Friday, October 16, 2015

A Short Story

     This story was actually written over the summer, and it's been sitting in my drafts folder of Blogger since then. I don't really know why I never posted it before, but I am now, obviously. I'm not sure how I got the idea for this story, but the sentences just started scrolling through my mind and I zoned out for like an hour just reading this story over and over to myself in my mind. It had originally been in the point of view of the girl but I wanted to challenge myself and, again, work on expanding my writing so I changed it around and wrote it from the point of view of the man. I actually found it easier to describe women than men because I'm a girl, so I know what girls would want people to describe them as, whereas I have no idea how a guy would want to be described. It's a really short short story but hope you enjoy it!
                                                                                                                 -Taylor
 
     In the park there laid a girl who was radiant in every sense of the word. A book with a shiny blue cover laid beside her, unopened, though it was clearly well-loved, and I hoped she read that book every day. Headphones plugged her ears, isolating her from the world around her, but not in arrogance. I imagined she was listening to something like "Free Fallin,'" but the cover version by John Mayer because it always sounded smoother to her. Her ponytail was pulled loosely on her head, as high as it could go, because she would have thought it signified her high on life. The slightest trace of a smile crept its way onto her soft pink lips.
     Kids and footballers, who sneaked unnoticed glances at her as they ran by, played around her in darkness because the sun peeped from beyond ceaseless clouds only to shine on her. She basked in the light on her old, sandy, blue towel that she probably took to the beach every weekend from the age of eight. Some ten years later, she must have decided to get a tattoo. Small, scribbled letters were sprawled on her wrist in white ink, because black would have represented some kind of darkness in her, and she wasn't dark. She was all things light.
     I snuck glances of my own, but I was no closer than fifty feet away. She would have loved me, but only because she loved all things, but she never would have wanted me. I was a businessman passing by on his way back to the office after lunch who could only feed her politics and candle-lit dinners. She deserved riches, but not of money and jewels. She deserved rich culture, chocolate, and music, the kind you could listen to when sunbathing in the park, crying in bed, or dancing with your friends. I was hidden behind those ceaseless clouds and no where near her spotlight of sunshine.
     But that was three years ago and the clouds have long since turned off her spotlight in the park and turned them on somewhere else for her. She left nothing behind except pieces of her lingering radiance; not a name or an address. The tragedy of it was that she had never once looked up. She will forever be imprinted in my mind, while only the sun will be imprinted in her's.
    One day, in an old used-book library just around the corner from that same park, I found a book. The book. The unopened, shiny blue covered book that had shared her light. I knew that, logically, it couldn't have been the exact copy she had owned, but its spine was creased and the pages smelt like sea water and sunshine. I reached out a shaky hand and pulled the book from a shelf, dust coating the tips of my fingers. When I opened it there was a note taped to the very first page in small, scribbled handwriting that read, "to the businessman in the park."

Saturday, September 19, 2015

It's Okay To Stray, But Don't Get Lost

     I've been in school for just over a month now, and honestly I didn't plan to want to be as, well, social as I am now. In my past two years of high school, it never seemed that important to constantly be with friends or boys, but now I suddenly feel like it's everything. For all the teenagers reading this, please take advantage of being being young. Go to that party and have a great time, or maybe you'll have a horrible time, you'll still learn from it. Go out with that cute person in your classes because maybe they're the one, or maybe you'll end up heartbroken and that's still okay. Why? Because it's more experiences and feelings that you can think about when you're older and if you like writing, you can use it in your writing.
     So, I'm going to get a little personal here. Recently I started talking to a guy that I had been school friends for a pretty long time and even though it was only for a couple weeks before it ended, I saw myself change a little. And when it ended, I realized how much I regretted my "change." Writing has been my life for so long and then when we were talking, I stopped writing for a week and a half. I'm actually really disappointed in myself for that. I also "dumbed myself down" when I talked to him because he wasn't in as advanced classes as I was and I didn't want to scare him away, haha. That is what really bugs me now, though, but I do find it a little funny, not sure why. I'm in AP Government, AP English Language, AP Capstone and Seminar, AP Physics, and French 2; I like school and learning and nerdy things. I was pretty much enlightened when I was sitting in AP Capstone and I was making jokes about the economic affects of the high prices of grapes. (How nerdy does that sound, right?) I saw that I didn't want someone who I couldn't make nerdy jokes with and who I could be smart with and not feel stupid about it.
     But, I don't regret it. If I hadn't of went through that, I never would have had that realization. I never would have seen what's really important to me in friends, boyfriends, and myself. Yes, I really liked this guy, but I see now that maybe he just wasn't right for me. The right person wouldn't distract me from my goals and make me feel wrong for being smart, though I'm not blaming him.
     Bad days are guaranteed to happen, too. Don't let those discourage you either. Wednesday, two weeks ago, I got a 64% on my AP Lang test because I didn't circle the answers, got a new seating chart in my French class so I had to sit next to the jerkiest, most arrogant boy I've ever met, and the guy I liked told me he didn't want a relationship. All in one day. There's going to be some pretty bad times, but they're only there to test you and remind you what you're really here for.
          The moral of my little story is: it's okay to stray, just don't get lost. What I mean is that, although it's great for you to spend as much time as possible with friends and make as many memories and experiences as you can, don't lose track of what you really want out of life. Experiences are what help you develop as a person and a writer, and you need to develop to become the best person you can be. However, you can't let that get in the way of your aspirations and dreams. Don't let people get in the way of what you want. If someone is holding you back from your full potential, kick them to the curb. There's always more friends and fish in the sea, and you'll find the right ones when you're doing what you love because they'll have the same interests as you. Don't be afraid to join clubs or try out for teams or talk to people you've never met. Everyone is in the same boat as you. Don't forget that. I turned seventeen yesterday, and look at all this elder wisdom I've already gained ;)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

What To Take Away From The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson




Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: YA Drama
Source: school library
Pages: 391 (hardback)

Good Reads Synopsis

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

“Yes it is, because you can only be brave if you're scared.” 

“You're the one who doesn't understand, I've been standing on the edge with you for years.” 

