2017 GTA Year in Review

It’s that time again! This is where I summarize everything that’s happened to our family this year for my twelve fabulous readers!

(Previous year-in-review posts can be found here and here.)

What a year, amiright? Remember that meme about how 2016 was the worst year in history? Maybe y’all shouldn’t have memed so hard, because sometimes it seems like 2017 had a “hold my beer” moment. I mean, celebrity deaths are terrible, but so are natural disasters, and nature has not been kind to humanity this year.

But that’s not the topic of this post. Despite getting rocked by Hurricane Harvey, our family has experienced many good times in 2017, and I’d like to focus on those.

The Fam

Hobbit Halloween round 2!

Non-Harvey-related family events include our two major vacations this year: Zelphfest and Fredericksburg.

Zelphfest was our big roadtrip around the four-corners area, so named because we visited 7 national parks and saw all manner of Native American ruins. My favorite parts of the trip were Chaco Culture National Historic Park and Mesa Verde National Park.

Big log at Petrified Forest National Park

Dan experiences a log cabin (that’s all petrified wood!)

Chaco Culture

Big kiva!

Mesa Verde

Dan could take or leave the Great Sand Dunes, especially after he lost his hot wheels car…

Zelphfest definitely ranks as one of our best family vacations. Everyone had a great time (including Will, who was but a paunch), and I had no idea we had this kind of thing in the United States!

Who (or what) is Zelph, you ask? If you want to make Tom’s day, ask him!

Over Thanksgiving we took another road trip to Fredericksburg. Tom really wanted to get away from what he called the “post-apocalyptic dumpsterscape” that is Southeast Texas—and I have to admit, it was pretty nice.

Great art from our Airbnb

Lost Maple

Enchanted Rock. It’s real windy and sunny up there.

Chicken nugget or bat in Longhorn Cavern?

Apparently a natural cave formation…

The kids were a little ridiculous on this trip. Will got hungry in the middle of our tour of Longhorn Cavern, so I had to nurse him while walking through a dark cave while Dan screamed about how he didn’t want Tom to hold his hand (he just wanted to stand in the dark in the cave while we moved on). I bet the other people on the tour loved us. But it was still a fun trip, and if nothing else, we got some great schnitzel!

Of course, the best thing that happened to our family this year was Will’s birth!

The Will

I just introduced William on the blog a few weeks ago, so I won’t give his whole life story here. But he’s cute and cuddly and sweet and we love him all to pieces. In the past few weeks he’s started getting up on hands and knees and inching himself forward. No toy or power cord is safe around here these days, and I’m having to watch him more carefully.

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Will has also gone from basically sleeping through the night to…not sleeping…at all. Between the 4-month sleep regression, being sick, and teething, he’s had a rough few weeks. He goes to bed around 7:30, and it’s not uncommon for him to wake up at 9, 11, 12, 4:30, and 6. We’ve started sleep training because this is not great.

Ah well. He’s cute.

Hi!

The Dan

Dan has made amazing leaps this year. At the beginning of this year he was trying to say “purple” and I was the only one who could understand him. The other day he said, “Dad, can you get off the couch so you can come in the kitchen and give me more milk?” His verbal skills have really taken off, and it’s maddening and hilarious by turns. He knows his letters and numbers (up to 20) and has started asking me what things spell. And he loves to point out that “H E B spells HEB!” He’s doing well with potty training (which we’re doing at a very leisurely pace) and can sing Jingle Bells and Rebecca Black’s “Friday” on demand. Cars is still his favorite movie, and you can hardly catch him without one of his three toy Lightning McQueens.

This kid knows what’s going on.

Dan is very much a typical toddler. He reliably eats cereal and grilled cheese sandwiches, and not much else. I’ve started a “reasons my kid is crying” list in my journal, and it’s great. Here are some highlights:

  • There was “no more juice” in his almost-full juice box.
  • No one would get him any “dry milk.”
  • His leaf got wind on it.
  • “Jesus does NOT want me to be good!”

That kid. We love him.

One of Dan’s best qualities is that he’s an amazing big brother.

It’s so much fun to watch these two together.

The Tom

It’s been a crazy year for the Tom. Work’s going well, and he’s 3/8 done with “the prestigious Indiana online MBA program” (his words). He’s currently the ward clerk, which he enjoys. He’s primarily responsible for getting our house put back together after Harvey, and he continues to be an all-around great dad. The past six months he’s been working himself to the bone, and yet he somehow manages to help me maintain whatever sanity I have left. A+ for Tom.

The Me?

In the immortal words of Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, “I used to have goals. They were evil goals, but they were goals.”

Mood

It’s been a pretty crazy year, and between William’s birth and Harvey, I pretty much couldn’t keep up with much after about June. During the first half of the year I made slow, steady progress rewriting my NaNoWriMo novel from last year, but I’ve barely touched it since then. I’m not sure it’s worth fixing, to be honest, but the goal is to finish this draft and shove it at Tom, who will tell me whether or not I should keep on trucking. Not sure when that will happen, but it’s the goal.

