Blogmas 2017 – Day 25/31 – Merry Christmas

Christmas is here! Hurray! So far I’ve gotten to wake up to my first Christmas in my own apartment, talk to my older sister who is out in Arizona (where she is freezing to death because it’s 48 degrees, poor thing), had a delicious lunch, and played with my three youngest siblings.

As I sat down to write a blog post just now, I went back to my tumblr to see if there were any memories from Christmases past that I wanted to share. This is what I found.

12/23/16

Can you ever just tell when someone is painfully lonely? Tonight I waited on an elderly gentleman who just started telling me about himself. He began by saying he’d been doing his own grocery shopping for 19 years. Eventually he said he was divorced. He just kept coming back to his main point – that he did everything for himself – his cooking, cleaning, doing his laundry, everything. Because he was ALONE, and when you get divorced, people really come down hard on you. At first I was annoyed, because it made me uncomfortable. What am I supposed to do with your troubles, sir? I’m just here to ring up your groceries. But I looked at him and I realized – this man is LONELY. I asked him if he would get to see any family for Christmas. He very adamantly said no, because, like he said, when you get divorced, people really come down hard on you, even though they don’t know the whole story. I told him that was too bad, when people decide to take sides with something like that. He said they do, they really do. I listened to him and I said what I could to just let him know I was happy to be talking to him. He opened a window into his life, and I saw the story of a man whose friends and family sided with his wife when they got divorced, and so he was left alone in the world. As I wished him a Merry Christmas and watched him go, I said a prayer for him. I recognized in him a great hunger to be seen, known, loved – a hunger I couldn’t fill. I couldn’t be a friend to this old man. I could only be a very kind, helpful cashier at a grocery store to him. I hope my kindness made his day a little brighter. 

His name is Larry. Please pray for him, and everyone who is isolated or feels alone this Christmas. I pray they will all receive comfort from the Christ Child. 

Thank you, God bless. 

Clare

I’m glad I wrote this down. It’s easy to forget moments like these, important moments, where God reaches into our lives and touches our hearts, teaching us to love a little bit more like He does.

Something I learned throughout Advent was that God truly meets us in the middle of our mess. Jesus was born into a messy world that was so unprepared for Him, Mary had to give birth to Him in a stable. But still He came. He came and made the stable, the manger, the mess, sacred. Worthy of Himself.

As He does to our hearts when we welcome Him in, regardless of the straw and the cow poop and all the other things filling us up to capacity. Whatever space we make for Him, He will come and fill and make beautiful.

I pray Larry, wherever he is this year, will find Christ in his mess.

emptymanger.jpg

I pray the same for all of you.

Merry Christmas!

Clare

 

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Blogmas 2017 – Day 22/31 – Good You Were Here EXTRA

The other day I posted a snippet I wrote for a writing prompt (read it here). Here’s another snippet from that prompt exercise, and this one is extra special because it’s a scene for Good You Were Here! It’s not exactly a deleted scene, more like a bonus scene I wrote just to play around with the characters that ultimately didn’t fit in the book. Enjoy!

 

4/3/17 Bonus Scene, Good You Were Here

“It’s September,” Florence commented solemnly as she handed Angela her cup of tea.

Angela looked away from her mother, making her brain pretend it didn’t make the connection. “So?”

Florence didn’t answer. She knew Angela was pretending.

“Is Evan coming over today?”

“I think so,” Angela replied, turning and walking out of the kitchen.

She walked into the living room, and found Evan already there, taking his shoes off at the door.

“Hi,” he said, smiling at her.

“Hi,” she replied, smiling in spite of the sickening sorrow her mother had awakened in her.

Evan’s smile faded. “You okay?”

“Hm? What? Why?” Angela self consciously ran a hand over her hair, realizing her hairspray had probably not been sufficient to tame it.

“What’s wrong?” Evan asked.

She looked away. So much for not being perceptive. “Nothing. It’s nothing. Just…” She sipped her tea. She took a deep breath. No point in keeping secrets, remember? “It’s September now,”

“Yeah?”

