I’m pretty sure I have a really good reason why I didn’t post this yesterday. But the truth is, I can’t think of one. I wasted the afternoon away chatting on the phone, editing photos, and meeting my friend for tea at Starbucks. (Yes, I am the freak who hates coffee–You just learned something new about me)
Anyway, laziness or stifled teenage rebellion prevented me from posting my weekly “Sunday Stories” on an actual Sunday. But I really just drew the suspense out to make you all want it even more, right? Am I right? Well, maybe not. But, either way, here is this week’s installment. You can catch up here, if you need to.
Before I knew it, I was almost sixteen. It had been nearly two years since Daniel left, and he wasn’t back yet.
All Mother would tell me was, “He’s needed right where he is.”
Now that Mother lived in the same castle as me, she came to see me a few times a week.
“Your father and I have decided,” she said the morning before my sixteenth birthday, “That we cannot wait for a prince any longer. Valerie, we simply must do something. Your father and I think we should hold a contest. The bravest, strongest, handsomest, gentlest prince of all shall be the one you may fall in love with and have to break the spell.” She beamed as if this were the best idea ever.
I was enraged. How dare she pick my husband!
Mother looked nervous. “Now, this is the only way, Valerie. You must have the right prince, you know.”
I couldn’t take it any longer. “No, Mother! It’s not the only way!”
Her eyes flashed. “Do not raise your voice to me!” I’d never seen her so angry. Her face was red and her green eyes shimmered. I looked down instantly.
“If you say so, Mother.”
I’d have to marry a trophy.
Ruth got worse every day. Her fever raged and she was hardly ever awake.
I once brought Hannah, but the sight made Hannah cry so badly I felt my heart break at the corners. Why couldn’t Daniel come home? She called out his name in her sleep. She needed her brother.
I held Ruth’s hand and wiped her forehead with a wet cloth. Ruth tossed and cried out. “Shhh…” How much longer would she last?
Hannah shifted nervously. “The queen will be arriving shortly, Valerie.”
“Goodbye,” I whispered to Ruth. I kissed her mother and stepped out of the house, holding my skirts up as I trekked back to the castle.
“Valerie.” Mother was already in my room, arms stretched out, waiting for me when I returned.
I ducked her embrace. “Yes, Mother?”
Her smile froze. She dropped her arms and adjusted her wine-colored gown. “Oh, I was just coming to tell you to pack your things. We’re leaving for the palace in the mountains the day after tomorrow. We’ll hold the contest there.”
Leaving? With Ruth so sick? I could never leave her. I made a promise to Daniel.
“Mother…” My voice broke. I threw myself on my bed and sobbed into the pillows.
“Valerie, darling, what’s wrong? I thought you’d enjoy going away for a few months. Everyone will still be here when you return.”
Would Ruth still be here? I stood and rushed out of the door. I couldn’t even cry on my own bed without Mother hovering over me.
“Ruth.” I had to leave in a little less than an hour. Ruth opened her eyes for the first time in days and smiled faintly. She looked at mother.
“Ma,” she whispered. Daniel’s mother rushed to her side and grabbed Ruth’s hand.
“Ma.” Ruth coughed. “Don’t be…” Her voice was weak. “Don’t be sad when I leave. I love you all.” She glanced at each sibling before her gaze returned to her mother. “Tell Daniel I love him, too.”
I could see her grip on her mother’s hand tighten and then drop. “I’m ready now,” she whispered. Then she closed her light blue eyes, a peaceful smile on her lips.
Daniel’s mother sobbed.
“Princess Valerie,” Hannah said from the doorway. “It’s time to go.”
Every attempt at conversation Mother made in the carriage died. I stared out the window, seeing nothing as I blinked away tears.
“Is something troubling you, dear?” Mother finally asked.
I shook my head sadly. She’d never understand my grief for the loss of a peasant. Beside me, Hannah squeezed my hand. My only friend. Besides Daniel, who I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever see again. Where was he?
“Mother,” My voice quivered. Be brave. “Where is Daniel right now?”
Mother’s dark head lifted from the book she was reading. “Who?” She blinked rapidly.
“Daniel. The stable boy you sent away two years ago.”
“Oh. I really haven’t the slightest idea, darling.” She turned back to her book.