I’m a little bummed that this is taking so long, but it’s okay. Even without Harvey things would have been busy. Some things, like writing and Dan School, just have to give for a while, that’s all. Once everyone’s getting a bit more sleep, I’ll be able to carve out some more time.

That said, this year was still pretty productive from a personal perspective. I mean, just look at how chubby Will is! And I’m really enjoying my church callings (activity days leader and primary pianist).

I did get some high quality crafting this year. I made this weighted blanket before Zelphfest, and it helped keep the pregnancy/traveling insomnia under control.

Tom says the colors are loud, but I like them!

And of course Dan needed a hobbit getup to match Will.

And because I tend to pick up new hobbies whenever I’m stressed, I’ve also dabbled in some watercolors.

Tom’s deep sea fangly fish and my panda

My very talented mother taught me some of her skills when I was a kid, and it’s been fun to get back into it and share my attempts with her.

It’s the chicken!

Borp borp!

I also started a bullet journal back in February, and that’s been invaluable in surviving this crazy year. I might save that for another post, though, because this one is getting too long.

Looking Forward to 2018

2018 should be a pretty good year. We should be getting cabinets soon, and with them a dishwasher and a sink with a garbage disposal! Yay! My sister will be home from her LDS mission to Malaysia in April, and we’re all excited to see her again. And supposedly the sequel to Dragonwatch will be out this year, which should be a party. We’re also planning a trip to California.

The kids will continue to grow up too fast. Dan’s going to start preschool this year, and will hopefully start learning to read. Will is going to reach a lot of milestones; he’s particularly looking forward to trying solid food. Tom will keep working through the MBA, and he’s planning to build a new kitchen table. He’s also excited to take Dan camping. I’m hoping to blog some more and maybe finish this friggin’ book.

Happy new year, y’all!

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Writing FAQ!

Every once in a while a well-meaning friend or relative will ask well-meaning questions about my writing. And every time, I find myself completely unprepared to answer those well-meaning questions.

“What’s your book about?” they ask, all friendly-like.

“Um,” I say, ducking my head and zipping up my jacket until it obscures the bottom half of my face, “words and stuff. Probably fantasy stuff. I think Dan’s crying. Gotta go.”

As you can imagine, I never did well in job interviews.

It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing or I’m trying to keep it a secret. I’ve just had some negative experiences talking about writing with people—no one who reads this blog, don’t worry—and it just makes me nervous. Plus, the whole talking thing isn’t really my forte—why do you think I got into writing?

With that in mind, I’ve created a little writing FAQ to answer some of the questions I normally get. They’re all reasonable questions with answers I’ve thought a lot about, but can’t bring myself to say out loud when put on the spot. Hopefully this will clear up some confusion.

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Q: So…why are you doing this writing thing?

A: I just like it! I really can’t help it. My brain likes to tell me stories, and it gets antsy if I don’t write them down. It’s always been this way, and I don’t see it changing any time soon.

Writing is therapeutic. It helps me channel my natural surliness without raging at people at the grocery store. It also gives my brain a bit of a workout, which is nice since I spend most of the day reading board books. Don’t get me wrong—I love reading to Dan, but I’ve got Dazzling DiggersHello Ninja, and Little Blue Truck memorized. Bring on the next challenge!

Also, I’ve got a tiny shred of hope that someday, something I write will help someone. My life has been changed by some of the books I read as a child, and I’d like to pay it forward if I can. The world is a weird place, and good, wholesome books are always in demand. Whether I can actually deliver said books is another story, but hey—it’s worth a shot.

Q: What makes you think you’ll have time for this?

A: That’s a good question. I’m raising a crazy toddler. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to take a shower tomorrow (note: the answer is “probably yes”). The point is, I’ve got some time right now, and the Lord tells us to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will.” I think writing can fit that description. It certainly beats Netflix, at least.

Kevin J. Anderson, one of the most prolific writers in the sci-fi industry (and maybe generally), tells a story of a friend whose wife’s career took off in such a way as to facilitate him quitting his job and writing full-time. The guy created enough distractions for himself that he never wrote another book. Someday all of our kids will be in school, and I’ll have larger chunks of uninterrupted writing time. Those chunks will do me no good if I can’t learn to manage the time I do have, and that’s what I’m doing right now.

My current goal is 500 words a day, and it’s working really well right now. I know I’ll be making adjustments throughout our kids’ childhood, and that’s fine. But I have no intention of ever stopping completely—I doubt I could if I tried.

Q: So why are you always writing that fantasy stuff?

A: The short answer is because that’s mostly what I read. I’m an escapist reader, and I always have been. When I want reality, I go to Walmart.

There's a little too much reality at Walmart sometimes...

