NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Sneak Peek #2 of The Pirate Princess

I’ve been working on my third novel off and on throughout this year and I think it’s time for another preview. Now keep in mind that this book is still in progress. This scene in particular is new to the story and I’m not sure if it will end up in the final version or not. But I enjoyed writing it and I thought y’all would like to see what I’ve been working on, so enjoy.

 

Serina had hardly slept for the past four nights. She climbed to the highest tower once again and looked out over the rolling hills. Still no sign of him. Oh I should have just gone myself. Serina crumpled to her knees and tried to reason with herself. I shouldn’t have expected him any earlier, it is such a long way to travel and who knows what the weather’s been like. He’ll be back by tomorrow for sure and… She forced her mind to think positive. And he’ll have a letter from Adrian, a long explanation for the silence and probably a gift too, something to console me. Serina sat back against the hard stone and pulled her knees up to her chest, settling her head on top and folding her arms over to shield her face from the sun.

She didn’t know how long she’d been sitting like that, she could have drifted off to sleep for all she knew, but her muscles were cramping so she untangled herself and stood up slowly. She stretched and scanned wearily towards Linden again. She froze. Is that… could it be? She leaned over the battlement and shielded her eyes. It is! She hopped and rushed down the winding staircase and out to the stables. As she fumbled with the tack she wished for the hundredth time that she had learned to ride bareback. But her father wouldn’t hear of it, and hardly anyone in the castle knew how anyway. Finally she had managed to secure the saddle and bridle and she threw open the gate and climbed on hurriedly.

Buttercup danced around the small enclosure, picking up on Serina’s excitement.

“Shh,” Serina coaxed as she patted Buttercup’s neck. “Come on girl; let’s see what George has found out.”

Buttercup took off towards the open gate with a kick from Serina and after clattering down the drawbridge, lengthened her stride in the open road.

Serina could hardly see as the wind whipped her hair into her face and tears filled her eyes, but she didn’t care she just had to get to George as fast as possible. After some time, she could feel Buttercup slowing and she pulled back on the reins and let her trot for a bit. She took the opportunity to get her bearings and see how close George was now.
George was nowhere in sight, so Serina guided Buttercup to a small hill and pulled her to a stop. She glanced behind her and could still see the castle and a few guards riding out in pursuit of her. Then she turned back to the road and looked for any sign of the rider. Maybe it wasn’t him; maybe it was a farmer headed home… But Serina wasn’t ready to give up. She clicked her tongue and sent Buttercup into a steady canter as she kept a look out for George’s familiar figure.

The rolling hills hid parts of the road and Serina kept scanning the next place where the road vanished for a sign of the rider. Finally, after several minutes of tortuous waiting, the rider appeared. He was sunk in the saddle, only traveling at a slow trot and not even looking up, but Serina recognized him right away.

“George!” she called and urged Buttercup into a gallop.

George looked up and gave a short wave. He picked up his pace, but it was clear that both he and his horse were exhausted.

“I didn’t think you’d make it today,” Serina said excitedly as she pulled her horse to a sliding halt. “You must have traveled all night, but I’m so glad you did. You don’t know how worried I’ve been. Please tell me you have got a letter from Adrian.”

George nodded wearily. “I do.”

“Well, hand it over.”

George fumbled with his jacket and pulled out the letter he’d been given. He held it out to Serina.

“Is there anything else?”

George shook his head. “Sorry, no. But after you read the letter, I have… to um tell you some things.”

Serina raised an eyebrow. “Alright.” She studied his face trying to figure out what that meant. “I suppose you should go report to my father.”

George dipped his head. “Of course. Won’t you accompany me back to the castle?”

Serina held the letter tightly. “Well I was hoping to read this in private.”

George nodded and glanced at the guards who had followed Serina. “I doubt you’ll be able to read the whole thing before they get here. You sure you don’t want to just find a quiet room in the castle?”

“Can’t you just tell them to leave me alone for ten minutes. I promise I’ll come straight home once I’m through.”

George gave her a sympathetic smile. “Alright, I’ll see you back at the castle then.” He kicked his horse and rode towards the approaching guards.

Serina smiled. Sometimes George can be quite the gentleman. She nudged Buttercup into a trot and hurried off towards a copse of trees where she used to play when she was a child. She dismounted and quickly tied Buttercup’s reins to a branch. Then she settled into a soft spot of grass in the shade of the largest tree and opened the letter.

