English is complicated. There are words in the English language that honestly make no sense. Take the word, “Once” as an example. By its spelling it should be pronounced, Won-Kuh, Won-see, On-see, On-ss, or On-Kuh. If anything, the word once should be spelled onece.
Forget the "I before E except after C" rule, because this language is littered with flaws. As a Canadian, the peaceful neighbouring stereotype that we are, we can’t even agree on whether or not to use the U like the British or forgo it like the Americans.
Is it doughnut or donut?
However, spell steal like steel and now you’ve committed a crime. (I’ve witnessed this one twice this month in published works.) Homophones, they’re those lovely little mistakes us writers can commonly make when we forget to differentiate sound with meaning. In an early draft of the Aykotah Daughter, my flowers had pedals not petals. Yes apparently car pedals were floating through the air when she met her betrothed Ni’guah guah.
What mishaps have you discovered while editing?
I'd like to thank those who took part in my most recent Twitter survey. The winning results being, a contemporary romance with a quirky church girl. That in mind, I present to you, a sample of my novella Offbeat to start off the new year. Happy 2019 readers!
Chapter One: Accommodate
Drenched in a guilty sweat, Jeff ran up the stairs to his two bedroom apartment—with only fourteen minutes before his next potential roommate was to inspect the place. He thanked the sky that the stranger wasn’t obnoxiously punctual. The first minute was wasted as he rattled his key in the stubborn doorknob, as he rushed to get his act together.
While Jeff had been renting the unit for well over a year, his previous roommate Lucas had moved out with his girlfriend, so Jeff was going to be shy eight hundred dollars with a spare room.
Skipping the shower, he combed his dark hair back with his grizzly fingers. Lifting his arm he dared a whiff of his sour body odour, and zipped up a sweatshirt in hopes it would cover up the smell, or at least the perfume that had rubbed off on him. With ten minutes to spare, he piled as many dishes as he could in the dishwasher, scrubbed the toilet bowl, and shut anything potentially cringe-worthy behind his bedroom door. Peeking over to the stove clock, he noticed this stranger was now eight minutes late.
His sweat soaked through his shirt.
Panicking, he ripped it off for a clean t-shirt from the dryer. Above Jeff noticed the spring breeze scent of his dryer sheets, sparking an idea in his frazzled mind. Three knocks on the door disturbed him as he shoved it down his shirt. With no time to scrub it against his skin or pull it out, he opened the door.
“Hi. You must be Jeffrey.”
The stranger had short rose-gold hair with thick bangs that covered their eyes, and a black and grey plaid shirt buttoned to the neck. They wore thick frames that weighed their appearance down, scuffing red marks along the bridge of their nose.
“Jeff.” he corrected, welcoming his guest. His eyes trailed down, noticing the two minuscule lumps on her chest.
“Sorry, my bad. I’m Chrissy. So this is it.” she said enthusiastically. “And eight hundred, you say?” She glanced down to the gym studio across the street. Jeff nodded. Chrissy pivoted around to the kitchen, cautious opening the cabinets at random. She lifted her hand to prevent a container or two from falling. Jeff blushed. Chrissy didn’t seem to mind, when she went straight to the fridge.
“Health-nut huh?” she said scanning through all the fruits, vegetables, and the leftover salmon packed away in a sealed container. She shut the fridge door. Her gaze carried over to the weights in the living room and bungee cord dangling from the ceiling.
“There’s a washer and dryer over here...” he mentioned distracting her from Chrissy’s bizarre intrusion of privacy.
“Yeah I saw it. Where do you work, Jeff?” She flicked the kitchen tap on testing the water pressure. It was moderate, cold then hot enough. He scratched the back of his greasy neck. Stretching out his deltoids, the dryer sheet drifted to the laminate floor. He caught it and crammed it into his back pocket, before she noticed.
“Me? Oh. Just down the street there.” He gestured towards the gym. “I’m a personal trainer. And you?” Developing a sudden interest towards the woman, he leaned up against the counter between her and the dishwasher. Her lips pressed together.