Hannah sighed beside me. She was probably remembering the look on Ruth’s face when she called out to him.
“Oh, and by the way, Valerie.” Mother didn’t even look up as she spoke. “Many fine, handsome princes have spoken with your father since the other day. I spoke to one myself and he had much to say of his own wealth and intelligence.”
So basically he was vain. Great.
“I’m presenting them to you tomorrow.”
Tomorrow? I didn’t have much time to get out of it. I pressed my lips together. But there’s always a chance.
“Of course you’ll have maids attending you at all times until then.
Pop. My bubble burst. Why, of all the princesses ever born in Caledonia, why did it have to be my birth that Malkaka was not invited to? Why did I have to end up being the one cursed and absolutely helpless, unable to have any say in my own fate? I was stuck wishing and praying for a kind-hearted prince who loved stories. But what were the chances of that?
To be continued…
Have you ever heard the Dr. Seuss quote, “We’re all a little weird, and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them in mutual weirdness and call it love.” Yeah, I figured you had. If not, then I probably just made your day with that quote, because it is the coolest. 😉
One thing that I have found to be confoundedly true when writing fiction is that no two stories are ever the same. Seriously! Sometimes I wish that there would be more similarities between my characters and my plot lines and my settings, but there just aren’t. Every new story and every little thread is unique and different and frustratingly hard to sort through at times. And the hardest of all is usually the romances.
I’m so, so bad at writing romantic fiction, you guys. I’m not even joking. If you could see my first drafts and the awkward dialogs between my guys and gals, you would probably laugh. And say, “Well that was definitely written by a seventeen-year-old.” Because it can be so jumbled up sometimes. I tend to make things way more subtle than they probably should be, and in my mind, a three-minute dialog about whether or not you’d rather experience death by asphyxiation or being eaten alive slowly by fire ants constitutes as a romantic scene. (No joke–I actually wrote that into a book once)
But one thing that I’ve come to realize, is that it’s the weird scenes that I end up loving the most. The ones where things are a little bit awkward, a little bit funny, and very, very sweet. I guess because that’s the way people are in real life! Just like Dr. Seuss said, we’re all a little weird. We’re messed up, strange, and sometimes socially-awkward human beings who are just trying to love each other in the best way possible. So why shouldn’t our books reflect that?
Seriously, when you think about it, how much more do you love those kinds of scenes than the stereotypical love scenes where the couple rides off into the sunset, their equally gorgeous locks tousled in the wind, without even a saddle or stirrups or any kind of equipment to help them because they’re just so darn perfect they don’t need any assistance? Gag me with a spoon. If that couple actually exists, I probably hate them. And you should, too.
I talk all the time about adding humor to books, or subtle wit and sarcasm. But I think we should also make more of a conscious effort to add a little weirdness. Romantic scenes are a pain in the neck to write. But they become so much more beautiful, sweet, and realistic when a little oddness is thrown into the mix. Like throwing a shoe at a guy? Classic. 😉
So what did I get for Christmas this year? Fat. I got fat.
Haha, no, I did not make that up myself. I actually stole it from my sister’s Pinterest page. But I figured you all deserved a good laugh this morning. 😉
What I really wanted to do today was shoot a video blog with a copy of my newest book, “Chasing Jupiter”, which is now available to order online, ya’ll. BUT, the holiday release date seems to be making it take a bit longer for the actual book to be shipped out, both to readers and to the quite impatient author herself. SO, I figured I’d talk instead about New Year’s Resolutions and whatnot.
Personally (and this may offend some people—not quite sure), I find New Year’s Resolutions to be a bit tacky. I guess I’ve just always been of the mindset that if you want to change something about yourself, why not go ahead and just change it? Does it really matter if it’s July 22nd or January 1st? If something needs improving in your life, jump off your high and mighty horse and just admit it. And then get to work at it ASAP, no matter what time of the year it is.
HOWEVER, I am a big pushover when it comes to setting goals. This obviously makes it a million times harder to me to utterly dismiss making resolutions when the new calendar year is started. I have to admit that I am one of those people who lays around and eats nothing but pie all December, then starts exercising every day and eating nothing but salads and soup come January. Not because I think I’m fat or anything, but because I like setting that goal of living a healthier lifestyle and feeling better about myself. Hey, I like how it feels to be drinking smoothies and running a couple miles every morning. But I’m not about to make it a resolution to lose ten pounds or whatever.
