Ode to the Simple Life: An Invitation

Hi everyone! I hope that all of you are having a wonderful Christmas week! I just wanted to write and invite you to stop by my new blog. 

Ode to the Simple Life is a blog intended to inspire and encourage others to live life outside the box. We hope that telling our story will help others get ideas for living a simple, wonderful life. What you are about to read is the story of our journey to a more simple way of living. We are trying to escape the chains of debt, one bill, one remodel, and one home at a time. Won't you join us?
Be sure to check out the Our Story page for more details.

Thanks so much for all of your support.

Many blessings, my friends!

The Mask of the Belle

The Mask of the Belle
By: Vanessa K. Eccles
© 2011
          That is when I saw it, sitting inexplicitly on the third step. I was keenly aware that I had seen it before, and that the memory, though almost forgotten, had been important, pivotal actually. The silver sequins gleamed in the dull light. The bright, royal blue paint was unscratched. I stared; trying to place the time when I had once saw this thing before, the time when I had once worn it. That déjà vu moment faded into a faint memory from my childhood.


            I was eight. The Christmas lights in October stood out to me as odd. Mom had spent hours decorating our back patio into a masquerade paradise, adorning every cranny with white lights. On our brand new patio table, she layered wine glasses into a small tower. Sparkling Champagne sat tauntingly on the table before me, eye height. Anything that sparkles is like chocolate to a child.


          I watched my mom put on her make up while she sat on a red velvet stool in front of her antique vanity. She looked excited, happy. Her mask lay on the bed. We had spent a couple of hours the night before with supplies sprawled out in front of us on the floor making the perfect mask for each of us. Mine was blue; hers was red. She had feathers; I had sequins. Mine matched my dress and hers hers. She painted her lips a dark red that made them shine in the light. I sat on the bed and picked up her mask to hand to her when she was done.

          “Mom?” I asked.

          “Yes, sweetie?”

          “Why are we wearing masks?”

          She bent down and placed her arms around me.

          “Sometimes people like to wear masks to make them feel like someone else. It’s for fun.” She smiled, took her mask, and placed it on her face.

          “How do I look?” she asked.

          “Like someone else.” I smiled.

          She laughed her little laugh and stood in front of the mirror smiling at her reflection.


          I went back to my room and stood in front of my princess mirror and mimicked my mom’s actions. I put on my Barbie lip gloss, my blue dress, and my sparkly mask. I looked at myself in the mirror and tried to smile, but I was instantly annoyed at how I could hardly see anything. The mask was itchy too. I crinkled my nose and pushed the mask up on my head like a headband.


          I sat quietly, curled up on my dad’s recliner in the living room as the guests arrived; each dressed in elegant attire and masks. Mom seemed to know who all of them were, but I was completely confused. I only knew who people were based off the children they brought. A few of the guests had children, of which I had grown to know and despise, with the exception of Tiffany. She was my best friend. As soon as she walked in, I knew that tonight was going to be fun. Tiffany had a pink mask on her face and lace gloves on her hands. She looked like a princess.

          Once all the guests arrived, Mom and Dad made a toast, and the music started. The kids were told we could play in the garden or inside.

          “Put your mask on, Ally,” Mom said as she slid it down my face. “Remember, tonight is for fun. Pretend like you’re someone else.”

          “Who should I be?” I asked curiously.

          She smiled.

          “You’re a princess.”


          Darwin ran loudly about the yard with the other two boys that were there. They played hide-and-go-seek, and after a while of playing with our dolls, Tiffany and I decided to join them.

          “We want to play,” Tiffany said as we approached the boys.

          “No girls allowed!” they screamed in unison.

          “That’s no fair!” She pouted.

          I watched her angry, hurt face. Then I thought of something.

          “We aren’t girls!” I screamed back to them.

          “Then what are you?”

          “We’re princesses,” I sassed.

          They laughed. That was not the response I had expected. Why were they laughing?

          Finally, Darwin said, “Tiffany may be a princess, but you aren’t!” They giggled again.

          “Why aren’t I?” I asked innocently.

          “Princesses are pretty.”

          Darwin and the boys laughed incessantly. Tiffany glared at me with sad eyes. I felt my face burn with anger and tears, and I knew of nothing else to do but run. So I did. I ran out of the yard and into the woods right behind my house. There was a giant oak spreading its huge arms out in the night, and that’s where I fell to my knees. Tears poured down my cheeks. I ripped the stupid blue mask off my face threw it in the dirt. I curled up at the base of the tree and cried for what seemed like forever. I felt my eyes grow tired and droopy, and that is when I saw her.


          It was day.

          She was sitting and reading in a hammock way up the oak tree. She was wearing a long, simple white dress. Her dark hair was loosely braided, and it hung over her right shoulder. She was pretty in a natural sort-of-way.