Serina,
I was so glad to receive your last letter. They always make me laugh and it keeps me from feeling so lonely. I keep thinking about when we’ll next get to be together. It’s only been a few months but it feels like years. I know you’ve asked if I could come down for the Spring. I’m trying to convince Richard that it’s a good idea and I believe it’s almost been decided. You keep reminding your father as well.

Caleb doesn’t want me to tell you this, but I knew it would make you laugh. He’s started taking dance lessons and I’ve caught him staring at Susan three times now. I think our joke has turned into a real possibility of romance. I’ll make sure to keep you updated.

I’ve also received a letter from Josiah. He’s really enjoying his time with Kalim. If he ever stops by your castle, be sure to tell him I miss him. So few Unguls travel during this season that any letters I send him are often retuned and never delivered.

Oh and you might find this interesting. You remember that little village we visited where Martin’s mother lives? Well he’s had word from her that something’s going on. We’re not sure what it is yet, and I may not have a chance to send this letter till after we get back. But now that I think of it, I’d rather wait to send it. I want to send you a little gift and I bet Martin’s mother will know just the right gift for you. I hope you enjoy it!

-Adrian

Serina looked over the letter once more and noticed the date. But why hasn’t he written anything since then? And where is the gift he mentioned? I guess I should go talk to George. She folded the letter and stood up with determination.

When she had returned to the castle she asked a servant where George had gone and soon found herself waiting outside the King’s throne room. Apparently George had wanted a private meeting, so Serina was not allowed inside until they were through. She paced in front of the door, ignoring the guard who was blocking the door and coolly watching her.

I don’t like this. First Adrian doesn’t send the gift that he clearly intended to send me, and now George wants a private audience with my father. Something’s not right. Oh why did I insist on readying the letter first? I should have just asked George what’s happened. She was reminded of all the times she’d had to wait as a child. She wasn’t very good at it. A particular moment when she had a longing for cherry pie and had to wait two hours for the cook to finally finish it came back to her. She had been too impatient to wait for the pie to cool and when no one was looking she had pushed her finger through the crust for a quick taste. Unfortunately, the pie was still piping hot and she had ended up with a burnt finger. Serina stopped pacing. I just need to be patient. This meeting can’t last forever.

And right as she had the thought, the door swung inward and a guard gestured for her to come inside.
Serina smiled and marched into the large throne room. Though the crystal decorations glistened like always, and the intricately woven murals hung on display, Serina ignored them all and focused all of her attention on George, who was standing next to her father’s throne.

A servant quickly brought a chair for Serina, it wasn’t a throne, but it was nicer than anything else and she always liked pretending it was her private throne. She made herself comfortable next to her father then put on her most diplomatic smile. “It seems that something has happened that I am hitherto unaware of, would you be so kind as to inform me of the development George?”

George gulped and looked at her father.

Charles waved his hand. “Go ahead; I’m sure she’ll have too many questions for me to answer. You might as well just tell her.”

George looked uncomfortable. Serina hoped that was because he was tired from the journey, but she had a nagging suspicion that it was something more. “Go ahead George,” she said with a smile, hoping to put him at ease.

George smoothed his mustache. “I assume you read the letter?”

Serina nodded. “Yes, I was surprised you didn’t give me the gift he’d mentioned. Although maybe you just forgot it, you do look rather tired.”

George shook his head. “I’m sorry Serina, there was no gift. You see…”

Serina waited as a thick silence filled the room. She glanced at her father.

“Oh just spit it out,” Charles said. “There’s no way around it.”

“Spit out what?” Serina asked.

“I’m afraid the plague has returned in Linden. Glenton was the first village affected and Adrian journeyed there to help with…”

The rest of George’s words faded from Serina’s mind. Plague… Adrian. She didn’t know what George was saying, but she blurted out. “Is he alright? Tell me George is Adrian—” She couldn’t finish the sentence.

George looked at his feet. “He has the plague. I’m so sorry.”

Serina’s heart stopped for a long second, then beat with an intensity she had rarely felt. George was saying something, trying to be comforting. Everyone was looking at her, her father, the guards. But it didn’t seem real, none of it was real. She closed her eyes. I’m dreaming, this is just a dream. Wake up Serina. She felt a hand on her shoulder, more words that didn’t penetrate the fog in her brain. I can’t lose him.

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Why you should go to the Library this Summer

It’s officially summer now and I have a bit more free time on my hands so I’ve been going to the library more regularly. I don’t know why, but for a good portion of my life I didn’t take advantage of our public library system here in Texas. But now that I’ve started, I can’t imagine not having it. So if you’re hitting those summer dog days and needing something to do, check out your local library.

