through the years

Like a snap of the fingers, another story has closed. Both Merry Little Christmas and the overarching year of 2016. Both were full of ups and downs, and both leave me a little teary-eyed at their departure.


This story. First of all, your comments were the dearest, sweetest flutters of encouragement. Thank you. You made the writing more fun, and I was thrilled to see your words echo my own thoughts toward the story. (Although there were times, I admit, when I'd post a letter and fear that it wasn't up to par. But you all said they were good, and I adored the characters, so in the end, the story brought more smiles than anxious tears.) 

I can say without a doubt that Emily Ann Putzke is by far the best writer to co-author with. Y'all have no idea how many emails were sent during the writing of MLC! The brainstorming was a wild ride, and the writing was even crazier. Everything from ecstasy to despair can be found in those emails, and I swear, I think this little story was harder to write than Ain't We Got Fun. I'm glad Emily was there through it all. We make a good team, Em. I wouldn't want to write fictional letters with anyone else.

Unbeknownst to you, readers, we almost met during the holidays, and we intended to film a vlog together discussing the story. But plans change and things don't always work out, so that did not happen. (It's always the thought that counts, though, right?) All that to say, I wish we had a wonderful ending as with Ain't We Got Fun. Instead, we end with a whispered hint of things to come.

On the first of the new year, we will remove the letters from our blogs. But things will come. In the meantime, hold these characters close to your heart as we do. They will return to you.


I laugh at the memes that groan about how cruel 2016 was to us all. I laugh because there is an ounce of truth resonating in the words. 2016 was a curious year. I ended 2015 by declaring it had been full of change. I roll my eyes at that now. I've never experienced a year full of more unexpected twists and turns than 2016. 

In 2016, God took all of the plans I held tightly in my little fists and whispered, "I have something better." He taught me things while I clung to my idea of a future, and He's teaching me things as He shows me His. While I'm tempted to condemn 2016 like many people are doing, I realize 2016 wasn't the disaster it appears on the surface.

2016 was a year of grace. And God is indescribably loving and good. I can only hope to learn to trust Him more.

Bring it on, 2017! I'm ready for a brand spanking new year. A great white page of possibilities. An anticipation for all the adventures to come.

merry little christmas | a story

You read that right! Starting this Monday, the 12th of December, a brand new letter-filled story will be hitting the blogs. Emily Ann and I are pleased to announce a series, titled Merry Little Christmas, that features an entirely new cast of characters and settings.

Penny Harper and Juliet Moretti come from very different backgrounds. An orphaned New Yorker and a daughter of a large, boisterous Italian family don't exactly have loads in common. But despite their stark differences, they're knitted together in spirit by the marriage of their siblings.

Living in 1943 isn't easy during the holiday season, but somehow these girls manage to have a merry little Christmas after all.

Keeping in time with the old method we used with Ain't We Got Fun, we will post a letter every day, on one or another's blog, until the bells ring out and Christmas arrives.

Thirteen new letters.

Two fresh characters.

One cheery story.

Merry Christmas, dear readers.

(And for a bit of a sneak peek, you are welcome to stalk our Pinterest board!)

book review | once

A few months ago Emily Ann contacted me. Considering we are official co-authors, we take it as sheer fact that we are one another's editors as well. (It's very convenient to have a friend, co-author, and editor all built into one wonderful human.) Well, she contacted me, eagerly explaining this collection. This collection of beautifully retold fairy tales.

I edited Sweet Remembrance and fell head-over-heels in love with her story. It's no surprise, then, that I jumped at the chance to review the whole collection! If the rest of the stories are as good as Em's, I thought, I'm in for a treat.

I was not disappointed. Once is a delightful collection of fairy tales, containing stories by several authors of whom I'm familiar with as well as a couple of new faces. The combination of voices and themes was superb. The bright characters, vivid descriptions, and engaging plots kept me on my toes, and I eagerly gobbled one story after the next. I didn't want them to end! 
On that note, I'm so thrilled to announce Once's release today! It's only $4.99 for Kindle on Amazon, and I can assure you it's worth every penny. Intrigued? I've reviewed each story individually, so keep reading! 

 The Mountain of the Wolf 
by Elisabeth Grace Foley

I didn't intend to fall in love with this story. After reading the first couple pages, I decided it was far too confusing, as the point of view was unnecessarily exchanged several times. But when I finally dove in, I was hooked.