- - - - -

     This was the first book we read for my book club at school, and when I first was old about it I didn't think much of it because it was a drama and I'm more into action and adventure type books. Man, was I wrong. Yes, it's a drama, but it's so much more than that. It's actually suspenseful for some parts and there's romance, but not the mushy, somewhat-annoying kind. From the description, I knew it was going to be a deep, heavy book, but I didn't understand quite how deep it would get. Laurie Anderson covered a lot of controversial topics in this story, such as drug addiction, alcoholism, PTSD, and child neglect. In no way can I relate to the main character, Hayley, because we live two completely different lives, but she still felt real and had so much depth. Overall, this was just an amazing book.
     First, I'd like to point out my favorite thing about the story: the writing style. Laurie Halse Anderson has a gift, and I'm honestly jealous. Her word flow is GORGEOUS. Each sentence drifts into the next, making it so easy to read. I found myself reading faster than I ever have just because she made it so effortless. There were no pointless or confusing words and no "speed bump" words. There were some grammatical and spelling errors throughout the book, but no one's perfect. 
     I also loved all the tension and drama she created for Hayley. That sounds awful because she goes through some really insane, horrible things, but wow, it didn't go to waste. When authors show no mercy to their characters and just release every nightmarish things ever thought of on their characters, it's so entertaining. Like, "oh, you're running from a horde of demented zombies? Let me break your leg and turn your best friend against you. Then, I'll throw you off a cliff into freezing, shark-infested water." Nothing hooks people more than pain and distress, I mean really, who wants to read a book about someone who has a normal, untouched life? No one. Because that's boring. Little kids don't laugh at smiles, they laugh at people who fall over and break things.
     In contrast to Indelible, which I did my last "What To Take Away From" on, the story of Hayley and her father is so real. For Indelible, I said that it was too unrealistic, far-fetched, and confusing. This book is on the complete other side of the spectrum. I would have thought I was reading an autobiography if I hadn't known it was fiction. I don't know how to describe how legitimate the story felt, so read it. Just read it and you will understand.
     Finally, I really liked the character development and... reverse-development? Hayley watched her father slowly transform in front of her eyes, getting worse and worse all the time, and her friend's lives falling to pieces around them. There were a few main-ish characters and I really liked how all of their stories and pasts played into Hayley's and added to her own development, like her friend's emotional disintegration helped to create the Hayley we see at the end of the book. Her characters were thought out very well and it sounds so awful, haha, I admire the way she destroyed them. It was done beautifully.
                                                                                                                             -Taylor

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Book Blogger TMI Tag


     So I know I'm not really a "book blogger" but I wanted to do a tag and I thought the questions for the book blogger TMI tag were good and still related to my blog, so I'll give it a shot!

How old are you?
     I am sixteen, turning seventeen in September.

What book are you reading?
     I just finished the Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

What are you wearing?
     Jean shorts and a white tank top... as always.

Favorite OTP?
     This is probably the hardest question ever but I'm going with Four and Tris from Divergent or Patch and Nora from Hush, Hush.

Blogger or Wordpress?
     Blogger... that's kind of obvious...

Going outside and being active or staying in and reading a book?
     A mix of both when I'm not writing.

What is the last book you read?
     The original Peter Pan and Wendy.

What is the book you're going to read next?
     Icons by Margaret Stohl

Ebooks, yes or no?
     I would have to say no, but I mean, I'm never going to turn down a book.

Where do you prefer to read?
     It doesn't really matter to me as long as I'm comfortable.

Who is the last person you tweeted?
     The Candid Cover about songs that play in the credits of Shrek and Divergent because they're great, haha.

Who's blog did you look at last?
     Books and Ladders

Who is your favorite blogger?
     There's too many, but if I can choose a blogger from any genre, it'd be Zoella. She's my queen.

Who is your favorite booktuber?
    ABookUtopia and ReadByZoe. I LOVE THEM.

What do you do when someone tells you reading is boring?
     Recommend they read the Percy Jackson series because that's the series that got me hooked and it's a good series for people of all ages, even though it's aimed at younger readers.

Who is the last author you spoke to?
     Jenna Moreci over Twitter, if that counts.

Who is the last person you texted?
     My mom and dad in a group text. I don't really text that much.

Who is your all-time favorite book character?
     I'd probably have to go with Hermione or Fred and George from Harry Potter because I grew up with that series and always kind of looked up to Hermione, and Fred Weasley was my first real crush and still is.

UKYA or USYA?
     USYA I guess, because I live in the US and haven't really read any UKYA that I'm aware of. Is Harry Potter considered UKYA? If it is then I'm switching to UKYA.

What is your preferred drink whilst reading?
     Tea or water, the only two things I drink haha.

If  you hated reading, what would you be doing instead?
     Watching movies and maybe have a social life... maybe.

How many bookshelves/bookcases do you have?
     I have a massive pile of books stacked against the wall next to my bed. It's my favorite thing in my room.

If you had the choice to meet all your favorite book bloggers or all your favorite authors, which would you pick? 
     Sorry guys, but all my favorite authors. Honestly, who would pass that up?

Insta-love: yes or no?
     No, because the characters need to develop a love interest, unless there's something that attracts them, like the umbrella in How I Met Your Mother.

Favorite Author?
     J.K. Rowling. She's my idol. Her world building and detail just blows me away.

What is the number-one book on your wishlist?
     Probably Four by Veronica Roth because Divergent is life.

Do you prefer books with female or male protagonists?
     It doesn't matter to me, as long as they're relatable.

What is the last song you listened to?
     Thunder Clatter by Wild Club.

Which do you enjoy reading more- negative reviews or positive reviews?
     I guess both.

                                                                                                                    -Taylor

Saturday, August 29, 2015

What To Take Away From Indelible by Dawn Metcalf




     Before, I decided that I would do reviews of books every now and then on my blog, but I think I have now decided that I will do a kind of "What I Learned From Reading..." because I haven't really seen anyone do this. Also, this kind of review applied much better to my blog since it'll be about the story and writing and what you can learn from reading this book that you can apply to your writing.




Title: Indelible
Author: Dawn Metcalf
Series: The Twixt
Publisher: Harleguin Teen (June 2013)
Genre: YA Fantasy/sci-fi
Source: Purchased
Pages: 384 (paperback)


Good Reads Synopsis

Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room—right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world—a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep, and a life that will never be the same.

Now, Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one—his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future...and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes.

“I am only an idea, a requirement breathed to life-an instrument. A tool.” 