“It was seven months ago,” she said softly. “seven months ago, they told me I had eight months to live,”

Evan’s face twisted. He went to her and wrapped his arms around her. Her teacup got caught between them and pressed into both their chests uncomfortably, but she didn’t move. She pressed her eyes to Evan’s shoulder and let him hold her.

“Look at you,” Evan’s voice was unnaturally high. “You’re fine. You aren’t going to die,”

Tears began to stream from Angela’s eyes, so she kept them on his shoulder. “I mean, probably not next month. But before too long. I have good days, I have bad days. I am dying, Evan,”

He held her tighter, so tight the cup pressed into her collarbone hurt, but she didn’t pull away. She wished he could hold her tight enough to keep her soul in her body. She wanted him to be right, even though she could feel her lungs wearing out, her heart ticking down.

“I want you to live,”

“I want to live, too,”

They stood and held each other, trying to ward off September, trying to ward off the cruel, uncaring clock of congestive heart failure, until her tea was cold.

 

 

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Blogmas 2017 – Day 21/31 – What I Wrote Today 1

Happy Winter Solstice!

Confession time – I honestly haven’t been writing since NaNoWriMo ended. I was, for a while. I was writing blog posts for Blogmas. But even writing my writing actual blog posts has kind of shriveled up since I unexpectedly moved to a new place a week ago. No regrets, but I realized, “Hey, just posting something on my blog isn’t the point. The point is to be writing. Every day.” So this morning I intentionally sat down to write…something. Anything. This is what I came up with. It isn’t much. It may not even make it into the final draft of Being Daniel. But I wrote something, and that’s what counts.
What I Wrote Today 1 – 12/21/17

Jill came over. The door wasn’t locked so she let herself in. She found Nick sitting on the floor in front of his couch, gazing at Tony who was fast asleep.

She went and sat down beside him. Without speaking, she slipped her arm around him and he took her hand.

“How is he?” she asked softly.

Nick shrugged. “Slowly sobering up,”

“How are you?”

Nick sighed. “I’ll get back to you on that,”

Jill kissed his cheek and rested her head against his shoulder. “You aren’t going to throw him out, are you?”

Nick scoffed. “Of course I’m not going to throw him out. What would happen to him if I did? He would never admit it, but he needs me. I’m all he’s got.”

Jill nodded slowly. She studied the pinched expression on Tony’s sleeping face. “Poor guy,” she murmured.

“It’s mostly self-inflicted,” Nick said.

Jill smiled sadly. “I know,” 

“I love him, Jill,”

“I know you do,” she said. “I love him, too.”

 

Thanks for reading, God bless!

Clare

 

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Blogmas 2017 – Day 20/31 – Story Birds

Originally posted here 3/23/17. Why I write.

Some Thoughts – 3/23/17

“Is this it? Are you really going to be a writer?”

I was in my car, on my way to the coffee shop (to write), and as I was going over the train tracks, I asked myself this question. It popped into my head, kind of from nowhere, but it generally spawned from the following self-reflection: “Here I am, driving 20 minutes to go sit in a coffee shop and write when I could have sat at home to write, because I seem to focus on writing better at the coffee shop than at home,” 

So the thought came chasing me down, as it has done before, but never this strongly. “Is this really it? Is this what you’re going to do with your life?”

I am a class-A self-sabotager, so my brain was trying to trick me down all the usual rabbit-holes: calling me out on my flakiness, how I was super into writing as a kid/teenager but I let it drop for three years, how I’m lazy and scared of hard work, how I always aim low in life, my fear that I can’t actually support myself as a fiction writer/playwright, etc., etc.

But I stuffed all that down for a moment, and I thought, “Dang, I want to try. I want to put in all the work and see where it goes,”

As I walked into the coffee shop, carrying my new bag that I bought specifically for the purpose of hauling my writing stuff (to the coffee shop), I greeted the barista who recognizes me because I’m kind of a regular. I’m the girl who comes in and always sits by the window and always gets a small cappuccino. Honestly, I found myself hoping she’d ask me what I do so I could tell her, “Oh, I’m kind of trying to become a freelance fiction writer,” She didn’t.