What I am thinking about making a resolution this year (if we must use that outdated term), would probably be something much simpler. This year, I would like to pay more attention to the tiny details in life, and soak them up. I’m very good at noticing the big moments in life. Graduations, birthdays, vacations, other monumental events. I can remember just about every moment of those days, and I have the photographic evidence to prove it.
But what tend to go unnoticed are the little, seemingly uneventful days in life. The days when my sisters and I sleep in and make waffles and do school in our pajamas all day before settling in for yet another rerun of “Top Iron Chef” and a late-night Taylor Swift sing-a-long party. What evidence do I have that those days existed? Those days that I did absolutely nothing but live, and had a great time doing it?
Ever since I started this blog, I’ve been getting better at recording life’s little details. Mostly because you guys seem to get a kick out of hearing all the weird, mundane things that happen to me, but also because I’ve realized that those are the things I love most about life. The little details.
So this year, I guess my resolution would be to pay more attention to those details. To write about them, and photograph them, and try my best to hold on to every memory. You all can definitely feel free to keep me accountable if you want to, because I want this blog to read like a personal diary so you can all see what my life is really like, and hopefully grow from the things I’ve learned.
It is my sincere hope that I’ll get a video of me with “Chasing Jupiter” up here in a couple days (please, please, Mr. Postman), but until then, Happy early New Year! 😀
Okay, okay, so maybe things aren’t all that dramatic in your house. You’re probably still sleeping off the turkey and pie and high-tailing it to the mall to return your unwanted sweaters. But there’s one more thing you just have to do today—order your copy of “Chasing Jupiter”!!!!
That’s right, “Chasing Jupiter” is finally available to order online! You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book Distributors, and just about any other site where books are sold. Not one hundred percent sure that it’s available in stores yet, but it should definitely be there soon! Until then, go ahead and use your Christmas giftcards online and order yourself a copy!
I went ahead and googled my name this morning to see if any new “Chasing Jupiter”-related results showed up and I was shocked to see that some of the early reviews are already coming in! So, in case you’re interested, here are what a few readers (and I’m sure blog-followers!) had to say about my latest work:
Rosie (hey, there Rosie! I know that you’re a blog reader!) wrote, “Rachel Coker returns to the fictional scene equipped with an emotion-packed novel that had me glued to the pages! I liked the theme of peaches (peach pie, more peach pie, peach trees, ;D). I don’t know why, but I did. I also thoroughly enjoyed the banter between Scarlett and Cliff and occasionally Scarlett and Frank. Rachel does a great job of tossing in enough romance to satisfy her readers, yet keep it to a minimum (no kissing, no dates). That’s something I appreciate. Chasing Jupiter took me off guard more than once with a few twists I hadn’t anticipated. I love it when I can’t see surprises coming! If you liked her previous work, then you’ll surely love this one too.”
One lovely woman named Bobbie also wrote, “I was concerned that [Rachel Coker] couldn’t top what she did with Interrupted. And I think she just topped Interrupted with Chasing Jupiter. I’m sitting here trying to form a review and I’m not sure exactly what to say. This book was so emotional, raw, and rich.I fell in love with the story world. Scarlett made for a perfect main character and all the side characters were really well developed.”
And, of course, I couldn’t leave out the review by one of my most faithful blog readers, Emily, who wrote, “concerning Chasing Jupiter as a whole, it is at least three times better than Interrupted. Why? Chasing Jupiter was REAL. It didn’t leave you feeling terribly deflated because you don’t have a romantic relationship, or your life wasn’t as perfect as the characters’, or anything along those lines. Chasing Jupiter didn’t have an ending that was too perfect for reality. It ended in a way that left you satisfied, not wistful. It didn’t make you sigh blissfully thinking, ‘Oh, this was just too perfect!’ It made you close the book with a flicker of a satisfied smile, and put it down with a feel that this read had more meaning to it than you would have expected. ”
Anyway, hopefully all of this has tantalized you enough to make you want to go out and order a copy of your own! If you just can’t wait to get this book on your hands, then order it today!!!! 🙂
Keep checking the blog over the next couple weeks for lots of fun reviews, Christmas stories, and even maybe a givewaway or two!
