of laughter. “I don’t care. If I have to hear Jason make another joke about the mountain, I’ll beat him with a canteen.” Joshua laughed too. “Why don’t you go look around for places where the clue might be?” Kevin suggested, all business again. “Even if we won’t be able to read it until the blue fire show, at least we can get an idea of where to look for it.”

15 November 2011

Excerpt #2

I'm halfway through November, and halfway to 50,000 words. I appreciate all the help and encouragement people have given me on Facebook! It's time for another excerpt. This is where we first meet The Seer (ooh!)

The seer lived in the forest, a mere hour’s walk from the castle, as Jonas informed them after breakfast. Natalie was outfitted in a pair of soft leather boots, as her sandals weren’t really up to the task of a hike. Jonas led them on a winding path through the trees. Joshua saw that many of them were slightly charred. Last night’s battle had hurt the forest, too. They walked, making the occasional bit of small talk with Jonas. It took just over an hour to reach the small dwelling in which the seer lived.
            Jonas rapped smartly on the door. “Evelyn?” he called. “Evelyn! It’s Jonas.” Joshua saw movement through one of the thick-paned windows. Seconds later, the door opened.
            The loveliest young woman Joshua had ever seen in his life stepped outside. Her carrot-orange hair reached her waist. Her eyes were a light green, and seemed to sparkle mischievously as she smiled at them. Joshua’s jaw dropped. So did Jason’s and Kevin’s.
            “Good morning, Jonas,” the seer lilted. “I see you’ve brought me the prince.” She looked at Joshua appraisingly.
            “Hello, Evie,” Jonas replied. “The prince and his helpers, just like you said.”
            “Did you expect it would be otherwise?” she teased. “Come inside.” They followed her in and sat down at a round wooden table. Once seated, the seer leaned forward to study Joshua, resting her chin in her hand.
            “Yes, the Artifacts,” she mused. “He will look for them, I see that. But where to begin?”
            Jonas opened his mouth to answer, but she cut him off with a wave of her hand. “Not asking you, Jonas. Just thinking out loud,” she said pleasantly. “I think it’s going to take a few cups of tea.”
            Joshua cleared his throat. “Do you read tea leaves?” he asked. That was something he’d read in a book.
            She laughed, high and clear. “Goodness me, no. I just like tea. You can have coffee, if you prefer.” She rose and put a kettle on a hook above a small fireplace. Jason stared at her openly. Natalie glared at him and nudged him in the ribs. He smiled sheepishly at her.
            “Do you have any questions for me?” she asked the group when she sat down again. They exchanged glances.
            “Can you tell us more about the Artifacts?” Joshua asked. “All we know is we’re supposed to find some… things.”
            “I certainly can,” the seer answered. “Perhaps talking about them will make our path more clear to me. Yes, let me begin at the beginning.” She settled back into her chair.

            “Once upon a time- for all the best stories begin this way- our land was ruled by a High King. He was a benevolent ruler who cared for the people and their welfare. His son, however, was a cruel man who delighted in many vices. The High King saw this in his son, and knew that when his son became king he would mistreat the people and the land. So before he died, he divided his land into ten kingdoms, and chose ten of his personal guards as king of each land. He bequeathed unto each new king three Sovereign Artifacts, to represent their power and autonomy.
            “The king’s son was furious at his father, and slew him with a sword upon hearing the news that he wasn’t to become king. The new kings were outraged over the death of the High King. A tribunal was elected, with representatives from each land, and the king’s son was sentenced to death.” At this, the seer shook her head sadly.
            “It was the last time the kingdoms worked together before going their separate ways. For the most part, they left each other in peace. Over the centuries, however, the kingdoms have begun to lust for power over each other. Rydale has already absorbed Carene, and become the largest of the nine remaining kingdoms. Chanhassen, as the only kingdom now that has lost its Artifacts, will surely fall soon.” The kettle whistled, and the seer rose to pour drinks for them all. She peered at each of the children.
            “Coffee for you,” she said to Jason, who laughed out loud. “And… tea for the both of you,” she added, nodding to Danae and Kevin. “I’m sorry I have no chocolate, hot or otherwise,” she said to Natalie, who wore an expression of mixed surprise and disappointment.
            “Could I try the tea?” she asked timidly. The seer smiled gently and nodded.
            “Jonas? You’ll have to make up your mind if you want me to read it,” she chided. He laughed.
            “I’ll take coffee,” he said. “Got you this time.”
            “Indeed,” she agreed. “And for our prince?” She looked expectantly at Joshua.
            “Don’t you know already?” he asked, puzzled.
            “You’re hard to read,” she explained. “It must be your gift. I can’t See what it is you want.” Joshua frowned.
            “My gift?” he asked.
            “You know about the gifts, do you not?” the seer asked. She looked at Jonas.
            “I’ve mentioned them,” he said. “Only briefly.”
            “Well,” the seer said briskly. “All in good time. What will you have to drink?” she asked Joshua.
            “Tea,” he said.
            Drinks were poured, and the seer sat down to resume her tale.

