Blogmas 2017 – Day 10/31 – Future Projects 1

Future Projects 1: Tulip Season

Welcome to my Future Projects series! The first future project I’d like to introduce to you is a novel called Tulip Season.

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A Synopsis: Gwen Bruno, a woman in her 50s, lives alone in a small town in Iowa where she works at a greenhouse. Her life is quiet and lonely, but she likes it that way. After a tragedy over a decade before, she doesn’t want anyone getting too close. One day, a teenager named Tom shows up at the greenhouse looking for a job. As Gwen reluctantly takes Tom under her wing and the seasons change, they find that they fill a great and unnamed longing in each other. If only Gwen could put to rest the carefully guarded secrets from her past.

The Story Behind the Story: Tulip Season was the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2015. As you can see from this very elaborate cover I designed, it is based on Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen. It was an idea I had while on a long road trip home in the back of my family’s car years before that…probably 2011 or so. Eventually, I also added the story of Tom Thumb to help fill some of the gaps in the plot.

I have always liked fairy tales and for a long time, I was exclusively writing retellings of different fairy tales. I was fighting off mind-numbing boredom in the back of the car and I had my notebook and pen out, brainstorming story ideas. As I sat there, looking out fields and highway turning gold in the sunset, I started to think about the tale of Thumbelina. (Long story short, an old woman wishes for a child, magically receives a tiny girl from a flower, and then that girl is kidnapped by a frog and has a long adventure before marrying a fairy prince.) It struck me that, as far as we know, Thumbelina never returns to the mother who had longed for her for so long.

Immediately, I decided I wanted to tell that woman’s story. I thought about different ways to do it, whether or not I would keep the element of Thumbelina being small, and what era I would set it in. The story changed a lot from my original ideas (some of which are pretty strange and embarrassing) but I actually wrote an entire first draft during NaNoWriMo 2015.

I was so excited about this book. I made covers, book trailers, found actors and actresses who looked the way I envisioned the characters, you name it. I even had my friend Heather of Heather-Draws-Things do a sketch of Gwen:

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In spite of all that, I’m sorry to say that it wasn’t long before I abandoned Tulip Season. The intense pace and word count demand of NaNoWriMo forced me to add and change things just to get to 50k, and the story hadn’t turned out how I hoped it would. I decided there were major changes I wanted to make and I didn’t have the emotional energy to go back and completely deconstruct a 50,000-word novel.

Recently, I shared the general story with my sister Terese and friend Mary. They loved it and encouraged me to go back and finish it. I don’t know when, but I hope to give this book new life. It’s a beautiful story. I want to share it with you guys.

An Excerpt:

Once in the emergency room waiting area, it took her a while to find Tom, because the lobby was full of people with various injuries she tried not to get too good a look at, from fishing hooks caught in hands to a man with his foot in a bucket for unclear reasons.  When she finally spotted him, he was sitting in a chair with his left foot propped up on another chair. He was talking to a teenager with long, greasy hair and his hand wrapped in part of his t-shirt.

Gwen hurried over, and came in on the tail end of their conversation.

“… yeah,” Tom was saying. “That’s another reason to wear the gloves. And that whole ‘stop, drop and roll’ thing is legit,”

“No kidding,” the kid grumbled, rubbing his hand gingerly. “Damn. It hurts,”

“Don’t worry, that’s a good sign. If it actually hurts, that means it’s not that bad,” Tom said. “Trust me, kid, if you didn’t feel anything now, you’d probably be losing your hand,”

“Tom?” Gwen interrupted gently.

Tom turned and looked up at her. He had dark rings under his eyes and his face appeared more stubbly than normal. He looked ten years older than he had when she last saw him. But when he saw her, he broke into a huge grin.

Gwen had a sudden, unbidden flashback to a little girl with playground sand in her hair and a scrape on her cheek, having just fallen off of a swing-set, staring up at her waiting to be swept up and kissed and to be made all better.

“Gwen!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

Gwen crouched down beside his chair. “I came to make sure you were okay,” she said softly.

 

Thanks for reading, God bless!

Clare

 

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Blogmas 2017 – Day 9/31 – Winter

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I wrote this on December 9th, 2015. I’m sharing it again because I think it’s important to remember where we have been so that we can see where God has brought us.

One year ago tonight, I had my anxiety attack. 

It was the most intense spiritual and emotional pain I’ve ever been in. It spread to my body until every part of me hurt in some way. I lay in bed with my head racing back and forth between two things. It may sound dramatic, but I sincerely felt like I was going to die from the decision in front of me. It had suddenly become clear to me that I was truly unhappy in my relationship, and that I couldn’t see a future with this person, even though I was, in many ways, tailoring my life around him. 

