Scrivener, How I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways

Scrivener, How I Love Thee

Since becoming an author, who worked with a word processor called LibreOffice (very similar to Microsoft Office), I have been converted. I was introduced to the program known as “Scrivener”. Now, at first I was a skeptic. Not of the program, but of my ability to use it. I don’t do change well. But I did their little tutorial after signing up for the free trial. Which, just let me say…30 days of use…what a concept. This is not 30 calendar days…they log the days you USE it.

So, after going through their tutorial (which, I will admit was long, but worth it), I started using it. And I was BLOWN away. Is there anything they didn’t think of? I mean that a novelist needs? Having the research at your fingertips in your document, the ability to move scenes around as you please, the snapshot feature, and let me just mention…the compose screen. What a gem! And if you’ve ever tried your hand at self-publishing, the compile feature is a life-saver!!!

But I’m here today to talk about my favorite features, not to blubber on so. Without further ado, here they are (in no particular order):

  1. The Name Generator. This is a tool my husband introduced me to. Under EDIT, select WRITING TOOLS, and you will see NAME GENERATOR. Then another screen will pop up. You can select all kinds of parameters for your character name, like gender, obscurity, whether you have the forename or surname already, if you want alliteration, etc. And then boom, it gives you a list of names. Awesome. I only wish I’d found this tool sooner.
  2. The Compose Mode. If you are anything like me and you get…well…distracted by pop ups or your e-mail tab notifying you that you have a new e-mail in your inbox, this is the screen for you. There is a button on the top of the screen labeled COMPOSE. It will blank out your desktop screen and leave you will a white space to work on. You can select a picture to put in that black space behind the paper if you choose. The easiest way is to hit ESCAPE, go to VIEW, select COMPOSITION BACKDROP, then select CHOOSE. Now, once your back in the COMPOSE mode, you can move your cursor to the bottom of the screen and find options to adjust the white space (paper) width, the size of the text, the part of the screen the paper is on, how transparent the paper is, etc. LOVE IT!
  3. Files and Folders. If you haven’t discovered the ability to use files and folders, you are missing out. People do this differently, but I’ll tell you how I find it best works for me. I make the FOLDERS my chapters and the FILES my scenes. So, my BINDER (the area to the left that has a list of folders and files) looks like Manuscript, Folder, file, file, file, file, etc., Folder, file, file, etc.).
  4. Scrivenings. If you have seen the tutorial, you have heard of the CORK BOARD, OUTLINER, and SCRIVENINGS. These are ways of viewing your document. I like to look at my document in SCRIVENINGS. At the top of the screen near the right is a three button section called VIEW MODE. The one that looks like a paper is called SCRIVENINGS. After it is selected (clicked on), you can then view your document in this mode. When you click on MANUSCRIPT, you can see the whole document. When you click on any FOLDER, you can see that whole chapter. Clicking on a FILE, lets you see only that scene.
  5. Mobility of Files. When you click on a scene, you can drag it up and down in the BINDER. So if you think it should be earlier or later in the chapter, that is very easy to do. Just click, drag to the spot you want it, and release.
  6. Compile Capabilities. There are numerous things you can do when compiling in Scrivener. You can make your manuscript a Microsoft Office document or an ebook or prepare it for Createspace. My husband knows much more about this. And has written a more informative blog article on it here.

Again, these are just a FEW of the gems you can find in Scrivener, a few of my favorite things, if you will. I encourage all novelists and writers to check it out. Give it a go! Don’t be leery of change. This is one change that is good.

I’ve Got a New Attitude: Kids Go Back to School, I Get Back to Routine

I've Got a New Attitude (5)

I just want to start off by thanking the good Lord for school. Now, don’t get upset at me yet. Do I miss my kids during the day? You bet! I miss them like crazy. But I know a couple of things that make it easier: they are getting the peer-to-peer social environment I just can’t provide every day when they’re at home and they are back to a routine in which my one with ADHD and my one with autism really need and thrive in. As do I.

schoolhouseSo, as they get back to the rhythm of school, I get back to my own routine at home. It’s a new frontier this year. My child with autism has gone off to kindergarten (one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do) and my littlest one is in preschool two days a week. So, our house is more quiet than ever before. We even have more of a routine for the little one on the days he is at home. But I’m finding my own rhythm with writing and caring for the home and the after school stuff and the various responsibilities outside the home I have committed myself to.

onceuponatimepaperWriting. Just as the school year starts, I am on a deadline. Yep, that’s how I plan things. So, I am writing and editing like a mad woman. I stay locked in my office pretty much. But even here it can be hard to focus. Trips to a local coffee shop have helped with that as I ease back into full time writing mode. There is no substitute for a good writing schedule and some old fashioned bum glue for writers who want to meet their goals. You won’t always feel it, somedays you just have to sit down and find that muse yourself.

flyladyHouse and Home. This gets a bit trickier. For the past two years, I have had a mother’s helper/nanny to help me stay on top of laundry, cleaning, general housework, etc. But, alas, as my kids get older, she is better suited for another, younger family. So, I am needing to take up these extra duties as she is here less. And I’m settling back into a cleaning routine. I love Fly Lady! If you have not met her, I cannot say enough about her. And you should probably hear it from her own website. Great cleaning plans, reasonable expectations, phenomenal advice for housekeepers of all levels.

busy momOutside the Home. I love being involved in things outside the home. I co-lead a writer’s critique group. I’m a leader in my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. I help in a 3-year-old Sunday School Class at my church (when my kids and I are all well enough). And I attend writer’s conferences and manage appointments for 5 people. And I can’t forget time out with family and friends! It can be craziness sometimes, but it’s a good crazy, you know? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive on the busyness, but it can cause me to come crashing down when I’ve taken it a step too far and committed to too much. Only I don’t see it coming until it’s too late. “No” is an okay word.