Kind of? Trying? As I look at how I talk to myself/about myself as a writer, I realize how serious this self-sabotaging thing is. I am becoming a freelance fiction writer. I think I might already be there. Just because I’m not making money yet doesn’t mean I’m not freelancing.

Every time I say, “It’s worth driving 20 minutes so I have better focus and can get more outlining and writing done today,” Every time I say, “Sorry, guys, not tonight, I haven’t written yet today,” Every time I’m reading a book and I highlight the things that stand out to me, things I want to emulate. Every time I pin and (more importantly) read articles on improving one’s writing on Pinterest.

This feels especially important to me right now, at this moment in 2017, when I’m 22 and still living in my parents’ house and trying to save up enough money to move back to a city I loved living in. I have spent so much of the last five-six years of my life lost and insecure. I spent most of those years caught up in a dead-end relationship and a vision of myself as a pathetic, stupid, little girl, which has kept me underachieving and unhappy.

I can feel how, over the last eight months, my mindset has shifted. Back in August, I made this post about the fact that I had officially decided I wanted to start taking my writing seriously. I guess this is a bit of a followup post. I keep praying about my writing and I feel like God is cheering me on, or at maybe doing the God-equivalent of Shia LeBeouf saying “Don’t let your dreams be dreams!!”

I want to. I want to fight for these stories. I want to fight to get them into the world, like beautiful little birds who will land on other people’s windowsills and become part of their lives. I. Love. Telling. Stories. And I love sharing my stories with people. So, please, don’t let me get away with talking like a flaky waffle. I’m already doing the work I need to do to be successful as a writer; I’m writing. Every day. I just need to be brave and keep at it.

So, yes. This is it. I’m a writer, and I’m going to be a writer. As long as that’s where I’m called, that’s where I’ll run. Hopefully, I can send you some story birds soon.

Thank you for reading this. God bless,

Clare

 

My first story bird. 

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Blogmas 2017 – Day 19/31 – Snippets 2

I keep running short on time these days, so here’s another snippet. This one was originally posted here on 11/24/16. I wrote it while listening to this cover of Dancing on My Own by Calum Scott. It was inspired by some personal experience but more specifically by the line from the song, “I’m right over here, why can’t you see me?” Hopefully this scene will find a story of its own someday, but for now, enjoy.

snippet2.jpg

 

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Blogmas 2017 – Day 18/31 – Snippets 1

Back on April 9th, I was doing a writing exercise where I chose a random book, opened it, and whatever page I opened on I would use as a writing prompt. This particular prompt was for a book that is one of my favorites — Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris, and I opened to page 144.

page144

Here’s what I came up with inspired by this scene (originally posted here):

4/9/2017

Writing prompt: Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris, page 144

“Who does that crackpot old king think he is, pawning his daughter off to that simpleton?” Marty grumbled as he watched the Princess Persimmon being pursued without an ounce of grace or imagination by Prince Donovan, who was feeding her grapes at the high table. 

“Don’t let it trouble you so much,” Wilber suggested, shoving a turkey leg into his friend’s mouth before he could say anything else. “You never had a chance with her anyway,”

“I’m not interested in that puckered little Persimmon,” Marty protested. “I’m concerned for the welfare of the kingdom. You really think dimwitted Donavan knows the first thing about trade or foreign affairs or not being overthrown in the first month of his reign?”

“Prince Donavan is a pathetic lout, I’ll give you that,” Wilber said, calmly stuffing his mouth with cheese popovers. “But so is King Franklin, so I’m not terribly alarmed,”

“I want to see the kingdom improve, not continue slogging along,”

“Maybe you should move to another kingdom,” Wilber laughed. “You care so much about politics, Marty. If only you could be happy jousting and playing court. But no. You have to get all up in a stink over crop prices and the working conditions of milkmaids,”

“Somebody has to care about this stuff,” Marty snarled, poking viciously at his slice of plum pudding. 

“Well, I do think it’s very noble of you to care, but maybe you could set your mind at ease and enjoy the feast with me? Whether or not you approve of Prince Donovan and his puckered Persimmon, you have to admit their betrothal has resulted in a good time for the rest of us,”

“One can’t drown the foul taste of horrifyingly stupid merger marriages with turkeys and plum pudding,” Marty grumbled. 

