Friday, February 26, 2010


Today... I will not worry if my kids take away from my writing time. Writing will always be there, but my kids won't always need me.

Today... I will rejoice in the little successes. I am not always able to do everything, so when I do something, I will appreciate it.

Today... I will give things my best effort. I don't want to spend my time tomorrow fixing the things that I only half-heartedly did today.

Today... I will not feel bad about all the things I didn't get done. Instead, I will look at what I did accomplish and feel satisfied.

Today... I will improve myself. I am not as good as I will be tomorrow, but I am better than I was yesterday.

Today... I will spread happiness and lift others. When I need a pick me up, someone is there for me. I can be that person for someone else today.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

And so it begins....

When I started writing, I new that it would be a long road. I knew that there would be times when I didn't want to do the work, when I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere, when I found that not every one liked me or my writing, or other equally hard or depressing things. I just didn't expect it to come so fast.

Ok. It's not really that serious. I'm being all dramatic and it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't even hurt at all, it's just a funny sort of thing that rejection comes in all forms and in all places.

But wait, you ask! What's going on here? Let me tell you a short story. I started trying out different social networking, just to see what really suits me. I'd been using the facebook for a long time, so that's a go. I started the blog and love it, so that's a go, too. Next step, twitter. It's fascinating and confusing. And a slow start. And I don't look very often. I don't have a lot to say. (Which is strange because I am normally so verbose.) I enjoy seeing the little tweets and am amazed that some people have so much to say in however many characters or less. In a strange sort of way, there is a little thrill when an email shows up saying, "Someone thinks you are interesting and wants to follow you." Last night there were 7 people in that category. Today, there are only 6.

It's kind of weird that my first thought was "what did I do wrong?" And then I laughed at myself. Really, it's not important if someone I don't really know doesn't care about what I'm not doing. (Did that make sense?) Yeah, it's a rejection of a sort, and the first of probably more than I want to count before I can see a shiny book with my name on it in a store somewhere, but it really gives me a frame of reference. I hope that sometime down the road when I get a stack of letters that say one of many variations of "Not for us" I look back at my very first rejection and say, "I can't change your reaction. I can only change what I am doing." And then, I hope I move forward with determination and clarity.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

And The People Rejoiced

I received my first blog award this week. Kristen at Take It As It Comes gave me the Picasso Award, and I was so excited, I found myself running through an acceptance speech in my head. (I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the... ) That was before I realized I was probably getting carried away. It's just a nice thought that I am connecting with people.

This award apparently comes with the stipulation that I must tell you seven things about myself that you probably don't know. There are so many things that I could put down, but where to start?

1. I'm actually pretty funny. People don't often know I am funny because I spend a lot of time in situations where humor isn't high on the list. Like at church. But I am funny. At least, I think I'm funny. Here's an example. Imagine a young family around the dinner table. Food and noise are being thrown around with equal tenacity by two toddlers. The oldest, who is almost 3, raises his bread high in the air and lets loose with a piercing scream. He lowers the bread, then repeats the process several times. I turn to my husband and say, "What's the matter? Is the bread afraid of heights?" OK. It was funny to me.

2. I almost never wear make-up. It's not that I think make-up is bad. I just don't like it. If you meet me and I'm wearing make-up, something really cool or important is going on. I will wear the stuff to church, but on a normal weekday trip to the store, I'm au naturale. (Fortunately, my husband doesn't see a need for me to wear make-up. He's really good that way.)

3. I love Pride and Prejudice. I read it once a year, sometimes more. I just got back from the library and have checked out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. My husband says it will forever ruin my reading of Pride and Prejudice because I'll be thinking about the zombie attack. He also says this might make Jane Austen palatable. Next on the list is Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters.

4. I love to travel, but rarely do. I lived in the midwest for almost two years. I traveled to Canada once. I visited Washington, DC. I love seeing new places and new things. It's a goal of mine to go someplace I have never been at least every other year. (I'm trying to be realistic, knowing that a big trip isn't always in the cards.) The list of places I would like to see is longer than the list of places I have been, by about 2000 percent.