Sparsely populated Western mountains, wild mustangs, ruthless outlaws, and one lonely, hurting girl set the stage for a heart-pumping, heart-warming novelette. Foley conjured the most unlikely setting to pen a Little Red Riding Hood retelling, and somehow managed to positively nail it. All the nods toward the original fairy tale are delightfully (and sometimes chillingly) symbolic. The characters are vivid, precise, and very human, to the point that a reader might smile knowingly and declare, "That is me."

Due to the choppy beginning, I chose to rate it four stars. But that certainly isn't to say I didn't love the story. I was up all hours of the night simply because I couldn't put it down! (On a side note, as you read Quincy's dialogue, picture Matthew McConaughey's voice like I did. Just trust me.)

She But Sleepeth
by Rachel Heffington

This modern-meets-fairytale is entirely not what I had expected. Fresh, clever, and occasionally unnerving, this time-traveling delight left me blinking from the magical whirlwind. And, unfortunately, mourning a very unsatisfactory ending.

But, in spite of the ending, the story had me charmed. The heroine is not a typical princess. In fact, she is shockingly ordinary. Average features, average behavior, average cellphone wielding civilian, average orphan passed between foster homes. She's not extraordinary; we relate to Maria because of it. And she made the magic seem all the more real.

Colorful descriptions, witty dialogue, and a truly brilliant clash of modern age and historical kingdoms, She But Sleepeth is a first-rate novella. It's a pity the ending had to come and bring with it painful realities. Dear story, I give you four stars.

by J. Grace Pennington

Rumpled is the narrative the collection needed. In the midst of all the sorrowful tales and dragon-like plots surrounding it, this Rumplestiltskin retelling is sweet, simple, and rather unusual. Needless to say, I adored it.

Set in an unspecified age in a rather vague part of the American continent, Rumpled is bursting at the seams with distinctly lovable characters (a trademark of Pennington's, I've discovered). This gentle story contains less description and more engaging dialogue, allowing you into the easy-paced, charismatic lives of two young people who didn't marry for love. (Side note: Amanda and Byron were positively darling.)

Chock-ful of curious gears, familiar inventions, and very sophisticated robots, this steampunk fairy tale caught me off-guard, and I've fallen completely in love with it. Four and a half stars.

Sweet Remembrance
by Emily Ann Putzke

The beauty of Sweet Remembrance is hard to put into words. Why? The beauty is so mingled with grief, one can only smile around the ache in the heart.

Kasia and Romek are innocently sweet and overflowing with life and love. But darkness comes. Slipping this romantic couple into the midst of a horrifying Jewish ghetto, their sweetness becomes but a wavering beacon in the undiluted shadows. And yet somehow it becomes all the brighter and more precious because of it.

Putzke is a budding author with a knack for penning uncommonly believable characters and settings. Sweet Remembrance will leave you with deeper thoughts and sweeter pain than one would expect to find in a little collection of retold fairy tales. This story deserves four and a half stars. (And a million and a half bittersweet tears.)

Death Be Not Proud
by Suzannah Rowntree

This Snow White retelling is occasionally confusing, fiercely dramatic, and rather morbid. All of which are, generally speaking, not my cup of tea. However, that isn't to say I didn't enjoy it. Nor is it a badly written tale.

The highest praise for this novella deservedly goes toward the vivid description. Rowntree has a knack for describing her settings so extensively that you can not only feel the icy water, but you can smell the cold air, taste the morning fog, and see the snow-capped New Zealand mountains in the distance. Truly superb. She chose a spot-on setting for this jazz-age mystery-thriller.

As mentioned before, the mystery becomes very confusing at different points, and the Snow White themes were cleverly hidden, sometimes too hidden, only revealing themselves at the very end. But despite the complicated plot (or, more likely, due to the complicated plot), it was certainly a page-turner. Three and a half stars.

With Blossoms Gold
by Hayden Wand

The caboose of the collection is a retelling of one of my favorite fairytales: Rapunzel. And as I was reading Wand's curiously charming story, I could almost picture the thought-process she must have plowed through to create such a fable. "The original Rapunzel is locked in the tower against her will. Let's turn that backwards. Maybe she locks herself in the tower."

Set in a rich era of Italian history, this retelling has everything from rumored witches to ancient catacombs, impending war to a fair, frightened maiden who does not desire rescuing. Sweet descriptions and tart banter go hand-in-hand in this love-rooted adventure. (Side note: Ben is my favorite. The end.)