- - - - -

     I originally bought this book back in 2013 and started to read it, but I only got a few chapters in before I stopped reading it. I thought the idea of the story was great but the execution wasn't so great. Then, two years later, I picked it up again and it was a little better (probably because I had stopped at the end of the slow part) but I still wasn't feeling it. However, I did FINALLY finish it and for that, I'm very proud of myself.
     The only thing I really did like were the characters. I feel like Joy was very believable and realistic with normal human needs, wants, and thoughts. The other main character was Ink, and I feel like he wasn't very realistic until around the ending when he started coming out of his shell more and interacted more with Joy.
     The main things to take away from this novel is realism and complexity. 
     This book is about monsters and a whole world I never knew was a thing, or maybe she invented all the elements in this story, which props to her for being so in-depth, but it didn't feel realistic. The monsters were so strange and out-there that it was hard to grasp what they looked like. They were described but I feel like they needed a little more detail for me to really pick up on what they looked like. Also, Ink and his sister, Inq, have very special jobs, but they don't feel like they could be real. In Twilight, I felt that vampires could be real, in Harry Potter I knew that wizards were real, but what Ink and Inq are just doesn't seem real to me because it was confusing and a little far-fetched, now don't get me wrong, many, many great books are very far-fetched, but this was just not real to me.
     In general, following this story was just confusing for me, to be honest. Maybe it was just me but I feel like information was just thrown at me around every corner. There is so much information that is just scattered around the book that it's hard to completely grasp it. It didn't help that the story was pretty complex, so I feel like I don't even know anything about this story. Also, what Ink and his sister Inq do for their jobs is confusing to me, which is scary because if they didn't have their jobs, there wouldn't be a story. In stories, there should be a scene where the main character learns about the weird things so the reader can learn about it, but I was kind of forced to put the pieces together myself throughout the book because the original scene created for understanding didn't even scrape the surface. 
     To sum up everything, I would say that, from Indelible, I learned that realism, complexity, and organization are three extremely important elements in a book. If the story is too far-fetched with too much information that's not in the right places, your readers will be confused and stop reading it. Also, good characters are very strong points because the only reason I continued this book was because of Joy and Ink and I wanted to see how they played out.
     I would recommend this book just because I think writers can learn from it,though maybe you'll enjoy the story better than I did. 
                                                                                                                          -Taylor

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Liebster Award

   
     TaylorAMartin was nominated for a Liebster award! You all probably know what this is if you read a lot of blogs, but for those of you that don't know, it's a kind of tag that smaller blogs do to help themselves and other small blogs. Thank you to Courtney at EraOfSophistication for nominating me! She blogs about beauty and books and also makes weekly Youtube videos. I also want to thank all my readers and followers for, well, reading and following, haha.

     First share eleven facts about yourself after you featured the award and thanked the person who nominated you (you probably just read a lot of these in my 50 facts about me post not too long ago):

1. My favorite kind of books are YA fantasy/sci-fi. Contemporary kind of books usually bore me, except for John Green and Sarah Dessen books. I like the constant action and uniqueness that comes with fantasy books.

2. I love Disney. I love the movies and the old TV shows but I also love Disney World. I have annual Disney passes because I live only an hour away from it and my family go A LOT.

3. I love organizing stuff. This sounds kind of weird but I love rearranging stuff and keeping it in order, like my closet or my school binders.

4. I really like Booktube. My favorite Booktubers are ABookUtopia and Katytastic and they're bookshelves are my dream. Maybe one day I'll make a Booktube account and add my growing list of things to do haha.

5. I love writing. I love writing books and stuff but what I mean right now is I love physically writing with a pen/pencil and paper. Taking notes in class is my favorite thing in school.

6. I hate haircuts. Unless there's a haircut I really want or I really need to trim dead ends, I'm devastated until it grows back. I just had my dead ends trimmed and it feels so short now even though it's not really short.

7. I'm obsessed with change. It's probably because I moved a lot when I was little and now I can't stay in one place for too long or have my room decorated a certain way for too long.

8. When I was younger I hated reading. It wasn't until about fourth grade and it was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Dark Hills Divide that changed me

9. I love waking up early. I usually wake up around 5:30-6:00 and I hate waking up past about 7:30.

10. I'm really short. I was 4'11 from sixth to eighth grade and finally hit 5'1 last year. Now I'm 5'0 and a half inch...

11. I take French at school. I'm currently in French 2 so I have a basic understanding of the language and I really like it.

Now, answer the questions the person who nominated you left you:

What is something that you've always wanted to do, but never got the chance to do it? Or will you plan to do it in the future? 
     There's two things I've always wanted to do and that's to write a book and travel the world.

How has blogging affected you?
     Blogging has opened me up to pretty much a whole world of people that love to read and write and I think it's really cool that there's so many people that share my same interests.

Favorite Cake Flavor
     I don't really eat a lot of cake but I'd have to say Red Velvet because that stuff is goooood.

Favorite Song from your Childhood
     Other than the entire High School Musical soundtrack, it'd probably be "Who Let The Dogs Out" when I was about two.

Favorite T.V. Show from your Childhood 
      I'd probably have to say either That's So Raven, Kim Possible, Blues Clues, Lazy Town, Rolly Polly Olly, or Suite Life of Zack and Cody.

What is the best thing you've ever eaten?
      Can it be a drink? Because I'd definitely say tea. Tea is life. For food it's probably dried fruits and vegetables or Amy's organic and vegan TV dinners.

Favorite Clothing Store
     It's probably PacSun or Charlotte Russe.

Best Movie You've Ever Seen
     That's a tough one because I love movie series like Divergent, Harry Potter, and the Hunger Games but my favorite stand alone has to be Dirty Dancing. I will never say no to Dirty Dancing.

Favorite Author
     Another hard question. I'd have to say J.K. Rowling because I grew up with her writing and Harry Potter and it means a lot to me.

Now my questions for my nominees (nominees must have less than 200 followers):

1. What's your favorite book?
2. Have you ever tried to write a book or have you published a book?
3. What's your favorite thing to do besides reading or writing?
4. What's your dream job? Or do you currently have your dream job?
5. What is your favorite kind of book to read?
6. Favorite song, band, or singer?
7. What was your favorite school experience?
8. Why do you blog?
9. If you could meet anyone, who would it be and why?


My nominees (I couldn't find how many followers some had so I just put them anyways because I'm so bad like that):


Thank you everyone!
                                                                                                                              -Taylor

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Story From My Childhood

     As you all know, I've been writing since about the age of eight and as the years have gone by, I've written a lot of stories and books that I've kept as keepsakes. It's fun to go through and read them all because 1) I have a crazy-insane imagination and 2) I was eight to twelve years old. Because my family and I enjoy them so much, I've decided to start a series where I post things I wrote when I was little so we can all laugh at them together.
     In sixth grade (my sixth grade was still elementary school even though I know it's considered middle school in most places), we had a new set of vocabulary words every week for books we were reading, and every week we had assignments to choose from that involved those words. I chose to write stories using the words every week and my teacher loved them so much, he gave me extra credit on pretty much all of them and even insisted that I entered a writing contest (which I did not enter). Since I wrote these stories every week for a whole school year, I have quite a lot of them, although I didn't keep all of them, and I will probably post them all over time. To keep the full affect, I'm not going to change the grammar or spelling and I'll underline the vocab words, so enjoy!