5. I'm allergic to caffeine. Really. I am. I break out in hives. I pass out. It's not just that I don't tolerate it well because I never drink it and act crazy or drunk. I really can't drink caffeine. (This does not prevent me from eating chocolate. The body uses the chemical in chocolate the same way, but it is not the same artificial compound as you find in caffeinated beverages. You just try to separate me from my chocolate and see what happens. I dare you.)

6. Hair is the bane of my existence. And always has been. I had no hair until I was two and it just got worse from there. (My husband really likes my hair. He says it's soft and fun. I keep it very short most of the time so that I don't have to deal with naturally semi-wavy hair on only one side of my head.)

7. I'm wordy. You, fabulous reader, have probably figured this out all ready because you are smart and able to use logic. You have been reading this post and see how the words just keep coming and coming and coming and ... you get the picture. That's why I'm a writer. I have a lot to say.

And now, to pass on the love. I hereby bequeath this award to:

Lynnette Labelle at Chatterbox Chit Chat. Her posts are informative and fun, and she's just a cute gal.

Kristin Rae at Kristin Creative. She's fun to read and has a great contest going on at her blog right now to win an autographed copy of Ally Carter's Heist Society.

Josin L. McQuein at My Bloggish Blog Thing She's fun to follow. She has a great series going on at her blog right now about the struggle of a new author to get published. I love it. (She doesn't follow me, but I follow her.)

Kristi at Random Daily Thoughts. She's one of the first followers on my blog and she has a book being published tomorrow! How cool is that?

And Elana Johnson. She probably gets tons of awards, but she deserves them all. Her blog is amazing and so much fun.

Thanks for the award and thanks for sharing the fun with me!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Process, or How I Write

I'm a planner. Always have been. It's hard sometimes to be a planner, especially when life can be so... unpredictable. I like to know what is going to happen and when it's going to happen and how it's going happen. This shows up pretty much every where. If we go on vacation, I've made lists of the things to bring, the things to do, sometimes, even a daily schedule. (I don't share that with any one. It's mostly just for me.) Being a planner means that I can find order out of chaos. I feel confident when I know where I am going with things.

In some ways, it's annoying to have such a desire for order because we never end up having things exactly the way I planned. Like on our vacation last summer. I got sick. We had to spend an entire day with me sick in the car. You can't plan that. The biggest downfall of being a planner is that there is a certain amount of expectation that comes when you have a plan. If things don't match up to those expectations, disappointment is almost inevitable.

With this in mind, I've tried two different approaches to my writing, one for each of the first drafts I've written. When I wrote Ella, I had a very vague idea of what I was doing. I didn't really do more than write down a couple of notes for the characters and maybe the first few chapters to get it going. Other than that, I didn't really plan. I would get to a point in the story where I had no idea what was going to happen next, so I'd talk to my husband a little, get a glimpse of something, then start pounding away again on the keyboard. It worked. The story is good. It's really short for a novel. (Only about 40,000 words, but editing will fix that.) I love the story, though, and the spontaneity of creating it.

My second story, Beauty, was extensively planned. I had notes for every chapter. I had notes for every character. I had everything lined up from start to finish and I followed the outline almost completely. With that kind of direction, I poured out a novel (50,000+ words) in just over a month. It is cohesive, well-plotted, and kind of predictable. I think I went the easy route with it.

I can't say that one way is better than the other. I haven't started editing Ella really, and I will probably want to go through and plan better where it ends up. with Beauty, I'm editing and not planning where it goes so that it gets some of that spontaneity. So, it turns out, I'm only sort of a planner. I have to plan enough to get direction, but not enough to prevent new ideas from happening. I think the fun part of this process is finding the balance.