That night was hell, and many of the days and weeks, months following it were different levels of hell. 

Today, one full year later, that relationship has been over for almost 5 months. 

That night, that anxiety attack, changed me. My life is completely different now, for both better and worse. 

I just wanted to pull this back into my focus, to remind myself how richly, beautifully blessed I have been. God has been so gentle, so patient with me. He allowed me to fall away from Him and to suffer intensely, but He didn’t let it destroy me. He let it purify and redirect me. When I broke up with my boyfriend in July, I had never felt such peace and joy, knowing God had waited patiently to help me let go of something I didn’t truly desire anymore. 

So here’s to a better December than last. A December with less anxiety, less agony. I am just as confused, lost, and uncertain as I was a year ago. But God has brought me through something I honestly believed would shatter me; He has made all things work together for my good.

 

Looking back on the winter of 2014 used to be hard. Things had been weird for a while. I always felt far away from him, and then I read an article online about not settling in your relationships. I panicked. I thought I had caught the stomach flu I felt so sick. My mind was racing so much I felt like I was going insane. I told my poor boyfriend everything. We tried to make it work. He and I made a cake together on my 20th birthday and tried to move forward while this cloud of my anxiety hung over us. I had to keep plugging away at my job and my internship and I couldn’t talk to anyone about any of it. I cried so much. It was another seven months before I finally broke up with him.

In the midst of that intensely painful year, I discovered the song Winter by Kina Grannis.

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Every word seemed to be a narrative of what I was going through with my boyfriend. I couldn’t listen to it because I was scared that it was going to become my reality. Later, this song brought me so much comfort. It made me feel less alone in the painful experience of losing a love you were once so sure of. The lyrics to the bridge still give me hope whenever I look back and the sorrow creeps back in:

We made it all these years
And no they were not wasted
No life was lost right here
If love is what we tasted

 

Those years and that pain and that love are all a part of my story. They helped make me who I am. They aren’t wasted.

Thanks for reading, God bless,

Clare

 

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Blogmas 2017 – Day 8/31 – Good You Were Here, Chapter 17

LAZLO WAS NOT HAVING A GOOD DAY. He felt feverish, so feverish he took out the old mercury thermometer from behind the bathroom mirror and stuck it into his mouth for the necessary three minutes. But when he checked it, it was normal. The fever was in his brain, not in his body.

He paced around his house for a couple of hours, hands shaking, adjusting pictures on the wall so they were straighter, then realizing he had made them crooked, and straightening them out again. He tried to eat a bowl of soup, but he couldn’t make himself put the spoon to his mouth.

As the day wore on, he found that he couldn’t look at anything. Everything reminded him of her. Even stains on the carpet made him writhe with agonizing nostalgia. How was it that he could remember how every single stain had gotten there?

Finally, he went to the bedroom and grabbed the pistol. He stomped out onto the front lawn, breathing heavily, his vision too sharp, too precise. He whirled around a couple of times, not even bothering to conceal the gun. But there was no one around. Not a soul was out that afternoon.

Lazlo turned back towards the house, shaking his head, when he heard an unpleasant squealing noise.

He turned around, and saw, coming down the sidewalk, a little boy, about five or six, on a squeaky plastic tricycle.

Lazlo stood on his lawn, his eyes glued to the child as he came closer, and closer. Finally, the boy was right in front of Lazlo’s house, and for some inexplicable reason, stopped short.

Lazlo aimed that gun right at that little boy. For an eternity, they stayed where they were, staring at each other. After a moment, the boy made a gun with his thumb and forefinger and aimed it back at Lazlo. “Bang!” the boy shouted and pedaled his bike away as fast as he could, laughing.

Lazlo nearly dropped the gun as he staggered backward, shaking. He stood there for a moment, in shock at what he had intended to do, at the boy’s response. He turned and ran back into his house, slamming the door behind him. He slumped against the door, clutching the gun in his hands, and began to weep.

Read the rest of Lazlo’s story in Good You Were Here, available on Amazon. Signed copies available upon request: claremariespeltz@gmail.com

Blogmas 2017 – Day 7/31 – 2018 Goals

First off — need a Christmas present for someone who likes to read? Particularly someone who likes to read sad books? Need a good cry yourself? Want to support me? Consider buying my book Good You Were Here, available on Amazon for only $7.50! Ships with Amazon Prime! Signed copies available for $10 if you just ask: claremariespeltz@gmail.com.