So, there’s my life in a nutshell. Somehow, I’m going to get into a routine with all of it. And then, the magic will happen.

Essential Oils: From Skeptic to Believer

 

Essential Oils- From Skeptic to Believer

I have shared that I was skeptical of essential oils and this whole oil revolution that seems to be sweeping homes across America. I’ve always had my feet firmly planted in Western medicine and been rather unsure about the holistic approach. Not doubting the benefits my friends receive, just not thinking any of that was for me and my family.

diffuserWhen a friend invited me to a class on essential oils, I was intrigued as I did support the use of oils for aromatherapy. Though that borders on the holistic side of things, I did see the benefits of utilizing scents for calming, preparing for sleep, energizing, etc. And so, I ended up purchasing an introductory kit which contained several oils I was certain I would never use, some I knew I would (for aromatherapy), and a diffuser with which to get those “good” oils into the air for my family.

Now, for those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I had a 13 day migraine that did not respond to Western medicinal approaches, but which essential oils cured in a matter of minutes. And I was hooked. What else could these oils do? Thus began my exploration into some of the other problems I was dealing with.

dark cloudMood Issues. I struggle with mood issues lingering from my struggles with postpartum depression. Most days I’m fine, but occasionally, I have challenges with low mood. I utilize the tools I have learned in counseling, but it’s difficult to do that when there’s a dark cloud hanging. I have begun to use oils such as Valor, Frankincense, and Acceptance during these times. That dark cloud notably lifts, making it much easier to implement and practice what I know to be best for me.

peppermintDigestive Issues. I have IBS. And, while I do have prescription medication I take when I have an IBS attack, it doesn’t always ease the pain completely. Just this last week, I found myself pretty incapacitated with pain, twenty minutes before I was to meet up with a friend. I planned to cancel and even had sent a preliminary text. But my husband suggested we try the “go to” oil for digestive issues – Peppermint. He made a tea and put a couple of drops of peppermint oil in it. As soon as the steaming cup was near me and I could inhale the oil, the pain began to subside. Within minutes, the pain was gone. I went out that night.

migrainedogMigraines. I continue to suffer from chronic migraines. Instead of taking the “rescue pills” for these “breakthrough” migraines (since they don’t work anyway), I do my oil regiment that cured the 13 day migraine. It includes Thieves, Panaway, and M-Grain.

ADHD. My daughter has ADHD. And in the evenings when she is coming off of her medication, she can become quite a handful. So, from time to time, I’ll diffuse Lavender in the house, to calm her (and the other two kiddos) down in preparation for bedtime. Yes, I still believe in the aromatherapeutic properties. I know that there are also oils to help with focus as well. We have yet to try those.

All in all, I am new to this journey. But the more I learn and the more I try, the more impressed I am. Even the Bible tells us that “the leaf shall be for medicine” (Ezekiel 47).

Care to share your favorite use for your favorite essential oil?

I Do An Incredible Amount of Teamwork

i in teamI know what you’re thinking…”Wait, there’s no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’!” No? Well, maybe not. But there is an “M” and an “E”…”ME”! Yes, I jest. Everywhere we go we find teams. It takes “a village” to raise our children (though where this village is at 2 am when my child is screaming at the top of his lungs, I have no idea). We and our co-workers have a common goal (and often common target of blame) in our jobs. Even our marriages are a partnership (he does his part and I let him – just kidding!).

gearsIn a society that so values individuality, why the emphasis on teamwork? Do CEOs really look at their employees as a mass production unit that should work as if they’re cogs in a machine? Seamlessly? Don’t squeak, don’t cause your neighbor to rust at all, and for heaven’s sake, don’t spark! Does God expect marriage partners to behave in this oneness as if the individual is lost? “Two shall become one”? What does that even mean?

individualIs there any place for the individual? Certainly. You, your story, your unique set of experiences, is valuable. To your children, to your friends, to society. I don’t know about your CEO, but your skill set is not found in just every other person. You have a certain set of strengths, and of challenges that you are working to overcome that make you the individual that you are. And, therefore, set your input apart.

Let’s talk about SYNERGY. What is Synergy? Let’s say I can lift 10 lbs. And you can lift 10lbs. Well, the law of synergy says that if we work together we can lift…I know you’re thinking 20lbs. But, it’s actually 30lbs. None of us is as brilliant as all of us are working together. In a team, we can brainstorm, bouncing ideas off each other, enhancing each other’s sparks until the best in all of us culminates into something really great. Can you picture it?

So, how do you participate in this team and exert your individuality? It’s a balance, just like with anything else. You have to realize that your successes don’t diminish with the success of others. That by helping others further themselves, you will not lessen yourself. Helping others will not sabotage you. You must let your own spark be seen, but you need to do your best to work well with others, too. To enhance their contributions as a member of the whole while interacting on an individual level with your own talents, gifts, and specialities.