So, what works for you? Do you plan? Do you wing it?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Just plain cozy

The weekend brought a lazy, comfortable sort of feeling. It started snowing Friday night and just kept going, off and on. There were moments when the skies were blue and the sun peaked through the clouds. It was beautiful.

There's a mountain behind our house. (Stay with me. It'll make sense in a second.) During one of the off moments for the snow, we went to run the weekend errands. You know the kind. Go to the library. Stop at the store. That kind of thing. Driving back to our house, I looked up at the mountain and it looked like someone had taken powdered sugar and dusted the whole thing. It might have been a green and gray dessert with white powdery goodness on top.

I love snow. Everything becomes a world of white and sparkling crispness. All of the brown, muddy stuff that comes with winter disappears. It feels new and clean. It often surprises me how a few hours can change everything. I sit in my comfy chair with a huge, fluffy blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. The lights are out and the curtains are open. None of the light escapes so everything is glowing. And I feel like I can be just as new and fresh as the snow still sifting down onto the ground outside. It's beautiful to have that starting over again feeling and I hope it stays.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Status Report, Sir

Well, this week has been a mixed bag. In my personal life, I've had some struggles. My husband has been on a business trip all week so I've been a single mommy. It's been mostly fun and better than I expected, but still tough when I have to wake up in the night without a tag team to take care of the 15 month old. He wakes up at least once a night. (We're slowly getting him to sleep through the night. He used to wake up every other hour, like clockwork, for a year.) I'm looking forward to having my sweetheart home again this afternoon. I've even baked lemon bars. (Well, sort of. I used orange juice instead of lemon juice.)

I've had some minor scuffles with family. Being the oldest sibling in a large family, I'm pretty opinionated and nosy sometimes. I say the wrong thing at the wrong time and hurt feelings happen on both sides. I don't know how to fix that, so I'm taking a break with the family for a while to let things smooth out. I hate how things can go so wrong sometimes with the people who are the most important to me.

In my writing, things are finally really taking off. I've been gathering the ideas and sorting through what I want to change for a while now. I've made one or two starts and gotten to a point where I just don't want to keep going several times. This time, though, I'm actually making headway. I even put in 1500 words yesterday, which is a pretty good run. If I keep that up, I could be done with my newest draft in a month or so. We'll see what happens. It's nice to be feeling productive with my writing. I need that creative outlet.

Other than that, things are pretty normal, humdrum. I clean house, I cook food, I shower occasionally. All in all, life is pretty good. Hope your week was as good as, if not better than mine.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And They Lived Happily Ever After

Call me sappy. Call me sentimental. I love a happy ending. This is probably the biggest reason I like fairy tales. There's a moral and a happy ending. It's what makes fairy tales...fairy tales. I love the idea of love conquering great odds, the good guy getting the girl, the bad guy getting his just desserts. It just makes me feel warm and gushy inside. I'm the kind of person who cries at Hallmark commercials, romantic movies, and the cute things my kids do. I get emotionally invested in these kinds of things. I can't help it.

Yesterday, my kids watched Wall-E. (Ok. They're watching it again, right now. Because they watch the same movie over and over again.) It got to the end where Wall-E has forgotten who he is and EVE is trying to get him to remember. I found myself thinking, "This would probably have been a better story if he had not remembered. More poignant. More meaningful. More real." My husband has said that before, but believing in Happy Endings, as I do, I couldn't accept that.

Something changed yesterday. I don't know what. Maybe it's that life rarely has happy endings unless you are willing to make something that isn't great into something better. Maybe it's that I am learning to appreciate the value of the right ending instead of the happy ending. I couldn't say.

I don't think it means I will be giving up my happy endings in my writing quite yet. After all, I'm writing fairy tales and fairy tales need happy endings. But, for the first time ever, I'm open to the idea that not every ending has to be happy and that might be something to experiment with. Who knows where it will take me?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feeling Real, People!

Yesterday, I mentioned that I miss having real connections with real people after the influx of all the online social networking. Now, I have a flip side sort of thing.