Here are my three reasons why you should check it out.

1. Books! Whether it’s rereading one of your favorites or getting into a new series or even getting audio books for those long road trips, you can’t beat the library’s policy of three weeks rental for free. This summer I started reading the Guardians of Ga’hoole Series. I saw the movie years ago and always thought the series sounded interesting, but I finally got around to it with the help of my local library. And I’m currently starting John Flanagan’s Brotherband Series. I loved his Ranger’s Apprentice series and this one is starting off just as exciting.

2. Movies! Did you know you can rent movies at the library? They even have some Blu-ray movies! No download time, no fees, no quick return to the Redbox. You pick your movie for free and can keep it for 3 weeks! There’s no other place that can compete with that. I’ve been finding quite a few movies I’ve always meant to watch and never have. And since Blockbuster is out of business and Netflix has limited options, this seems like the best way to finally watch those old films. They even have newer releases. Although it might be a bit of a wait, so if you really want to see something, you might want to still use Redbox or another movie watching option. And you should always check the DVD’s before you check out, some have smudges and scratches and I’ve had trouble with a few. But for the most part, this is an excellent way to get some summer entertainment.

3. Programs! Now I don’t really get involved with these, I’d rather just get my books and movies and be gone. But libraries always have cool things going on, like Summer Reading Challenges where you can earn a free book, or events for kids and parents. So if you need some free entertainment, check it out.

And lastly, since I’m talking about libraries, I want to give a quick announcement. As many of you know, I have published 2 youth adventure books in my Finding Home Series: The Orphan’s Journey and The Lost Brother. This week La Vernia Public Library will be getting a copy of each of these books for people to check out. I hope whoever lives near La Vernia enjoys the addition to the library and gets a chance to check out the books.

Well that’s it for now, enjoy the summer and take advantage of your local library.

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Sneak Peek of the Pirate Princess

So I’ve been working on the next book in the Finding Home trilogy and I thought it was high time for a preview of the newest book. So, if you’ve read any of my books or you’re interested in adventure stories for young readers, I hope you enjoy this preview for Finding Home: The Pirate Princess.

Serina stared out at the violent waves, as they finished their job of wrecking the small rowboat to shreds. It felt like the sea was mocking her, arrogantly destroying her last shred of hope. How could it have gone this wrong? The sand felt hot against her bare feet, but she didn’t move, she couldn’t. Her whole world had crumbled and there was nothing she could do about it. Why? What did I do to deserve this? She clenched her fists and tried to keep the tears from coming but they came anyway, adding to the saltwater that already covered her trembling body. Now that she was alone, she couldn’t hold it together anymore. Why couldn’t it have been me? Why did they have to take Adrian? Why does it always have to be Adrian? Why can’t God just give me what I want for once in my life? She pulled on her hair, tempted to rip it out in frustration. But instead she fell to her knees and sobbed.

She didn’t know how long she’d been crying but her eyes refused to produce any more tears. She was dehydrated, drained and she felt like giving up. She looked up at the sky. “Alright, fine. I give up. Are you happy now? I’m sick of trying to do things my way. It never works and I’m tired of it. I don’t have anyone else so I’m giving You a chance. So help me save Adrian, please. He’s the last person to deserve this.”

She waited, silently hoping for a thundering voice to speak. But the roar of the waves and the cawing of seagulls was all she heard. Then in the distance she spotted a dark spot on the horizon. What is that? She stood up and put her hand to her forehead to block the sun and help her see clearer.

She stared for so long that her eyes began to hurt, but she didn’t take them off of the small dot. The wait was almost unbearable, the heat stifling, her clothes were already almost dry as the sun beat down on her. But the dot continued to get bigger and a flame of hope had lit in her chest that she held onto with everything she had left. Please be a ship. Please!

Finally the mast and sails took shape and Serina jumped with excitement. “Yes! A ship! Thank you God!” She didn’t care about anything else, not her torn dress or parched throat, or empty stomach. She just kept staring at that lovely ship. It was the most beautiful thing in the world to her. Thank you God!

Caleb stumbled out of the trees. “I heard you yelling, what happened?”

“A ship!” Serina said excitedly and pointed. She stopped as she realized Caleb was alive. She turned to him and gave him a big hug. “We’re saved!”

Caleb indulged her hug for a moment then stood back and blushed. “Do you still happen to have that spyglass?”

Serina wondered how she could have forgotten about it as she had watched that small dot getting closer. I really must be tired. She reached into her damp jacket and fished out the spyglass. She gave it to him with a smile.

