Writing Contest!

Hello everyone! I hope your creative juices are full, because I am here to announce a contest!

My friend Cassie Hamm has created a desert theme writing prompt contest! Every two days she will post a prompt on her Facebook and Instagram pages. In those two days you have the chance to post a 100 word or less piece of flash fiction (aka a teeny tiny story).

The contest starts tomorrow on the 11th! It goes through the weekend and ends October 16th. The first day she will post a prompt, and then you will have that day and the 12th to think up a little story and post it in the comments! The next prompt will go up on the 13th and you will have till the 14th to come up with a story. And then the last prompt will be posted the 15th and you will have that day and the 16th to come up with one last story. You can choose to use Facebook or Instagram to post your story in the comments, depending on which platform you like best. 😉

The semi illustrious me will be joining the very illustrious Cassie in judging the contests. No, I will not be taking bribes. (unless they are in chocolate of course) This is Cassies third story prompt contest, so this one promises to be a great one!

I hope to see your stories there!

Shaina Merrick

What a surprise, it wasn’t accurate.

Image result for Hamilton Broadway

Who here has listened to Hamilton? Ya know, the Broadway show about one of our Founding Fathers that every one was obsessing over a few years back. Well, I am still obsessing over it. Slightly.

It was the music that inspired me to go find a biography of Hamilton, and one of Hamilton’s wife. Let me just say that her biography was the more interesting of the two. It could have been author differences, style differences, or that she was a more interesting person even though he changed America. It is still a toss up in my mind.

Now, any time Disney does a ‘historical’ movie. You just assume that they messed up something. It seems to be almost against the rules to keep any history they tell (or any story for that matter) intact and without alterations. However, this wasn’t Disney, and I was willing to give the writers of Hamilton a chance.

News flash, they got some things wrong. Surprise surprise.

For the most part, it hasn’t bothered me much. The main events are still correct, the stream of things just the same as it actually happened. There are just a few things off. And of course, I am going to tell you what they are.

For the most part, the ‘errors’ (most likely on purpose for the stories sake) all involve the love story between Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Hamilton.

In the Broadway show they are engaged within two weeks of meeting each other. Two weeks. Seems a little short don’t you think? Even for that era. If you happened to think that, you are correct.

Alexander and Eliza’s courtship was short, especially in comparison to modern standards. A few months to get to know each other before he popped the question.

And that Winters Ball? That was where he proposed, not where they met. In fact, in preparation for that ball Eliza’s sister Angelica and a family friend wasted no effort on making Eliza as beautiful as possible. Basically they were trying to make this match happen. Aren’t sisters wonderful?

Another big piece of the Broadway show is the idea that Angelica liked Alexander first, and may have married him if not for the fact that her beloved sister had not fallen head over heels with him.

While this made for some great tension and my favorite song (‘Satisfied’). It isn’t quite true to how it happened.

Angelica was married and had a toddler son in tow when she met Alexander. Not exactly marriage material. Also, the first time she met Alexander he was courting her sister and completely off limits. Less a love triangle and more a helpful sister who became great friends with her brother-in-law.

Yes, there were wild rumors at the time of who Alexander was actually in love with. But let me remind you that rumors are not necessarily true, and that Alexander had many enemies who would say and do anything to pull him down.

In short, he was in love with one woman. And that woman happened to be his wife. Novel idea, isn’t it?

The last thing I wanted to point out was that his whole scandal with the infamous Mrs. Reynolds may have in fact been a cover up for something else entirely.

The statesmen had come to Alexander to accuse him of misusing his position to make other family members financially well off. His defense? He was having an affair. He proved his story by providing letters. We have never been able to find the original copies of those letters. They were burned, along with any other evidence that may have proved or disproved his story.

There were people at the time who did not believe his story of an affair, and were convinced that he was hiding something else. What they neglected to see was that Eliza Hamilton herself said nothing. Only that she despised the men who seemed obsessed with ruining her husbands reputation.

So either she was a fool, or there was something else going. Yet, how could the wife of a statesman, beloved mother to 8 children, and wise homemaker, be such a fool over love?

When the whole affair became public she neither railed upon her husband nor left him. In fact from the surviving letters we have of the period they seemed as much in love as ever.