Although the characters were vivid and delightfully different, their speech tended to spring from modern lingo to extensively historical vocabulary on whims, jolting the reader out of the story rather than adding to the fantasy. On the whole, however, I happily rate With Blossoms Gold a four star novelette, haven been driven to tears and laughter all in one pretty tale.

accidental fright

"Do you think they'll notice?" I whispered to Chet, grabbing his arm in the shadows. Just around the corner, I heard the muffled voices of ghost-enshrouded children. Happy, young, and just pretty enough to receive free candy.

"Nah," my best friend replied, his lazily unshaved face hidden behind a jack o' lantern mask. "You're short enough, and my acting skills are superb."

"Superbly awful," I corrected and shivered. Trick-or-treating becomes a bit too eccentric once you hit a certain age, and I suspected Chet and I were well past that cut-off mark. And though we may be outside our country, we still didn't necessarily want to make fools of ourselves.

Not collecting free candy, however, was not an option.

"Ready?" I whispered.

"Always," Chet replied jovially, sounding a bit snarky from behind that plastic mask. We slipped out of the shadows and jumped back as the flock of child-ghosts screamed. We'd popped right out in front of them, I guess. An oversized pumpkin and Hermione Granger's doppleganger were perhaps a smidgen frightening materializing out of the shadows.

"Sorry," I hissed frantically to the ghosts. "So sorry."

Chet rolled his head around in such an inhuman way that even I grew queasy, and the ghosts vanished down the well-lit British street.

"Good going, pumpkin head," I said sarcastically. "Way to blow our cover."

"It's Halloween, Viv," he snorted.

We approached the candle-lit step calmly, and I sprang forward to knock. "Trick or treat!" I trilled. I had years of experience.

The door opened slowly. Eerily, almost.

"Hello," a greasy voice oozed, and my heart leapt to my throat.

It wasn't the little old witches that had answered the door to the ghosts. It was a vampire. Blood trickled down the handsome man's lips, glowing in the dim light. His eyes were rimmed with red, and there was a positively wild expression on his face.

"Come in, come in," he wheezed, and he reached out his cold, slimy hand. I screamed as he grabbed my wrist, forcefully dragging me inside.


The next thing I knew, the vampire was blinking dizzily from the ground. I stared in shock. Someone grabbed my shoulders, and I jumped, but it was only Chet, breathing heavily. He had slugged him. He had slugged the vampire with his empty bucket.

"You alright?" he muttered in my ear.

"Y-yeah," I warbled. "B-but... what did you..."

"Let's get out of here," Chet said, grabbing my hand with his familiarly warm one. He ripped off his mask, turning one last time to the dark house. "Try messing with my girl again."

The vampire glowered at him, but didn't so much as whine as we left.

"What happened to the little old witches?" I whispered, leaning heavily on his arm as we marched off down the street.

"You chose the wrong house, Genevieve," Chet said, laughing at me. "The witches were across the street."

And due to the unforeseen scare, we decided to go to the supermarket and safely purchase candy instead.

september snippets

My tapping stopped. I bit my lip, feeling the rush of embarrassment wash over my hot cheeks. Refusing to look up, I opened my mouth to give a feeble retort when someone interrupted me.

“Knock it off, Jim. She meant no harm.”

My head darted up in astonishment. Charlie Lawson stood behind Jimmy, and as he spoke, he clapped his hand on Jimmy's shoulder. He looked at me and smiled. “Hi, Miss Lennon.”

- little red kites

Our school was one of the largest in the county. Forty-five graduating seniors, and I managed to be the smartest out of all of them. I didn't pride myself on it, though. I only took the honor out occasionally to polish it. Admire it.

Now I had to embrace it.

- little red kites

June was always a beautiful month in New York. The apple trees blossomed and smelled like heaven. Lavender and lilac and wild daisies and Queen Anne's Lace bloomed absolutely everywhere. You didn't need to wear perfume on days like these. With a stylish hat and white dress, you could just walk down Kenzington Lane to church and show up smelling like you came from the upper end of New York City. Richness. Boys avoided Kenzington Lane like the plague this time of year.
 - little red kites

Abe loudly sang Fred Astaire's “Cheek to Cheek” as we flew down Main Street, oblivious to both his offkey notes and the alarmed expressions of those on the sidewalks. Laughing loudly, Charlie poked fun at Abe's every line, his calloused fingers lightly gripping the wheel. I couldn't keep a straight face
the entire ride, often bursting out into laughter and nearly choking on the brown curls that blew in my face.

- little red kites

[Joe] swung me into an upbeat dance, stepping on my toes the entire time. I managed to keep my face from contorting from the pain, but as soon as the dance had finished, I found the need to sit for a moment on the sofa where Mira Gates had already secluded herself. She was eagerly eating a slice of cake, and while I admired her ability to pack in so much food, the sight made me rather queasy.