January 10, 2011


     A long time ago an awesome elephant found a taco. It was a random taco on top of a summit. When the elephant was about to eat the typical taco when the taco said "I'm Tawni Taco!" The elephant screamed a girlish scream and sneezed on the taco. "Ewww! Like, what do you think you are doing! You got issues with tissues?!" Said the taco. Then the taco fell off the peripheral edge. The elephant gained maturity and saved the back-talking taco. "I'm flying! I'm the first elephant to reach the sky! I am... in pain!" Just then the elephant hit the ground hard. He looked up and saw the fall was two feet tall. "Get off me! You'll wrinkle my lettuce!" Then to the elephant's surprise... he had landed on the taco! "Oopsies!" Said the elephant. He scooped up the taco and took it to see some specialists in taco care. "Will Tawni Taco be OK?" The elephant said half crying. "No, her tomatoes are squashed and her shell is cracked. Do you want to eat her or shall I?" Said the doctor. "I will, I will make it quick." The elephant said. He went in the room and his heart sank. The doctor was right. her tomatoes were squashed. The elephant deteriorated and ate the taco. The elephant started to cry and got therapy for guidance through the tragic day.
                                                                  -Taylor


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Making Your Writing Worth Reading


     So, I've been writing books and stories since I was about eight, and, since then, I'd like to think I've come a long way. I mean, I used to write about unicorns and tacos; I hope I can do better than that after almost nine years. Because pretty much my whole childhood and teen years have revolved around writing, imagination, and creativity, I've done many things to help myself get better without even noticing it.
     Write every day. Simple enough, right? Just form words and put them in beautiful sentences in a journal or on a napkin, or maybe on a blog. Since you want to be a writer, I would think you like writing, at least I hope you do, so this task should be nothing.
     This is for everyone in school, pay attention in your English classes. You should probably pay attention in all your classes, but if you're going to listen in at least one class, make it your English class. You have to learn when and when not to use commas and the significance of alliteration. Wen you study books, pay attention to the way the author speaks through their writing; learn their voice and their techniques because if you're new to writing, you most likely don't have a voice yet and you need to find it. Give your teacher your best work for every question and essay so they can give you feedback, or tell them you want to be a writer and have them read what you've written. They know what they're talking about and you need to learn from it. I have kept all of my best essays and every writing journal I've done since I've gotten into writing, but in my sophomore year I had a great teacher who always helped me and told me how amazing my writing was, and it really empowered me. I kept the journal we did all our work in and she wrote a notes throughout that made me feel a lot better about my writing and about myself in general. Embrace your teachers, but maybe not physically because some of them may not like that.

     Keep a journal. Journals can keep your thoughts organized (and we learned last week how important organization is). It will also help you with the first task of writing every day because even jotting down a short blurb of what you did throughout the day will help you write.
     Vocab word of the day. How many people laughed at the thought of a word of the day? I know I used to; it was only the nerds who did that kind of stuff. Well, as an official nerd, I'd like to say that I was right. But I'd still like you try this. I wrote down a word and a definition for every day of the next few months, though I originally started this to prepare for the SAT. You could also take the easy way out and buy a word of the day calendar or something. No matter how you do it, it will help enhance your vocabulary and add some variety to your writing.
     Read anything you can get your hands on. Most of you will already be accomplishing this task, but I want to put it on here anyways because I cannot stress enough how important reading is for writers. One quote that I really love is from Stephen King, and he said, "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write." He is so incredibly right and there is no way to avoid it. Exposing yourself to different types and styles of writing will enhance your writing without you even realizing it. The differences in writing between "The Catcher in the Rye" and "Twilight" are so different, even though they are both from the first person and involve pretty depressed teenagers, and by reading them both, you'll help create your voice. But don't limit yourself to Holden Caulfield and Bella Swan, read about Frodo or Bilbo and their adventures, or Percy Jackson and Annabeth and how they save Olympus. Read the book you found at the book store two years ago for fifty cents.
     Change up your writing. If you're a girl, try writing from the perspective of a boy and vice versa. If you live in sunny California, try writing about someone who lives in rainy England. Nothing can hurt your writing and you'll only get better. Challenge yourself and write outside of your comfort zone. If you want to be an author of fantasy or science fiction, you'll be writing about a lot stranger things than the point of view of a boy. Mix it up and never get comfortable.
     I'll probably do another post like this in the future, but that's it for now! Thank you for reading and I hope you found this helpful. Leave a comment down below if there's a topic you'd like me to cover, if you've ever done any of these, or if there's other things you do to help you write better.
                                                                                                                            -Taylor
     

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

To Be Read


      As I've been diving deeper into the reading and writing world, I've been learning about a lot of authors and books that people are reading that I've never even heard of before. Some of the books on this list I have heard of and read before, obviously because they're extremely famous, but others I found only weeks and ago and am dying to read.
     Because I'm going to be insanely busy when schools starts again with blogging, writing, AP classes, lacrosse, and trying to maintain my sanity, I'm not going to set a time frame I want to read these by, especially because there's a lot since I haven't done this before. However, I still want to read them all as soon as possible and maybe I'll post stuff about them as I read them.

     I'll start with the books where I've read the book(s) that came before them in a series:


Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan: I finished the Percy Jackson series in sixth grade when there was all the hype about it and I absolutely loved it. I started reading the companion series "Heroes of Olympus," but I kind of fell out of it for a while and I really want to get back into it. I'm so glad he decided to keep the series going and, although I will always love the original characters, I really like that he made new ones and a new background to the story, using the Roman Gods instead of the Greek Gods like in the Percy Jackson series.





Hollow City by Ransom Riggs: "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" was AMAZING. I was skeptical about it at first because I read that it had pictures in it and I'm not a huge fan of those kinds of books and I've never read a horror/suspense kind of book before but I'm so glad I read it. The pictures added something to the story and made it easier to visualize the characters and the events, and they don't appear too much throughout the book.






Crossed by Ally Condie: I wasn't a huge fan of the first book in the series, "Matched," but I would still like to finish the series because I liked the plot, but not so much the main character. It has the same feel as other popular books, like "Divergent" and "The Giver," and I love those kinds of books.








Scarlet by Marissa Meyer: "Cinder" was an amazing story that put a huge twist on a classic fairy tale and I loved it so I need to get the sequel. I was NOT expecting anything in this book from beginning to end. It's a futuristic take on Cinderella, which I never really imagined.








Four by Veronica Roth:  I saved this one for last because "DIVERGENT." Enough said. I hands down love the "Divergent" series with all my heart. I read all three books and cried my eyes out at the end of "Allegiant" and saw both the movies (impatiently waiting for the Allegiant movie). Four is one of my all-time favorite characters in a book and movie and I cannot wait any longer to read this book. It's physically, mentally, and emotionally impossible for me to wait.

   



These are the books I have heard of before and are pretty popular but never got around to reading:


Paper Towns by John Green: I can feel everyone's judgement through the screen. I've been wanting to read this since I first read "Looking for Alaska" a few years ago and now that it's a movie and pretty much the thing everyone talks about, I'm going to hunt down a copy and read it.