P.S. For those of you who are interested, I recently posted a link on my Facebook page to my new photography fan page. I know I used to do a better job of mixing my photography business and my writing business, but lately that’s just gotten to hard to do on this blog! So I figured I’d make a separate page where I can keep all my photos. I’d encourage you to go and like it, if you want to keep up a little bit more with my private life! In 2013, I’ll be starting a very special project that you can find there!
Soooo excited for “Chasing Jupiter” to come out this week! Hopefully, I’ll have lots to blog about. 😉
Anyway, hope you enjoy this week’s installment of the “Sleeping Beauty” story I wrote when I was twelve! You can read the past installments here. I’m off to eat a TON of food and hopefully have a wonderful Christmas with my family! 🙂
Over the next few months, while I waited for my gowns to be finished, I visited Daniel’s family every day. I grew to love them so much. I loved his mother in all her loving sweetness, the twins and their mischievousness, and I loved Ruth, as dear as she was.
Sometimes, when I went to visit Ruth, she’d be asleep. So I’d sit on the edge of her bed and sing softly to her.
Her favorite song to wake up to was an old Caledonian lullaby called, “There I’ll Be.” So I’d rub her legs and murmur,
“Close your eyes, little dove,
Fly away, little dove.
Soar away to dreamland,
There I’ll be.
Listen, little dove,
Come back, little dove.
Fly home away from dreamland,
There I’ll be.”
Once, Ruth asked me to tell her about the day I was born. “Daniel said you tell it real pretty,” she whispered. Her eyes were sunken back into her head and her skin was white as snow. She could barely lift her shoulders off the pillow.
I reached for her hand and rubbed gentle circles into her skin. I tried not to let her see the teardrops glistening in my eyes as I started my story.
“And there was much rejoicing in all of Caledonia,” I finally finished.
She smiled softly and closed her eyes. Within a few seconds, her breathing deepened, and I knew she was asleep.
I stared at her pale face. Her long, dark lashes stood out stark against her papery cheeks. I sighed. She must miss Daniel. Will he be back before she leaves us?
No! I straightened. She’s not going to leave. She’s going to get better, have five children, and live to be eighty-seven.
But the truth hurt.
Mother arrived with my royal trousseau of dresses the next day.
“Valerie,” her voice was smooth as honey. She glided into my bedroom, arms spread out. “Why do you look so surprised, sweet?”
I shook off my shock and managed to curtsy. “I wasn’t expecting you again so soon, Mother.”
She looked over my nightgown, bare feet, and messy hair. “I see.” The pause seemed to stretch on forever before she smiled. “Well, I just had to come. To see you in your new gowns and introduce you to your new tutors.” She turned and waved in the dresses as a new wave of shock flooded me.
“Hmmm? Oh, yes. Just tutors for, you know, posture, table manners, ballroom dancing, etiquette… nothing special.” Mother pulled the first item out of the trunk of new dresses. It was a white silk nightgown with blue ribbons. “Oh, how lovely.” Mother smiled sweetly at me.
My mind was still whirling at the thought of all those tutors.
Mother pulled out a midnight blue ballgown, glistening with a thousand crystals. “For your first ball,” she explained.
My first ball? As in, there’d be more than one?
She frowned at my confused face. “Is there something wrong with my choices?”
I looked at the yellow silk “supper dress” she’d just placed on the bed. I’m not right for the life of a princess.
It didn’t take long to get used to tutors. Not that I enjoyed them. But seeing as my life was suddenly centered around them, they became like a big, annoying family to me. Sure, they all had their moments when they were kind or funny, but for the most part Dancing Master was too picky, Singing Mistress was too harsh, and Posture and Manner Masters were both too old and crabby. The only one I liked was Writing Mistress.
Writing Mistress loved words as much as I did, and always encouraged me to work my hardest at using them. Along with Hannah, she was the only other person I confided in. I even let her read some of Daniel’s letters.
“Princess Valerie,” she once told me. “Your life is a story, just waiting to be told. So open up and tell it to the world.”
To be continued…
Yeah, so, my friends dared me to wear antlers on my head for my next vlog video and not even act like anything was weird. So, if you think I look strange in this video, blame my friends, not me! 😛
An early Merry Christmas to you all!!!!!