Wilber shrugged and reached over to pick off of Marty’s plate. “More for me,”

“Hmph,” Marty glared across the room. “Looks like the Persimmon got tired of grapes,”

Wilber looked up and his eyes widened. “Hey, she’s headed this way,”

“No, she’s probably headed to find a chamber pot – holy cats, she is headed this way!” Marty turned towards Wilber, his eyes wide with panic. “What do you suppose she wants?”

“We’re about to find out,”

“Hello,” Princess Persimmon said, stopping in front of them and planting her hands on the table in between trays of cheese and pickled eggs.

“Hello, your Highness,” Wilber said, giving her a suave smile. 

“Er…hi, Princess,” Marty mumbled. 

“I don’t suppose I could ask you two a favor?” she said, batting her eyelashes. 

“Yes?” Marty said. 

“Anything,” Wilber assured her. 

She grinned at them. “Excellent. I need you to get rid of my beloved betrothed. By tomorrow night, if you could manage it,” 

 

There you have it! This was a lot of fun to write, but it currently has no title and no real plan. I do have one idea that I could possibly sandwich this into but I’m curious to hear what you think!

Did you enjoy this? Like the characters? Should I continue the story? Let me know!

Clare

 

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Blogmas 2017 – Day 17/31 – Good You Were Here Soundtrack

I love the idea of books having soundtracks. Not exactly in the sense that ‘oh, the book is a movie in my head and this is the soundtrack it would have.’ What I mean is more like, ‘here are the songs that inspired individual scenes in my book, songs that might give you more insight into this story’. Also, music is often a big part of my stories.

I have two Spotify playlists for every story I’m working on — a private one of all the songs I listen to while I’m writing and a more polished public one that is meant to accompany the book for my readers.

I’m particularly proud of the playlist I made to accompany Good You Were Here, so I decided to share it.

gywhsoundtrack

If you have Spotify, you can listen to the playlist HERE.

If not, I’ve created a Youtube playlist HERE.

Good You Were Here: Official Playlist

  1. Reaper – Sia
  2. Run and Hide – Sabrina Carpenter
  3. I Wanna Get Better – Bleachers
  4. Gun Song – The Lumineers
  5. Dust to Dust – The Civil Wars
  6. Come Softly to Me – The Fleetwoods
  7. Let Love In – The Goo Goo Dolls
  8. Hesitate – Steve Moakler
  9. Forever – Matt Hires
  10. Medicine – The 1975
  11. Black Bear – Andrew Belle
  12. Be Here Long – Needtobreathe
  13. Medicine – Daughter
  14. Me – The 1975
  15. My Oldest Friend – Andrew Belle
  16. Cancer – Twenty One Pilots
  17. I Will Follow You Into the Dark – Death Cab For Cutie
  18. For Now – Kina Grannis
  19. F2b – Safetysuit
  20. Gone Away – Safetysuit
  21. Uncle Jonny – The Killers
  22. I Found Love – Owl City
  23. Hello My Old Heart – The Oh Hellos

Hope you enjoy this playlist!

You can get a copy of Good You Were Here on Amazon. 

Thanks for reading, God bless!

Clare

 

 

Blogmas 2017 – Day 16/31 – Bible Verses

Today, I want to talk about two of my favorite Bible verses that have really spoken to my heart throughout 2017.

 

The first is one I’ve talked about before:

Matthew174

“Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” – Matthew 17: 4-8

I’d heard the story of the Transfiguration many times. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to a high mountain where he was transfigured, becoming bright as light, with Moses and Elijah on either side of him. I’d always heard people talk about this story, saying it taught us not to hold on too tightly to spiritual highs, that we need to go and live in the world, not just camp out on the mountain with Jesus, but this verse took on completely new meaning in May of 2016 when I was in Virginia visiting a childhood friend.

I had been so excited about this visit, but due to some strange, unexpected circumstances, I was left feeling anxious, lonely, and out of place. I was praying, telling God I felt like I shouldn’t have come at all. In the quiet, I heard Him say to me, “No, Clare. It is good that you are here.”