07 November 2011

Excerpt #1

I crossed the 10,000 words mark for NaNoWriMo, so I figured it was time for an excerpt. The opening of the novel can be found on my Writer's Page. This section is 8,000 or so words into the novel.

As if they’d read his mind, the dark clouds in the sky released their pent-up moisture.  Raindrops, big ones, dive-bombed them from above. Natalie gasped as the first drops pelted them. It was only minutes until they were soaked.  Natalie and Kevin’s blond hair looked almost as dark as Joshua’s, plastered to their heads.  Beads of water flecked Kevin’s glasses; Joshua wondered if he could even see.   Next to him, Danae sighed.
            “This is ridiculous, Jason,” she spat.  He looked startled at her outburst.  She stuck her finger out at him.  “If it wasn’t for your dumb idea, we wouldn’t be stuck on a boat in the middle of a lake during a rainstorm!”  Her eyes narrowed accusingly.  Natalie had sat up and pulled away from Jason, glaring at him too.  He looked at her helplessly.  Kevin continued to peer through his rain-speckled glasses at the dark forest.  Before Jason could mutter out an excuse, Kevin pointed to the trees.
            “We’re not getting any closer,” he said loudly.  The others paused from glaring at Jason to look out across the lake too.  Their target did indeed seem just as far away as when they’d left.  Kevin turned back to them.
            “Something is wrong, you guys.  It’s completely dark overhead, and those trees are still blacker than the ones right next to them.  There’s no rain whatsoever on our side of the lake.  We’re moving straight ahead even though the wind has changed.”  Joshua hadn’t even realized with all the rain that Danae’s hair was off his face and blowing towards Natalie. 
            Kevin continued.  “We should jump out and swim back to our side of the lake,” he urged.
            “What?” the four of them yelled at him.  Natalie crossed her arms.  “I am not getting in that water, Kevin,” she said angrily.  “It’s freezing.  We could all get hypothermia and die.”
            “Do you have an alternative?” he shot back.  “It’s better than being pulled to some dark grove of trees in a boat that shouldn’t be moving that direction!” 
            Joshua looked over the side of the boat.  That water was deep.  It was dark, cold, and as unforgiving as the rain.  He shook his head.
            “Kevin, look how far away our side is.  She’s right: we’d never make it, it’s too cold to swim,” he said, as calmly as possible. 
            Danae nodded. “I don’t like it either,” she whispered, “but I think we should stay.” 
            Kevin looked away angrily and smacked the side of the Chanhassen with his left hand.  Natalie was leaning back into Jason, who was hugging her to him with both arms now.  They were quiet again.  Joshua pulled off his windbreaker and handed it to Natalie.  He wanted to give it to Danae, but her sweater and jeans offered much more warmth than Natalie’s skimpy outfit.  She smiled at him gratefully and pulled it over her head, still shivering.
            Kevin broke the silence.  “It finally looks like we’re getting closer,” he said, no longer angry.  Just resigned.  Joshua looked out across the water.  He agreed with Kevin.  Suddenly they were moving faster, inexorably towards the mysterious trees.  Just as suddenly, the rain was gone, though it was still dark.  And much sooner than he wanted, the boat bumped into the shore directly in front of the dark grove Jason wanted so badly to explore. 
            No one moved.  Joshua barely felt Danae breathing next to him. 
            Kevin turned to Jason.  “Well?  I thought you wanted to come here,” he said nastily.  “Why don’t you get out then?”