Caleb took it and stared out at the ship. After a minute he mumbled sarcastically, “Oh great.”

All of the excitement drained out of Serina in an instant. “What?”

Caleb handed her the spyglass. “Take a look for yourself.”

Serina hurriedly pulled the odd contraption to her eye and tried to focus. Her hands were trembling too much and she had to take a deep breath to calm her nerves. Finally she found the ship among the vast blue ocean. She couldn’t see anything wrong with it. It looked sturdy and large enough to fit two extra passengers. But then she spotted the flag. The ugly red with a black X chilled her to the bones. “Oh no, it’s the pirates.”

“No, really? Ya think?”

“What are we going to do now?”

Caleb threw his hands up in the air. “I have no idea! But they’re headed straight here. It’s probably one of their bases of operation.”

“Maybe we could hide.”

Caleb shook his head. “I searched the whole island and besides a fresh spring it’s worthless. There’s nowhere we could hide where they wouldn’t spot us. It’s just not that big.”

Serina felt her chest tighten as the ship came nearer and nearer. And I thought things couldn’t get any worse.

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Author Visits and a Shout Out to School Librarians

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting Baranoff Elementary in Austin, TX. I feel like I’m becoming an old pro at these author visits and instead of being nervous, I was excited. As I drove in the misty morning rain to this elementary school, I couldn’t wait to get started. Just as Dezavala, I was scheduled to speak to the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. I had several boxes of books, my slideshow all ready to go, and even some fun music to play in the background while the kids found their seats.

With all of these school visits, I’ve discovered that having help from the librarian is a huge factor in how the visit goes. They know all of the kids and teachers, how the computers work, and what setup would work best. So I just want to give a shout out to all the school librarians out there. You do a great job at opening up the world of reading to students and I’m personally grateful for all the work you do.

Ms. Merriman is the librarian that I got to work with for this school. She did a great job of advertising the visit and getting the students excited. By the time I got there, they were all ready to pay attention and learn. I was particularly struck that my being a native Austinite had such an impact. I guess I’d never noticed that the other schools I’ve gone to are technically not in Austin. So this was my first Austin ISD school visit and they really made me feel welcome.

Ms. Merriman and her library clerk

Ms. Merriman and her library clerk

Several students had preordered the books and I had spent a good hour or so signing books the day before my visit. But Baranoff wasn’t done. Several more students decided they wanted a book the day I came and I ended up signing several more books while I was there. Ms. Merriman did a great job of giving me space to breathe and sign books in between each group. She also had the great idea that I would read a section of the book after my presentation and before the question time. That way the kids were still focused and ready to listen. It worked great and I was especially happy when I stopped reading and several kids made the “aww” sound because they wanted more. I hope most of them get to read the books over the holiday break.

And speaking of the kids, boy were these kids fun to talk to. So many of them were interested in writing and had great questions or wanted to tell me about their own books or stories. It was so fun to see their enthusiasm. I even had one girl say that her favorite book is Finding Home. I got pictures with a few of them and personally signed about 80 books. It was a great experience and I hope that all of the future schools I visit will be like this one.

So in honor of the Baranoff kids and in case you’re interested in the book, I thought I’d give a little preview of the section I read to the students. And actually I’ll add a bit extra since it’s one of my favorite scenes. Enjoy!

Chapter 2

The Innkeeper

“Lazy hands make a man poor,

but diligent hands bring wealth.”

Proverbs 10:4

      Ben finally collapsed in a field; too exhausted to take another step. He let the tears run freely now that no one was around to watch him fall apart. Gradually his heart slowed down and his breathing became normal. Finally Ben rolled onto his back, and stared aimlessly at the clouds.

Why God? What did I do wrong? Ben waited for an answer as the clouds floated gently in the spring breeze. After several minutes, Ben sighed and sat up. Now what? He wiped another tear from his cheek as the face of his father came to mind. He always believed in me… taught me so much, and gave me all that I needed… I didn’t deserve him.

Ben pulled his father’s sword out of the common scabbard it was stored in and studied it. Unlike the scabbard, the sword itself was very beautiful. It was double edged with an ornamented silver hilt engraved with the image of a golden eagle. I wonder where he got this. It doesn’t look like a sword that he could afford.

Ben noticed the sun was already past its zenith. I guess I should try to find a place to stay…. He reluctantly slid the sword back into its scabbard and stood up. He gazed back to where he had come from and shook his head. I never want to see that innkeeper again. He turned and started walking in the opposite direction.