- little red kites

“You're going to sing to me?” Charlie teased, raising his eyebrows.

I flushed. “No, no, no.” I shook my head, playing along. “You're going to sing to me.”

Charlie's eyes twinkled. He leaned his face toward me, his cheek nearly brushing against mine. Then he softly sang in my ear with Fred Astaire's crackled voice.

- little red kites

these stories

via pinterest
cry of hope: churning ocean waves, Indian arrowheads, lonely seagulls, thick Bibles, salt, gentle brown eyes, canal barges, homesickness, flickering flames, death's presence, stiff frozen fingers, sunsets, luscious red earth, crushing fear, chapped lips, hope.

sensical nonsense: chocolate milk, the Golden Gate bridge, whimsical dancing, thick rimmed glasses, little white rats, Christmas trees, poetry, clunky cars, "wouldn't it be nice", musty libraries, teddy bear bread, yellow shoes, giant rain puddles, public transportation, soul mates, nonsense.

ain't we got fun: star-filled skies, wobbly ice skating, glasses of milk, messy curls, trains, Kansas prairies, church steeples, handsome journalists, vibrant cities, red hair, comforts of home, "Little Women", many coffee cups, sisters, twisted ankles, wildflowers, daydreams, fun.

little red kites: soda parlors, giant oak trees, rusty pickup trucks, cloudy days, jitterbugs, blue-green dresses, air raid drills, valedictorian speeches, telegrams, soulful blue eyes, crippling memories, soldiers, sunflower fields, college libraries, falling in love, little red kites.


I've discovered that collaborating with other writers is sometimes a lot more fun than writing on my own. (Ain't We Got Fun, anyone?)

My friend, Andrew, is a writer. He is, however, a writer of screenplays. So awhile ago, when he asked to take my character, Jeremiah Frost, and attempt a short story on him, I was partly excited and partly worried about handing over my dear Frost to him. (Any other writer ought to understand this. Our characters are our children.)

Well, Andrew took my character and scribbled out a pretty intriguing story. And quite accidentally, it took on a more script-like form. Because of this, I then asked to take my character back, along with his story idea, and I twisted it to fit a flash fiction style.

So without further ado, I give you Frostbite. 

Well, this was a nice piece of luck. I kicked the tire of my motorcycle, growling. The air was cold on the mountainside, and the woods thick. I could barely see pass the bend in the road ahead as it disappeared into a fog of pines.

Unsure of what to do, I sat down on the side of the road to think. A snowflake fluttered down from the dark sky, sizzling as it dropped onto the warm engine of my beastly bike. I pulled my leather jacket closer, biting my lip as I considered walking to the next town. How far was it? I hadn’t passed a road sign in miles. Running away seemed like a good idea at first, I thought. Now it seemed to be the end of me.

Suddenly a mournful hum filled the air. I froze. It wasn’t the eeriest sound I had heard that day, but it sounded like the absence of hope itself. On the contrary, however, it sent a surge of hope through me, and I leapt to my feet as the sputtering jeep rounded the bend and into sight. I waved my arms above my head, slightly crestfallen at the sorry picture. This was to be my rescue?

I bound forward as the jeep ground to a halt next to me. The door was pushed open, and the shadowy figure of a man stepped into light. I blinked, finding myself staring up at a tall, thin fellow. I guessed he could be called an average man at first glance, but something about his eyes caught me off guard. They weren’t shady by any means. No, they were sad. Very, very sad.

I almost thought I recognized him.

“Can I help you?” the man asked, his gravelly voice quickly fading in the thick woods.

“Yeah, my darn bike ran out of gas,” I said, shoving my hands in my pockets and ignoring the burning embarrassment that seethed in my head. It was the bike’s fault, I tried to convince myself, however silly that was. Not mine.

The man merely stared at me. Was he … was he teasing me for my ignorance? I shifted uncomfortably, trying to avoid his gaze. He was searching me, I decided. Did he think I was planning to rob him? Finally I said, “I know I’m the one stranded here, but you seem to be the one lost, mister.”

The man shook his head, giving me a half-hearted smile. “No.”

I waited for an explanation, but that was all he said. He continued to stand there, outside his jeep, with his hands in his jean pockets. I tried again. “I’m Dawson,” I said. “And you are …?”

“Jeremiah Frost.” He held out his hand, and, relieved, I shook it. “It’s good to see you, Dawson.”