So we decided to do something really fun this week. Hannah and I threw a big, fancy Christmas party at our house for ten of our closest friends. We dressed up in vintage cocktail dresses, sipped raspberry punch out of champagne glasses, and donned Rudolph noses and tinsel at a homemade photobooth. It was amazingly fun, if not very labor-intensive, and definitely one of the highlights of this holiday season so far. We made all the food and decorated the house ourselves, which was a really big task, but it all paid off in the end!
Anyway, I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the pics from the Christmas party, and laughing at us and our silliness. I don’t usually post pictures of my friends on this blog, but I figured I’d make an exception just this once. 😉
Sooooo…. Technically, this would be called “Monday Stories”, seeing as it is no longer Sunday. I totally meant to write this up and post it yesterday afternoon, but I ended up going to a big family Christmas party, and then a big Mother-Daughter dessert party, and was gone from 10 in the morning to 11 at night! So there really was no time to get together my weekly story! Sorry!
Anyway, here is part six of my “Sleeping Beauty” story from 2008. Things take a turn for the slightly dramatic/bittersweet this week, which is really funny for me to re-read after all these years. 🙂 Hope you enjoy! Here are the past five installments, if you need to catch up.
“Your highness.” Hannah was waiting for me when I returned.
I was much too tired and depressed to deal with this. “Hannah,” I yawned. “Regardless of what my mother says, you shall only call me ‘Princess’ when others are around. I prefer the name ‘Valerie.’”
“Oh, your highness!” Hannah’s eyes widened and she shook her head.
“Valerie! Now please help me get out of this dress.” I finally got the lace gown off my head and pulled on an old forest green one. Much more comfortable.
“Oh, Valerie,” Flora said. I hadn’t noticed her standing by the window. “Your mother informed me that she would be sending for a dress maker to design you a whole new wardrobe, darling. No more simple dresses, she said. Now that you’re grown you must always look your best, she says.” Flora lowered her voice. “You must to catch a prince, she says.”
I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. I don’t need to catch a stupid prince! That was just utter poppy-cock!
Flora wrapped an arm around me. “I don’t think your new dresses will be as fancy as that lace one, sweet. And heaven knows you won’t need a prince to wake you up.”
I was up at the crack of dawn the next morning. Daniel’s leaving today! I jumped out of bed but Hannah gently pushed me back in. I blinked at her sleepily. “You’re an early riser.”
She smiled. “I’m a light sleeper.” That’s when I noticed that the door that adjoined our rooms was open. “I heard you tossing and turning,” she said, wringing her nightgown. “Prin… Valerie, I know your friend is leaving today, but you must eat something. Flora told me that you skipped breakfast yesterday.”
“I’m not hungry.” My stomach growled.
Hannah laughed. “Just wait until I’m dressed, Valerie. Then I’ll call the serving maid.”
By the time I was finished eating, the sun was already rising in the sky. I pulled on my favorite light green dress and quickly braided my hair. “I’ll be back soon, Hannah.”
I ran toward Daniel’s house, hoping to catch him alone, but I found a carriage already waiting by the front door. Daniel hugged each sibling and kissed his mother goodbye. When he looked up and saw me, he gave me one last wave before climbing in the carriage and driving away.
I wouldn’t see his smile for another year. I wouldn’t hear his laugh or see his light blue eyes for over three hundred and sixty five days. Maybe never again.
Daniel’s mother was sobbing and holding her little ones to her chest protectively. Slowly, I approached her. I found my cheeks were wet also. The mother looked up at me and sniffed. I touched her shoulder softly and bit my lip. No words were needed to tell her how sorry I was.
“Thank you for coming, Valerie.” She shooed away the two little ones in her lap and stood. “Daniel told me to give you something.” I followed her into her home and stood by the door.
A few moments later she returned with a letter. She handed it to me sadly. “I’m going to miss my boy.”
I sucked in my breath. I wanted to tell her that it was my fault he was gone—that Mother thought we were too close and sent him away—but I couldn’t. “I’ll miss him, too,” I said instead.
“Ma, who’s there?” I heard from inside Ruthie’s room.
I walked into her room and smiled. “Hello, Ruth.”