I recently became friends on Facebook with a couple of the people whose blogs I follow. These are people that I admire and feel inspired by. They are insightful and helpful and much further along in the writing process than I am. I don't know why I expected them to be somewhat super human and continue to just blow me away when I got introduced to a different forum for them, but I was pleasantly surprised.

They are all real people. They play the silly Facebook games and talk about their kids and spouses. They have real struggles and real personal lives. They aren't just a collection of great ideas and fascinating experiences that will ultimately be of benefit to me. They are the kind of people that I would actually want to hang out with, joke around with, and connect with. The kind of people who are all ready my friends. And I was glad that these people aren't afraid of sharing some of the funny, mundane things that make us all people.

I've read lots of advice about social networking and how to reach out to people. It's something that I've really struggled with, as far as finding a good balance. Do I talk about my kids on my blog? Do I mention when I'm having a really down day? Is it ok for me to combine my personal life with my writing life? And I think it would be ok to make things more personal, more real. I mean, writing is part of who I am. It's personal to me. The best way to make it real is to be willing to open up about me and what makes me someone special and different. If that means sharing a little more about me, then I'll gladly do it. Being real in every way is totally worth it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Staying connected

I am amazed at how many different ways there are to stay connected with people. When I was a kid, we had telephones or we could go and see someone. (I know. I'm old. Telephones in my day were stuck to the wall with a cord. You could only move as far as the cord stretched. We had one that stretched really, really far. It was awesome.)

Now, if I haven't talked to my sister in a while, I just jump on Facebook and see what she's up to. I can read the blogs of family, friends, and any old random person on the internet. I can hop on Twitter and see what some celebrity is doing at any given hour of the day. And now, yahoo and google are getting into the pie, too. With so many ways to keep track of people, I find myself missing the first and fundamental version: face to face.

My little brother is a young, single twenty-something. I was amazed to discover that he had an entire dating relationship over text messages. They would sit in the same room and have their conversations with their fingers. This would have been understandable to me if they had been speaking in sign language, but text messages? Really? I miss the idea of having a personal and meaningful relationship with people. At the same time, there are some really fabulous people I have met over the internet that I would never have come across in person.

This is a hard thing to balance, I think. I know that as someone who wants to be an author, I have to utilize these online methods to at least some degree. I need a presence that is recognizable and approachable. Figuring out how to make something that feels less personal than what I am used to become personal is a good goal for me. If I can do that, it will definitely help my writing. Connecting to people I don't know through my words is what I'm trying to accomplish.

What do you do to make your social networking more real?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nothing new and some contests

I spent the day cleaning my house. A bit of early spring cleaning, you might say. It's taken up most of the day, since I've been putting off some of the cleaning for quite some time. (Bathrooms and I have issues. I just hate to clean them.)

All this cleaning has put me behind on all of my writerly pursuits for the day, but I did want to mention that two of my favorite blogs on writing are having a joint contest. The first is Elana Johnson and the second is Shelli at Market My Words If you are interested at all in writing, look into it. The prizes are really awesome. Critiques of queries. Publicity and marketing information. Books like crazy mad. All kinds of things that are great. So, check them out. The biggest thing to enter their contests is to be a follower. Do it! You know you want to.

And now, with my house clean, taxes season dying down, and sick kids finally recovering, it'll be writing, writing, writing! Happiness abounds.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Guerilla attack

I'm realizing that a one month goal for finishing this round of edits may have been unrealistic. Half the month is gone and I haven't made any really significant headway. Chalk this up to "yet another thing I didn't know when I started." It's amazing how many of those there are. Maybe I'll make a list one of these times, when I've figured it all out. (Fifteen years from now.)(Or never.)

The amazing thing is that I don't feel discouraged. I look at where I am and it's so much further than I was at this point a year ago when I hadn't even put fingers to keyboard. I started this journey the first week of April and I can't believe how much I've all ready learned and accomplished. This is where you have to really put value on the intrinsic. There aren't very many people who can look at everything and say, "WOW!" except maybe my husband. He sees all the stages. It's nice to have someone with that perspective when every one measures success by being published. (I can't tell you how many of my casual friends or acquaintances have asked when they can buy my book or when it will be on shelves. Try back two or three years from now. Maybe.)

