“This is interesting.”

Some years ago, I was 11 years old and attending the Illinois Young Authors Conference. After the opening Q and A panel the students had the opportunity to get their books signed and speak with the authors.

Leanne Ellis, one of the authors, had interested me particularly during the panel. When answering questions she was lively and warm and imaginative. So I picked up and copy of her book and took it over to be signed.

I trembled with excitement all the way up the signing line, I had only met authors (The people who make magic happen) a couple times before, and I could still hardly believe it.

After a ‘hello’ once I reached the front of the line I said right away “I’m a writer too!”

“Well of course you are!” Leanne said. “This is the young authors conference after all!”

I nodded and then launched into a (rather long winded) explanation of my work in progress at the time. Leanne looked straight at me, and nodded and listened – really listened! – even though I was holding up the line.

During my explanation her daughter came over and tried to ask her a question.

“Hold on a minute.” Leanne said to her daughter, putting up a hand. “This is interesting.”

This. Is. Interesting.

A really truly author thought my story was interesting. She was really listening to, and prioritizing, what I had so say, as if it was really truly important and serious and not just some childish fantasy.

I finished my explanation. She signed my book, and she made some comment about my story, I don’t remember what exactly, something like “that reminds my of so-and-so book. Have you ever read that?” Something that made it clear she had listened and thought about what I had said.
Then she handed me the book back and said.

“It was great to meet you! When you publish that book, let me know.”

I nodded, smiled, and left.

Inside the book she had written “To Millie, a fellow author who is AWESOME! Keep writing!”

The signed book.

Well of course you are!
Hold on a minute, this is interesting.
When you publish that book, let me know.
A fellow author.
Keep writing!

It’s funny how such simple words can make your heart sing.
Someday I hope I can do the same as Leanne Ellis. I can look straight at a child who is bursting with dreams, and listen, really truly listen, and really truly care. And if anyone tries to interrupt, I’ll put up my hand and I’ll say:

“Hold on a minute, this is interesting.”

docendo disco, scribendo cogito,
– Millie Florence

A Lesson Learned

I thought I was going to finish this book.

Ever since I published Lydia Green there’s been a new sort of pressure on me. The month of its publication my book sales quadrupled. I was, of course, over the moon about this. I must have done something right.

But then I had to write again. I HAD to, I felt. My readership was only growing, I HAD to write another book, it HAD to be as good as Lydia Green! What had I done right in Lydia Green? I HAD to do it again.

Do you see my mistake dear Reader?

No self-respecting story wants to be forced out or compared to another book, even if it is by the same author.

Nevertheless, I pushed through. The words came very slowly. Slower than I had ever written them before. I crossed the 50,000-word mark before Christmas. I took a break. I tried to start writing again. I thought I was nearing the end of the first draft and that I would soon be celebrating it. But I realized my mistake.

I was trying to make it too much like Lydia Green, but I couldn’t reclaim the past. The story had never stirred me to any emotion other than frustration. I had no true passion for the vision of what it was to be. I was writing for the sake of publishing, not for writing.

I don’t know why this didn’t happen when I was writing Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen, after all that was right after I had published my first book, Honey Butter, and you would think that would be a similar shock. But I think Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen was just so DIFFERENT from Honey Butter that I couldn’t compare it in even the smallest way. It was twice as long and it was essentially the opposite genre.

So I’m going to learn from my mistakes.  I’m going to start over. I’m going to write a completely different story in a different genre. I’m going to try hard not to put pressure on myself. Not to force it.

I don’t know what it’s going to be about, I don’t know what it’s going to look like or when I’m going to start it.

But I do know that it’s going to be better. It’s going to be real. And I am going to write it because I have something beautiful to say.

And those 50,000 words now cast away? I don’t believe they are wasted. I’ve learned an important lesson from them, and therefore they have moved me forward in my life and my career more than anything else could have done. After all, isn’t that the point of a story? To impact people? To teach them a Truth? This story has certainly done that for me, and I am stronger and better because of it.

docendo disco, scribendo cogito,
– Millie Florence

Honey Butter on Audio

✨HONEY BUTTER IS AVAILABLE ON AUDIOBOOK! ✨

It releases on December 2nd, just in time for Christmas! Available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes. Click this link to preorder!

And in the meantime… How about a sneak peek at the first chapter…?