The Selection by Kiera Cass: I heard about this series a while ago and almost picked it up but for some reason I decided to get "Matched" instead and I really wish I had gotten this one instead.









Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: When I first heard of this series I wasn't interested at all and didn't even read a synopsis or anything. For some strange, unknown reason I resented it before even reading about it. Now I seriously wish I would've read it before and want to read it SOON.








Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: The librarian at my school told my class about this series and I didn't think anything of it, but, again, I wish I had read it even though I don't know much about it. It sounds interesting and reminds me of "Starters" by Lissa Price








Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: I actually didn't know about this series before, but I know it's really popular. I don't know much about the book itself, other than the fact it sounds unbelievably amazing and awesome in every way. I need it.







Now I'll list the books I had never heard of but still eager to read. I won't comment on them because, honestly, I don't know that much about them yet:

Enders by Lissa Price
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Legend by Marie Lu
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Delirium by Lauren Olvier
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Branded by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Graceling by Kristin Cashore

     If there are any other books that you think I should read or you have your own "To Be Read" list, comment it down below! I'd love to read what books you guys like!
                                                                                                                 -Taylor

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The First Ten Chapters

 
     Right now I am entering chapter fourteen of my rough draft but I thought that a blog post on the first ten chapters was a good idea since those are crucial to the overall book. In those chapters you must 1) grab/hook your reader, 2) introduce the story and plot, 3) introduce the main character and let the reader connect with them, and 4) keep your reader interested. Depending on the length of the book you're writing, whether it's a ten chapter novella or a sixty chapter epic, these four points still apply, they just might be more compressed or stretched out; each book and story-line is unique to its writer.
     I think it might be helpful if I posted this in here if you don't know what type of book you're currently writing, or thought you were writing one thing but are actually writing something else:
     Short story: 1,000-7,500 words
     Novelette: 7,500-20,000 words
     Novella: 20,000-50,000 words
     Novel: 50,000-100,00 words
     Epic: over 100,000 words

     Currently, my novel is planned to have roughly thirty chapters and be around 85,000 words. It's a good idea to work out about how many chapters you're going to have, using your outline (because the number will change as the story unfolds, I started with thinking I'd have about 24), and how many words you'll need per chapter to get to your goal. For novels, most publishers want from first-time authors, 80,000 to 89,000 words; that's considered a safe range by literary agents.
     Now that all the boring stuff is taken care of, we can move on to the fun topics, at least I think they're fun. So, in chapter one you are writing the beginning of your book, obviously, and that needs to be your BEST chapter, like go out all with the best writing you have and just lay it down on the pages. But, make sure your writing style stays consistent throughout the story. You don't want an amazing first chapter then have the rest of your book be crappy by default because you set their standards too high. Find a way to start the book without just having your character go through their normal day, throw something in to mix it up a little. But, if the character's normal day is significant to the story, don't change it and just let them brush their teeth and eat their nutritious breakfast. Your first few chapters, unless you have a ton of action from the get go, will most likely be shorter than the others, and make sure you compensate for those words later in the book so you stay on track with your goal.
     Now, I can't really tell you how to write the rest of the chapters because they're your individual chapters, but I can tell you how I wrote mine and if it applies to you, then great!
     So, my strategy was to just write. Just write the words that come to mind and spill them onto the page and when your thoughts run out, go back and analyze and edit them. As long as you are putting down words, you're doing good. The rough draft is the rough draft and will not be perfect no matter what you do. One you finish the draft, you finally see the story for yourself in its entirety and can then change and add things as you please. You will never be pleased with the first page until you write the ending because your first page should connect to the ending of climax in some way; make it foreshadow events to come.
     I'm writing a YA fantasy series and I created my own world for my characters to explore. I created a history for everything in the world and even created a recipe for a pie that was made from berries specific to a certain area of the world (I know I'm weird, and no I haven't made the recipe because the berries don't exist on Earth, duh). If you want to write an engaging and believable book, you must believe in your world and you must be engaged in it. You have to know your characters and world better than you know yourself. If someone asks the name of the random man who helped your main character, you have to be able to tell them that man's name was George. George wouldn't like it if you forgot his name and that his three kids are named Maxine, Penelope, and George Jr. even if they don't show up or aren't named in the story.
     You also don't want to overwhelm your readers. Give them enough information to get along in the world and maybe a little more here and there. Don't tell them about Maxine, Penelope, and George Jr. but keep them in the back of your mind so you can whip them out at any moment to put a subplot in your story if you want/need to.
     Subplots. They are so incredibly important because if you want a believable story with depth, you need subplots. No one just ventures into an unknown word with only one task at hand. No. That's boring. They need hit some speed bumps and weasel their way out of them. Maybe they lose some people along the way, but it just adds to the story. Now your characters can be upset about that character's death and it can fuel their anger, motivating them to move on to their overall goal.
     Connections are also very important. In these chapters, if they are only the beginning and/or middle of your book, you should introduce these connections, but make sure you hold off on giving them away. Let your reader have time to soak it in and try to come to their own conclusions before letting them in on the secret. It's an inside joke and you don't want them to know about it yet. There is a necklace mentioned in the first two chapters that connects to something they'll learn about at the end of this book or the during the next one, I haven't decided yet. Connections are that "NO WAY! SHUT UP!" moment for your reader and you'll want a lot of them to keep your reader engaged in the story. If there aren't any of those moments for your reader, they'll get bored and stop reading, and that's not what you want. But don't go around making pointless connections. Have them mean something to the characters or the plot because if they serve no purpose, there still won't be a "NO WAY! SHUT UP!" moment. It's like when Darth Vader told Luke he was his father. Introduce some unknown baby daddy into your story and watcher your readers flip.
     Have fun with your novel and really make it your own. If you created your own world, remember that your audience can't see what you're thinking of so make sure you let them know. Tell them how vibrant the flowers are there. You are the ruler of that land and everyone in it. You can defy gravity at any moment and leave your character floating helplessly in the woods. You create the rules, but make sure they're realistic though; so maybe don't defy gravity.The characters are yours, play some matchmaker, kill a few off, break some legs and have another kid fight a dragon. The more peril the better. Create some drama, people love drama. Doing these things in the first ten chapters keeps your readers on their toes and they'll know that anything can happen at any second. Mixing up your tactics now is  great idea for creating suspense.
     Hopefully you found this helpful in some way and leave a comment below if there's something you want me to cover or if you have a question!
                                                                                                                             -Taylor

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hush, Hush || Review & My Thoughts


Title: Hush, Hush
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Series: Hush, Hush Saga
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 13, 2009)
Genre:YA fiction, fantasy
Source: Purchased
Pages: 391 (paperback)



A sacred oath, a fallen angel, a forbidden love

Good Reads Synopsis

Romance was not part of Nora Grey's plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.
 