05 November 2011

I did a stupid thing

I like to think of myself as an intelligent person. When you skip a grade in elementary school, you kind of get slapped with the label "smart kid"and in my case it has become part of my identity.
But every now and then I go and do something that makes me seriously question whether I actually am as smart as I think I am.
Last Saturday my dear sweet husband decided to make waffles for breakfast. He is incapable of making waffles without making a huge mess, so I always tell him that if he wants to make waffles, he'd better clean it up. Well, his idea of cleaning up the waffle mix was to put the bag of Krusteaz on the counter next to the sink, 6 inches away from the pantry (where it actually belongs). And being on the counter next to the sink, the bottom of the bag got wet.
So in order to save our giant bag of waffle mix, I started scooping out the mix and transferring it into gallon Ziploc bags. When I'd emptied out about half of the bag, I decided it was light enough to pick up and dump into the next empty Ziploc. As soon as I picked up the bag, the wet bottom burst open and dumped floury waffle mix all over my kitchen floor.
Important choice: Sweep it up, or use the vacuum?
My Precious...
I have a very nice Dyson ball vacuum that my mom got for me for Christmas last year. I am in love with my vacuum. It is so easy to use and to clean and to empty out when it is full. I have a two-year-old, so I use it almost every day. I think my vacuum is invincible.
It isn't.
I happily sucked up all the flour through the hose, stopping a couple times to empty the vacuum into the trash can. Then I realized that my vacuum was covered in flour. So I took it to Ryan, who was showering, and told him I needed to rinse out all my vacuum parts to get the flour out. He got out of the shower, and I rinsed out my vacuum and left the pieces in the tub to dry. A few hours later, I put it all back together.
The next time I tried to use my vacuum, the engine let out this crazy high-pitched whine. Ryan made me shut it off. Then he looked at it.

"It's still covered in flour," he said.
"I know that. I think if I just keep using it, eventually all the flour will come out," I replied.
"It probably has flour in the motor. You can't use this! I'll clean it for you," he insisted.

So today Ryan sat down to clean out the Dyson vacuum. It is full of moldy flour. Ryan worked on it for an hour today and barely made a dent in it. My precious vacuum has been beaten by Krusteaz. Krusteaz and an idiot named Kara.
I called Dyson today, and they gave me the number of a local store that can take a look at it. I can replace the part with the worst mold for about 80 dollars, which wouldn't be so bad. In the meantime, I've got to borrow other people's vacuums to clean up after Sammy. Plus there is the shame and guilt that I killed my beautiful vacuum.

Remember, friends. If you ever start thinking you are really smart, the universe will find a way to prove to you that YOU AREN'T.

01 November 2011

Happy Hamomeen

One of Sam's cutest mispronunciations is Hamomeen for Halloween. I swoon.
Sam's favorite book last month was Library Lion, so I decided that he would be a lion for Halloween, and Ryan and I would be the two librarians from the book. Unfortunately, I woke up with a cold on Halloween morning, and decided it wouldn't be worth the effort for Ryan and I to dress up (I think Ryan was relieved). I made Sam's costume this year by turning a furry-lined coat inside out and sewing a mane, wrist fringe, and tail onto the coat. Ryan added the face paint for the finishing touches. Now that Halloween is over I will strip all the decorations off and turn Sam's coat right side out so he can wear it, although I think he'll be pretty upset that his "lion coat" is gone.
Getting his face paint done. He loved holding the mirror by himself to look at his evolving face!

At "Boo at the Zoo" before Halloween with his buddy, Saiji.

So ready to trick or treat! He was so excited!

Who is that lady dressed like a cat?

It's Andrea! And she has CANDY! Hooray!

Not like this actually needs to be said, but I will probably end up eating most of Sam's candy. And surprisingly, we had a lot leftover ourselves. There were only 2 or 3 other groups out trick-or-treating that we saw during the hour we were out. Is trick-or-treating not as big a deal in Utah? Or is it just our neighborhood? In any case I was quite surprised. But not at all disappointed that I have lots of Milk Duds to finish off. Yum... Why are they called Milk Duds? They are definitely not duds, if you ask me.

Family Photos

Every year, usually around our anniversary, we have our family photos taken. I was way too sick in July to even think about having my picture taken, so we postponed it to fall this year. Our friend Amanda Penton took our pictures this year, and we are so grateful to her for doing such an amazing job. She got some great shots of squirrely Sammy, and really captured the fall colors and the mood we were going for.
We now have four sets of "family photos", and I thought I'd post a little nostalgia on here as well as our new pictures.
Me and Ryan:

And our growing family!



And here are the rest of my favorites from this year's photo shoot:

Kiss attack!

NaNoWriMo Begins!

Just wanted to let you all know that even though I'm sick, I have made my word count for today. Woohoo! Keep up with my progress on my writer's page by clicking here.