There’s a little too much reality at Walmart sometimes…

I’ve always loved fairy tales and stories about magic and unicorns and all that nonsense, but I really fell in love with fantasy in third grade when Ms. Ward read Ella Enchanted to our class. I wasn’t a big fan of most of the books we had to read in elementary school. It seemed like we were always reading books about dogs, probably because a lot of kids had dogs and teachers wanted them to relate to what we were reading. I didn’t have a dog. I didn’t even particularly like dogs. Those books were not meant for me. When we started on Ella, I sat straight up in my chair, paying rapt attention the whole time. I remember thinking, “You can write books like this?” It blew my eight-year-old mind. I think that was also the moment when I really decided I wanted to be a writer.

Later that year I picked up Harry Potter for the first time, and from then on, I was stuck. I’ve been a fantasy junkie ever since.

I have nothing against other genres, and enjoy reading them (except the dog genre—not a fan). But fantasy is my favorite, and for now, that’s the genre I’m most interested in writing.

Q: Plotter or Pantser?

Plotter! I can’t write without an outline, though I’m impressed by those who can.

For those of you who don’t know, a “plotter” is someone who has to “plot” their story out from start to finish before they start writing. A “pantser” figures it out as they go, writing by the “seat of their pants,” as it were.

Q: Traditional or Self-publishing?

I’m planning to self-publish eventually. There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding which publishing route to take, and I don’t really have time to get into them here, but after a lot of research, I’ve decided that the pressure inherent in traditional publishing would be too hard on our family. I love writing, but I’m a mom first. I need the flexibility to give my children as much attention as they need, particularly when crises inevitably arise. I’m not trying to be the primary breadwinner in our family (if I was, we’d be in a heap of trouble right about now), so flexibility really is the most important factor here.

Q: What’s your book about?

I don’t think any writer likes answering this question. It’s hard to answer for several possible reasons:

  • It’s too early in the writing process to have a satisfactory answer available. This is particularly true for pantsers. I am very much NOT a pantser, but I usually don’t come up with elevator pitches for my stories until they’re basically finished.
  • The writer doesn’t know what “version” of the answer you’re looking for. Do you want the genre? The five-second elevator pitch? The “theme”? An “It’s like Star Wars meets High School Musical 2“-style answer? A point-by-point summary of the plot? Sometimes there’s no way of knowing, and no writer wants their listener to walk away in the middle of a 20-minute explanation of their “Sexy Robot Monkey Pirates from Outer Space” saga. (I actually did have to walk away from the guy who was writing those books. Apparently, so did his ex-wife.)

But, since this is a FAQ and I’m committed to answering your questions, I’ll tell you that the book I’m working on now is about the struggle to be a man in a post-modern world.

Just kidding; it’s about ghosts and stuff.

cover

Q: So when are we finally going to see something you’ve written?

Um…someday.

In all seriousness, I’m just starting out in my “writing journey.” I went almost four years without writing anything other than college papers (and before then, my efforts weren’t much to look at, believe me). I’ve written a few “novels” over the last few years, but I’m still learning how to tell a good story.

Brandon Sanderson says you need to write about five garbage books before you can write anything decent. I’ve written about three since I started writing again, and they’re garbage-y enough that I’m not sure they even qualify as books. My writing is definitely improving, and that’s the point of this whole exercise, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

Life is super crazy right now, what with pregnancy and keeping Dan on the straight and narrow and whatnot, so I’ve decided to stop setting crazy and unrealistic goals like, “Write something publishable this year!” Instead, I’m going to keep plugging along at a pace I can keep up. Someday I’ll get there, and you guys will be the first to know when I have something to show you.

***

Well, I think that about covers it (hehe, “covers.” Because books. See what I did there?). Everything you’ve never wanted to know about this weird thing I do in my spare time, in one convenient blog post. And because you’ve been so patient, here are some adorable pictures of Dan “driving” a train.

 

The 2016 GTA Year In Review

Last year it was brought to my attention that the “GTA” in my title made them think of “Grand Theft Auto.” That’s hilarious, so I’m not going to change it. Muahaha.

Anywho, here I am, late as usual, to bring my twelve fabulous readers the famous year in review post! And man, it has been a crazy-good year to review.

The Fam

This was a big year for us as a family. We bought our first house, accompanied Tom’s grandparents on an amazing, life-dream-fulfilling genealogical trip to Italy, road tripped to Corpus Christi and Big Bend National Park, and basically spent a lot of time figuring out how to be a family of three.

We also put up Christmas lights for the first time!

lights

There were definitely some hard times. We all barely survived the plague, and the other plague, and there was the time Dan got that rash and everyone was stressed and I stormed out of the house to go buy Cadbury Mini Eggs. But we made it through the hard times, and I can safely say 2016 had more good times than bad times for the fam.

The best news from this year, of course, is that we’re expecting a baby in July!

Yes, I actually got this fortune cookie right before we made the announcement.

Yes, I actually got this fortune cookie right before we made the announcement.

We’re all very excited, although Dan doesn’t really know what’s going on yet. We’ve told him there’s a baby in Mom’s tummy, and sometimes he’ll say hi to the baby. But then he’ll point to his own tummy and say “baby,” so…we’re still working on it.