"You're a psychopath." "I prefer creative."

"Humans are vulnerable because they're capable of being hurt."


- - - - -
     When I first picked up this book, I was in, I think, seventh grade and was scouring the Walmart book section for something quick to read. I saw this book on sale for like five dollars because the final book in the series was being released. I've had it for almost four years now and have read it four times and I also bought the rest of the series. I didn't know what to expect from the series because I had never even heard of it before, but if I had any expectations, it would have exceeded them and buried them in the dirt. 
     Nora, the main character, is so incredibly relatable in the way she acts and feels and I knew that, if I were in her situation, I'd probably act and feel the same way. She's also a sophomore in high school during the first book, so, when I entered sophomore year, I of course had to read it again, and it doesn't stray too far from how high school really is (at least for me and my school). 
     Patch. Let me talk about Patch. He is perfection. There is no other way to put it. He's the typical bad boy who's arrogant to impress the girl he likes. He's dark and quiet at school, but, as you read the story, you learn why he is how he is and that he's actually a much sweeter, gentler "person." He was by far my favorite character because the way he talks through the story is exactly how I imagined he would (sarcastic but nice) and the way he's extremely protective over Nora is just downright adorable.
     The plot for "Hush, Hush" is original and unique, with folklore that I had never really thought of before. I have looked up the legends and they are real but Becca put her own twist on them as most authors do, giving the story a dark but funny mood that I haven't been able to stop thinking about for four years. There is romance through the series but it's not the whole story because there are greater things wrecking havoc in Nora's life than boys. The entire book effortlessly unfolds with an organized plot, lots of connections, lovable characters, and beautiful language. Nora navigates her way along in the world for the first time so it's easy for the reader to understand everything and can learn with her. 
     "Hush, Hush," the first book of the series, was by far my favorite of the saga, like most debut books in a series, because we're introduced into the world with Nora and meet the characters for the first time. I would highly recommend this series to any YA fantasy lover  or just anyone who enjoys a good fiction book. It's one of the best series I've read and to me, it ranks up there with "Divergent" and "the Hunger Games." Comment below if you plan to read it or if you've read it, what you thought about it.
                                                                                                                                                -Taylor

Saturday, August 1, 2015

How I Character Plot


     The book I'm writing has a lot of characters. By a lot I mean I have 34 named characters so far. I created character plots for the 20 main named characters that will be in the first book. After all that, I'd like to say I've become pretty good at creating character plots.
     First, what I like to do for my stories and books is find the meanings of random names or ones I like. If you're writing a more contemporary book that takes place in modern times, you'll want to use normal names, but if you're writing a sci/fi or fantasy book and every part of you burns with the desire to use the name Xenon Astro the Fifth, go ahead. Make sure you're sticking with the theme, time, and setting of your book though. You wouldn't use Xenon Astro the Fifth in a book like "Pride and Prejudice." When I find names I like, I write them all down with their meaning and then put names to faces. I start with my main characters so they get the first pick and then go down the list. You can do this for places and buildings too.
     After I sort out the names, I then proceed to the plotting. This first part I learned from Jenna Moreci, who I'll link down below. I'll also post a fake character plot to give you an example but I'll try to explain as best as I can. First you'll want to decide their role in the story, like are they the antagonist/protagonist, love interest, etc. Then create their motivation for doing what they do. Do they try to save the world to protect their one true love? Next, create their life experiences that shape who they are. Were they abused as a child, making them abusive as an adult? Did their parents pass away, leaving them depressed and orphaned? It's best to use a lot of detail here because it'll help you form their dialogue and the next two parts of the plot. Also, don't be afraid to wreck a little havoc on your character's life. Make their abusive parents pass away, leaving them depressed, orphaned, and destined to be abusive to everyone they love. That's what creates the character. Next you need to create their strengths and weaknesses. Is he really smart and intelligent? Is she emotionally strong because of the stuff you should have put her though? Finally, make their weakness. They must have weaknesses, even if you're writing about the most popular girl in her high school. Is she really pessimistic? Does she think too much of herself?
     After that main plot, I like to write down all the themes that character will represent throughout the story. Do they deal with sexism or oppression of women? Does your really intelligent guy deal with the quest for discovery? This will also help a lot in creating situations and dialogue for that character.
     Next, you'll probably want to remember exactly what your character looks like so you stay consistent. It would be really weird if one chapter your character had blonde hair and came back the next day with black hair, unless they dyed it, but make sure you tell the reader in some way that they dyed their hair. I even like to write down how tall they are and their body type. If you can draw your character, that's even better but you aren't gifted artistically, then stick with the description.
     Now is when I really define their personality. I first sum up that character in one word, for example you could use the words dark or adventurous. Then I'll think of or find a song or a few songs that they would either really like or reminds me of them. Then I write down their typical every day outfit. Does Xenon wear a sparkly space suit or a black one? (I'm gonna go with a black one) Then write down their best memory. You can have them say it during the story, have them think about it, or just use it to help it think like them. Then decide on their biggest fears. You can use these the same ways as the memory. You can also use their fears against them, like J.K. Rowling used spiders against Ron and even made him face one three times bigger than him. Next, create their pet peeves. Do they hate close-minded people? Do they hate surprises? Use these against them too. Now decide on their favorite color. Look up the symbolism of every color and decide which one sums up your character, like blue means calm and relaxed. I like to create a plan for their life too. Like do they want to go to Harvard and study law, or if they're older do they want to be the CEO of their company? Also, come up with something they do a lot. Do they shuffle their feet when they walk to show their low self-esteem? Do they chew on their nails when they're nervous? Finally, create their birthday. I even figure out their astrological sign.
     To end it all, I like to REALLY get to know my characters. I look up "questions to ask to get to know people," choose ones I like, and answer them from the point of view of that character, even if they're not my main character. Keep your answers so you can keep their thoughts in mind while writing.
     Personally, I think character plotting is really fun because it's like meeting a lot of new and really different people all at once. It sounds insane but it's actually really easy. Hope this helped!
                   