“Huh. Does that mean I can’t eat cake?” Jeff smirked at her comment, not insulted at the least. Desserts generate business. Through her thick bangs, he caught her eyes. She swallowed her breath, “Graphic designer. It’s not as cool as it sounds. I basically draw up logos on Photoshop, and set up computer-illiterate baby boomers with a website.”
Trying to be clever and relate, Jeff slid out his phone and opened an app to his online feed, with a picture showing off his musculature. “Oh. I just use social media to promote myself; I do a lot of mouth to mouth.” He coughed, “I mean word of mouth.” Chrissy pitifully laughed.
“You have a girlfriend?” she asked. Jeff shook his head proudly. “Are most of your clients women?” Jeff shrugged in hopes his suave would impress her.
Chrissy spun around to the spare bedroom with nearly two hundred square feet. “Wow.” Her eyebrows rose. Her hand slowly caressed the worn oak surface of the table, next to the door. “The closet is small, but can I keep the desk? It seems it would be a beast to move.”
“It won’t be in the way?”
“Any other questions,” Jeff queried as Chrissy stood by the small boxed window. Three iron bars protected the outside, as she overlooked the street view.
“It’s my first apartment okay. Yeah... I was getting sick of Mom and Dad looking over my shoulder, you know? Um... give me a second.” She tugged at her lips pondering though the list of generic questions she half remembered. “Are utilities included?”
They walked out to the living room, but spotting his dusty music collection she rushed over to the shelf of CD’s, scanning over the titles.
“No.” Jeff paused watching her flip through the albums. “We split the cost. In the winter you should expect to pay closer to a thousand. I split groceries too. I eat a lot, in fact I’m going to eat whatever is in the fridge, so don’t bother labelling it.”
Chrissy glanced up to his blue eyes. “Even cake?”
“Especially cake.” He winked. She bent down reading the fine print of the bottom CD cases, budding with interest—Jeff invested in the view of her voluptuous backend.
“I admire your honesty Jeffrey. I’m going to need a day or two to think about it. I’ll send you an email when and if I’m ready to move in.” she said while sliding the handful of jewelled cases back into the shelf. And by thinking about it, she meant sparing a moment to pray, if she bothered to.
“Jeff.” he corrected her.
“I know.” She shrugged. Standing up, she shook the figurative dust off her knees. He smiled politely, despite the putrid fumes wafting from his armpits. Envying a shower, he promptly encouraged her to the front door.
“I can’t help but feel like there’s a catch. Large bedroom, great location, affordable cost. Anything you should warn me about?”
Jeff rubbed the underside of his nose. “What are your thoughts on guests staying the night?”
Far too innocent, Chrissy shrugged. “How many?”
She rolled her eyes. “Huh. I’ve outgrown the whole sleepover stage.” She opened the door to the narrow regretfully carpeted hallway with a trace of cigarette smoke corrupting a standard mildew scent.
Jeff nervously stroked the back of his ear. “So if I’m busy in my room...” His words trailed off. Jeff’s hand covered the doorknob. Chrissy rolled her eyes again without a concern.
“I’ll respect your privacy. No worries. I’m somewhat of a hermit anyways.” She waved farewell with a budding curiosity to who his friends may be. Despite him having a handful of years over her: four, five, six at the most—she wondered if perhaps she’d be able to recognize a couple faces.
Jeff shut the door, hurried to the bathroom, and peeled off his shirt. He winked into the mirror before twisting the shower faucet to the maximum heat. The water boiled his skin red purely satisfying and numb to the senses.
Three knocks interrupted him. He quickly wrapped a towel around his waist to open the door. “Hey,” he said with a smoulder. Chrissy swallowed her breath. Water dripped down his skin following the indentations of his muscles.
“A month. Not biweekly right?”
Jeff grinned, “Yeah.” She nodded then shuffled down the hall.
He returned to the bathroom, with a long chain of text messages on his phone. Many of them were clients checking up on him. One in particular requested a photo. With a smirk cut off from the frame, he dropped his towel and replied.
The weather was favourable for early May. The sun outshone the chilly air, making it optimal weather for moving day. “Hey. You’re still here.” Chrissy announced. Jeff, partially insulted raised an eyebrow. Tugging the garbage bags of clothes from her hands, he tossed them in her bedroom.