          There was a small, round tree house perched at the edge of one of the big limbs on the oak tree, almost like a fruit would hang from a fruit tree. I noticed that the tree looked different in the daylight. There were dead vines from the base of the tree up to where she was. Each vine felt coarse and prickly as I ran my fingers across it. The vine was broken in parts, and it looked almost like snakes crawling up.

          Apparently, she could not see me, which was good since I did not know how to approach her anyway. She hummed a sweet song, and I saw her smile when she saw a red bird.

          I watched her for a while until I heard something in the distance. I heard several voices. They were loud and brutish in tone. She heard them too. She let out a long rope ladder that reached to the ground. She climbed down and waited at the base of the tree for the guests.

          She was so close that I could almost touch her, but there was something telling me not to do or say anything. I just felt the need to be quiet. I noticed that a long necklace with a fish emblem hung from her neck. I also noticed that she was probably in her twenties.

          “Can I help you?” she asked as the people approached.

          There were two ladies and one man. He was dressed in a black but rather casual suit and the ladies were dressed in Sunday clothes, all were about her age. They looked like people from my mom’s party because all of them were wearing masquerade masks. The blonde lady wore a black one that had blue tears down one eye. The other lady wore an orange one with feathers that reminded me of flames. The man wore a simple gray mask with nothing else on it.

          “We were wondering if you could help us find Richman?” They looked at her with a strange expression. They looked as if she was the one that was wearing a mask on a normal day.

          “You follow the road that you were on for another half mile, and you’ll be there,” she answered.

          “Thanks.” They turned to leave but hesitated.

          “We’ve heard about you,” the one with the orange mask said. “You’re the girl who never wears a mask.”

          “That’s right,” the tree girl said boldly.

          “Why?” the man asked curiously.

          “Because I have nothing to hide.”

          “We don’t have anything to hide either. These are who we are,” the one with the crying mask said.

          “Well, this is who I am,” my girl answered softly.

          “Do you just want to be different? Do you want to be rejected by society? Why would you choose not to wear a mask like everyone else? They represent who we are as people,” the man pressed for an answer.

          “I don’t care that I’m different. A mask only represents who you want to be as people, not who you are. This is me.”

          They left murmuring something about how strange she was and how strange she looked.


          I spent all day watching her doing everything from brushing her hair to feeding the birds. Her life seemed peaceful. She is a princess.

          At dusk, we heard a horse coming towards the tree house. I sat, huddled up against the tree, while she sat at the window of her house looking out.

          A boy came riding up on a dark brown horse with large white spots. He wore a mask that was silver with white trimming, but he looked to have a handsome face. My tree girl looked at him through her tree house window.

          “Sarah, won’t you come down to speak to me?” he yelled up to her.

          “There is nothing more for me to say. I’ve said everything that I have to say to you, James.”

          She turned her back on the window, and I lost sight of her.

          “I come to tell you that I’m ready to take this mask off for you. I don’t care if we have to live in exile. I don’t care if we will be persecuted for by nearly everyone. I want to marry you, Sarah.”

          I saw the rope ladder be slung out of the house. She climbed down hurriedly; when she nearly reached the ground, he came and scooped her up in his arms. She buried her head in his shoulder and cried.

          “Please don’t cry. I love you for who you are.”

          “I don’t want you to choose a life without a mask because of me. I want you to believe in who you are without it. I want you to believe,” she cried.

          He sat her gently on the ground and tilted her face to him.

          “I believe,” he said and slowly removed his mask.

          An overwhelming sense of joy passed over me, and I clapped in excitement. Then I realized my loudness and ceased. They did not notice. She glared lovingly in his eyes and he in hers.

          I smiled.


          I woke up at the base of the old oak. I could hear my parent’s party music still playing. My face was still moist from the tears. I stood up, dusted the dirt off of my blue dress and walked to where I had thrown the mask. I picked it up and went back to the base of the tree. I dug a small hole in the loose dirt and buried the mask.


“Where did you go?” Tiffany asked when I walked back into the backyard.

          I did not answer. I just walked straight over to Darwin and said, “I am a girl, and I am a princess. You can just get over it!”

          We all played together for the rest of the night.


          As that memory came back to my mind, I understood the meaning of the dream more. I thought back on last night’s events and realized that I had somehow found myself like everyone else. I was wearing a mask trying to impress the “man of my dreams” when really the real man of my dreams loved a princess for who she was.


          I took the mask home with me that day as I went to visit my mom. She laughed when I told her how I remembered that party from way back when.

          Before I left, I went outside and found that same old oak where I had buried that mask beneath long ago. I dug in the same spot and found it. Old, peeling, and falling apart, it lay. I put the new mask next to it and covered them both back up with dirt.