                                                                                                      -Taylor

Jenna Moreci     Youtube
                           Twitter @jennamoreci

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Things I've Learned So Far || The Very Beginning

 
     Right now, I am in the early stages of the writing process. I have my story and characters outlined and my plot set up with themes I want to include and all that. I am currently on chapter eleven of my rough draft. I've tried to search for advice for young writers but all I ever see is "wait until you're older because your writing sucks now" or "don't rush yourself." That's not very helpful, at least I don't think it is. I've never written a book I actually wanted to get published so everything I'm going through right now is a first for me and I hope you can learn from what I experience.
     The first thing I learned is that, when you're writing your first chapter, you will think your idea is the most awful thing you ever thought of, and that's okay. When I started my first chapter, I almost cried because I thought I was a horrible writer and I was never going to be an author. Then I started reading quotes by famous authors and I realized what I was thinking was normal and even classic writers had the same feeling. There will be many moments where you just want to give up because you think your writing or your story is useless but you can't give in, if everyone gave in, we wouldn't have "Harry Potter" or "Romeo and Juliet." 
     Second, just write everything that comes to mind for your first draft. Later, you will edit and refine your story and take out any meaningless pieces. Something you thought of could add a whole new aspect to your story you never realized before, so it's best to write it then in case you forget later.
     Next, avoid using adverbs when you can; show, don't tell. Anton Chekhov said, "don't tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass." I think that is the best advice I've seen so far that related to actual writing. That, and to not use semicolons- which I used in the first sentence of this paragraph, whoops. 
     Start. Marketing. Now. Don't give out your story unless you have an agent or copyrights, but start talking about writing or just put your name out there with other things you've written like short stories or a blog. Also, line up beta readers. Use them when you feel comfortable but make sure you have them reading your story before you publish it to look for plot holes and missing links.
     Finally, don't get discouraged. If you're a young writer, like me, you do have the rest of your life to write this story, but why wait if you know you really want to write it? For teen writers, we understand better than anyone what it's like to be a teenager. We know what we feel and how we feel it. So what if you're twelve and only just started writing. Age and inexperience doesn't necessarily make you any less of a writer than Ralph Waldo Emerson or Veronica Roth. As long as you're confident in what you write, you'll do just fine.
                                                                                                            -Taylor

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Short Story

     Hey guys! Remember when I said I had those short stories written on another website? Well, this is one of them. This is the most recent one and, I think, the best so far. This kind of story isn't what I usually write, I just like to practice with different topics to expand my writing.  I felt kind of iffy about putting this out here because I've already had one situation where someone tried to post my stories as their own, but I figured that, if I want to be a writer, I need to put my work out there for more people to see. Hope you enjoy!
                                                                                                                                          -Taylor
 15  September 1915
In my six years of life I have learned quite a few things:
        1. Chew with your mouth closed.
        2. Don't forget to feed the fish.
        3. 'Sorry' can't solve everything.
        4. No one loves you more than your parents.
        5. If you don't have a hand to hold, hold your own.
    Looking out the window, trees passed by in a blur of green, smoke clouding the sky in little patches. I sat in a car of the train, alone, with my bag at my side, holding the only things I could take with me; my favorite doll, a picture of my parents, and a lunch prepared by my mother. I placed my hands on the seat and pushed myself up, sitting a little taller to see more clearly out the window. It wasn't sunny. It hasn't been for quite some time. The sun was for happy days, and there hasn't been many of them either. 
    I interlaced my fingers, holding them tightly together as I examined the world outside. The grass was green, but now there were bits of garbage lying here and there. The sky was blue, but a muted, milky blue that reminded me of my old baby blanket.
    "Ashlen," said a very quiet feminine voice. I looked over to the doorway in my car, my blonde ringlets swinging around my face, and saw a clean, soft-looking woman. She smiled but I couldn't tell if she were happy or not. "It's almost time to get off, why don't you join me and the other children?"
    She held her hands together against the front of her dress that matched the color of the sky. Her brown hair was pulled up into a bun. There wasn't a ring on her finger like there was on most women. Her smile didn't show any teeth but appeared kind and gentle; fragile.
    I slid off the seat and stood, brushing my dress with my hands, making sure it was neat like mother always did. I grabbed my bag and headed over to the caretaker. She rested a hand on my shoulder, pulling me against her legs in a kind of hug as we walked.
    We passed several cars, most empty, before we reached one filled with six other children. I sat on the very end of a seat next to the woman. The other kids were quiet, unlike the ones I always played with on the playgrounds. They kept their heads down. Some girls occasionally giggled when a boy looked at them; but it was only occasional. 
     "Miss?" I asked, holding my hands together again. She smiled down at me.
     "Yes, miss Ashlen?" she asked.
     I rubbed my shoes together as I thought of my question, "What is your name?" She finally showed her teeth when she grinned. 
    "My name is Rosa; Rosa Faith," she said.
    "Miss Rosa," I said to myself, still looking in her eyes. 
    "Miss Rosa." She repeated.
    "Miss Rosa, you have very pretty eyes," I replied with a whispered giggle. 
    She giggled too, "Why thank you Miss Ashlen, you have very pretty hair." 
    I reached up and held one of my ringlets. "Thank you, my mother liked to brush it. I loved when she brushed it." 
    Miss Rosa's smile was lost briefly, her eyes filled up with sadness before she quickly smiled again. "Well hopefully she'll be able to brush it again soon."
    "I hope so too."
    Miss Rosa stepped down the stairs out of the train first, taking the bags from the other children and helping them down. I came out last with my small bag, holding it in one hand at my side like my mother always did with her purse. "Better  button up your coat Miss Ashlen, it's a cold one today," Miss Rosa said with a smile before fastening it for me. 
    "Thank you, Miss Rosa." I grabbed her hand and gracefully stepped off the stairs, making sure to be as ladylike as I possibly could. We walked hand-in-hand with the other children behind us.
    "What is your favorite color?" I questioned as we strolled down the empty streets. She pondered her answer before saying it was green. 
    "What's your favorite?" She asked back, smiling down at me.
    "Mine's green too. Daddy always says the most intelligent people like the color green." I grinned back up at her, still holding her hand. Looking around, I noticed how lonely this small town felt. The few houses on this street were made of centuries old bricks and thatched roofs; they all lined a single dirt road. Each one had its shutters pulled tightly closed and most appeared to be dark inside. Animals were the only living creatures outside besides us. A pig stood in a fence by one house, three chickens waddled around another, a dog laid patiently as if it had been waiting for its owner to play fetch for years. 
    "Miss Rosa, where are we?" A small voice called from behind. It was one of the oldest kids, she looked to be around eleven. 
    "We are in Northamptonshire, in the east midlands. It's a safe place." She smiled back at the children, then looked down, noticing the littlest boy walking dejectedly behind her. Miss Rosa reached for his hand and held it tightly, keeping her smile warm and welcoming. The boy looked up, a sad expression strewn across his tiny face; he had to be no older than three.
    "And what's your name, may I ask?" She questioned. 
    The boy lowered his head, clutching a raggedy teddy bear to his chest with his other hand. "Andrew." His voice was barely audible but Miss Rosa must have heard it. 
    "I like that name."
    We strolled across a bridge made of ancient bricks with a shallow river flowing gently beneath it. A duck with her ducklings swam peacefully along the shore. The overcast made the water appear murky and dark, hiding whatever lay in the water. A sudden thought of a scaly, slimy, monster lurking underneath us flashed in my mind. I gripped Miss Rosa's hand tighter, catching her attention.
    "There's nothing to be scared of, this is the most quiet and peaceful town. I would know," She said with a soft smirk, looking off into the distance with a longing look.
    "Miss Rosa, did you live here before the war?" I asked. She smiled wider, looking down at the cobblestone bridge.
    "Yes, I left when I was sixteen, though. I haven't been back since." Her eyes darkened. "I wish I had visited."
    "Do your parents still live here?" I asked.
    She opened her mouth but closed it again, slowly. "Yes, they do," she said after a long while. 
    "Can we visit them? I'd love to meet them if they're as lovely as you are." I doubted anyone could be as kind as Miss Rosa.
    "Maybe one day," she replied with a small smile.
    It was a while before anyone said anything else. Andrew was silent on the other side of Miss Rosa. The other children behind us seemed to be lost in thought. 
    "Here we are," Miss Rosa announced as she pulled a key out of her pocket, dropping mine and Andrew's hands. My hand felt cold in the chilly fall air without hers. A click came from the lock before it opened. Miss Rosa stepped inside and looked side to side. We followed closely behind.
    "There are four bedrooms upstairs, one downstairs. There's a bathroom upstairs and another down here. Boys and girls must room separately and I'll take the room downstairs," Miss Rosa told us before releasing us to sort out our sleeping arrangements.
    The house was old, unbelievably old. I thought of how many families must have spent their lives here. The room smelt like dust and stale air that hadn't been stirred in ages. The wooden ceilings stood low over us and appeared even lower upstairs. A small, shabby wooden staircase with creaky floorboards led upstairs and I could see a couple doors of the floor above us. Wallpaper hung chipped and peeling on the wall. 
    I strolled about the house, seeing what it had to offer. I paused in front of a door-frame that had height measurements marked on it. I stood up against it and placed my hand on top of my head, marking my height on the frame.
     "Three-foot two. The same as," I whispered to myself as I squinted trying to read the initials next to the height. "Same as R.F." I looked confusedly at the fragile wooden frame. 
     