So, I'm fighting the sneak attack of literature. The one where you never knew exactly what you were in for, but now that you are entrenched in the war, you can't back out. I'm trying to be realistic about my expectations. Otherwise, I will be seriously depressed. Long, long road ahead!

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day to all you believers out there. (I used to be one for celebrating Single Awareness Day, instead, but honoring love seems like a great thing.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Still working

Yesterday, I sat down and outlined the changes I want to make to the current manuscript. At least for the first couple of chapters. I'm starting to feel really excited, with a new direction and new ideas popping into my head. I don't want to go much further than the chapters I've outlined right now because I want to keep myself open to something unexpected.

In the meantime, I jotted down the first scene of a new idea. I don't have any idea where it's going to go, but I wanted to put it out there. So here it is. Happy reading!


I’ve lost track of the days. They all blur together. I sit here on this bed, with the stiff, white linen sheets, and stare at the small, barred window in the wall of this little room. I used to make marks on the wall, but they found the knife I slipped into my pocket in the dining room. They said I could hurt myself with it and they took it away. Now, I only see when the sun rises and sets, so I know that days are happening somewhere, even if they aren’t happening for me.

Once, I asked one of the staff members what day it was. Before he could answer, I started to think, “You obnoxious little waste. You don’t need to figure that out.” And I knew I was right. As soon as I thought it, I didn’t need to know any more. I told the man that and he seemed relieved. I felt relieved too. Glad that I hadn’t upset him by asking awkward questions. Of course, after he left, I wanted to know again. That always happens. They leave and I’m back to myself. I never realize what happened until they are gone.

I remember the day they brought me here. I couldn’t stop crying. Mom sat next to me on the back seat of the car while Dad drove. She stroked my hair and tried to hide the tears that poured down her own cheeks by burying my face in her shoulder. I kept hearing the words running through my mind, “Please let them help her. Please figure this out.” And I felt immensely sad, discouraged almost to the point of hopelessness.

They walked with me to the front door where Mr. Carmichael waited. The building seemed so oppressive, all gray like the wall of clouds that hovered in the sky. Everything looked gray and the tears washed over my face. I didn’t think it would ever stop. Mr. Carmichael took my hand gently and said, “We’ll take good care of you. Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.” Before I could even think about it, the tears dried up and I felt calm again. Mom and Dad walked quickly away without looking back at me, as if the sight might bring them pain. Their shoulders hunched over and they clung to each other like two puzzle pieces, fingers intertwined and steps matching rhythm. “You’ll never see them again,” I thought and knew it was true, just as I knew everything I thought was true, at least for that moment. I still hope I will see them again, but I can’t live on hope.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

There's a change a brewin'

Well, I'm not one for keeping things the same. I rearrange the furniture in my house at least once every six months. I just need the new perspective to keep me sane. So, I found a great new template and I'm using it. When I started this blog a couple months ago, I wasn't sure how long it would keep going or how frequently I would post. I'm pretty sure I will change it again at some point, but for now, I like what we've got going. It's better than the basic thing I chose from the list of preset templates, at any rate.

And it was either this one, or Naruto vs. Sasuke. I still might change my mind.

When Inspiration Strikes

I read on Kiersten White's blog that she gets inspiration when she's wet. Washing the dishes, in the shower, or something like that. It got me to thinking about when I get the most inspiration for my stories. And the answer surprised me.

I get the most ideas just before I fall asleep. Last night, I was drifting in that lovely land between awake and asleep when I had an apostrophe. Lightning struck my brain. (Insert classic movie reference here.) It's like the sprites come in the window on their moonbeams and drip something cool into my mind. And almost all of my current ideas have come in those hazy hours.