          I stood up and felt the breeze blow across my face. I let my long brown hair down, looked up into the massive arms of the tree, and for the first time, in a long time, there was hope.


          When I got home to my apartment, I walked into my sunlight-filled bathroom, stared at myself in front of the mirror, and realized that without the mask I looked different. I hardly recognized myself. It was like seeing an old friend’s face again that had been locked away in a distant memory.

           I laughed.

Based off the prompt: On the third step, I saw...
Photo from Photl.

Prompt Response: "Shh... Tell Me a Secret."

© Copyright 2011 by Vanessa K. Eccles
Based on the prompt: Tell Me a Secret

“Shh… tell me a secret,” she said with her eyes closed and with her warm breath lingering on the side of my neck.

“I don’t have any secrets,” I answered her and turned to look at her.

I glared at her long, dark lashes as they opened and revealed her bright blue eyes. There was a sort-of darkness about her. Her lips curled at the right corner, causing gentle wrinkles on an otherwise porcelain face. That look; her look, sent chills down my spine as I watched her glide to the seat in front of me. But I knew what she wanted.

“You tell me a secret,” I dared. While my heart raced a thousand beats a second, I focused on keeping my body relaxed, yet firm.

She smiled and raised her eye brow in amusement.

“You are a beast, aren’t you?”

“If a beast is an ordinary woman, then yes.” I sat back further in my chair. I placed my arms confidently on the armrests and struggled to pace my breathing.

“Ordinary? Really? That’s the word you’re going with?” she laughed under her breath.

I let my lungs fill with air. I uncrossed my legs and then crossed them in the opposite direction, while I leaned forward and looked her straight in the eyes.

“Sometimes the ordinary can be terrifying,” I whispered.

Just a quick response/intro to something bigger based off the prompt "Tell me a secret." I'd love to hear what you think so far. :)

Character Haunting

Happy Fall Ya'll! Hoping that the cooler weather has left all of you inspired. I've found that fall and winter are some of the best times to write. There is no longer anything to do outside. It is too cold for the beach, lake, or park, so why not write?

A few weeks ago I read this play called Six Characters In Search of an Author by Pirandello. In the play there are six people who come to a producer and ask him if he'd be their author. One of the characters ask: "Isn't it your job to give life on the stage to imaginary people?" This got me thinking. A piece of paper or a blank document in Word is our stage. We are to create a life for imaginary people. The only problem with imaginary people is that they sometimes seem real to their author, as the play so perfectly points out. The stepdaughter in the play says:
 "It is true, I would go and tempt him, time after time, in his gloomy study just as it was growing dark, when he was sitting quietly in an armchair not even bothering to switch a light on but leaving the shadows to fill the room: the shadows were swarming with us, we had come to tempt him."

Have you ever felt haunted by a character? Have you ever caught your mind exploring characters, scenery, or plot too often? I have felt haunted by every one of my MCs. It's like they are stuck in my mind and are begging to get out. They never really "live" until they are put into words.

The father says: "A character, my dear sir, can always ask a man who he is, because a character really has a life of his own, a life full of his own specific qualities, and because of these he is always "someone." While a man - I'm not speaking about you personally, of course, but man in general - well, he can be an absolute "nobody."

As writers, we have a unique opportunity to create life, to invent a new reality. We need to embrace our imaginations and explore the boundaries of the "someones" we create. We need to dive into the world inside our head and do our best to replicate it with beautiful words on a page or computer screen.

Next time you're tempted by your character to write/ give them life, I challenge you to do it. I challenge myself to do it because just as the play says: "A character never dies."

Happy writing, friends!

Weekly Prompt: "On the third step, I saw..."
Photos from Photl.
"Like" me on Facebook.

Be Inspired: Quotes from Literature

Who says writers can't be inspired by other writers? Of course they can! I am taking several literature classes right now, and I have been inspired by several one-liners that I've found throughout my reading. Sometimes these quotes can open up whole new worlds inside of our minds that can be moulded into a wonderful, new pieces of literature. I hope you enjoy.