The Dan

This has been a big year for Dan. He learned to walk, talk, eat foods, and basically do all the amazing thing he does.

He also met Santa.

santadan

He wasn’t thrilled.

Dan also started Nursery this year. He had a rough time at first, as most kids do, but now he loves it—especially when they bring out the bubble machine at the end!

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One time I went to Nursery with him, and he built a barricade of trucks around me so I wouldn’t leave.

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I covered most of what there is to know about Dan in my “18 Months of Dan” post, and he’s continued to develop along the same lines. He is much better at communicating now, and learns dozens of words every day. Right now we’re working on saying “please,” “thank you,” and “I love you.” He’s a real sweetheart!

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The Tom

This has been an awesome year for Tom. He put his Italian skills to good use, got promoted twice, experienced his first turnaround, and was accepted into his first-choice online MBA program. Wow!

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Tom continues to be an amazing dad.

Oh yeah—Tom was the scruffiest I’ve ever seen him on our camping trip in November.

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Wut.

The Me

I didn’t really know what to put in this section. It’s not like I didn’t do anything in 2016—it’s just that I don’t have really good physical evidence of my accomplishments. Unlike in 2015, I didn’t get much crafting done, largely because once we moved I couldn’t find my crafting supplies/equipment.

I did, however, learn to cook a bunch of cool stuff: Dancakes, beef with broccoli, japchae, singapore rice noodles, moqueca, pot roast (now I’m a real white housewife!!!), pho (new “Elissa Cooks Stuff” coming soon!), and many other delicious foodums.

(I thought I took more pictures of my creations, but apparently they were all snapchat videos…)

As far as writing goes, I wrote about 71,841 original-fiction words this year. That’s not a lot by most writers’ standards, but considering everything else that happened this year, I’m pretty happy about it. I did participate in NaNoWriMo and win, and I’m still working on that project right now. I’m hoping to do a more in-depth writing post in the near future, so if you have any questions about my writing stuff, leave a comment!

To be honest, 2016 was pretty hard for me. We had a lot of fun adventures, but not a lot of downtime. I spent most of the year exhausted, stressed, and/or sick. I expected the whole family would get sick more once Dan started nursery, but for whatever reason, most of the plagues originate with me. 2017 hasn’t been much better so far, which is part of the reason this post is so late.

I’m starting to realize that I’m a real wimp when it comes to traveling. My body just doesn’t handle it very well, and it can take over a week to physically recover from a short weekend trip. And every time something unpleasant happens while traveling (like, say, Dan and I getting stomach flu in San Antonio, or a night of travel insomnia turning an ordinary case of delayed-onset muscle soreness into an out of control, fever-ridden, excruciatingly-painful nightmare), it just makes staying home and reading books sound that much more appealing.

This year I’m hoping for more relaxing family time at home, more crafting, more writing, and more delicious foods. As far as new year’s resolutions go, these seem pretty attainable.

Looking Forward to 2017

There’s a lot to be excited about in 2017! Here are some of the things I’m looking forward to:

  • Dan’s 2nd birthday!
  • Dragonwatch in March!
  • Our 2nd baby in July!
  • Oathbringer in November!
  • More blogging!
  • The return of THESE GUYS!

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It’s going to be a great year!

Happy mid-January to all, and may all your times be good!

It’s Camp NaNoWriMo Time! (And a (Late) Easter Greeting)

That’s right, I’m doing this crazy thing again!

campnanosquare

Camp NaNoWriMo happens in April and July. It’s basically like the main November event, but with less rigid rules. You can write nonfiction, you can edit existing novels—you can even set your own word count goal. Because April is going to be an exciting month for our family (Dan’s birthday(!!!), moving(!!!), work training/flea market extravaganza in San Antonio(!!!)), I’m going to set myself a nice, cushy goal of 25,000 words.

It probably looks like I only write during NaNoWriMo events, but that’s purely accidental. The original start date for this novel was January 1, but in November Dan got a UTI, Tom left town for a few days, and Tom and I both got some nasty throat infection. Prewriting got totally derailed as I was dealing with more important things, so I pushed the start date back to March. Thanks to Plague Kid, February was less productive than expected, so I gave myself an extra month and figured I might as well participate in Camp with my writing group.

What am I writing, you ask? I’m terrible at answering that question, especially at this point. Everyone is looking for a different type of answer. The simplest answer is that it’s a YA fantasy loosely based on the fairy tale “Brother and Sister.” I’ve been joking that it’s a story about knitting and thermodynamics, but it’s probably got more knitting and less thermodynamics than anyone really wants. That’s all the description you get because I don’t want to jinx it, but that’s better than my usual answer of, “Um, stuff.”

Anyway, wish me luck, and I’ll try to keep you updated throughout the month.

***

In other news, I hope everyone had a fantastic Easter!