* * * * *

      As the sun began to sink behind the horizon, Ben climbed a small hill and stopped to survey the landscape. A strange gray fog in the distance caught his attention. He was mystified as he studied the odd blending of gray into the colorful sunset. After a minute or so it dawned on him what the gray haze was. That must be smoke from a village.  Ben glanced at the sun as it dropped behind the horizon. I better hurry so I won’t get locked out of town tonight.

* * * * *

      It was nearly midnight before Ben reached a worn sign just outside the small village. The sign’s faded letters revealed that Ben had just arrived at Rosenwood. The gates were closed. However, the man guarding the gate allowed Ben in without too much of a fuss. While walking through the deserted streets, Ben felt the weight of an overpowering emptiness. All was quiet and dark, only a few scattered noises in the distance gave proof that anyone lived here. An old creaking sign indicated an inn nearby. Ben walked stealthily to the inn, feeling as if disturbing the quiet would be disastrous.

A lone light shone inside where a hefty innkeeper with graying hair was counting his money from the day’s business.

Ben walked in and studied the man’s plump nose and crinkled face, trying to decide if he was the kind of man that would let him stay the night without paying.

The man stopped counting all of a sudden and turned to face Ben with a frown of annoyance. “What do ya want?” he asked gruffly.

“I was wondering if I could sleep here tonight.” Ben replied.

The innkeeper’s small brown eyes darted up and down, studying Ben’s features. “Got any money?”

“Well no, but I can work for my stay. I can wash dishes, clean tables, serve food, or even muck out the stables.”

“Ha, muck out the stables. Tell ya what, if you clean the stables, you can sleep there.”

“Alright,” Ben answered with a faint smile on his face. “I’ll do it.”

The man grunted as Ben left, then turned back to resume counting his gold.

Ben found the musty old stable and started cleaning the stalls. He tried to focus on his work and keep the thoughts of the loving family he had lost to a minimum. However, as the night wore on, Ben couldn’t keep the thoughts from creeping into his mind. Once he had finished cleaning, he gave each of the few horses a fresh bucket of water and a thorough brushing. With all the unhindered thoughts of his family floating about in his head, Ben doubted that he would be able to sleep at all. However, around three in the morning, he finally drifted off in a pile of fresh hay.

* * * * *

      The next morning dawned bright, and the little town of Rosenwood started bustling with women doing laundry, men beating out metal, venders hollering out to shoppers, and children running around the market.

The old innkeeper closed his tired eyes and stretched his sore back. He had spent the whole morning making food for his customers and finally had a free moment to sit down.

A customer came up to pay his due. “What money do I owe you?” he asked pleasantly.

“Ten pieces of gold,” the innkeeper replied.

“Really, that seems rather generous of you.”

“What do ya mean?” the innkeeper’s eyes squinted as he tilted his head to the side. “Ten pieces isn’t cheap, at least not for the prices ‘round here.”

“Well my horses were taken care of so well, I assumed it would cost more.”

The innkeeper stared at him dumbfounded.

“You know, the clean stalls, fresh water, and they were groomed magnificently. I’d say they were the king’s horses, if I didn’t know them.”

The innkeeper wasn’t sure what to say so he remained silent.

“Well here’s five extra pieces, I think you deserve them,” the man said with a smile. Then he turned and went on his way.

The innkeeper scratched his head. “What in the world is he talking about? That stable is filthy and I wouldn’t touch a horse for all the money in the world.” He dropped the coins in his pocket and went over to the stable to make sure the man wasn’t hallucinating.

As the innkeeper walked to the stable he saw the man leading his horses out into the street. They really were magnificent; each had a smooth clean coat that shone in the morning light. Even with his fear of horses the innkeeper admired their beauty. “But how did they…? I didn’t….”

As he stepped into the old stable, he gasped.

Everything was put away, the stalls were all clean and the smell of fresh hay filled the room. He stared almost unbelieving when a thought struck him. “There was a boy last night… and I told him that he could sleep here if he cleaned up the place.” The innkeeper smiled to himself, “So that explains the fancy horses and clean stable.” The old man soon spotted the boy soundly sleeping in a fresh pile of hay. He walked over to the boy and gave him a gentle shove with his foot. “Wake up young sir. Are ya hungry?”

Ben rolled over and opened his calm blue eyes. “Huh? Hungry? Oh, yes I’m hungry.” He sat up and rubbed his eyes.

“Good, I need some way to repay ya for cleaning this old stable and those horses. Did you know I got five extra pieces of gold for your work? And a mighty satisfied customer if I do say so myself.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that, sir.”