“Off to War” – Chapter 3, Scene 7

OffToWar_Medium

 

“OFF TO WAR”

Chapter 3

Scene 7

Abigail sat in front of her vanity, putting the finishing touches on her appearance: a pair of earrings Elizabeth had gifted her at last year’s birthday celebration. They were simple, beautiful pearl earrings. Elizabeth wasn’t much for elaborate ornamentation. But Abigail treasured them. All the more today. They made her feel as if Elizabeth was with her.

Gazing at her reflection in the mirror, not a hair was out of place; her gown had been pressed for show. Yet they were out of place with face that looked back at her. Her features were downcast, true, but it was her eyes. They were soulless. As if the life had been drained from her.

She was as ready as she’d ever be. What other preparation could be done? But something was still missing. This feeling had haunted her since Elizabeth’s flight. What was this emptiness? Is this what it felt to lose one’s child?

Thomas came from behind her and kissed the side of her face.

“You are beautiful, darling. Even if you must wear this ridiculous hat.”

Smiling in the mirror at him brought life to her features, but not to her eyes. Still, she gave him an amused look. Thomas never understood women’s fashions, the hat least of all. He couldn’t comprehend why she needed such a collection.

Thomas stood once again and fingered his tie. The knot was askew. Had he attempted to work it himself?

“I don’t know why you won’t let someone help you with that.” Abigail sighed as she turned. “Here.” She batted his hands away. “Let me.”

“I don’t have someone help with it, because I prefer when you do it.” He winked.

She afforded him another smile. What a charmer she had married! Even after all these years, he could make her smile. “I appreciate you coming to this event,” she said, her voice serious. “It’s very important to me.”

“It’s important to me, too.” He put his hands on her arms as she finished, letting her hands fall. “Elizabeth is, after all, my daughter too.”

“Of course.” She let her eyes linger on his. Could he see what she had seen in the mirror? She hoped not.

“Besides,” he said with a sly smile. “You and Charlotte have been working night and day to make sure this is the grandest party of the season. I want to see it for myself.”

“I just hope everything goes as planned,” she moaned, her brows coming together. What if it wasn’t? What if the hall…?

“I have every confidence it will.” Thomas pressed another kiss to the side of her face. “We’d best get you there before it all falls apart,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

She gave him another smile and allowed him to lead her down the hall. Soon enough they were helped into their coverings and ushered out the door to the waiting carriage.

The ride to the Event Hall was quite unremarkable. Abigail busied herself going over her mental checklist. But Thomas kept talking. What was he saying? Something about the weather? She needed to focus. He continued with his questions, his eyes beckoning her to respond.

“What?” Her reply was sharper than she’d intended.

His eyes widened.

“Sorry,” she whispered. “I’m…distracted at the moment.”

He nodded. “I understand.”

Thomas spoke not another word the remainder of their ride.

But she still couldn’t focus her thoughts. She shouldn’t have been so crisp with him.

They arrived at the Hall in short order. And Abigail would crawl out of her skin if it took one minute longer. How was the decorating going? Were they following the plan?

Stilling her movements, she allowed Thomas to get out first though everything in her seemed to stretch forth.

Thomas reached a hand in for her.

She took it and he helped her down. Then she took off. Had he offered his arm in escort? Most likely. Could she wait for him to escort her into the event space? It was not physically possible. Abigail moved as quick as polite society would allow inside.

As she stepped inside, hands laid hold of her wrap. She slid it off with only a nod in the direction of the hands. The space captivated her. Banners were hung, flowers were on display, food tables were being prepped. Almost everything was done. And Charlotte stood in the midst of the hustle and bustle, directing it all.

Abigail shook her head. Of course Charlotte was here. How could she have given it a second thought?

“Charlotte,” Abigail greeted her friend, crossing to her. “I should have been here to help you.”

“Abigail!” Charlotte paused to embrace her friend and co-host. “Nonsense, I promise I just arrived myself.”

“It seems as if everything is running smoothly.” Abigail let her gaze wander over the hall, admiring the realization of all their planning. The hall looked better than they’d imagined. Tonight would be a success. She had to believe that.

“Appears so. I haven’t checked the registration table yet. Would you mind?”

Abigail nodded. “Consider it done.”

The next half hour became a flurry of activity as the final touches were put on the space and the two women worked side by side to make sure even the tiniest detail was managed. By the time the guests arrived, everything was set and running like clockwork.

And so the following half hour became a different kind of din. People checked in, milled about, conversed, enjoyed the décor, and partook of the refreshments. Everything was going well.

The time came for the guests to be properly welcomed. This particular task fell to Abigail. Now that she prepared to sneak in front of the crowd, shaking hands touched her necklace. Why was she trembling so? These were her friends and people from her community. And this event was for Elizabeth. She clasped her hands together to still them. But the quivering came from inside of her.

An arm snaked around her waist. She jumped back from the contact. Who? But arm held her fast. And the presence seemed familiar to her. Turning, she met the eyes of her husband, her rock.

Thomas leaned toward the side of her head and whispered into her hair, “You’ll do fine.”

Abigail took a deep breath and smoothed over her dress.

“Trust me,” he said, pressing a kiss to the side of her face.

She nodded, squeezing his arm. The shakiness had subsided somewhat. Adjusting her hat, she then stepped up to the podium. But the crowd seemed too engaged in their own conversations. No one noticed she had stepped up to address them. Searching out Charlotte, she became desperate. Her friend was nowhere.

Clink, clink, clink. The sound drew her attention to where she had just been standing. Thomas used a spoon to bang against his glass, trying to get everyone’s attention. As members in the audience noticed her at the podium, they joined in with their glasses. Soon, all voices paused.