“Uh yeah? I thought you’d want help moving your stuff.” She shook her head, the color of her skin darker with embarrassment. She gestured him out. He furrowed his brows.
“My family is going to be here any minute.” She covered her mouth. “I didn’t mean for it to come out that way, it’s not that... it’s just... my parents are not the greatest with first impressions.”
Jeff chuckled. How could her parents struggle with first impressions? He swore their daughter was dressed like a man at their first encounter. So used to the appearance of spandex and sassy fluorescent deep-cut tank tops, Jeff spotting a tailored plaid shirt on a woman who refused to reveal any skin was somewhat perplexing.
“Do I embarrass you?” He hooked his muscular arm around her short chunky frame. She squinted, acting as if he was.
“No, it’s just. Yikes.” With a squeak, she closed her eyes. Her father and brother Joshua filled the hallway with two twin mattresses cautiously navigating them. They were thwacking them wall to wall, so Jeff let go to assist them. They leaned them along the wall of her room. In a sweat, Chrissy’s father wiped his hand on his denim pant leg and held it out for Jeff to shake, stunned at his traditional approach, he did so merely to be courteous.
“Hey. I’m Jeff. Chrissy’s roommate.”
Her father’s friendly smile remained, but his handshake nearly crippled him.
“You’re her roommate? Hmm.” Her father scanned the apartment. “It’s just the two of you?” Chrissy’s father turned to her. She tried grinning herself out of his authoritative glare, but ultimately failed.
“What does your girlfriend think about this?” His brows scrunched. Chrissy crossed her arms, more irritated than Jeff.
“Dad. It’s fine. I’m not interested in him, if that’s what you’re wondering.” she said it far too readily. Jeff blinked, confused. She’s not interested in him, at all? But she saw him shirtless, and he was sure there was some form of chemistry developing between them. And with all his innuendoes of cake or her intimately intrusive behaviour, was there no spark? Who could resist a muscular man with charm—apparently Chrissy.
“I don’t believe a guy and girl should be under the same roof.” Her father announced. Chrissy shrugged, fairly unapologetic. She had already signed the agreement. It was with confidence too, proud she was taking her first steps on her own since earning her diploma.
“Separate rooms. Dad, people do this all the time now and it’s no big deal.” Chrissy placed her hand on her father’s shoulder. Jeff joined her brother, avoiding the building tension. “Trust me, you won’t have to worry. Like I said, I’m not interested.”
Not another word on the subject was discussed, not with Jeff present at least. However, by her father’s domineering glance Chrissy knew the topic was far from over.
“Should I order a pizza or...”Jeff offered, his finger pointed around the room as he hinted for suggestions.
Chrissy’s father shook her head. “So I’ll see you at church tomorrow?” he asked. She nodded, shutting the door on them. Without a word, she entered her bedroom dead focused on unpacking her belongings, gratefully without them.
Jeff cleared his throat to steal her attention as he leaned against the doorframe. “That was weird.” Chrissy rolled her eyes, dumping the third garbage bag. A mountain of clothes covered her mattress. Jeff inched closer, handing her a wire hanger each time she was done with the last. “Do they hate me or something?”
She giggled. “My parents don’t hate. They’re just conservative, and I’m... liberal. Moving out is what we needed. I am an adult so... yeah?” It was clear by her tone of voice that Chrissy loved her parents dearly and she only hoped for the same in return. She assumed by her upbringing that they sought out a meaningful relationship with her, but she was nothing like her older brother. This subconsciously brought a weighing doubt, especially because she knew she was different.
It wasn’t her rose-gold hair or quirky mannerisms. Chrissy was a creative woman, who had yet to figure out if she could accept herself. Anxious to what her family thought of her, she withheld the deep discussions to herself and sometimes privately in prayer.
Chrissy gave up on untying the last garbage bag, so she dug her fingernails in to tear it open. Her blankets fell out with a few worn out children’s towels. Jeff smirked recalling his first time away from home. Unlike Chrissy, he moved miles away from his family to attend University. After his scholarship ran out, he decided to leave his kinesiology degree unfinished to assist in boot camp programs targeted towards women his age.