“Yes, well, no need to call me sir… and what pray tell is your name?”

Ben stood up. “I’m Ben, what’s yours?”

“People call me John.”

“Well nice to meet you John,” Ben said as he shook his hand.

“Nice to meet you too. By the way, I’m sorry for making you sleep in the stable. I thought you were some naughty kid that needed to be taught a lesson about running away from home.”

Ben frowned and looked down at the floor. “No, I didn’t exactly run away, I kind of lost my family.”

“Well I’m sorry… is there anything I can do?”

“Not really.”

John studied Ben’s downcast face for a minute. “Alright, then we’ll just get you some breakfast.”

 

 

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Author Visit

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Well I got to visit another lovely school this week. I drove down to San Marcos on Tuesday afternoon and walked into De Zavala Elementary to speak with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders about writing. A couple of 2nd graders listened in during the first presentation too. It was so cool to see their enthusiasm about writing a book. Several of them asked me about how they can get involved with NaNoWriMo too. I hope that one day I get to hear about some young authors who got their start at De Zavala. One kid also asked me if my books were in Spanish. I had never thought about translating my books before. But that’s actually a really good idea, especially for where I live. So I may have to look into that too.

I am also excited to try a new way of selling my books. At every other school I’ve gone to, I’ve offered my books at a discount if someone preorders. Then I bring the books to the school with me and pass them out after the presentation. But just like any adult, kids usually don’t want a book until after they’ve heard all about it and meeting the author helps a lot too. So the librarian at De Zavala  suggested taking orders after the presentation and then letting me know how many books she needs in a week or two. I’m hopeful that this will be a great way to promote my book and make it available for even more kids.

However, in some cases I may have to stick with the preorders only, especially for schools that are hours away from where I live. But for the schools closer, it might be a great way to make it easier for kids to get the books.

So anyway, I had a lot of fun with this school visit and I hope the next one is just as fun.

If you happen to want copies of the Finding Home Series, check them out by clicking the pictures of the book on the right. The links will take you to Amazon where you can read some sections of the book and have it shipped directly to your home. It could make a good Christmas present for a young reader.

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Word Wrangler 2016

Sorry I didn’t post last week, I just got too busy with life to even think about a blog post. So now that I have some time, I thought I’d write about how my 2nd Word Wrangler Festival went. This year I went to a different school: Immanuel Lutheran School. The school has kids from Kinder through High School I believe. So instead of speaking to the whole school, I was with smaller groups of kids. I had a series of 3 talks. The first was with some delightful 4th graders who had great questions and a lot of energy. We ended up eating lunch with them in the cafeteria after the presentation, and I got to answer more fun questions, such as what’s your favorite color. I discovered that I not only shared the last name of their teacher, but also her favorite color. It’s yellow by the way. So that was fun!

Then after lunch, I met with 2 more groups. The first was 5th and 6th graders. These kids would probably enjoy my book the most and a lot of them were engaged, had questions, and were excited about reading and writing. And finally I got to talk with the 7th and 8th graders. You can really tell a difference with the ages as kids get closer to high school. They tend to be quieter and not as enthusiastic, which is fine. I tried to adjust my talk to engage each group, and I think they all had fun and learned something.

I also had the great pleasure of sharing the time with the kids with another author, or as he liked to refer to himself, a poet. Wayne Edwards has been writing comedic poetry for several years and he reads it to kids often. It was cool to see how someone else engages with kids and gets them to laugh. I enjoyed hearing the humorous poems as much as the kids and I think it was cool for the children to learn about the different types of writing. Because Mr. Edwards read a lot of his poetry to the kids, and the principal asked if I would read some of my work, I ended up adding to my presentation and reading the first page of my first book. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so a lot of the kids were interested after I read it.

Here’s what I read:

The tension in the room was thick. Ben looked steadily at his father. “I have to ask you a question” he said determinedly.
“Alright” his father replied.
“Who am I?” Ben asked with emphasis.
“What? You know who you are. You’re Ben, my son,” Thomas said with a small chuckle.
“No I’m not,” Ben insisted. “I don’t look like anyone else in this family. If I’m your son, then why am I the only kid with blond hair?”
“Is that what this is about? Ben just because you look different doesn’t mean you’re not my son. Things like this happen sometimes; it’s one of life’s mysteries.”
Ben wasn’t convinced. “Well how come me and Joshua are the same age but have different birthdays? That isn’t a mystery of life, it’s impossible!” Ben crossed his arms and waited for an explanation.