It makes me wonder how good my ideas are. I guess there are two schools of thought I could adopt. The first is that I could be completely off my rocker because I'm only half awake. The second is that in those half awake moments, my subconscious is free to assert itself and be creative. I think I'll choose option number two. Finding ideas is great, no matter how it happens.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I love blogging

I have just discovered this about myself. I always thought "you should blog." Because it's something you 'should' do. And I fought against the idea. I started a blog on wordpress once. My husband was doing a collaborative blog with a bunch of his friends and to leave comments, I had to have an account. I wrote 2.5 entries. Very successful. My husband's family started a blog where I was a contributor, but it died out about two years ago after only five entries between four families.

It might be because I really am excited about writing and pursuing my creative streak. I really enjoy having this outlet and ability to connect with people who are doing the same thing I am. There's a sense of community that I don't get just sitting at home with my kids all day. I may never meet any of the people that I have contact with through blogging, but I still relate to them. I know that they can share my frustrations and triumphs. And it makes it so much easier to put myself out there.

When I first started, I had intended to only write once a week or so. And now, I find myself looking forward to the moments I take during the day to blog. It seems like the best way to get my creative juices flowing before I sit down to my manuscript and the vast sea of editing that I am trying to wade through. To all of you who are joining me on this cruise, thanks. It wouldn't be the same without you.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Carry on

Due to a very poor night's sleep, a very sick little boy, and other weird circumstances, today's post has been canceled until further notice. (Or at least until thoughts return to my brain.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Things I'm learning

I'm a fan of reality TV. I admit it. Maybe it's the psychology degree. Maybe it's how utterly ridiculous most of the shows are. I don't know. I just love it. I'm a discerning soul, though. Not just any show. (Ok. Most shows. At least, the network ones. Cable is something that doesn't happen at my house.)

I'm currently watching the Bachelor, Kitchen Nightmares, and the Biggest Loser. There is so much DRAMA! But I keep coming back. I love it when the preview for the next episode says: "You will not believe what happens next!" Like it's some kind of never-heard-of, completely off-the-wall thing. I can almost always tell that something out of the ordinary is going on and a little of what it is going to be, but I still tune in for the next episode.

I think there is something to be learned for my writing. It might not matter if I have the most predictable turn of events, as long as I package it in an unexpected way. A friend of mine told me that every story has been written. All romances are essentially Romeo and Juliet. All adventure stories are really a Greek play. The thing that makes my story different is how I package it. I have to find a way to make it seem fresh and exciting. Just like the Bachelor can make a cheating girlfriend "unbelievable" and "unexpected."

Watch for more things I learn from the TV. It's actually very informative for a writer. ("What's that honey? Why do I have to watch the Bachelor? I'm getting ideas for my next big novel!")

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Something new

I like my two year old. He's pretty funny, most of the time. Lately, he's added a new phrase to his vocabulary and it makes me laugh every time. "Babe, you need to go to bed." "I will go to bed." (The will is the new addition.) Everything for him has become "I will." I will sing. I will eat. I will sleep. He's really proud of himself, too. He gets this great big smile and I just melt.

It's amazing how my two year old teaches me about life. He never attaches any if's to his experience. "I will go to bed if you give me a cookie." That might be something he learns later, but it's really not that great a thing if he does. I don't think that everything has to be black and white in the world, but wouldn't it be a lot better if we just said "I will" instead of worrying about what was in it for me or what I'm going to have to do to get there?

This is particularly meaningful in my writing. "I will write more if people tell me I'm doing a good job." "I will work on my novel if..." After attaching a whole bunch of conditions to my success, how successful can I really be? So, this coming week, I'm going knock out a few of my if's and just do the things that I want to do. No qualifiers. I'm looking forward to some great successes in the coming days.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


So, today's task is to clean the house. I know. Really exciting stuff here at my house. I just haven't made a concerted effort to clean the house in a while. I have been doing other stuff, like reading, writing, blogging, etc. I need to get back to the basics for a little bit. I might even work up the gumption to mop the floor in the kitchen. With two toddlers, it gets pretty nasty and I've been putting it off for several weeks.