You can read the full story of that experience here.

Through this verse, God showed me that I matter, that my presence matters and that one of the most important things I can do is BE HERE, present, in every moment that He gives me.

I have prayed with this verse so much this year, I’ve started thinking about getting a tattoo of it. It has changed my life and changed me. My first published book was originally titled Defining Moment, then Trying to Be Here, but I ultimately chose to change it to Good You Were Here because of this verse and everything it had come to mean to me.

Luke1232

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” – Luke 12: 22-34

I suffer from a lot of anxiety, so the entirety of this passage speaks to me, but I remember discovering verse 32 almost ten years ago while just skimming through my bible. It jumped out at me and resonated in my heart.

Fast forward to this year. After one particularly good but hard counseling session a few months ago, I went to Caribou for some comfort. I was sipping my latte and praying about everything on my heart and mind, when this verse popped into my head. Praying with it brought me so much comfort and hope.

It seems every word was written directly to my own heart. “Do not be afraid any longer…” God knows I am actively fearful. “…little flock…” I am little and wayward and need a Good Shepherd to take care of me. “…for your Father…” God looks on me with fatherly love and care. “…is PLEASED to give you the kingdom.” It is the good pleasure of the CREATOR AND KING OF ALL THE UNIVERSE to know me, love me, and give me the best that He has — the Kingdom, here on earth and in Heaven with Him for all eternity.

Bible1

There you have it. I am always amazed how these words that were written 2,000 years ago still resonate so much in our human hearts. God’s word is alive and active and I know I am proof of that. What are your favorite verses? Is there a verse that has particularly spoken to you this year? Let me know!

Thank you for reading, God bless!

Clare

 

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Blogmas 2017 – Day 14/31 – Turning 23

Today I turned 23 years old and here, in no particular order, are 23 things I learned while I was 22:

  1. God’s timing is perfect. I still don’t believe that on an emotional level but I have come to trust Him enough to know it’s true.
  2. Gatorade can heal almost anything.
  3. You have to be patient with your heart. Just because you get on Bumble and try out that whole dating app thing doesn’t mean your heart will be in it. Go ahead and delete the app. You’ll get there someday.
  4. People heal and grow at their own pace, some faster, some slower, and that’s okay.
  5. I am doing better than I thought I was.
  6. I have more work to do on myself than I realized.
  7. Laziness feels gross. Being lazy gives you the emotional equivalent of going too long without a shower or without brushing your teeth. Bleah.
  8. You may never be able to get rid of all the anxiety in your life but you can learn how to manage it and be stronger than it.
  9. There are no free snacks on Spirit flights.
  10. There is no shame in going to counseling, even if you think you’re ‘not that bad’. It is empowering to take steps towards being a better you.
  11. You can have a crush on someone and not actually like them at all. I think I’ve learned this one before but I guess I needed to be reminded.
  12. Anxiety makes you feel sick sometimes. Tough it out. Eat some food. Listen to Fear by Ben Rector. Distract yourself. You are more real than your anxiety and you are capable of being kind to yourself in spite of it.
  13. I am, in fact, a Taylor Swift fan. (Sorry, Mom.)
  14. I am lactose intolerant. Goodbye, yogurt. I will miss you.
  15. You must proof-read your book. Mercilessly.
  16. It’s okay if there are some typos in your book. Yes, some people might judge you for it, but some people won’t even notice, you can always fix it, and it’s a learning experience.
  17. Pray. Every single day. I’ve learned this one before, too, and that’s okay.
  18. God is merciful.
  19. I do actually like my hair long. My hair may never be fully low-maintenance and that’s okay.
  20. Saute the onions first.
  21. If your headlight is burnt out and you don’t change it, you will eventually be pulled over.
  22. Sometimes all it takes is putting yourself out there. Be brave. Make the first move when you need to. It is worth it.
  23. It is good that I am here.

 

So grateful for my life, to BE alive, and looking forward to another wonderful year. Thank you, Jesus.

Thank you for reading, God bless,

Clare