I’ve been unnaturally exhausted lately, so I  dropped the ball on our Easter celebration this year. Dan didn’t get an Easter basket or hunt for eggs. Dinner was leftover enchiladas, and there wasn’t a single Cadbury Mini Egg in the house all weekend. Dan broke out in hives as soon as we got to church and had to be taken home, and I definitely didn’t buy him a cute Easter outfit.

Everyone's posting pictures of their children in adorable Easter outfits, and I'm over here like...

The “do-rag” is to keep him from scratching his head.

Of course, none of that is the point of Easter. None of these frivolous traditions (or lack thereof) can add to (or detract from) Jesus Christ’s atonement for the sins of mankind, or His miraculous resurrection. His “great atoning sacrifice” has blessed my life and my family more than I can comprehend.

I’ll leave you with the words of modern-day apostles of the Lord:

We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

 

How I (Almost) Met Shannon Hale

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Hello, friends! I hope you had a good Valentine’s weekend.

We just got back from a lovely trip to Utah, where my family lives. As you can imagine, the Dan was thoroughly spoiled by his aunt and grandparents.

This little boy loves his grandpa!

This little boy adores his grandpa!

He also learned how to eat Cheerios, and now he won’t stop shoveling them into his mouth. I’m not complaining, though, because they made our 2.5-hour flight home a breeze.

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

In addition to fun family times, I was also in Provo for Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE), an academic symposium on science fiction and fantasy. If you’re into writing in those genres and have the resources to get to Provo in February, I highly recommend it. This was my second year attending, and I learned so much about writing and publishing.

I forgot to take pictures, but here are some notes I took. Also, if my name tag looks like its been chewed by a teething baby...it has.

I forgot to take pictures, but here are some notes. Also, if my name tag looks like its been chewed by a teething baby…it has.

I could tell you guys all about the magnificent learning experiences I had at LTUE, but we all know that’s not why you read my blog. Instead I’m going to tell you about my painfully awkward experience with Shannon Hale. This type of thing is why I love writing so much—when I’m busy writing, I don’t have to interact with people.

***

On Saturday, I thought it might be fun to take a break from furious note-taking by sitting in on a live recording session of my second favorite podcast, Writing Excuses (again, if you write genre fiction, you really need to be listening to this. I’m just plugging all kinds of things today). It was interesting, but I soon found myself zoning out and scribbling in my notebook. As I was doodling, a woman asked if the empty seat next to me was taken.

I thought for a moment, and then remembered the chair’s previous occupant muttering about having to leave early, so I told the woman to go ahead and take it. Then I turned back to my notebook.

During a break, people kept coming up to chat with my neighbor, asking her if she was going to be at Comic Con and if they could take selfies with her. I realized she must be a panelist, but I couldn’t remember having seen her before. I peeked at her name tag—and sure enough, I was sitting next to Shannon Hale.

Shannon Hale is kind of a big deal. She was actually one of the Guests of Honor. I’m not a passionate fan of her books (and in fact, I skipped her keynote address to run back to my parents’ house and feed the Dan), but they’re enjoyable, and similar to the kinds of books I’d like to write someday (light, YA fairy-tale-type stories). I probably should have recognized her, but in my defense, her hair was lighter and shorter than it was in her picture in the program:

Shannon Hale

Suddenly I felt very awkward. Shannon Hale was sitting next to me, and I had all but snubbed her. Now that I knew who she was, I couldn’t just ignore her and doodle. Here’s a bit of my thought process.

“Maybe I should say something to her.”

“Why on earth would I do that? I don’t talk to people!”

“I’m at a con. People come to cons to talk to people.”

“This isn’t that type of con. I didn’t come here to kiss up to famous people.”

“I came here to network. This is kind of like networking.”

“But not really.”

“Come on, this is a neat opportunity.”

“What do I say? ‘I’ve only read two of your books and they were a’ight, and I’ve just ignored you for the past twenty minutes because I ditched your keynote and didn’t know who you were. But you seem pretty cool, so let’s take a selfie’?”

“For the love of all that is Mike, do not say that to Shannon Hale. And who says ‘a’ight’ anymore?”

As I dithered, Tom pointed out that a panel I’d been interested in was about to start. I took my opportunity to escape.

“Sounds good. Let’s go.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, let’s go! Now!

Tom seemed a little surprised at my urgency, but he rolled with it. We packed up our stuff, squeezed past Shannon Hale, and booked it out of there.

***

And that’s the story of how I almost met ran away from Shannon Hale at a writing conference. Ms. Hale, if by some bizarre chance you happen to read this, I’m sorry. From one Jane Austen fan to another, “Tallyho!”

A Thing I Wrote

I love fairy tales—they’re timeless and exciting, and their infinite variations are my favorite stories to read and write (Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine, is the reason I’m a writer). Last summer, I participated in a fairy tale retelling contest. It overlapped with a family wedding and our Glacier trip, so I didn’t end up finishing (we had to write five stories between June and August), but I did write one story that performed pretty well. Against my better judgment, I promised Tom that if he wrote some Twilight fanfiction for my blog, I would post the story here. Last week Tom delivered, so I have to post this thing no matter how embarrassing it is.