History also seems to forget that the Mrs. Reynolds in question denied the affair until her death. In fact she divorced her husband after the affair become public. In tears, she told whoever would listen that she had been wrongly accused. Some people believed her, some did not.

What truly was the Reynolds affair? In truth, we will never know. Everything that could have pointed up to the right answer was burned after Alexanders death. Historians have pondered this question for years, and we are no closer to the answer. Perhaps he did have an affair and was able to patch things up with his wife. Perhaps it was all an elaborate story to hide abuse of his position. We will never know.

Regardless of wrong facts, I would still recommend the show. It’s a Broadway show about one of the most fascinating periods in history. What is there not to love?

Shaina Merrick

The Death of Hamlet (and why I cared)

Whether or not you like Shakespeare, you have to admit that he wrote some great lines. Gems like;

“To be, or not to be: that is the question.”

“Frailty, thy name is woman!”

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

“To die, to sleep – To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come… ”

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Lines that all happen to come from Hamlet. That terribly morose play that I have fallen head over heels with. I don’t pretend to understand every word that was said, but the words I did understand I listened to with bated breath. At least, until Little Miss Ophelia opened her mouth. (get some brains woman!)

At first look, the play seems awful. All about a man who loses his father, and is trying to exact revenge upon his uncle (reverse Star Wars anyone?). There is death, madness, false friends, and lots and lots of self pity. Usually, I stay away from such melodrama. But hey, it was Shakespeare, and why not?

From the first word I was hooked. My eyes never strayed from the screen where the tale unfolded. You couldn’t have pulled me away with a team of horses until the final word was uttered and the curtain fell.

I had to ask myself, why would such a dark tale enthrall me so much? Why would I find my thoughts drifting back to the story again and again the next day?

The plot was not what drew me to the play. It was not so twisty that I couldn’t figure out what was happening next. (I also knew the end before I watched it *cough*) The characters around Hamlet varied from mostly interesting to groan worthy. It wasn’t their witty banter that kept me glued to my chair. It was the main character, Hamlet.

His struggle to bring about revenge on his father would not have been that interesting if he had not been such a compelling person. Hamlet was a hurting mess who procrastinated, blamed himself, wallowed in self pity, fell in love, and tried to do right by his father. He loved deeply and hated with all of his being.

Stripped away of all the wit, the ghosts, and the madness. Hamlet is a story of a young man whose father has died. A man he looked up to and adored with all of his being. Hamlet is hurting, and he cannot understand why the rest of the world is able to blithely go on like his father never existed.

Then he finds out that his father was taken away from him on purpose. Someone chose to do away with his father in order to advance their own ends. Much of the play is him asking why. Why on earth would anyone choose to do away with someone so wonderful?

You follow Hamlet through his inner struggles as tries to find a way to proceed. As he rages against those who did this to his father, yet feels helpless to do anything about it. Those struggles make him so real and raw that I could not help but be on his side. Whether I agree with revenge or not, I know what it is like to wonder why a loved one is so suddenly gone.

At his core, Hamlet is a person who wants answers to the hard questions. Why did his father die and his uncle live on? Why do we love one person and not another? How can the world forget a person so good so quickly? Why are men so afraid of death?

This vulnerability in a character is what drew me into the play and swept me through the good and bad of it. By the time the end of the tale had come and (spoiler alert) Hamlets death was near, I was rooting for him. Hoping that he would succeed in the goal he had worked so hard to grasp. He had lost everything in the pursuit of this one all encompassing thing.

By the end of the play, he truly had lost everything, including his own life. But he had completed his quest, and went to his final rest knowing that he had been a son worthy of his father. And that was all he had really wanted anyway.

Nope, I am not going to cry. I refuse.

I know this kind of play is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I won’t end with an entreaty that you go watch it right now. Instead, I will end with a bit from one of Hamlets monologues.

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death-
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns- puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of?

Shaina Merrick

My All Time Favorite Stories

Bookworms tend to be curious little things. They always want to know what other people are reading. That one person who has her head cocked to the side because she is trying to read the title of the book a random stranger is reading. Then flushing and jerking her head away because the random stranger looked up from their book.

If you are anything like me, you enjoy any chance to add to the already ridiculously long tbr (to be read) list. So many books, so little time….

To indulge your curiosity, here is a list of my top favorite books.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Yes, I am well aware that this is an old classic that everyone and their sister knows and loves. But there is a reason that it is a classic!