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Evan feels like he should be dead. He has survivor’s guilt from a terrible accident over a decade ago. He dwells in the past, thinking of all the things he would take back if only he could. But then he meets Angela.

Angela is dying. Her life consists of managing her congestive heart failure symptoms and preparing for death. But then she meets Evan, a locksmith who can open anything except his heart. They get to know each other, and Angela begins to believe there is time to live before she dies.

Lazlo wants to kill someone. He can’t think of any way to get back at death for taking his wife from him. But then he reconnects with Angela, the dying girl across the street from him, and he has to decide if he will fight off the shadows in his life, or let them consume him, with violent consequences.

As the year runs down, the three of them must come to grips with death in their own ways and struggle to continue living in the moments that have been given to them.

Think about it.

Without further ado…

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2017 has been a good year for me. It really has. I think a lot of that is due to the fact that I actually started setting goals with tangible steps to achieve them. I still have a long way to go, but I’m determined to keep setting goals and growing into the best version of myself.

Here, in no particular order, is my first draft of my 2018 goals.

  • Learn hand-lettering – This is something I know I’m totally capable of doing and absolutely love. I just need to get on Pinterest and invest the time.
  • Go on 3 dates? – I have no idea if this will happen. It will depend on whether or not I meet anyone I actually want to go on a date with. We’ll see.
  • MOVE OUT! – This is just about my biggest priority. I’m determined to be in my own space as soon as possible. January sounds nice. Trying (failing) to be patient.
  • Publish 3 books – Being Daniel will come out as early as possible in 2018. I’ll aim to get Where Your Story Ends out by early summer. I’m not sure yet what I’ll have for you after that, but I’m going to stretch myself and try to get another book out in the fall or winter. Exciting stuff coming!
  • Actually try to learn Spanish – I’ll be perfectly honest – the movie Coco is the driving inspiration behind this goal. I’ve tried twice now and haven’t stuck to it, but I really want to expand my brain and my vocabulary.
  • Travel 2 new places, anywhere. – I always grow when I travel. I have a sister out in Arizona I want to visit and a friend is talking about road tripping to Florida, so we shall see.
  • NaNoWriMo – Doing NaNo this year has absolutely convinced me this should be a priority next year.
  • Cut down on stuff – I have a lot of ‘what if I need that someday?’ junk filling up my room. I want to have only the stuff I need so I have less I need to haul around with me wherever life takes me.
  • Create a nice summer wardrobe – I hate summer clothes. This year I’d like to invest in clothes that I actually like and don’t make me squirm.
  • Exercise somehow – To be fair, I gave this a solid try this summer. I wasn’t even remotely consistent but I was much more active than I have been in the past. Currently, my plan is to get myself a jump rope and at least do cardio.
  • Save $3000! – I really want to build up a respectable savings account. Every time I’ve saved up, it’s been to pay for something huge (trip to Italy, another trip to Italy, laptop, car…) and I want to finally have money put away and invested in my future.
  • Pay off loan woot woot! – I currently have less than $600 to go on my loan and I can’t wait until that is GONE.
  • Road trip with friends? – I have a friend who I really want to introduce to Lake Superior in Wisconsin and I also want to go back to the Grotto of Redemption in West Bend, Iowa. We’ll see.
  • BLOG CONSISTENTLY – No explanation needed.

I’ll be looking at this, adding to/editing it throughout this month, and hopefully, I’ll go into 2018 with an awesome list of goals and a clear plan to meet each of them.

Got any goals for 2018? Think setting goals is dumb? Let me know!

God Bless,

Clare

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Blogmas 2017 – Day 6/31 – St. Nicholas Day

My parents never give me and my siblings Christmas presents. Before you start to think my parents are stingy, every December 5th, we’re all supposed to leave a shoe out and in the morning ‘St. Nicholas’ will have left us something.

Full disclosure, I actually believed St. Nicholas really and truly miraculously brought me presents every year until I was like 13.

While I’m as of yet on the fence about whether or not it’s good to trick children into believing in magical things, I love that my parents started this tradition. Santa Claus comes from the story of the real St. Nicholas, a bishop of Myra. He knew of a family whose daughters needed money for their dowries, so he left bags of gold for them in their home. Basically, my parents wanted to give their kids the Catholic version of Santa. I’m fine with that, but since I was a teenager before the spell was broken for me, I wonder how necessary it is to give kids made-up wonders. But that’s a topic for another post.