Once all eyes were on Abigail, she began, hoping she sounded more confident than she felt. “Welcome, esteemed guests and friends. As you know, this is a fundraiser for our brave soldiers who, as we speak, are fighting for our country. We hope you have come feeling patriotic and ready to give of yourselves for the sake of those men who are sacrificing that our nation be made whole again. As many of you already know, our men need many things, so we accept all manner of gifts. Foodstuffs and monetary support are the most crucial at this time, but anything you can give will help.

“Tonight, we would like to put a face on this issue. I want to introduce my dear friend and co-chair for this evening’s event, a woman who has given tirelessly to this cause herself and stands as a model of patriotism: Mrs. Charlotte Taylor.”

Abigail prayed Charlotte would have appeared by the time she turned. Applause sounded as she turned her head in time to see Charlotte moving toward her to take her place. And Abigail clapped for her friend, never more relieved as she stepped to the side, allowing room for Charlotte to take center stage.

As Charlotte began her speech, Abigail moved off to find some water. All of a sudden, she was parched.

“Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for that wonderful introduction and for your efforts in making this event possible. And thank you all for being here. Some of you may know that my son, Dr. John Taylor, is on the front lines fighting for this nation. Let me tell you a little bit about my son. John…”

Thomas came up behind Abigail and put his hand on the small of her back. “You were great,” he whispered in her ear.

“Thanks,” she said, not taking her eyes off Charlotte. But she wasn’t truly listening to her either. Would that she were allowed to tell Elizabeth’s story!

It was not a well-kept secret that Elizabeth was no longer at home and some even knew she had fled to help out with the war effort. But, Abigail would never be able to step up to a podium and talk about it. What Elizabeth had done was respectable, even admirable, but definitely beneath her station. Women of their station did not go prancing off to war. They did just what Charlotte and Abigail were doing.

Oh, if only Elizabeth were here she could make a compelling speaker! But she wasn’t. She was miles away in some war camp doing God knows what. No, Abigail had not come to peace with Elizabeth’s decision. And she did not think she ever would.

Applause erupted around her. Abigail set her drink down and joined in.

“Enjoy yourselves and please don’t hesitate to see any of the women in the Booster Club if you have any questions about donations.”

Charlotte stepped down from the podium and the din of the crowd rose again. But Abigail’s thoughts were numb. She stared straight ahead. There was movement in front of her, but she looked through that and beyond somehow.

“How was that?” Charlotte appeared in front of her. Where had she come from?

Abigail focused on her friend’s face.

Charlotte’s eyes begged for reassurance, eyebrows raised.

Abigail wished she had been listening better.

“It was great,” Thomas interjected. “John would be proud.”

“Yes,” Abigail said, nodding. “Of course he would.”

Smiling, Charlotte seemed relieved. “Thank you.”

“I think we’re bound to get donations after all of this,” Abigail said, sweeping her arms over the Event Hall.

“For certain,” Charlotte agreed, looking around.

The three stood in silence. For a handful of moments, it was amiable. And then it became awkward.

Charlotte took Abigail’s hand. It felt warm. Was that because Abigail’s hand was cold? “If you’ll excuse me, I need to find Franklin.”

“Of course,” Thomas said. “I think the last place I saw him was over by the refreshment table.”

“I have no doubt.” Charlotte sighed.

Abigail squeezed her friend’s hand before she walked away.

“Forgive me,” Thomas said, his words coming out slow and careful. “But you seem as if you are miles from here.”

Abigail looked back at her husband. “I am.”

“Thinking of Elizabeth?” He reached up and touched her hair, his fingers grazing her locks.

Abigail nodded, fighting tears. Why did it sting so? These thoughts?

Thomas waited for her to speak.

“She should be here,” Abigail started, tears welled, threatening to spill over. She stopped speaking, trying to gain control of herself.

Thomas pulled her to the side, to a corner where they would be less conspicuous. He kept his hands on her arms. It brought her some measure of comfort.

“She had no business running off! There is so much more good she could be doing here!” Abigail cried.

Thomas’s eyes seemed deeper somehow in that moment. And his voice was soft, not much more than a whisper. “Can you not see that she did it for love?”

Abigail let out an exasperated gasp. She was in no mood to entertain such schoolgirl notions.

“We need not understand, my dear. We can only try to accept it.”

“And what if I can’t?” She looked up at him.

Thomas had no words to offer in response.

The Line Between Involved and Over-Involved

 

The Line Between Involved and Over-Involved2

I’m one of those people who likes to be busy. I thrive on the craziness. But that was before I took on the responsibilities of being a mom and wife. That adds quite a bit to anyone’s plate. So, I’m realizing I can’t add as much more to that plate as I used to be able to. So, where is that line? While I don’t believe I am on this planet to indulge myself, but rather to give of my gifts for others, to pour into other lives for God’s glory, I also believe that my children and my husband are my primary mission. So, what’s a girl to do? How involved is too involved?