    "Do you know who R.F. is?" I asked as Miss Rosa tucked me into my musky-smelling, patchwork bed upstairs in a room with one other girl. Miss Rosa pulled back in shock.
    "Where did you see R.F.?" she questioned.
     "Downstairs on the door-frame leading into the kitchen." I looked back at her, confused.
    "R.F. must have lived here a long time ago."
    "How long ago do you think?" I asked, filled with a new curiosity.
    "I would think at least twelve years ago, twice your age," she giggled at the last bit, tickling my stomach.
    I cringed and giggled, pushing her hand away. "That's a long time."

    Miss Rosa knelt down before Andrew, buttoning his coat up to his neck to protect him from the bitter cold outside. The other kids fastened their own around us, also putting on hats and mittens. Miss Rosa turned her attention to me when she finished Andrew's coat, flashing a brilliant white smile.
    "How are you today, Miss Rosa?" I asked merrily.
    "Quite alright, how are you Miss Ashlen?" she replied as she did up the buttons on my jacket.
    "I'm fine, thank you," I answered with a posh accent. She chuckled as she stood.
    "Is everyone ready?" She looked around at her small crowd, receiving various smiles and nods.
    We stepped out the door into the frozen wind. The overcast made no path for the sun, making it another gloomy day. The dirt road under our feet crunched as we walked toward the empty playground down the street. Few worn, brick houses lined the road, their dark, wood shutters remained closed for the colder months and their chimneys puffed smoke into the pale sky.
    "How much longer d'you reckon the war'll last?" questioned an older boy behind me.
    "Dunno, I heard it's a nasty one. My brother was drafted at the beginning and from what my parents have said, I don't think he'll be coming home," the second boy answered, his tone dark and saddened.
    "Father says there's Zeppelin raids in the town surrounding mine," the first boy whispered.
    "Yeah, my father says that too, says the Germans aren't 'playing by the rules,'" the second boy replied in a hushed voice.
    I waddled up to Miss Rosa and grasped her hand tightly. "Miss Rosa?" I asked.
   She looked down at me with her gentle smile, encouraging me to continue.
    "What are zeppelins?" 
    She was taken aback, her smile fading. "Where did the sudden interest come from?" she asked in a concerned tone.
    "I heard the boys talking about them, they say the Germans aren't playing fair," I said. "Sounds like they could use a time out."
    Her expression loosened as she let out a soft breath and a laugh. "Yeah, they could really use one of them."
    We stopped at the park, allowing the other kids to play on the rickety playground. The wooden swings held joyful girls, swinging and gossiping. Boys ran around, chasing each other with their hands held out like miniature guns, creating their own war. Andrew sat by himself on a bench watching the others.
    "Why's Andrew so quiet?" I asked, still examining him.
    "His parents were killed in a raid by the Germans," she whispered sadly, now watching him, too.
    I didn't respond; I had no idea what to say. I couldn't imagine, in all my years, not having my mother and father. I only saw them days ago and I already missed them dreadfully.
    Miss Rosa got up and started walking deeper into the park and onto a cobbled path. I followed behind her, casting one last glance at Andrew.
    We walked under tall, ancient trees and into a cemetery filled with faded headstones. Miss Rosa didn't speak the whole journey. I looked back at the kids on the playground, still in view. Andrew hadn't moved from his lonely spot on the bench.
    Miss Rosa stopped in front of two head stones, side by side. Both were chipped and faded with dead flowers lying in front of them. They looked as if they hadn't been visited in a very long time. I heard a soft sniffling noise.
    I looked around for the source and noticed Miss Rosa had sat on her knees, her dress lying in a circle around her. Her shoulders shook, her hair cascaded on either side of her face, shielding her from the world. I knelt down beside her and attempted to read the headstone.
    "Evelyn Faith," I read aloud the one to my left. I looked over to the one on my right, reading, "Nathan Faith." I gasped silently and glanced over at Miss Rosa, recognition at the name Faith flashing through my mind.
    "My mother taught me this when I was little, Miss Rosa," I started. She looked up at me with reddened eyes, although she still looked beautiful. Tears stained her cheeks.
    "What's that?" she whispered gently. 
    "If you fold your hands together," I paused to demonstrate, interlacing my fingers, "when you have no ones hand to hold, you can hold your own."
    She tilted her head slightly, a hint of a smile growing on her lips as another tear slid down her cheek. She held up her interlaced hands to show me.
    "Then you won't feel so alone," I whispered, afraid to speak too loudly in such a peaceful place.
    "Thank you Miss Ashlen," she whispered in response, still holding her own hands.