Balance is something hard. I spent a lot of time working on taxes for this company that I used to work for and neglected my house and writing. Then, I finished the taxes and went straight to my writing, while still neglecting the house. Some day, I will have the whole thing figured out. Maybe by then, my kids will be in school and I won't feel like cleaning house is a losing battle.

In the meantime, I'm going to clean the house today. Maybe by naptime, I will be all done and ready to write again. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 1, 2010

An excerpt

Well, here's some of the work I've been doing. This scene is somewhere in the early chapters of the current manuscript. I am still trying to decide if it should be the opening scene or not.

Her hand rested against the rough, lumpy bark of one of the tall trees in front of her. In the quiet guise of the neighboring forest, the gateway to forbidden adventure beckoned only a few steps away. Trying to muster the courage to push forward, She stared hard at the shadowy undergrowth. She glanced back over her shoulder for the fifth time. He’s still asleep. Now’s my chance. I’ve got to go now, or he’ll stop me. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and put one foot forward, crossing the line between the known and the unknown.

A breeze wafted through the shade and chilled her bare arms. Her eyes opened, expecting to see some kind of miraculous transformation, but it looked exactly as it had when she stood on the other side of the tree. Her shoulders slumped. Silence pounded at her ears. The crack of a branch as she stepped on it seemed deafening.

Each step stirred up the musty aroma of decaying leaves on the perpetually damp ground. The hem of her skirts clung damply to her legs as she pushed her way further into the deepening shadows, passing bushes and roots that grabbed at her hands and feet. A skittering sound in the bushes made her stop in her tracks. A small gray squirrel broke from the cover, surprised to no longer be alone in the woods. She heaved a sigh of relief at the retreating back of the little animal and laughed at herself before setting off into the gloom again.

Her footsteps echoed against the gnarled trunks of the enormous oak trees as she weaved between them. She kept her eyes on the ground to avoid tripping over the roots and deadfall that hid beneath the bushes. She was so intent on her own progress that the sound of her passage masked the approaching footfalls behind her. A hand grabbed her shoulder, spinning her around, and she stifled a scream.

“Dawn! What are you doing in here? Do you realize how much trouble you’ll be in if I tell your parents?” Her eyes met the glowering face of her tutor, Master Thaddeus. His grip on her shoulder relaxed slightly. “What in heaven’s name made you sneak off like that?”

“Oh, Master Thaddeus. It’s you.” Her features betrayed the disappointment she felt at being caught out in the woods. “I was just doing some exploring.”

“Running away is more likely the case. What were hoping to accomplish?” Thaddeus asked.

“I thought I might meet the fairy,” Beauty said. She folded her arms across her chest, instantly defiant at his protective grasp on her shoulder. “Why does it matter to you?”

“You know I would be devastated if you left. Who would listen to the lessons I so painstakingly prepare? And your parents would be absolutely furious with me if I didn’t stop you. Let’s go back to the house now. I just can’t trust you out of my sight.”

“But, the fairy! I know I could have met her if you hadn’t stopped me just now. She’s just around the corner and I could finally know how to break this curse!” She pushed against the firm grip of his hand as he steered her back toward the open field she had walked through.

“Dawn, the fairy has been gone for years now. Every since that monster showed up in the woods.”

“Monster? What monster? There’s a monster in here?” A sudden, delicious fear filled her. “Do you think I would have seen him instead?”

“I forgot that your parents have forbidden us from talking about that. Forgive me. Let’s go, Dawn.” He dropped his hand to her waist and pushed her in front of him. “We need to go back to the study and finish your lessons for the day.”

“Do you have to call me Dawn? Nana calls me Beauty and I love it.”

“Your name is Dawn. That is what your parents call you. I will continue to call you Dawn, as well. Now, go!”