Check your priorities at the door. This has to be the number one thing we all do. We must be constantly cognizant of our priorities and how this new task/organization/leadership role fits in or disrupts our priorities. What are your priorities? If I’m at the top of the list, something’s not right. If taking on this new role will put my top priorities in jeopardy, it may not be the best option for me.

halfheartCheck your heart at the door. We must also be mindful of our intentions, our heart for taking on leadership roles and, specifically, ministry positions. If it is to bring the spotlight to shine more brightly on us, something’s out of whack. If we feel called and know that God has gifted us to serve as a member of His body in that capacity, may God bless your efforts and I believe He will make a way.

glowingcross1I mean, what could be wrong with Christian service? I fear that too often, we are well-intentioned about our service and sacrifice the priority of our personal relationship with God and do not give a first (or second) thought to whether or not God is calling us or equipping us for a leadership position because (let’s be honest here), we are so flattered that someone in authority has singled us out of the group and asked us to serve. And, hey, we’re supposed to serve the body, right?

I’m not saying that I am perfect at this. Or even that I do this well at all. I feel this challenge in myself and see it in my dear sisters (and brothers). I’m not asking you to NOT serve. By no means! Please do. We are called to give of ourselves. But not to the detriment of all else. Not at the risk of our primary relationship. Service should be an outpouring of what God is doing in your personal walk with Him. I suppose, then, that I’ve answered my own question. If you are giving of yourself only, that is the line. But if you are giving of what He is doing in you, that is the other side of the line.

So, please be discerning of spirit, dear brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes on Him first and then turn around and love others as it gushes out of you.

“Off to War” – Chapter 3, Scene 6

OffToWar_Medium

 

“Off to War”

Chapter Three ~ Battle

Scene 6

The battle raged on. All Elizabeth could do was sit and listen to the cannons and gunfire in the distance, grimacing at every sound. There was no laundry to do, no sewing that was called for, nothing to be done. Just sit and wait for news. It was the longest wait of her life. Looking at the water, she couldn’t help but imagine the laundry that they would have to do the next day. She envisioned the blood discoloring the water as they would work to clean the dark blue uniforms. Shaking her head to clear such morbid thoughts, she tried to think of something more pleasant. Nothing came to mind. What was there to think of at a time like this? Nothing but war and bloodshed. Not for the soldiers, and not for her.

Though she had long since been released from duty, she found herself unable to leave her post. The camp seemed abandoned with the troops gone, the hospital staffed, and the other women…where? Where were the other women? Waiting and praying in their tents? Elizabeth sank to her knees by the water tub and sobbed, praying for the men in their unit that were facing their mortality even then.

“Father, Keep Your gracious hand on these brave men. It is my will that You keep them safe from harm, but I know that it is Your will not mine that we should seek. Comfort those who are wounded. Give the doctors wisdom and skill. Be with John.”

“Elizabeth!” Melanie interrupted her thoughts. “Elizabeth!”

Elizabeth got to her feet. “What is it? Is there news?”

Melanie was almost out of breath as she stopped by Elizabeth. She nodded. “The fighting is over, but there are many wounded. They need help in the hospital. I told them I would bring you.” Melanie grabbed her hand and walked in the direction of the hospital.

Elizabeth froze. She wanted to help, but how could she avoid John in the hospital? He would see her and her plan, and her time here would be over. Her head fell. What purely self-serving thinking! There were men wounded and in need of care, and she was worried after something so selfish! Embarrassed by her reaction to Melanie’s request for help, she turned away.

When Elizabeth didn’t move, it caused Melanie to jerk back. “Come on. What are you waiting for?” Melanie asked, confused.

Determined to do what she could to help these men who were in such need, she took Melanie’s hand and followed her, rushing toward the hospital tent.

Nothing could have prepared Elizabeth for what she saw at the hospital tent. The battle had been gruesome. Every space available was filled with men in all states of horror. She did not have time to take it all in before a nurse approached.

“Take the men water, sit with them, and tell them the doctors are making it around. Do you know how to clean a wound?”

Elizabeth was numb to everything around her, but she nodded. Melanie shook her head.

“Good,” the nurse said to Elizabeth. “Do only superficial cleaning. You’ll find supplies over there,” she indicated a shelf at one end of the tent. And you,” she turned to Melanie. “Come watch me for a couple of patients and you’ll learn.”

Looking over the tent full of men in agony, being recognized by John was the furthest thing from her mind. Elizabeth made her way over to the shelf and grabbed some supplies. She stopped at the first man near the shelf unit. He was young, much younger than John. His sandy-blonde hair fell over deep brown eyes that looked up to her as if to find some reassurance that all would be well. There was a fear there. Fear remaining like an echo from the emotion of the battle and fear that nothing would ever be the same. Fear of what might happen to him. Elizabeth knew that she would never forget the look in his eyes.

“Hello, soldier.” She put on her best smile for him. “I’m Elizabeth. What’s your name?”

The man was shaking badly, with a terrible leg wound. He was in shock. In all likelihood he would lose the leg.

“A-Adam.”

She offered him some water. He drank it, thanking her. She began to clean the wound, but she didn’t see much point in it. The leg was in need of a deeper cleaning. Still, she did as the nurse had instructed her and basically put a strip of cloth on a gunshot wound.

“I-is it b-b-bad?” Adam asked.

She shook her head. “You’ll be fine,” she told a half-truth. “The doctor will see you in a while.”

Man after man, wound after wound, all Elizabeth could do was offer water and assurances that the doctors would see them soon. She could tell by looking at some of these men that they were not going to make it and it broke her heart. But she put on a brave smile for them, and spent more time by their bedside, talking with them, singing to them, praying with them. A few of them passed on while she was with them, but she refused to cry.

After a couple of hours, she noticed that she had not had to duck from John’s view. Glancing around the hospital, she couldn’t spot him anywhere. She excused herself between patients to find a nurse.