- "One truth is clear, Whatever Is, Is Right." - Alexander Pope, "An Essay On Man"

-"...we must cultivate our own garden." -Voltaire, Candide

-"One might say that my heart and my mind do not belong to the same person." - Rousseau, Confessions: Book III

-"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting." - William Wordsworth, "Ode on Intimations of Immortality"

-"Beauty is truth, truth beauty." - John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

-"[His] life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible." - Leo Tolstoy, "The Death of Ivan Ilyich

-"If I let you kiss my hand, you'll be wanting to kiss my elbow next, and then my shoulder." - Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard

-"A terrible beauty is born." - William Butler Yeats, "Easter 1916"

-"The ceremony of innocence is drowned." - Yeats, "The Second Coming"

-"Or say there is beauty with no soul at all." - Robert Browning, "Bishop Orders His Tomb to St. Praxed's Church"

-"Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold." - Robert Browning, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came"

-"No Coward Soul is Mine" - Emily Bronte

-"Her tree of life drooped from the root" - Christina Rossetti, "Goblin Market"

-"Make the shut eyes of stricken spirits weep." - Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Ave Atque Vale"

-"My enemy is Madness"- Eugene Lee-Hamilton, "The New Medusa"

-"May He within Himself make pure." - Alfred Lord Tennyson, "The Epic/ Morte d' Arthur"

-"The wild unrest that lives in woe." - Alfred Lord Tennyson, "In Memoriam"

Hopefully these quotes have left you inspired. Happy writing, my friends! :)

New Orleans!

As promised, these are a few pictures that I took while I was at the PCAS Conference in New Orleans. Everything went well, and we had a wonderful time!

The Tennessee Williams House

In the words of Yeats, "a terrible beauty." Most of New Orleans was terribly beautiful.

The Oak Alley Plantation. These are 300 yr. old oaks. In a word: amazing.

This is the place where William Faulkner wrote his first novel Soldier's Pay. It was amazing to see where he lived. Of course, I had to buy the book. Oh, what a weakness I have. :)

[Sarah, me, and Jennifer]
That's us all dresses up for the PCAS Conference.

PCAS Conference in New Orleans: Pop Culture Association in the South

Riverwalk at the Hilton

This year I will have the privilege of attending the PCAS Conference in New Orleans. I will be presenting a paper that I wrote entitled "Falstaff and the Seven Deadly Sins" (for those of you who know Shakespeare). I am very excited and nervous because speaking in public has never been a fuerte of mine. Luckily, there are a couple other friends that are speaking as well which makes me feel a bit better.

But isn't this what it's all about? Going out there, getting your voice heard, and letting your writing speak for itself? Yes, my paper is an academic writing, not creative, but it is my writing. I plan on continuing to throw myself, head first, into anything that may expand myself and my writing.

Failure is never trying at all, and my motto has always been, "Failure is not an option." If you are on the query-go-round, or you have a chance to present your writing in any way - do it again and again! Don't let fear stifle your dreams. Take advantage of every opportunity. Embrace the curve balls. Life is truly beautiful if you live it without fear.

I will update everyone on how the conference went in a few weeks. I also promise photos. :)

Until then,



 -Picture from the PCAS Website.


My birthday was earlier this month, and  it has been one of the best birthdays ever. I am blessed to have great friends and family that encourage me to tackle my dreams.

My dear friend, Jessica, got me a book signed by one of my favorite authors, with an inscription that said, "Persist." As a writer, I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. My other friend from Texas, Laura, send me a book on how to write a Christian Romance. I cannot wait to dive into that one. I am really inspired by these friends and many others who have went out of their way to encourage my dreams of writing.

I believe that encouragement is a priceless gift, and I am more than thankful.

I'd like to take this time to encourage every writer out there: PERSIST!

Encouragement- Pass it on. :)

Contest Winner And Other Thanks

Drum Roll Please... And the Winner is... *cough*... *awkward silence*...


Many thanks to everyone who entered the contest. Sarah won my personal copy of One Day. The movie comes out tomorrow.

Also, I'd like to thank everyone who participated the the Finish The Story writing exercise that I hosted a few weeks ago. Here's what the story ended up being:

I looked down at my license - Carol Lyn White. That's not me anymore. I looked up and saw a large white crane swooping across the lake. It looked to be the epitome of grace. I glanced down at muddy water, slipped off my Christian Louboutin heels, threw my wallet as hard as I could, and placed my feet in the lake. The sun hung low among the horizon; darkness was near. I slowly stepped further into the vast water until the edge of my dress embraced the wet. I took a deep breath and immersed my body with the warmth of the lake. I stood up and brushed my hair back out of my face. My dress clung to me like a glove. As the sun faded, I walked out of the water. I took one last look back. Carol Lyn White drowned. Now I'm Vivian Crane.

I went back home and burned all the things that reminded me of Carol, it's over now. I took my car keys and drove away.

I drove non-stop for hours and hours, now sleep is creeping upon me and hunger pains are invading my stomach. Only four miles until i reach the next rest spot and 12 miles til the next motel.

Exhausted and on edge,I drive on to the motel. It had definitely seen better days, like maybe half a century ago.

Thanks to Franny, Sidne, and Blue Shedevil for your participation!


Enter For Your Chance to Win A Copy of One Day

This is the first contest that I've ever had on my blog, so I am really excited! I am also excited about the movie One Day, which will be in theatres August 19th. I've read the book, and I must admit that it brought more than a few tears.