Piling the towels in one arm, Chrissy picked up a shoe box with her free hand. “You don’t share toiletries do you?” She asked sarcastically standing in the bathroom. Jeff revealed the empty spaces within the vanity, assuming she would hog the entire space. For curiosity’s sake, she opened the one space he didn’t offer. Towels, bottles of soap, his razor, and his styling products had burst out falling onto her toes. She snickered. Placing her shoebox down, she opened it to reveal: a toothbrush, a hairbrush, a disposable razor, shampoo, floss, toothpaste, and a Ziploc baggie’s worth of makeup. “That’s it.” she confirmed, organizing them neatly in the first drawer. She set her folded towels underneath, with room to spare. His jaw dropped, while he shoved his hair gel back into the cupboard.
He cleared his throat. “Simple.”
She brushed her bangs out her face to reveal standard brown eyes. There was nothing special about them. No unique flecks or hazel rings to add variety to her plain far too common irises.
“Sure. There’s enough complicated with my life. A bar of soap shouldn’t add to that.”
Most of my fiction stories are written in first person and in the present tense, but I'm always finding ways to challenge myself to improve on the craft. (This is before professional editing.) Yes, this was a longer blog post than most, so thank you for checking this out and share your thoughts.
...And because I'm a big meanie, you don't meet Drew and Desiree, other crucial characters in the Offbeat novella until chapter two.
Being a church-going brunette girl meant the same thing every December. I was always Mary come Christmas time. Okay, that’s a lie. When I was too young for lines I was a sheep and when I outgrew the role, I became the Inn keeper or Narrator. My husband claims he was always a shepherd, whacking the back of his sisters' heads with the staff. (As in he was never trusted with an important role.) Whose genius idea is it to give pre-pubescent boys large whacking sticks? Anyways, the Nativity story holds fond memories for us who have grown up in North American church culture.
Now while it has been many years since I’ve slipped on the blue housecoat over my scraggly child-like body and vanilla table cloth over my tangled hair, I am yet again playing the role of Mary. Not that I’m a virgin teenager, but I am with child. (I’m due shortly after Christmas with baby two.)
Sometimes we like to consider the social pressures and obstacles Mary faced during her expectancy. However playing the waiting game for both the holiday and my child, I wonder about her complaints. Like was Jesus really active in the womb? I mean, this is the LORD incarnate right? The inn was full. The whole town of Bethlehem would have been crowded. Was Joseph able to round up a midwife or two to help with delivery? And mercy! Travelling by donkey? Okay, it’s better than travelling by foot, but still. Ouch! Maybe that trip alone induced the labour. (I’m assuming this was their method of travel.) Did they pack expecting to deliver on the way or was it earlier than they thought? Did they pray to God asking, “In your timing but... please after we return home from the census”?
Imagine if Jesus’ birth was recorded by women? The details on that report would probably include what time of day the contractions started, how long she was labouring for, the nursing—all of it could have been unnecessarily descriptive. To some it may still be an interesting story, but those details pull from the main focus.
But it never hurts to wonder.
And to an unbelieving world we are provided with more than enough details to accept Christ. Prophecy fulfillment aside, Baby Jesus must have been incredibly cute for the shepherds to be spreading the news about a newborn. Yeah, God doesn’t make mistakes, but this was His own son. I’m curious; did He add a dimple or two?
In no particular order and with the year coming to an end, here are my top 5 romance novel recommendations of this year. All these books are available through Amazon Kindle Unlimited which I am in love with. Perhaps in the future, I’ll publish some novellas straight to it so you the reader will have more free reads to enjoy.
1. The Draughtsman Damsel
by Emily Klein
I’m not usually one for Medieval or historical timelines, but readers out there should make an exception for this story. After watching Quest for Camelot with my daughter, I wanted to read the book it was based on, finding this instead. I was not disappointed. And the research that went into this, wow! This novel has a unique take for the intellectual reader and an incredible finale.