“I’m looking for Dr. Taylor. Dr. John Taylor,” she said, knowing her voice betrayed her worry.

“A doctor will be around to see each patient in turn,” the nurse said, a little annoyed.

“No,” Elizabeth grabbed her shoulders, desperate. “I’m looking for Dr. Taylor.”

The nurse stopped to think. “He went to the front lines to patch the wounded there and prepare them for transport. He hasn’t come back.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened. She whirled around and took off running. Where to, she did not know. At first she turned this way and that, confused about what she was going to do. Then, she was struck with a plan and ran for the laundry. It was easy enough to get her hands on a small enough uniform, carry it back to her tent, and slip into it, binding her breasts. Shoving her hair up in a cap, she rubbed dirt and mud on her face to disguise her feminine features. And, making her way across the camp somewhat unnoticed with all of the mayhem from the recent battle, she ran toward the battlefield.

The field was littered with bodies and limbs. Elizabeth had thought the hospital was bad, but this was a million times worse. There were no words to describe the grisly state of the men there. She felt the urge to vomit, but held her stomach. Taking several deep breaths, she reminded herself that she was here for a reason, she had to find John. He might need her.

Walking the battlefield, she looked for signs of her beloved. With the front line a little ways in the distance and to the left of her position, she could search here for a while before risking being discovered. What was he doing out here in the first place? Why would he come? Hadn’t he promised to stay a safe distance from the fighting? But she knew he would go where he was needed. Stubborn, selfish fool!

She was getting close to what had at one time been the front line when the bodies thickened and the number of gray uniforms matched the blue ones. One look to her left told her that she was almost in line with the current front line, just in a section that wasn’t being patrolled. She found herself being forced to move bodies in order to check for John. Having to touch the bloodied corpses ended up to be too much for her stomach and she did vomit. But, her determination took over and she moved onward.

As she came upon one particular Union soldier stabbed with a bayonet, the blade protruding out of his back, she could see that the man underneath him was a Confederate soldier, so she turned to move on. But a hand shot up toward her. He was alive!

“Help me,” came the weak voice of the man trapped underneath the dead Union soldier.

Something in her told her to run, but another part of her bid her to stay. Gray uniform or blue, this man needed help. How could she, in good conscience, leave him to die knowing she could have saved his life?

With much effort, she pushed the dead soldier off of him and saw that the Confederate soldier had a wound in his upper arm. It began to bleed out. The weight and body of the Union soldier must have put enough pressure on it to stop the bleeding. Thinking quickly, she tore off enough sleeve from the Union soldier to fashion a tourniquet.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice still weak.

That’s when she looked into his eyes. It was hard to imagine that this man, whose blue eyes she found herself gazing into had played a part in the destruction around her, had killed men, perhaps this Union soldier she had just moved. But it was true.

There were sounds in the distance and she jerked her head up, standing when she saw more Confederate soldiers headed her way. What was she going to do?

“Stop! Thief!” One yelled out, raising his gun. He fired.

A hot searing pain in her left shoulder whipped her around and threw her to the ground. Elizabeth was still conscious when her head found a rock as she landed. And then all was black.

Want To Read a Fresh, Clean Romance With a Fairy Tale Twist?

fresh clean romance with fairy tale twist

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you already know that I have fallen in love with this clean Historical Romance author: Melanie Dickerson. Dickerson has written a few different series of books. One is her “Fairy Tale Romance Series” which, for the most part, is a retelling of those fairy tales we all know. But in a very clever and artful way. Another series she has is her “Medieval Fairy Tale” series. Which, as far as I can tell is not connected with established fairy tales, but is her own weaving of events set in during these centuries. Her other series is “The Regency Spies of London” series. Of which I have not read (but intend to), so I cannot comment.

the golden braidThe long and short of it is that Dickerson is phenomenal. Once I stumbled upon the book, The Golden Braid, (part of the “Fairy Tale Romance Series”) I began to consume her other fairy tale and medieval stories at an alarming rate. The other books I read include: The Healer’s Apprentice, The Fairest Beauty, The Captive Maiden, The Merchant’s Daughter, The Princess Spy, and The Huntress of Thornbeck. In fact, I loved these books so much, that I started buying them on ebook, but soon converted them to my “permanent” collection. (I had to have them in paperback as well.)

I love the way Dickerson draws the reader into the story and sweeps us along with the journey of the characters. We are no longer on our couch, in our comfy chairs, in the doctor’s waiting room. No, we are in the mythical city of Hagenheim with Rapunzel fearing for our safety or struggling with our mixed feelings about a certain knight. Every emotion feels like my own, the danger seems real to me, and the story becomes believable as I am caught up in this well-known fairy tale brought to new life through Dickerson’s craft.

If you enjoy clean Romance in any way, shape, or form, I would strongly recommend these books. Most of them are, again, beloved fairy tales that Dickerson has breathed new life into, taken the mystical and magic out of, and made believable in the real world. Let me give you a taste of what these books represent:

The Healer’s Apprentice ~ Sleeping Beauty

The Fairest Beauty ~ Snow White

The Captive Maiden ~ Cinderella

The Merchant’s Daughter ~ Beauty and the Beast

The Golden Braid ~ Rapunzel

There is an order to these books, but I’ll be honest, I read them out of order and was just fine. But I do recommend reading them in order as there is some small amount of story that ties in to the series that works best if you read them in the order intended.

Happy Reading!!