He said it like he knew me, and that sent a strange haunting sensation up my spine. More so, I felt I knew him. His name niggled my mind. But I still couldn’t place that face. I was certain I had never met him in my life.

“Well,” I said, after a moment, “could you give me a lift to town, Mr. Frost? My bike isn’t doing me a lick of good, and it’s getting dark.” Already the orange streaks above the trees had vanished, and the purple haze of dusk was settling in. The darkness among the forest seemed darker now than before. I squinted, trying to see deep into it as I went to grab my knapsack from the back of the motorcycle. “Could you give me a lift to the next town?” I asked again, as he hadn’t replied before.

“No,” came the surprising answer. Frost turned, walking to the back of his jeep.

I blinked and then lunged forward, swinging the knapsack over my back. “Please,” I begged, just as I used to beg Dad when he refused something to me. He always refused me. “Take me to town. I’ll pay you. I’ll …” I noticed him pulling a gasoline can from the back of the jeep.

“I always take this with me, in case of emergencies,” Frost explained, handing it to me. I swallowed, breathing again, as I took the rusty can from him. I fingered the handle, looking down. “I’d consider this an emergency.”

“Thank you,” I said. And I meant it.

He nodded. I didn’t see him nod, but I knew he did. I turned back to my bike, setting the can on the ground as I strapped my knapsack again to the back. I heard Frost’s jeep rev up, choking and sputtering as if it wouldn’t keep going. But it did.

I turned, watching him climb back into the beat-up vehicle. He turned his head toward me, and in the darkness, I saw tears glinting on his cheeks. I fought back the choking sensation that unexpectedly welled up in my throat, and I called, “Goodbye. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Dawson.” Then the jeep sputtered and carried him around the bend.

I turned, pouring the gasoline into the tank on my bike. I frowned as the feeling that I had met this man before grew stronger in my mind. Then I dropped the can as it suddenly rushed back to me.

Hurriedly, I tore open my knapsack and pulled out the book. I squinted, trying to see in the thin light. Its cover and pages were worn; I must’ve read it a dozen times. And now, as I looked at the author’s biography, I saw the face. He wasn’t smiling. He didn’t seem to know how to smile. He looked younger, for there weren’t as many years of toil and care etched into his skin then. But there was great wisdom in his blue eyes, and sorrow. Much sorrow. And there was no denying it was the same man in the jeep.

Surely that fact should have shocked me enough, but as I read the dedication in the front, a chill crept into my very soul. “To all those lost and worn, with no way forward and no way backward. To those stranded, and to those with no hope. May these stories help you find your way.” — Jeremiah Frost

the beginning of fairies

What is life?

Life is a series of spilled milk and gooey cookies. Life is bare feet on the summer lawn and nightmares in the eerie dead of winter. Life is snowflakes and rental bills and Fourth of July fireworks and all different kinds of smiles. There are and always will be little girls with an affection for ponies and stars that light up the night sky and dreams that crash to earth and boys who leave. Headaches and belly laughs go hand-in-hand in this broken, fed-up, beauty-filled world.

In this twenty-first century, first world country, grownups get jobs and make families. Babies giggle and wail, children anticipate summer camp, and teenagers do ridiculous things because they think they can.

In this twenty-first century, first world country, I write. I dream. I laugh. I cry. I weep because my heart breaks, and I bask in the glorious moments that float my way. I've leapt off cliffs into lakes, I've written three novels, I've become characters in many plays, and I've traveled. I've visited castles and floated down lazy rivers. I've eaten snow cones, and I've watched one too many Office episodes.

Life is a precious thing. Sometimes I feel as if it's so precious that I cannot stand to let the moments leave me. I can't bear to let them out of my sight or thrown out into the world to be trampled upon. This is my life, and I want to live it.

But I also write. I write to taste life twice, as a wise author once stated. I write to collect my wild thoughts and add a pinch of coherency to the madness. I write the things I feel comfortable sharing, and sometimes I bare bits of my soul simply to reach out to other humans who think, feel, fear, and hope. Just the same as me. It's simultaneously comforting and terrifying opening up to a stranger.

So hello, world. You've seen me in this corner before. I've sat here on my bed, typing up various stories that came to mind. Or talked about the simple realities of life. I've hopped from “A Thousand Words” to “Entirely Bonkers” … and now I'm introducing myself in this bubbling corner called “Second Star.” It's full of flying books and Neverland dreams; frothy lattes and broken wings. There will be stories and ideas scattered across the coming posts, and there will be laughs, and maybe there will be a miracle or two.

Welcome to my new corner. Welcome to Second Star.