“Hello, Princess. Is he gone?” Her blue eyes looked worried.
I forced myself to nod and sat on the edge of her bed. “But I’m here now.” I grasped her thin and smiled.
Once I was alone in my bed chamber again I smoothed out Daniel’s letter and read it.
I’m writing this soon before I leave, with the hope that you will visit with my family at some point and receive it while I am away.
You are my best friend, you know. I’m glad we became friends.
I’m sorry this note must be short, but I’m leaving in a few minutes.
I’ll write you. I promise.
Please look after Ruthie.
To be continued….
I’m not even going to give you any kind of intro to this vlog video. I know that my title is clever and cheeky enough to make you want to watch it anyway. 😉
Okay, so let me just start off this letter by saying that I am your BIGGEST fan. Like, the absolute hugest. I know that there are probably a lot of girls out there who say that these days, but all of them are lying. Because none of their ardour compares in the slightest to my utter infatuation with you.
I remember the first time we met. I was a wee little (read: freakishly tall) girl of five or six years old, and my mom was just teaching me how to read. Somehow, I took to the written word like a teenage boy takes to bacon, and I devoured every easy-read book I could get my hands on. By the time halfway through my year of kindergarten, my mother decided to take me to the library, to find some more books to read. I remember her using that word: “Library”. My little naive ears had no idea what magical connotations those seven letters would later hold in my mind. I arrived at the large brick building expecting to find a shelf of books, much like the one we had at home. What I found instead, was my very own Narnia. An absolute wonderland of irresistible hardcover books lining the walls and towering above my little body.
From that day on, I was utterly captivated by you. I begged my mother to drive me to visit you at least once a week, without fail. I kept a carton in my room with the words “Library Books” taped on the front, full of a small sampling of your treasures. You introduced me to “Little House on the Prairie” and the “American Girl” series, and so many amazing gems of literature that I would uncover over the years.
When I was seven or eight, I learned that no matter where I go in this country, I could always visit you. When my family owned a book fair business that made us travel to Maryland, or Florida, or North Carolina, I would spend my days huddled up in the libraries of Christian schools, hoarding all the books I could find. I’d speak to your wonderful friends, those beautiful librarians, and ask them for their recommendations of your finest selections. They dropped heavy titles like “Little Women” and “A Tale of Two Cities” into my second-grade hands, and encouraged me to read them. And I did, sitting in the dark back corners all by myself, pouring over dozens and dozens of great classics.
Sometimes, you were a source of conflict in my family. Like all those times I threatened to run away from home and join you forever. Who could blame me for wanting to do that? You were conveniently located next to the bank holding my childhood saving’s account, and you were a mere stone’s throw away from grocery stores lined with poptarts, fruitloops, and every other disgustingly delicious food I wasn’t allowed to eat at home. At other times, my mother would separate me from you as a form of punishment. She’d take away my library card and store it in her wallet if I did something wrong, keeping me from your presence for weeks on end. “Read your own books,” she’d say. She never did understand the unspoken bond we had. The bond that attracted your books to me, rather than all the other books I’d seen and owned. There was just something so special and beautiful between us. Something that no one else will ever understand.
At the end of the day, I know I’m just another fan to you. Just another girl who forgets to bring her books back on time because she’s so delirious with the joy of holding on to them and reading her favorites over and over again. Just another teenage nerd who spent too many hours of her free time roaming the foreign travel section and memorizing the Dewey Decimal system so well that she wound up spending most of her library trips showing others around the building. I’m just another reader to you.
But you, dear library. You are the reason I learned to love books. To experience a thrill and sense of adventure when stepping into a new library building, where everything is unfamiliar and foreign and overwhelming. You are the reason why the written word is always going to be very dear to my heart. Why I’ll never break down and buy a Kindle, or a Nook, or read a book on my computer. Why I’ll still take time out almost every week to drive fifteen minutes to the nearest library branch and check out half a dozen books. And why I’ll continue to grow and change and travel and experience every adventure I could ever dream of, all through the pages of your books.
Clearly, I love you. My family and future husband will probably always be jealous of how much I love you. But until all of them can afford to send me to Paris, Egypt, Narnia, and Prince Charmont’s castle anytime I want, they can just stand in line.