“Off to War” – Chapter Three, Scene 5

OffToWar_Medium

“Off to War”

Chapter Three

Scene 5

Jacob scrambled for cover as shots rang over his head. The battle had been raging for what seemed like forever. He was surrounded by cannons exploding and men screaming in pain. It was nothing like he had ever imagined. This was the worst kind of horror he could have pictured. He wished he could recall some of his training, but it was all a blank, replaced by images of bloodied soldiers. One by one, he saw his comrades fall. Blue uniforms stained with red littered the ground around him. In the distance, someone shouted commands, but he couldn’t make out anything clearly amidst the muskets firing.

As he moved through the field, he kept low. Bullets whizzed past his head left and right. It was surreal. He was a target in this open field and his eyes searched in the haze created by weapons’ fire to find a safe haven. His drive to survive pushed through the shock until that’s all there was. Survive. Moving almost by instinct, he made his way, stumbling, through the field of bodies. By luck, he came upon a ditch protected by a berm and he ducked into the safety it offered.

Many other soldiers lay in this ditch, fighting from this position. They had crawled up onto the berm on their bellies and were firing into the enemy line. Leaning back against the cool earth that made up the wall of the ditch, he took a few moments to catch his breath. His emotions washed over him. He was alive! And that was all that mattered.

Having survived the first wave and made it to a safe position from which to keep fighting, the thought to remain here throughout the rest of the battle was tempting. But he knew those men on the berm needed him. They counted on him to help them defend their position or else they would all be lost.

After he got a hold of himself and steeled his senses, he climbed out of the ditch and up onto the berm, staying on his stomach lest he create too much of a target. The man to his left nodded as he took position and began firing at the Confederate army. He did his best to aim at targets, as hard as they were to see. On occasion, he saw a glint of steel in the distance or the profile of a soldier running. And he tried his best to hit those targets. It was difficult to tell if he was successful.

That’s when Jacob spotted a dip on the far left flank. The Confederate line had shifted to the right in response to the Union’s first wave offensive. As the minutes of realizing he was alive passed, his confidence began to return. Then he remembered the briefing from his unit’s commander and the mention of flanking the Confederates on that side. It seemed their offensive had started to work, but something had gone wrong.

Jacob cursed himself for not listening more closely and instead assuming his platoon’s sergeant would be here to keep things in order. Then he remembered the plan of attack.

“The left unit. Hey! Where is the left unit? Aren’t they supposed to be moving in on the second wave?” he shouted to the others crouched with him behind the berm.

They looked at each other, more confused than he.

“I think they got pinned down back there,” one soldier responded, his thumb pointed behind them.

“What’s your name again?” Jacob asked.

“Daniel.” His voice broke for just a second.

“The Confederates have responded to the first wave and are moving to the right. It is up to us to move in to that dip over there and flank them from the left.” Jacob pointed to the weak spot in the enemy’s line.

Daniel nodded, probably ready to take orders from anybody. Jacob had a renewed sense of purpose, thinking that his ability to run fast might just pay off.

“We’ll split in half. Daniel, me, and you,” he said, tapping the soldier to his right. “We’ll make a fast run for that spot while you continue to cover us. When we get there and start shooting, the rest of you will follow. That may hold back the Confederates just enough for the rest of our unit to catch up and take ’em!”

The rest of his new war brothers nodded in quick agreement.

“I’m Steven,” the soldier he had tapped said, his voice shaking.

Jacob shook hands with him. He and his small crew loaded their Springfield muskets and gathered up to the left edge of the berm. With a quick visual signal to the others, they broke out in a fast run. Jacob’s legs flew. It was as if he rode the wind. Jacob soon noticed how far their target truly was. Could they make it? I’ve made it this far, we are going to get there!

Loud artillery fire boomed. It was deafening as it hit a spot they had just passed. The shock knocked him to the ground. Daniel and Steven were just as startled. They both looked to Jacob. Their courage and morale hinging on his own, he dragged himself to his feet and continued, as fast as he could. His comrades were close behind. As they ran across the fury of the battlefield, they wove around fallen soldiers. It was a bit much for Jacob, but he somehow held it together and kept moving.

How far is that dip in the line? How long does it take to get there? It seemed like an eternity. A moment later, he saw it! Jacob had pulled out well ahead of the others when a piece of shrapnel ripped through his jacket. Falling to the ground, his eyes feverishly sought out the direction it came from. Here he was, sprinting like it was a race, forgetting that they were fighting for their lives. Steven and Daniel caught up to him with wide eyes. Looking at the spot where he had been grazed by a ball, he felt a sting of pain. And he saw a torn part of his uniform near his shoulder, but then realized it hadn’t penetrated anything. Instead it had just missed him. While it left him a noticeable mark, it hadn’t entered his shoulder.

Jacob picked up his musket and started running again, at last diving into the dip in the line. Steven and Daniel had closed the gap enough to jump in right behind him. They raised their weapons, looking for targets. One enemy soldier looked in their direction. Was that the man who almost hit him? Before he could react, Daniel fired, and the man fell. Another Confederate moved up from behind the fallen soldier, and Steven took him out.

Jacob was shocked into action, eyeing his men as they hastily reloaded. Picking up his Springfield, he trained his sights on another Confederate rushing in. His fingers twitched, almost as if he couldn’t decide whether to accept the fate of killing another man. Everything had been surreal. Marching, inspections, field stripping, rations. Almost like a dream. But now it was real. This was what war was about: killing another man. In the instant it took him to trace his thoughts, he understood one thing: if he waited, he or one of his war buddies would be dead, so he pulled the trigger. He started to reload his weapon, when he felt the shakes and couldn’t keep it down anymore, vomiting on the ground.