2. Calling Love (Modern Conveniences Book 2)
by Leah Atwood
I love a good blue collar romance. Leah’s works tend to have a calm pace to them, and this came at a time where I was becoming sick of predictable white-collar metropolis city romances stories. Archer was a charming character especially towards the care of his ill grandmother, and I’m glad he shows up in more of Leah's books.
3. Ninja Girl
by Cookie O’Gorman
For a story with plenty diverse characters, I enjoyed meeting them all secretly wishing this was a series so they could return. This fun book contains (trying not to spoil anything...) exciting fight sequences, a karaoke bar with marshmallow fluff on tap, and a sports car with a slick paint job. (Cookie knows her stuff!) Yet another YA novel where the parents are involved in their children’s lives and it benefits the story.
4. It Was Always You (Ridgewater High Romance Book 3)
by Judy Corry
If I’m honest... the whole Ridgewater series really. I went on a Judy Corry reading binge this winter and did not regret it. In the third book of her series though, addressing youth homelessness and redeeming a character that I in an earlier book labelled a jerk... well done.
5. Rule #1: You Can’t Date the Coach’s Daughter
by Anne-Marie Meyer
I think what makes this such an adorable high school romance story is not only the events between the main couple, but the relationship the protagonist has with her strict father. Also how the lovers weren’t trying to be together maliciously out of angst for the set rule, yet hoped to prevent drama at any cost.
Years ago, John Grisham wrote the novel Skipping Christmas about an empty-nesting couple who decided to pass over their festivities for a Caribbean cruise, because their only daughter was unable to spend Christmas with them. Looking at the costs, the husband’s idea would have saved money and exerted efforts by abandoning their traditions. (This book later became a holiday classic film known as Christmas with the Kranks.)
It’s a rather attractive idea isn’t it, since the winter season seems to add more to our daily schedule. From decorating the home, participating in church and community events, attending the work Christmas party, buying gifts, writing cards and sending off newsletters... oh my! The list goes on. Whether the family is on a budget or not, crafting their way through the season or shopping in the stores—sometimes this occasion can seem overwhelming.
What is the meaning of all of this? Why do we feed the machine? Can’t Christmas be simple? Why bother? Well, as Christians we recognize Christmas is not about the materialism, but the Messiah.
How do we explain that to our kids when what we say and what we do conflict each other? How do we share the good news of Jesus Christ when we are frantically following the culture of twinkling lights and turkey dinners? What good is it to war between the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ versus ‘Merry Christmas’ around little watching eyes? As a parent of young toddler who is a frolicking tape recorder, I am convicted to teach the importance of Baby Jesus.
It’s not easy.
Give a toddler a new toy and tell them it’s because of Jesus’ Birthday. How effective is that? Try explaining all of this is because a virgin gave birth to God’s son. Are you ready to define virginity? What if you mention there was no vacancy at the inn, the shepherds were startled by angels, or that wise men who tracked down the stars studied the sky to find the family? It’s a strange event we Christians celebrate.
We pick between the stable scene or Santa Claus, but both have been materialized.
Then there are the parents who choose to wait until their children are older before mentioning God. Why? Should we allow ignorance of His presence in our homes? Sure my child is young, but my responsibility is to train her in both physical and spiritual matters. Yes, she is still in diapers, but that doesn’t stop us from reading stories, singing songs, and using the given opportunities to explain Him.
For our family, I’m choosing this Christmas to teach this truth: The world needed a hero and God fulfilled His promise to send one. Jesus Christ is that hero, we call him the Messiah. Jesus was God’s way of saving everyone from evil and proving his love for us. Christmas is when we remember God sent his son, God in all His power became a man... starting as a helpless baby. The goal here is my child learns we celebrate what the LORD has done. (And as an added bonus, we learn something about God. For example, God keeps his promises, or God is generous.)
Christmas is a family holiday and to each kin, they have their own traditions. Let’s not get too caught up in the rituals that our little ones are left confused. They are so young; they are absorbing all our actions. Time with family is good. Dressing up and singing carols are fun. Dinners and treats are delicious. Being hospitable, generous, and forgiving is always beneficial. However a young parent should observe their surroundings then ask, “What is Christmas to my child?”