I’m so glad there were people giving me suggestions and advice as I’ve visited more schools and book fairs. So, my day at the school was fun, but a little different than I expected. Last year I had tried to get the kids to preorder the book, so I could give it to them at the school. This made for some cool conversations as some of the kids had started reading the book when they came to visit the Public Library the next day and could tell me what they liked so far. But this year a missing email meant that the kids didn’t know they could preorder the book. So instead I printed the flyer at the school when I got there and my mom handed it out to the kids after my talk. I wasn’t sure if any of the kids would actually buy the book, but I thought it was better than nothing and I told them they could still get the discounted price if they brought the sheet to the library the next day.

K-5th was scheduled to come to the Library, so the next day I looked forward to seeing some of the kids again. The first several hours of the book fair were a little discouraging. Most of the kids visiting walked through but didn’t buy anything, and some sounded interested but didn’t have money or wanted a different book that someone else had written. I took an early lunch and while I was eating, my friend Mrs. Morris came and asked me to sign 2 books for a kid and told me another kid had also bought both books. I was so excited!

And when I got back to my table, one girl who had bought the first book last year came to my table and got the sequel! I’m so glad at least one kid wanted to read the next one. Then as kids from Immanuel started coming through I was overwhelmed with how many wanted to buy the books. It was so encouraging and I decided it might have been a better idea to have the flyer than the preorder, because then kids had met me, were excited, and immediately had a chance to buy the book. I got to see several 4th, 5th and even a few 6th graders who had to come with parents. Then at the very end of the day while I was packing up, one last lady stopped by to get the books for her granddaughter who was in 8th grade. I sold even more books than last year, probably because several kids wanted both books. It was such a great experience and I’m so thankful to the people who organize this book festival every year and for Mr. Shaefer for having me come to his school.

Here’s what he had to say about the experience:

“Lydia Hill can help inspire young authors to follow their dreams. She shares her story of assembling thoughts for adventures in an understanding, easy to follow presentation. Her pleasant demeanor and Christian conscience makes her a delight to invite for any age student to be filled with incentive to write.” – Dan Schaefer, principal, Immanuel Lutheran School, Giddings, TX

And here’s the awesome Thank you Card I got from the students:

I’m hoping to go to even more book fairs and visit more schools in the future.

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How I Became An Author

I’m excited to announce that I will be visiting a school in Giddings, TX! Immanuel Lutheran School has graciously invited me to come speak about writing and my new book Finding Home: The Lost Brother on September 8th. I’m so excited to talk with kids about my experience with writing and publishing books that I just had to share.

I know most people who read this blog will not be able to come to this school, or any of the school visits I get to be a part of, so I thought I’d share a little bit of what I will be talking about while I’m there. There’s a lot more to my speech along with some questions for the kids, but I thought y’all might like this little glimpse into my life and how I became an author.

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My sister after she won NaNoWriMo for the 1st time

How I Became An Author

When I was younger I always loved to make up stories by playing pretend games. I’d imagine that my backyard was the Oregon Trail and I’d pull my little wagon around it like I was really traveling to Oregon. I’d pretend I was a horse or a dog with my sister and I’d pretend I was a mermaid or a dolphin while I was in the pool. But as I got older, I started to write down some of the stories I imagined. And I always wanted to make up new ones. I got into the habit of trying to think up a good story whenever I went to bed and hoping that I would end up dreaming about it. That didn’t work very often, but one time, when I was trying to fall asleep, I started thinking up a really great story. Usually if I liked the story enough I would try to write it down so I wouldn’t forget it, but this story was so good, I didn’t want to just write it down, I wanted to share it. So I started writing.

Now writing down the basic plot points of a story is one thing, and actually writing out the dialogue and what the characters do and say is very different. I worked really hard on making my story a reality for a few months, but eventually I started focusing on other things, like school and friends. By the time I went to college my idea of finishing this story and actually publishing a book was still something I thought would be cool, but I didn’t know if I ever would.

Then when I was a senior in college my sister did something amazing, and well it kind of brought out my competitive nature. She decided to do NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month and write 50,000 words in one month. I didn’t think she could do it, I mean I had been working on my book for years and hadn’t written that much. But she did it, she wrote a whole book in one month. And I decided, if my little sister can do this, I can do this. So I set to writing my book and actually finishing it. And the next year when she decided to do NaNoWriMo again, I joined her and wrote the first draft for my sequel.

And that’s how this book got it’s beginning, from a little bit of competition.