In case you can’t tell, this is a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, “The Fisherman’s Wife,” in which a magical fish grants the insane wishes of a very greedy woman. I decided to give it a Texas-style twist, since we’d recently passed the one-year mark of living in Beaumont. Without further ado, I give you “The Armadillo Trapper’s Wife.”

Armadillo

“C’mon, let me out of here!” the armadillo said. “I’ll make it worth your while.”

Joe couldn’t believe it—what rotten luck. Money was tight, and he’d taken to armadillo trapping to help put food on the table. This was the first one he’d managed to catch, and now it was talking to him! “How’m I supposed to eat a talking armadillo?” he demanded. “It ain’t right.”

“No it ain’t!” said the armadillo. “Besides, I’m not a real armadillo. I’m actually a powerful wizard, but one of my spells went wrong and I got stuck like this. If you let me out of this trap, I’ll grant you a wish—anything you want.”

Shaking his head, Joe opened the trap’s door. “Off with you,” he said, nudging the cage with his foot. “Can’t eat a talking animal, even if you’re not a wizard. It just ain’t right.” Without another word, the armadillo crawled out of the trap.

“If you change your mind,” the armadillo said, “Just come back here and holler for me. My name’s Hoover.” Then he scampered away.

“Rotten luck,” Joe said, shaking his head. His wife wouldn’t like it—Sally’d have no problem eating a talking armadillo. But Joe’s conscience just couldn’t allow it. Trying to figure out what he’d say to her, Joe got into his truck and drove home.

Home wasn’t much to look at—just a tiny house with a bit of garden and a tire swing for the grandkids—but Joe had lived there ever since he’d married Sally, and now he couldn’t imagine life anywhere else. He went inside and found Sally in the kitchen stirring a big pot of her infamous squirrel stew.

“Catch anything?” she asked as Joe sat down at the table.

“Matter of fact, yes.” He told her about the talking armadillo, and how he’d had to let it go.

As he’d predicted, Sally was angry. “He offered you anything you wanted, and you let ‘im go?”

He shrugged. “Didn’t seem right to kill something that can talk. Besides, couldn’t think of anything to ask for. We got everything we need. Except a decent meal.” He grimaced at the stew pot, making Sally scowl.

“Joe, you’re just dumber’n a bag of hammers. I know what I’d ask for. I’d be out of this run-down shack.” She gave the stew a swish and banged her spoon on the side of the pot. “Tomorrow you go back there and tell that armadillo I want a nice house. Ooh, and a pool. Get me a pool.”

It still didn’t seem right to Joe, taking favors from some magical varmint, but he knew better than to argue with his wife when she started banging the cutlery.

***

And so, the next morning Joe went back. “Hoover!” he shouted. “C’mere! I want a word with you!”

The bushes rustled, and the armadillo from the day before emerged. “Well, if it ain’t my friend Joe! What can I do for you?”

“I talked to my wife, and she told me to ask you for a nice house. A swimmin’ pool, too, if you can manage it.”

The armadillo just looked at him for a few seconds. “You sure that’s what you want, Joe? You don’t seem too happy about it.”

He shrugged. “Gotta keep the wife happy.”

The armadillo nodded. “You’re a wise man, Joe. Tell you what: when you get home from work today, you’ll be livin’ in the house of your woman’s dreams.”

***

Sure enough, when he pulled up to where their little house had once been, he couldn’t recognize the place. It took fifteen minutes just to get down the driveway, and at the end of it was a house bigger than any he’d ever seen. He was almost afraid to get out of his truck, but Sally came to greet him.

“Ain’t this place wonderful?” she said as she took him inside and began to show him around.

“It’s real nice,” he admitted. “You sure outdone yourself, Sal.”

Sally was in a great mood for a few days while she set things up to her liking. Then she realized how much more they would be paying in property taxes.

“We’ll never afford it on what you’re making at that job of yours,” she said to Joe. “Go back and ask that armadillo for a better job.”

“But I like my job.” Joe ran the local convenience store. It gave him the chance to talk to folks, and he always had a candy jar out on the counter for the kids who came in. But Sally was right: they couldn’t afford a house like this.

“Then tell that armadillo to make me one of them oil tycoons. That’ll set us up.”

“It don’t seem right,” Joe said, “for my woman to work.”

Sally glared, slapping her wooden spoon into her palm. “Don’t be stupid. I won’t have to do much. I’ll have folks for that. Now you go talk to that armadillo!”

***

“An oil tycoon!” said Hoover. “That woman of yours thinks big.”

“Too big if you ask me,” Joe grumbled. “She don’t know nothin’ about running an oil company. But it’s what she wants. Can you help me out?”

“It’s already done,” said the armadillo. “Enjoy your vast riches.”