I'm giving away my personal copy of One Day. No dog-ears, I promise. ;) I thought it would be fun to get it out there in time for someone to read it before going to see the movie. Trust me, it's a quick read. You'll enjoy it.

I thought at first that it wouldn't be for me because of the reckless lifestyle one of the characters has, but in the end it shows how life has a way of beating the reckless out and filling us with the truth and meaning behind everything and everyone.

The winner will be sent an e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Contest ends August 17th. This contest is for US residents only, due to shipping prices.

To Enter, Click HERE.

How to Create the Greatest Character You've Always Known

I can't even count the times that I heard "write what you know" in my creative writing class. As much as I do not like that saying (mostly because my life is too boring to write about), it hit me that I'm not boring. I thought that it might be fun to take aspects of myself to create a character.

Here is a few questions to ask yourself if you want to create the greatest character you've always known.

1.) What are three words that describe you?
      Ex: Classy, Smart, Introvert

2.) What are two of your favorite qualities about yourself?
      Ex: Kind, Generous

3.) What are two of your favorite flaws?
      Ex: A tendency of being sassy and being brutally honest

4.) What are two of your favorite physical aspects?
      Ex: Eyes and curly hair

5.) Write three things that your pride yourself on being?
      Ex: Deep thinker, Open-minded to a point, and Analyze everything

6.) What are some of your catchy phrases that you use?
      Ex: Patience is a virtue that I don't have. There are three sides to every story- your side, my side, and
           the truth.

7.) What is your favorite perfume- what you always smell like?
      Ex: Curious

8.) What era would best describe your personality?
      Ex: 1920s

9.) Would you consider yourself a free-spirit or old-soul?

10.) Write a detailed paragraph using the answers to these questions. Be sure to describe what you would look like (your ideal self) using clothing that you would really wear and focusing on your favorite attributes. Also add a description of your personality using what is great about yourself and your flaws. Remember that for any character to be real, it has to have flaws. Luckily some flaws are charming. :)

If you have ideas for more questions, please leave them in the comment box. I'd love to read them.

Have fun!

Add Two and Share Some You: Finish the Story

Grab a chair, get a cup of Joe, warm up those fingers. We've got work to do!

This is a writing exercise that I've been wanting to do for a while. Here's the rules. Below is the beginning of a story. Add two sentences to the last comment posted. You may comment more than once but not consecutively. Write whatever you want - give it some "you" flare. :)

I looked down at my license - Carol Lyn White. That's not me anymore. I looked up and saw a large white crane swooping across the lake. It looked to be the epitome of grace. I glanced down at muddy water, slipped off my Christian Louboutin heels, threw my wallet as hard as I could, and placed my feet in the lake. The sun hung low among the horizon; darkness was near. I slowly stepped further into the vast water until the edge of my dress embraced the wet. I took a deep breath and immersed my body with the warmth of the lake. I stood up and brushed my hair back out of my face. My dress clung to me like a glove. As the sun faded, I walked out of the water. I took one last look back. Carol Lyn White drowned. Now I'm Vivian Crane.

Please leave a link to your blog. I will post the final story in a separate posting on my blog, along with each of your names and links to your blogs so others can follow.

I can't wait to see what happens next. Thanks for your participation and have fun! :)

Write It and It Shall Live

I receive daily devotionals via e-mail from Dr. David Jeremiah which gets my day started off right. Today's topic is one that all writers can relate to.

He quoted: "In a popular Tom Clancy novel, one of the characters continually jotted notes in a small notebook. "You have to get used to me," she said apologetically. "Whenever I have an idea, I write it down right away." It isn't safe, she explained, to entrust important matters to memory alone, adding, "If you don't write it down, then it never happened."

I don't know about you, but I have a little notebook that I keep my ideas for future pieces in. I normally take it wherever I go, so I can totally relate to the character here.

In a writer's world...

Words become living when we write them. They outlive our lives. They morph into purpose for readers. They form a world that people want to escape to. They teach morals, offer lessons, reap drama, and conjure tears. Our words live a life of their own. After each key is pressed, each sentence is completed, and after every "the end" - our story takes on life. It begins to live and breath in a world that is far larger than the one we as writers live.

We are each entrusted with a story, one that (if you're like me) we can't wait to get out. Each character screams at us until what they wanted to say is on paper. It really makes me wonder.

Is the reason why we feel guilty when we don't write because - "if I don't write it down, it never happened?"

Are we committing murder to the characters we possess if we never tell their story?

Character Confusion: The Boundary Between You and Your Character

As you all know, I have been working hard on my second novel. I've found that it is more difficult to reach the end of this book than it was with my first one. I'm having a bit of a dilemma that I'm hoping for some advice on.