What is it like to record an audiobook?✨🌻

  1. If you do not have water with you, your throat will die.
  2. When the characters are shouting you can’t actually shout or your microphone will die. You have to speak loudly and put the emotion into emphasis rather than volume.
  3. No. Keeping character voices consistent is not easy. I cannot tell you how many times I have to restart a passage after accidentally using Jamie’s voice when Erica was speaking.
  4. You can’t move or background noise will invade your audio with its weapons of destruction. ⚔️ I usually move a lot when I talk, so this was hard.
  5. You have to record a few passages at a time, one-page max, then save the audio and start on the next one.
  6. You may cry and have to start over sometimes. Wait, just me? Okay than.😉For every person who has told me Honey Butter made them cry, I have probably cried twenty times over it. I’m never going to get over this book.😭

docendo disco, scribendo cogito,
– Millie Florence

The two Paintings of the Santa Maria delle Grazie

Milan, Italy

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

The cobblestone Piazza in front of the famous church buzzed with small clusters of tourists and a singular postcard seller. The air was brisk, the jacket of my five-year-old sister flapping as she twirled; impatient, filled with boundless energy. The great bricked arches of the church soared above us. The church Santa Maria Delle Grazie; Holy Mary of Grace.

Our tickets carried us through quiet corridors inside, windows peering out into the gardens beyond until at last the automated doors deposited us into a long dark room with a vaulted ceiling. Lingerings of paint whispered over the walls, echos of further work, once great, now gone to the call of time.

The air was hushed as footsteps turn away to the right side of the room, drawn to the painting on the far wall like pins to a magnet. You need not read the plaque below it to know its name.

The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci, covered the entire wall from end to end. The illusion of its angles seeming to extend the room into an even longer hall, ending with a trio of windows looking out over a hillside. Soft shades warmed the faces of the almost life-size people, their expressions ranging from distraught and confused to angry and accusing. It was the moment when Jesus revealed to the disciples that one of them would betray him, reimaged by Leonardo, captured with lifelike grace in careful brushstrokes of fresco paint.

Such fame, such talent, such lovely art portrayed before the silently awed crowd below.

But turn away, turn away if you can, from the household name that finds itself in history books, textbooks, novels, and essays beyond what it’s painter had ever imagined.

Down the long, dim hall of Santa Maria Delle Grazie, far on the other end, you will find another work of art.

There is no crowd flashing cell-phone cameras clustered below this painting, resting a mere hundred feet away from its companion.

I see only one person paused before it as I approach. They study it for a moment, glance at the plaque, and then turn away, leaving me the solitary onlooker.

Crucifixion, painted by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano in fresco, the plaque reads.

While the last supper gives off an air of simplicity, Crucifixion is crowded with the figures of many people. Horses, soldiers, men, and women. They seem a confused sea about the base of the three crosses that rise above the scene. The cross in the middle of the scene holds Jesus, going through the event he foretold in the painting on the opposite wall. From his figure, one’s gaze is drawn downwards, to where Mary kneels at the base of the cross, her arms wrapped around it.

It’s strange that this painting is so much lesser known than the Last Supper; it is just as impressive. Outside of this, however, the Last Supper only tells half the story that this hall portrays. Two different moments from the fulfillment of God’s plan, two different paragraphs from the same chapter of history.

Indeed, although they were both painted by different artists, I wonder if they were not meant to be one piece of art. You can still see, after all, the relics of paint on the walls and ceiling of this hall, that likely connected the two paintings at one time.

Two paintings, in the same place, the same size, painted in the same medium, each focusing on the same man.

Yet one is world-famous, and the other many people likely never hear of until they are standing in the room with it. I wonder what Leonardo and Giovanni Donato would think of it.

The success of art, it seems, is not something that can always be apprehended or controlled.

docendo disco, scribendo cogito,
– Millie Florence

Deleted Scene from Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen – Memories and Rain

I wrote this scene in the first draft, mostly, I recall, to reach my word count for the day. It ended up being a lovely beautiful scene that gave you a deeper look into life in Mulberry Glen, but it didn’t add much to the story as a whole and conflicted in some ways with Lydia’s character arc at that point, so I cut it later in the writing process. However, I thought that some of my readers might enjoy a look into some of what Lydia Green was before the final version.