***

The armadillo was true to his word. Sally became the CEO of a major oil company, and she and Joe were suddenly very well off. Sally said it was bad for their image to have Joe working at the convenience store, but he couldn’t stand the thought of leaving, so he continued to drive his old truck out every morning (he wouldn’t give the truck up either, despite Sally’s nagging).

For a time, things were going well. Like Joe’d said, Sally had no idea how to run an oil company, but she did have people who handled it for her. Joe still wasn’t sure he was quite comfortable with their new way of life, but it did have its advantages.

For one, Sally hardly cooked anymore. One night, they went out to a nice restaurant Sally liked. “Well, Sal,” said Joe, glancing at her over the top of his menu. “It looks like we got everything we could ask for.”

Sally frowned at her menu. “Hmmm,” she said. “We’ll see about that.”

Gunshots cut off Joe’s answer.

There was a dead man lying not too far from Sally’s chair, covered in bullet holes. Four people at neighboring tables were holding still-smoking handguns. Sally took one look at the scene and fainted dead away.

Someone called the police, and almost everyone in the restaurant was questioned. While Joe tried to revive Sally, he got the whole story. It turned out the man had pulled a gun on Sally, but because this was Texas, the guy had four bullets in him before Joe or Sally even noticed. It was nearly 9:00 by the time the police let anyone go home.

**

When they got back to their mansion, Joe pulled Sally into a hug. “Oh, Sal,” he said, “It’s all right—”

But Sally pushed him away. “I ain’t scared, Joe. I’m angry. It shouldn’t be allowed.”

Joe frowned. “What shouldn’t?”

“Pullin’ guns on folks. It ain’t right. It’s a shame a self-respectin’ woman can’t go to a restaurant in peace.” She pointed her finger at Joe. “Tomorrow you go and tell that armadillo to make guns illegal. Better yet, git rid of ‘em altogether.”

Joe paled. “You can’t do that, Sally!” he said. “This is America. Folks have a right—”

“You don’t listen when I’m talkin’ to you. Do what I say!”

“I can’t Sally. It ain’t right.”

Sally drew herself up, flaring her nostrils the way she always did when she got angry. Joe rarely stood up to her this way. “What kinda man are you? Won’t even defend your wife! If you won’t make that armadillo give me what I want, I’ll go spend some time with Nancy.” (Nancy was their daughter. Joe was sure she wouldn’t take too kindly to Sally moving in with her.)

For the rest of the night, Joe tried to talk her out of it. He tried persuading, demanding, even begging; but Sally wouldn’t budge. And so, the next morning, Joe drove once more to see Hoover.

The armadillo was waiting for him. “Well well!” he said. “What does she want this time?”

Joe told him—he could hardly force the words out, but he managed. When he finished, the armadillo just stared at him.

“I can’t do that,” he said finally. “Shoot, I like you, Joe, but this is…this is out of line.”

Joe just sighed, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t ask you to,” he said. “But she insisted. She’s losin’ it, Hoover. All this money and power…it ain’t good for her, somehow. Can’t you do anything?”

The armadillo thought for a while. “Go home, Joe,” he said. “I’ll do what I can, make sure you get what you deserve.”

Joe watched Hoover for a moment, and then nodded. He started walking back to his truck, then turned and waved. “See you ‘round,” he said, “or maybe not.”

“Let’s go with ‘maybe not,’” said Hoover.

***

Joe drove home, wondering what the armadillo had had in mind when he’d said they’d get what they deserved. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing, and with the way Sally had been acting…well, Joe hoped everything was all right.

He turned onto their road and whistled. The giant mansion Sally had ordered had shrunk back into their own little house. Sally herself was sitting out on the porch, wearing her old apron (splattered with fresh squirrel stew, of course), her hair done up in its usual little bun. Joe got out of the truck, expecting her to lay into him—obviously the armadillo hadn’t complied with her wish.

But instead, Sally smiled at him. “Can’t believe I’ve missed this place,” she said. “That armadillo gave me everything I wanted, but it was never enough. Who’da thought all I needed was to have this house back?”

Joe chuckled, sat down beside her, and put his arm around her shoulders. “Well, you know what they say,” he said. “Don’t look a gift armadillo in the mouth.”

She frowned at him. “Why would I want to look in its mouth?”

“Never mind.”

Guest Post: Tom’s Twilight “Fan” Fiction!

To make a long story short, Elissa told me (Tom) she would post a story of hers on the blog if I gave her some adequate incentive. I’ve supported her making more of her writing more available for a long time, so this was a big deal, but my first thoughts—nice dinner date or the like—weren’t cutting it. The offer of a 1000-word Twilight fanfiction piece, though, was instantly accepted. So here it is. Sorry, world.

 

Breakfast Dan is not impressed with the source material.

Breakfast Dan is not impressed with the source material.

A Twilight Deleted (?) Scene

(Not clear from which book.)