I have so many memories of being filled with absolute wonder every December 6th as my siblings and I ran to our shoes and compared presents. I remember there was one year, in particular, my oldest sister kept teasing me leading up to St. Nicholas Day, saying a peanut was all I would get in my shoe. Come the 6th, I received a pair of binoculars and a package of Nutter Butters. It was a hilarious coincidence since ‘St. Nicholas’ hadn’t known about the joke.

Since I still live at home, I actually have had some of my youngest brother’s gifts hiding in my room for almost a month. I’ve also put my own presents in my own shoe multiple times when my mom was busy and a little bit behind so I offered to help out.

At this point in my family, my mom is mailing gifts out to three children and one son-in-law, and all but one of her kids know the truth about where the presents really come from. No matter. even when we’re all grown up and moved out, I’m confident my mom will continue gifting us all on the 6th.

This year, I received a cutting board with a paring knife, Bananagrams and a pair of socks.

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Thanks, St. Nick.

Clare

Blogmas 2017 – Day 5/31 – A Ride Home

Yesterday I heard the following quote:

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“[Hope is] the certainty that you and I know where we’re going, and we know who’s going with us.” – Allen Hunt

This reminded me of a poem I wrote on January 28, 2016, called A Ride Home. This was written while sitting in Adoration in the Catholic church in my hometown. I was in an incredibly dark place in my life. I had broken up with my boyfriend of three years a few months before, I was working a job that was sucking the life out of me, and I felt totally alone and worthless. I felt the urge to start writing and this poem was what came out.aridehome2

There’s actually a story within the story behind this poem. For some reason, the experience of being found and claimed by Christ reminded me of something that had happened to me probably a year before. I was at an event for the theatre where I was interning and the people I thought were going to drive me home had already left. My anxiety was creeping up as I stressed about how I would get home when, before I could even ask, a friend of mine called to me, “Hey, Clare, I’m your ride home.” My heart lifted in an instant and I was utterly relieved.

That was what it felt like in that moment, to realize that God noticed me, that He cared about me. That He was my ‘ride home’.

This poem keeps coming back to me to comfort me. I have the words printed and framed on my wall. As time goes by, it takes on new meaning. I was reflecting on it before writing this post and I realized — what would my alternative be? To stay where I am forever? To start walking? God doesn’t want to leave me with those alternatives. He steps in, He calls to me before I can even ask, “Hey, Clare, I’m your ride home.”

This is my hope.

Blogmas 2017 – Day 4/31 – In and Out

In and Out – a short story

I fell out of love with her today.

I don’t know how or why, but I did. My saving grace is that I didn’t do anything about it. I sat across from her at our little table in our little kitchen, dimly lit but golden because everything is yellow, from the tabletop to the curtains to the lights. I watched her chew, which is an excellent way to fall out of love with anyone. She chewed her wheat toast with apricot jam noisily and distractedly, smiling down at the giraffe she was doodling on the paper, right beside — oh, in fact, over — the article I had intended to cut out and frame because it hailed the historic win of my favorite baseball team. I watched her hair fall messily over her eyes, and how she flipped it carelessly away so it stood up like a cockatiel for a few seconds before falling back into her eyes, starting the cycle over again every thirty seconds or so. I stared at her, took in how messy and untidy and silly she was, and I winced.

It made me sad because five years ago, all that messy, untidy silliness had endeared me to her greatly. I was enamored with her childish light. Now it seemed garish, blinding me. For a precariously long moment, I wanted to reach over, snatch that paper out from under her pen, tell her to chew with her mouth shut like I was her father, and go and eat my breakfast alone in my armchair. But I didn’t. Thank goodness. 

I looked closer at the toast crumbs on her chin, at the hazy film of frizz on top of her newly chopped bob, and the giraffe that she was so delighted in. Again, I winced, so I looked away. I looked out the window, at the cloudy morning, thinking about how it rained all night and how she had curled up in the small of my back like a kitten. How even then, I felt a bit hot and stuffy and annoyed by her presence. It’s a repulsive feeling to realize you rather wish you could sleep on the couch instead of with your own wife, just for one night.

I looked back at her, upset with myself, and found she was putting the last few details on her giraffe, which involved a lot of dark shading, right over the final paragraph of the article I had intended to put on the mantel. I looked away again, not sure what to do or say. I didn’t trust myself. I shook my head quickly, stood up, and walked to the kitchen counter to turn on the radio. I tuned in to a classical piece that, for a moment, turned our kitchen into a moonlit lagoon. The effect wore off rapidly, as she called over her shoulder, mouth full, “Put on something fun, Greg!”