I've been told who knows how many times in my literature classes that just because as author writes it, doesn't mean that's their personal opinion. I've been able to look past that judgement when reading, but I wonder... what about mainstream readers? Are they always associating fictitious characters, plots, ideas with their writer? Or, do most people take it for what it is - fiction.

This is why it's a bit of a problem for me. My character, Sophie, is nothing like me. She's loud, promiscuous, and gets into more trouble than she knew existed. Also, the novel is a paranormal romance. I'm writing about a little of what I believe to be true and a lot of just "for fun" details. There is good moral and ending to the novel, but that's just it - it's the ending. I just don't want every reader to think that I believe everything that I put in my book.

So, here's where I need your help:

As a reader, as a writer - do you associate ideas/characters in a novel to the writer? 

The Writer's Block: My Forum for Writers

Hello all!

I just opened up a forum on my blog for writers. I am super exctied to see what everyone has to say. I thought this would be a great way to help encourage and support one another in the literary process. The forum is geared mainly for writers, but readers are welcome too. 

You can post:
-About Query Process
-About Favorite Books
-About Writing Contests
-About E-books vs. Traditional Publishing
-About Vanity Publishing

These are just a few ideas. Have fun with it!

And Welcome to the Writer's Block!

"Curiouser and Curiouser," Alice says to the white rabbit.

Quick Post: First of all, I hope all of you are having a wonderful and blessed 4th of July weekend. It's been a fun time here with eating, swimming with the gators, and getting little to nothing accomplished. Gotta love those kinds of weekends, right? :)

Anywho - I am totally a fan of Alice in Wonderland. The quote in the title really got me thinking today how our words (as writers) can really stick with people. We need to take thought into creating these sort of "catch phrases." Why? Phrases remind readers of the mind set they were in when reading your work. Of course, it's easier to remember phrases when we hear them in movies. That's only more reason to make ours stronger, more gripping.

I'm reading a book right now by Karen Kingsbury, and I've noticed that she knows what she's doing with readers. She ends every chapter with a phrase that makes me want to keep reading.

We all try to captivate our audiences with words. We are word wizards in search for the perfect phrase that will entice our readers enough to keep reading. And not only keep reading but love it while they do it.

So here's my challenge to you... fellow writer, reader, or friend... Give it your best shot. What's the best one-liner you can come up with right now- this minute. Have fun with it; sell me on your story, character, or idea. Make me want to turn the next page.

Make me curiouser and curiouser. :)

Chapter Excerpt from My Novel

I am excited to share with my readers a short chapter in my book Realm of Desire. I've decided to leave it unedited - with all the original scrapes and dents, which only add character, right? I wanted to give readers a glimpse of Sophie in her rawest form- a torn woman in every sense of the word. Leave comments if you like. I'd love to read them. Oh, I almost forgot... Enjoy! :)

Chapter 21
(C) Copyright 2011 by Vanessa K. Eccles

After dinner, Trevor sat in front of the T.V. completely fixated on whatever comic crap was on. It’s amazing to me how people are so oblivious to life because they spend so much time trying to avoid it by filling their heads with meaninglessness.

I wandered into my bedroom, thinking of my mom. I just couldn’t believe that I was going to see her again. Why had I not ever saw that as a possibility before? I’ve seen Lily and countless other dead people. Why not her?

There was a sense of guilt for not having thought of her in so long.

I walked to my closet. I pushed back all of my clothes until I reached the very edge wall. There hung my mom’s favorite dress and a few other things of hers. The social worker had only sent me the things that I requested, things that I thought that I would spend a lot of time clinging to. The truth is, I hadn’t so much as looked at this dress in years. I pulled it out of the closet. I held it to my nose and inhaled the scent. Her scent. The scent of knock-off Chanel perfume and Suave body wash. How could it still smell like her after all this time? Tears filled my eyes. I put the hanger around my head and lay the dress in front of me. I looked in the mirror, and as the dress covered the front of me, I swayed from side to side remembering how she had danced around the kitchen in this dress the one time that I could remember getting an A in class. Oh, how I regret being such a bad daughter to her.

I lay the dress down on the bed, and I walked over to where I kept her urn. I reached down to pick it up and a cold chill came over me. Chill bumps lined my limbs. I lifted it to my stomach and clung to it as I did on the long ride to Alabama. This was my mother; this is what a hug from her feels like now.

To read the rest of the chapter click here.

How to Create Your Own Chapbook

As promised, I decided to do my very best to write a "how-to" guide to creating your very own chapbook.

So, here's my disclaimer:

I've only done this once, but I printed several copies. Yep, and I have to admit that it was the biggest nightmare ever. But I was pleasantly surprised with the results.