“First kill?” Daniel asked.

“Yeah,” Jacob said, wiping his face with his sleeve. His legs were weak.

“I did the same.”

With that, Jacob crossed a threshold he never knew existed. His father had told him he looked like a real man. Those words echoed true. Jacob didn’t get lost in thought though. This plan would be a complete failure unless they provided enough cover for the rest of his unit to take this position. Having dropped three soldiers, there weren’t any more nearby. Most of the Confederate unit was much further down the line and just didn’t know they were about to be flanked. Filled with excitement, Jacob was about to tell Steven and Daniel to finish loading their Springfields when he noticed they were way ahead of him. Time to give the signal for the rest of his unit to join them and hold this position.

Jacob stood, more than he liked, but knew the men behind the berm would be looking for a signal. He took off his hat and waved, calling back to them. They were not quite visible, but as they grouped together on the left side, he could tell they had gotten his signal. Reaching over and grabbing his weapon, he put his hat back on.

The sound of more artillery firing in the distance shook him. Was it closer or further away? As he slid into the dip, seeking better cover, the crack of a rifle was followed by a hot, piercing pain in his left leg. Looking down, a lot of blood covered his leg. Stunned, his gaze shifted to take in his surroundings. The man he had hit earlier wasn’t dead, but had gotten in a final shot with his loaded weapon. Jacob let out a loud cry while Steven attacked the man with his bayonet. Then things started to swirl. Jacob’s vision blurred. As if everything was in a daze. Daniel came to his side, applying pressure to his leg. As he started to fade out, he kept looking back, wondering if the rest of his unit had caught up to them. And then, nothing.

How I Cured My 13-day-long Migraine

cured my 13-day-long migraine

Sorry I’ve been off the grid for a while. And I have something to share about that. The reason I was so out of touch for so long is that I had a MIGRAINE. For 13 days. That’s not only ridiculous, it’s pretty crazy. And my doctor did everything absolutely everything he could do to cure it, but to no avail. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…

migrainedogChronic Migraine Sufferer. First, you should know about me that I am a chronic migraine sufferer. That means, that without any medicinal intervention, I was having more than 3 migraines per week. Introduce Topamax. This is a prophylactic medication that I take daily to prevent migraines. I also have “rescue pills” for the occasional “breakthrough” migraine (or migraine I have despite the face that I’m on Topamax). I have been on several “rescue pills”, tried many in several categories and the one I’m on now doesn’t really work. But if I have the random intense migraine, I can go into the clinic, get the shot cocktail, go home, sleep, and be fine when I wake up…usually.

pillsSomething Different. This time, I went to the clinic and got my shots. Okay. I’m going to be fine. Woke up with the same headache. What? Went back to the clinic. They increased my Topamax dose, gave me another round of shots, and sent me on my merry way. Surely that will work. Nope. I waited, in pain, a few more days. Had a conference with my doctor over the phone. He wanted a CT scan. CT scan came back normal except for a sinus infection on the left side (Migraine is on the right side), probably not the cause. So, antibiotic, another prophylactic to work with Topamax, and another round of shots…yay! But I’ll be good to go now, right? Only…not so much.

Could There Be More To It? I visited my counselor and we talked about the spiritual and emotional underlying issues that can contribute to and even cause migraines. All right. We work through a lot of junk. I actually feel better. A lot better. Next day, migraine is back. I have a different type of therapy session (splankna) with my friend. God is dealing with a grief issue. It helps some. Obviously, there is more to this issue than simply physical. And I know several of my friends are praying for me at this point. But my friend says something interesting to me at this therapy session…that I should get an essential oil scan done. Mind you, I am ready to try anything. I mean, most people truly cannot imagine being in pretty intense pain fairly constantly for 13 days straight.

essential oil leafThe Essential Oils. I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic when it comes to Essential Oils. I do believe in their aromatherapeutic value. Always have. But, as I’ve been dipping my toes in the waters of knowledge of oils, I have been impressed with what they can do. They have silenced a stomach bug in me twice now. Eased my symptoms through a cold/sinus infection, among other things. And I had been using Young Livings PANAWAY, applying it and diffusing it to assist with the headache symptoms. And it was taking the edge off the pain, but not much more. But I figured I didn’t have anything to lose, so I did have the scan done and was not at all surprised with the kinds of oils that showed up I needed. Interested in a “that’s weird that that thing knew what I needed” kind of thing, but not at all shocked.

mgrainThe Cure. The doctor, in the meantime, put me on yet another “rescue pill” which did not work. And the oil I walked away from the oil scan with (M-GRAIN) was not taking care of the headache either. I was just ready to consign myself to perpetual pain. But when I notified the wonderful lady who did my scan, she recommended an oil regiment using THIEVES, PANAWAY, and M-GRAIN. I did it and the headache started to dissipate. I couldn’t believe it. She had told me to do the regiment three times, once every 10 minutes. The second round, more dissipation. By the third round, it was gone. And it didn’t come back.

I was BLOWN AWAY. Incredible is not quite adequate to describe it. The doctors with their powerful drugs had not been able to do what simple canisters of plant oil in the right combination could accomplish. Narcotic free! Now, I don’t blame you if you are still skeptical. I understand. But, as for me, I’m a believer.