I sighed and turned the thing off. I returned to the table to eat my own breakfast. She was finished with her giraffe, and she looked out the window. I looked at her. I watched her brows furrow a bit as she anxiously observed the remains of the storm. She looked like the sun with a cloud making its way across it. She suddenly looked at me, and our eyes met. I was still solidly out of love with her, but I smiled gently. She blushed a little, smiling back. She reached across the table, palm up, inviting my hand to hers. I took it, and I smiled at her again. In love or out, I was in with her, and I intended to stay. I squeezed her hand and took my plate to the sink, glad I didn’t do anything about it.

Today I fell back in love with him.

It wasn’t like the first time when I fell for everything I perceived him to be, and the infatuation painted him in an exquisite light no matter what he did or said. I was sitting across from him at the kitchen table, eating my toast and sketching on yesterday’s paper. I like giraffes but can never seem to draw one that looks funny in a good way, but today something was going right. I concentrated on the giraffe’s tail, trying to get the curve just right, munching on my first slice of toast.

As I drew, I thought about how nice it would have been to go somewhere this weekend instead of just sitting around. I yawned and pushed my hair out of my eyes tiredly, smiling down at my giraffe.

Across from me, he stood up and went to turn on the radio. He put on some stiff classical piece, full of flutes and harps. I called to him over my shoulder, “Put on something fun, Greg!”

He sighed and turned it off. I sighed, too. He had taken to sighing a lot lately, and I wish he wouldn’t. I always felt like there was something he wanted to talk about, but he didn’t think I’d understand. I pushed that thought away as I finished shading the giraffe’s shadow, and sat back to look at it as he resumed his seat at the table.

I looked up through the window and cringed a little at the sky that was still heavy and dark gray. It had stormed all night, and I feared it would start up again. I like rain but dislike wind, and seeing so many tree limbs down and twigs scattered everywhere made me nervous about the old maple that already seemed to be leaning over our roof. I recalled last night, being genuinely afraid any moment the old tree would snap and come down right over our bedroom. I finally scooted right up against him, took some comfort from his warmth and the movement of his breathing, and slept poorly, startling awake at every thunderclap. He stayed asleep the whole time, lucky.

I noticed him looking at me out of the corner of my eye, and I turned, looked at him, surprised to find him studying me so intently. Lately, I’d felt invisible, or at least transparent. He smiled at me, a very gentle, warm smile, like the sun peering out from behind a cloud.

I smiled back, surprised, and overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude. My cheeks felt warm, and it was an odd but welcome thrill, to feel I’d suddenly spotted him a long way’s off in a crowded room. I hesitated, but reached out my hand to him, wiggling my fingers slightly, beckoning him closer. He took it and smiled at me again, warmer this time. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what. He squeezed my hand and stood up, taking his plate to the sink. I watched him fondly as he silently walked to the coat closet, got his jacket, and headed out to clean up the yard of all it’s broken limbs and twigs.

Blogmas 2017 – Day 3/31 – A Love Letter to Advent

Dear Advent,

For a lot of my life, I hated you. Not exactly true — I didn’t hate you, I was afraid of you, and fear likes to masquerade as hate. It’s because every year during the first couple weeks of Advent we talk about the Second Coming, the end times. I know people who love hearing about that — it even gives them hope. For me, it was almost debilitating how much it frightened me. I don’t know how my head and my heart learned to associate you and the end of time with so much fear, but it did. 

Slowly, over the last few years, there’s been healing. There’s been relearning. There’s been an overflowing of God’s mercy towards me that has taught me that I matter, that God knows me and loves me personally and wills my good. At this point in my life, there is still fear. But just a tiny bit stronger than the fear is hope.

Nothing makes sense without love. Without knowing that God loved me, you were just something to remind me to be afraid, very afraid, that I better shape up because that was my only hope.

But I am loved. Infinitely. Wisely. Unselfishly. And that puts you in perspective.

God came to us as a helpless baby. He will come again as a mighty King. That is what we’re waiting for.

Today I reflected on something I have only recently learned — that you are a season of joyful waiting. Waiting is not something I typically associate with joy. But I thought about women are pregnant, waiting to meet their new baby. That waiting may involve sorrow, uncertainty, fear, and suffering. Still, what they wait for makes the waiting worth it. 

What we wait for is beautiful. What we wait for is good.

Thank you for coming around every year to remind me of that.

Love,

Clare