Here's mine:

I made this one for my Creative Writing class last semester. I chose to do the simple black and white look (mostly because I only keep black ink in my printer). lol These make great mini-books to give away to friends and family or sell them for a few bucks a piece.

What to include on the front page:
1.) Title
2.) Sub-title (optional but it looks more professional)
3.) A graphic design of some sort
4.) Author's name (do not put "written by")

What to include on the inside:
1.) Table of Contents
2.) Dedication (optional)
3.) Several pages of your work (make sure it's even numbered)
4.) About the Author page (include photo and short bio)
5.) Page numbers

Don't forget to add something to the back of the book. You know; you're hallmark. :)

Okay. Here's what I found worked best. I created a template. I laid the appropriate amount of sheets of paper, folded them in half, and numbered every page. (This means that there is two numbers on the front and back of every piece of paper.) The tricky part is figuring out how to place the work so that it reads from one page to the next. Use Microsoft Word's two column option to start the process. Copy and paste your work in the first column and place the rest of that work (if needed) on the page that you labeled 2. Keep in mind that your work will be split up when you look at print preview. Part of a work will be on one page and the rest may be on another separate sheet. Another thing that I've discovered is that when you start to copy and paste for the pages on the back, reverse them. Be sure to print the front of one page and the back of that page immediately after. Okay, I know super confusing. Here is some additional help: eHow.

A lot of making a chapbook comes through trial and error, unfortunately. Only format and print two pages at a time to make sure that it is working when they are folded. I always print the cover last with a thicker paper/card stock.

Also, when you go to print... turn it to the landscape option. Print the first page and then stop. Turn that page over and print the back of that page.

Making a chapbook is tough to figure out in the beginning, but once you've done a couple, you'll get the swing of things. I hope my feeble attempt at directions helps bring your work to print.

Playing Catch Up!

Hello to all my faithful blog followers... a BIG thanks to y'all for that, by the way. My summer has been flying by and with it so have my summer goals. There have been so many things I wanted to post and talk about, but instead I've been moving across the country. For anyone who has never done that, it is a monumental task.

Anyway, there are a few things that I have been needing to catch up on. I wanted to say a BIG thanks to my friend Pam Asberry for giving me the Stylish Blogger Award. You're the best! ;)

I am suppose to send it to 7 people and tell you 7 interesting things about myself. I've recently done this on previous post, so instead I'm going to tell you 7 projects that I am working on or going to be working on soon.

1.) A book of Inspirational Poetry
2.) My second novel (expecting to be done by end of summer)
3.) A book of my short stories
4.) Re-edit my first novel
5.) Start on a novella (medieval modern)
6.) Do some character analysis with my next few MC's
7.) Start another creative writing class

Now to the fun part - the winners!

1.) Donna
2.) Deborah Lawrenson
3.) Elizabeth
4.) Fairday Morrow
5.) Diana
6.) BookLuvr Mindy
7.) Miss Good on Paper

If you have time, you should really check these wonderful blogs out and leave positive comments. There is much to be said about words of support and encouragement.

Well... I have better be getting back to writing. Got to meet those daily goals...

Next post: The joys (more like the nightmare) of making a Chap Book. :)

Moving Right Along

We found out that we are moving back to Alabama for good. My husband received another job, and we are very excited. We will finally be back home with our friends and family. While this is great news for us, it has really put a damper on my writing. I've been packing, preparing for our house to sell, and planning for where we go next. Things are crazy right now, but we are so blessed. We're moving this weekend. I'm hoping after we get settled that I'll be able to focus the rest of the summer to writing. Even if my plans have fallen a part a little bit, getting to move is more than I could have ever hoped for.

May 14th: Journal Entry

May 14, 2011

Between movies, music, and general occurrences, the circus keeps coming up. I recently watched Water for Elephants, which was awesome by the way, and there is a train nearby that reminds me of some of the characters in the movie. I’m feeling extra inspired by some of these circus folk. They are dynamic and unpredictable, which makes for a good story or in this case – a poem.

It’s a Circus

By: Vanessa K. Eccles

Once upon a dreary land,

There was circus girl.

She was an orphan that could land

On her feet and give a twirl.

She could twist and turn

and flip and spin.

Watching would make stomachs churn,

but she’d do it again and again.

She was petite and white

as a porcelain doll.

Her curls were tight

but soft as they’d fall.

Her eyes gleamed blue.

Her lips were red.

Her dressed glimmered too,

and her arms were graceful as she lead.

She’d guide the beast

from left to right.

The audience had no idea, in the least

what had been her fight.

She related to these wild things

because she was one of their kind.

At night her pearly teeth would turn to fangs,

and often she would find

herself in a room with a stranger

But this time… she was not the one in danger.