This scene was meant to be placed right after Lydia’s second visit to Terra’s cottage. Note that in the earliest drafts Terra’s name was Pina, so that’s who Lydia is referring to in this scene. The scene is also very raw, and almost word for word what I first wrote, as a result, there are probably some typos.

Explanations aside though; enjoy!

BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD

Lydia stood in the entrance to the lone tower, wind sweeping her hair and cloak about, flying through the air. If she had needed to talk to someone, she would have had to raise her voice to be heard, but luckily there was no one with whom she would need to attempt a conversation anywhere nearby, and she could hear her thoughts perfectly well.

Lydia had needed some time to herself, to think about what Pina had said, and about the harvest festival, the next day when she could meet with the ranger to had met with the Zs
so she had taken a detour from the road back to Miss Castra’s cottage up the side of the valley wall to the lone tower. The quiet solemn stone rising against the pale sky. Back in Mulberry Glen time to herself had been bountiful, but now every spare moment seemed to be filled, and every moment that wasn’t she spent worrying about what would come next.

Lydia stood with one hand caressing the stone archway, worn smooth by time. The tower seemed a great sturdy friend, silent, tall, unspeaking. Only there for her to lean upon. Stretching out below her was the valley itself. The colorful leaves of the treetops simmering in the wind like a pot of mallow tea. Here and there houses and clearings and pavilions doting the swathes of natural color that bathed the valley with brilliance.

Lydia let her head slid to one side and lean upon the empty stone doorway, the hollow sweeping of the wind inside carrying a mournful tune.

Darkness chased her thoughts like the wind chased the leaves.

Omnis Res Mundi, Tenebrae, the Zs, Livy, Pit, and Garder, they all floated in and out of her thoughts.

Lydia closed her eyes and in her memory, she saw snowflakes.

Her hands were clod and her cheeks were red and the wind was blowing as now. Snow fell thick and fast like when Livy dusted pies with sugar. She was in the middle of a laugh, cold and rosy and filled with joy.

A ball of snow pummeled into her from behind, and she whirled on her feet to see the Zs swooping from tree to tree like acrobats and diving into white piles of cold fluff. Laughing all the while.

“Watch out! You’re no match for us!” Yelled Livy. He was standing next to her, packing another snowball.

“Are you quite sure about that?” She asked him, still laughing. “I don’t think we can swing from trees like that.”

“Oh hush!” She gave her a playful shove in a snowdrift.

“Now you had better watch out!” She said, flinging a handful of snow at him.

“Everyone for themselves!” Zale shrieked and pushed Zamilla out of her tree.

“Excuse me.” Garder voice came from the doorway. “Livy, I do believe that your pie is the precise shade of brown you asked me to keep watch for. So I’m taking it out, if you do not wish to come in, at least I beg you not to let your snow clumps bang against the window.”

A small smiling figure appeared above his head, shaking her own good-naturedly.

“In other words.” Called Pit “The pie is ready!”

“Everyone for themselves!” Zale shrieked, and all of them flew to the door in a fluttery of laughter and snow and the smell of mincemeat pie.

The memory melted slowly away from Lydia’s senses, leaving barely it’s sweetness lingering on her tongue, and dancing in her ears and eyes like distorted specks of starlight. She opened her eyes, back in the present world, looking over the windswept valley, gray clouds clustering overhead, her hair whipping about her face. Her heart ached, and she let it go on so. She missed Pit’s soft touch on her head and the Zs laughing shrieks and merry faces. She missed Livy’s good-natured grin and teasing eyes, not to mention his cooking. And she missed Garder and the stories he would launch into after a bit of pleading, and his ironically funny responses to the Zs behavior. The even the Glen itself she missed, from her sun, warmed patches of herbs that she knew like that back of her hand to that one twisted tree that she had found only recently and had never truly had time to explore yet.

But yet still she could not return until her journey was completed.

The stone around her was becoming spotted with little dark blots; rain. She looked up and watched the tiny drops hurtling down.

It came, the rain came, brought along by the breeze. A soft rain, a silky breeze. It tickled and kissed the leaves of the trees far below. It laughed on the rocks of the tower, it giggled in the grass. It sang and danced on Lydia’s head, drenching her hair with its song.

What do you think? Was I right to cut it or do you disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

docendo disco, scribendo cogito,
– Millie Florence