 

Bella sat staring at the wall of her bedroom, waiting for Edward to arrive. After four whole hours without his cool touch on her skin, without his beautiful marble figure, without his deific perfection, without his adorable crooked smile…well, it had been agony, but soon Charlie would go to bed and that brief terrible period between the end of school and seeing Edward again would end.

“Maybe it would help if I did anything except basic domestic tasks, school, and reading barely enough classic romance for Mrs. Meyer to be able to allude to it,” thought Bella.

Suddenly, she heard a click outside her window. “Edward! Edward! Edward! Edward! But Jacob, but never mind, so Edward! Edward, Edward!? Edward!” she thought.

He crept into her room as majestically as a lion from the royal zoo.

“Hi,” he said with a crooked smile on his stony, adorable features. His color-changing eyes, which somehow no one else notices despite the undeniable fact that his golden eyes were oh-so-much too delicious to be human, stared at her.

“Hi,” she said back.

“I almost thought I heard your thoughts for once as I was walking up,” said Edward. “Something about needing hobbies, goals, or aspirations?”

“Durrrrrr,” murmured Bella, enraptured.

“Oh well,” said Edward. “Didn’t really think so. Guess your gift of non-discernible thought is still active. Have I mentioned lately how much I want to kill you and suck out every last drop of your blood? It’s so appetizing, like a brownie muffin entirely permeated with the hardest crack cocaine. Did you know that some vampires prefer to kill alcoholic drug addicts for the extra buzz?”

“If I was a vampire, I would just eat endangered species with you and love you forever and ever,” said Bella. “Don’t you want to bite me so we can be together forever?”

“Bella, how many times have we had this conversation?” asked Edward, as he kissed her all up and down her jaw with his perfectly perfect lips. She felt a rush of teenage hormones accompanied by an ineffable feeling that he was The One, although man, those werewolf biceps though…

“Not for a few pages days,” said Bella. “I don’t care about my soul—I’m not using it! Especially here in Forks. Bite me.”

“No,” said Edward. “I’m still thinking I might rather watch you die slowly of old age and then commit suicide in some place that will look really cool when they make a movie out of it…think Italy or somewhere.”

“But then we would only get to experience high school once! I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than sit in classes with you on endless loop, with perfect recall of having done it all before, especially given that as members of your family we will have effectively unlimited funds to do anything else we want. Your family’s life just seems so awesome, you know?” said Bella. “Although I would also like to do some motorcycle cliff-jumping with creepy men outside of bars, just on the side.”

“Bella, don’t do anything dangerous. As you know I control your life, except for I claim to let you do anything you want, but still try to manipulate the heck out of you because this is a textbook abusive relationship, and I couldn’t stand it.” He slowly stroked her left earlobe with his cool finger while she stared at his beautiful marble figure, crooked smile, and Greek god-like features. “Something something I would commit suicide.”

“Durrr,” Bella murmured again. “You’re so old-fashioned,” she said, and ridiculously attractive she mentally added.

“Oh, by the way, some vampire or other is probably going to try to kill you soon,” said Edward. “It’s a tried and true plot device, all part of my conspiracy to make you fall in love with me while popping lots of heads off.”

“Isn’t that a pretty good reason to make me a vampire, Romeo Edward?” said Bella.

“But it would be so hard on your relationship with Charlie. A few more months of non-monster-hood will definitely make it much better when you then ultimately become a supernatural freak and disappear from his life,” said Edward. He kissed her, with all the fiery passion of a thousand dying suns, sending tingles down her spine, but also like a perfect gentleman and with admirable restraint.

She kissed back urgently, trying to seduce him, but Edward pulled away. “Can’t have this until you put a ring on it, my dearest darling Danish,” he said.

“But I just want you to love me forever, and I have hippy-dippy Millennial ideas about how marriage screws up relationships,” she said, admiring his body straight from a Michelangelo sculpture.

“But since I’m almost a hundred years older than you, which isn’t creepy at all, and have fallen inextricably in love you with you primarily because of how good your blood smells, it all makes sense,” said Edward in his silky-smooth voice that was like the sound of baby angels frolicking on a sunny hillside. Bella thought of how sparkly his rock-hard chest was in the sunlight. Sparkle sparkle sparkle mmmmmmm. It was a mystery to her how she enjoyed cuddling a cold, hard object so frequently compared to a stone, but she sure did.

“Durrrr,” she said. “I guess I’m still a bit worried about those vampires coming to kill me, mostly because I can’t stand the thought of them possibly hurting you, but I guess at least I will be the center of attention.” Maybe me and you and Jacob can even be thrown into some really tense relationship situations, she thought.

“Well, how about you go to sleep while I hold you, because that’s not creepy at all, and we can definitely do it consistently for a year in a two-bedroom house without your father ever noticing,” said Edward.  He took her hand and the last car in her toy-sized train of thought slowly rolled off the track.

“Durrr,” Bella murmured as she drifted off to sleep, dreaming of creepy foreshadowing.

***

Note from Elissa:
Isn’t this fantastic? Tom is the greatest.
Tune in next week as I fulfill my end of the deal.