© Copyright 2011

Character Development: Let's Play 20 Questions

First off, I just wanted to provide a little update on how the 80 Days of Writing is coming. All is well! It's been fun to sit down and write everyday. I have mostly found myself writing poetry, but I'm hoping to get in a few short stories eventually. It's been nice to focus on writing instead of school.

I thought it would be fun to play 20 questions with our characters. I strongly feel that the more we know our own characters, the more likely it is that we will think like them when we write. These may helpful for your upcoming pieces.

1.) What is their name? [full name: first, middle, last]
2.) How old is he/she? Birth date?
3.) Where did he/she grow up?
4.) What time period do they live?
5.) What do they do for a living?
6.) What age range does the book cover?
7.) Was there any specific event in their past that has helped develop their character?
8.) Who is their closest friend?
9.) What will they face in your story or book?
10.) Married?
11.) Single?
12.) Divorced?
13.) Any children? Names?
14.) What is he/she's goals in life?
15.) Who is their love interest?
16.) What do they look like? [hair, eyes, frame]
17.) What is he/she's character strengths?
18.) What is he/she's character flaws?
19.) What will they overcome in your story or book?
20.) What do they cherish the most? [family, child, love, job]

Hope this list of questions will help you develop your characters a little more. Have fun with it! These could easily turn into a character analysis. Good luck on your summer writing!

Read you later!

Summer Write-A-Thon: 80 Days of Writing

This photo was taken last summer in Texas. That's me with a real dragonfly on my nose (I promise). I have been looking so very forward to my summer this year. I will be leaving beautiful Alabama to go back to Texas.

I have been thinking of what I'm going to do with all my extra time when I get there, and I've decided that I am going to write! I still have a ways to go to finish my second novel, so that is first on the agenda. But second to that, I have been thinking of doing a write-a-thon. I will write something (even if it's just a short poem) everyday for 80 days. I will then compile the pieces and have them published (mostly for myself), but if others are interested, I wouldn't mind selling them (affordably, of course) and donate the earnings to a charity.

I've been feeling so stifled because I have not been able to write like I would like to. It's been a tough past few months, and my schedule never seems to slow down. That's why I'm looking forward to some quiet time back in Texas.

These are my plans for the summer; what are yours?

What is a Poet?

I used the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of poet and developed it with my own thoughts. Here is what I come up with:

What is a Poet?

By: Vanessa K. Eccles

A person with an emphatic sense of wonder
with verses distinguished by unimaginable insight.
A work of utter inspiration.
A seer, sensitive to his/her surroundings.

A poet is one with forcible vision,
the remarkable power of imagination.
Never short in inventing creative worlds.
Never lacks words of expression.

A poet is a scientist
mixing formulas of words.
A person who captures moments
and releases them even more beautiful.

They are truth seekers,
looking for the striking.
They are master photographers,
turning 1,000 words to a line.

They are image producers
with the slash of a pen.
They are thought provoking,
keeping readers at wonder.

Can a poet be created?
With practice be invented?
They have an extraordinary eye,
one that sees the soul.
Poets are born.

A poet is a bird
with an unusual song.
You want to listen
and sing a long.

(C) Copyright 2011

My Indulgent Escape in Words

Wow! When I feel that I cannot get any more stressed, I always find out that I'm wrong. My professor told us today that we will have a speaking engagement on Wednesday night at a local trendy restaurant. I suppose that it will be sort of like a poetry slam. He's giving us two days to prepare. Thanks for the heads up [insert hint of sarcasm here].

The stress is mounting. I am having a really hard time keeping everything together these past two weeks. My life is going in every direction, and I'm finding it hard to keep up. My 15 credit hour schedule at school is slowly killing me. I have over-extended myself, and the only way to release my frustrations is through written words. It reminds me of that Babyface song (showing my age here) "Nobody knows it but me." But there is one other that knows; it's my notebook. The place where I spill my words and tears, sometimes.

Have you ever felt like no one could possibly understand you better than your pen and paper? I think all  writers feel this way at times.

I guess my question is - Is writing a form of escapism?

Do we, as writers, tend to use our forms of expression as ways to escape from the often times painful worlds that we live in? Most people rely on video games, music, or television to escape, but we rely on our over-indulgence of words. When I get bored or upset with my own life, I simply dive into Lizzie's or Sophie's life (the MCs in my novels). I can't get away fast enough, and I find myself thinking about them when I know that I should be thinking of other things.

 It's an interesting thing- the mind of a writer. There are always multiple worlds in our minds, and it's not hard for us to escape into them. Does this then blur the lines of reality for us? Okay, now I'm getting deep. I shall save that conversation for a later date.

Anyway, when you are down and out, do you turn to ice-cream and television or a beautiful white piece of paper (screen)? Maybe this is a good way to tell how serious your writing obsession has become. I know my answer, what's yours?