Any book with strong sibling relationships is going to be high on my list. And Little Women has some of the most beautiful sister relationships out there. Sisters who squabble, annoy each other, hurt each other, yet at the end of the day they love and forgive. Choosing their sisters over their petty problems of the day.

Yes, there are some love stories (all of which are adorable), but I read it for the sisters. And for Jo, one of the most like me characters in the literary world.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

If you haven’t heard about this one, don’t worry. No one else has either. One of the least known of the Jane Austen books, it happens to be my favorite. Yes, even over Pride and Prejudice. Don’t hate me.

Northanger Abbey is about a young, sheltered girl who goes to Bath with some family friends. Like all Jane Austens, this is a love story. However this love story is about a bookworm. A bookworm with a healthy imagination. She sees love and drama around every corner, helped along with her newfound friend who also loves books.

This is the most lighthearted of all of Jane Austens books. Throughout the story it makes fun of the popular novels of the day. It would be like an author today making fun of the fantasy genre in her fantasy book. I love it.

It is a must read for all bookworms who daydream more than is usual.

The Last Dragon by Silvana De Mari

Don’t listen to the title. Yes there is a dragon, but the book is actually about an elf. One of the most adorable elves that has ever existed.

In a world that blames elves for the never ending rain, Yorsh is saved by his grandmother and told to run far away. So he does, and while he is running he comes across two humans. Humans who alternately want to strangle him and keep him from all harm.

Begin hilarious scenes. Scenes made even funnier because Yorsh doesn’t understand a lick of sarcasm. He takes everyone at their word, exactly. Cue the humans growling in frustration and Yorsh looking at everyone wondering what the fuss is about.

It may seem that this book is just one big comedy of errors, but it isn’t. Yes, it is funny. But there is so much more to it than that. The people Yorsh comes across are literally scraping by. Sometimes unsure of where their next meal is coming from.

Things are not going well for the humans, and then here comes a tiny elf who has a little bit of magic and believes everything that is said to him. He also believes that everyone he meets is good. Even if they look like the scariest scoundrel that ever lived, he likes them. It is like a living ray of hope is dropped into a harsh world. A world that alternately hates it and wishes that it would never leave.

If you need a laugh, go read it. If you just need another excuse to procrastinate on homework, go read it. It’ll be worth it.

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Steifvater

If you haven’t read this one shame on you! Go read it at once! This book is gorgeous and everyone should read it!

I love this book because one, it is set in Colorado and two, it is set in the desert of Colorado. I live in the desert of Colorado and before I had read that book I had not been able to find a good representation of that desert. Or any desert for that matter.

But this book does it perfectly. Maggie Steifvater brings the desert to life through her book. I love how she describes it.

I also love all of her confused, struggling, beautiful characters. All of which are trying to find their place among their family and the world. The hope that they will someday figure out why they are here diffuses the whole novel.

I say again, go read it!

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Yes, I know that this book is by the same author as the last book. And?

The premise of The Scorpio Races at first turned me off. Why would I want to read a book about a girl riding in a horse race? Even if the horses are all man eating Capaill Uisce. Then I read it, and I wondered why it took me so long to do so.

I had to literally put this book down when I got to the climax for fear that my heart was going to jump out of my chest. Everything just kept building and building until the end race where everything was on the line and you just desperately wanted the main character to win.

However, what made the ending such a crazy climax was the fact that not everything in the book was tense. Sure, there were tense moments. It’s hard for there not to be when you are riding horses that would just as soon eat you as look at you. But after every tense moment was a moment that was a breath of relief. A space for the characters, and the reader, to breath.

That roller coaster of emotions made the book very, very hard to put down. (unless you were afraid that your heart was going to combust) Even when it was late and you still hadn’t gotten anything done….

Anyway. It was worth every moment, and made me obsessed with November Cakes. (still gotta make those)

Now for the honorable mentions, stories too wonderful to leave out but didn’t quite make it to my favorites list.

  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
  • Dear Enemy by Jean Webster
  • The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  • 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson
  • A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews

If you made it to the end, congratulations! Your patience is amazing and you should go award yourself some chocolate strawberries.

Whadja think of my list? Are any of these books on yours as well? Have you heard of any or all of them? Let me know in the comments below!

Shaina Merrick