 

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Finding Home: The Lost Brother

BookCoverPreview1

My new novel Finding Home: The Lost Brother is available on Amazon! If you’ve been interested in my writing at all, I hope you’ll check it out.

Click Here to Look at the Book

 

Cover

And if you’ve never read the original novel check it out too!

Click Here to Check Out the Original Novel

Also, I’ve been invited to return to Giddings, TX for the Word Wrangler Festival in September. I’m so excited and I just wanted to share that today.

I hope you’re having a great day too!

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Release Date

BookCoverPreview1

Hey everyone, I’m trying to be more intentional about my writing. So all of you can hold me accountable. The next book in my Finding Home series is almost done. I’m setting the Release Date for June 30th 2016! If you read the first book: The Orphan’s Journey, then you’ll like the continuation of the story in: The Lost Brother.

Thank you to everyone who’s supported me through this long process of writing and editing. I hope y’all enjoy the new book! And as a gift to you, here is a sneak peek of the newly revised 1st Chapter!

 

Chapter 1

A Lost Home

“The rich rule over the poor,

and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

Proverbs 22:7

The small town of Hampton was full of life as the salty air rushed by in the afternoon breeze. The stalls of vendors reeked of fish and mollusks from the day’s catch. The sounds of haggling mixed with the shouts of children who were playing hide and seek amongst the crowd.

War, it would seem, could not touch this place. This rural fishing community with its squat little cottages spread across the rolling hills was too far removed from the rest of the country to get caught up in any of its recent excitement.

Unlike the other children playing hide and seek, Josiah was neither smiling nor laughing. He set the heavy water bucket down for a minute to catch his breath. It was a long climb from the village well back to the breezy hillside where he now lived. He studied the imposing stone structure for a minute, so different from the home he had grown up in. He tried to remember instead the old cottage, with the kitchen fire bringing warmth and light to the whole family. He could still picture each of his brothers’ smiling faces. That’s how he remembered them; always smiling, always having fun.

Josiah shook the image from his head and found himself staring at the full bucket. No, I shouldn’t be thinking about them. Everyone says I can’t change what happened and I should be thankful for what I have. A sigh escaped his lips. It wasn’t that he was ungrateful for the family that had taken him in, now that he was an orphan, but still things would never be the same.

“Josiah? Are you going to dawdle all day or are you going to fetch me that water?” a loud voice echoed down to him.

“Coming!” Josiah replied, trying to sound respectful. He flexed his fingers and again took hold of the rough handle.

The large woman with dark brown eyes who met him at the door could have been pleasant to look at if she wasn’t constantly frowning. She glared down at Josiah with her permanent frown planted squarely on her fat face. She crossed her arms, “What took you so long? A grumpy old donkey could move faster than you.”

Josiah’s eyes fell to the ground. “Sorry, Margaret.”

“It’s Lady Margaret to you!” she said with a huff. “How many times do I have to remind you? You’re such a dunce. Now hand over that water bucket.”

Josiah handed the bucket to the waiting servant and reluctantly took another empty bucket from the floor. “Yes, Lady Margaret.”

“Now be quick with this one. No more lollygagging, got it?”

Josiah nodded and turned back down the large hill. He hurried along, willing his legs to move faster than he felt was possible.

An hour later, Lady Margaret, finally satisfied with the amount of water Josiah had collected, released him from his chores. “I shall be indisposed for an hour, but I expect you to be back here when I am through. Do you understand?”

Josiah nodded. “Yes, Lady Margaret.”

“Good.” Lady Margaret shut the door.

Josiah sighed and turned to face the sea. This was his favorite time. Lady Margaret, for all her faults, also had a love for long baths that allowed Josiah a precious hour of freedom. He skipped down the hill’s worn path toward his best friend’s home.

A sturdy little cottage covered with flowers came into view. The woman of the house loved to garden, and the sweet scents overpowered the salty sea air around the home. Vines covered with little purple flowers climbed all over the stone walls, while window boxes overflowed with yellow and pink blossoms.

Josiah smiled to himself and called out, “Alex?”

A woman’s thin face popped out from behind a bush teeming with little pink flowers. “He’ll be out in a minute Josiah. He’s washing the dishes for me.”

Josiah grinned back at the woman’s kind face. “You need any help Holly?”

Thin strands of her brown hair swayed as Holly shook her head. “Not today. I’m almost done.”

Josiah nodded and began to wander through the various flowers while he waited. As he watched the bees hum from one bloom to the next, he finally felt a sense of peace. Compared to the dark stone mansion where he now lived, this place felt like heaven. Why couldn’t Alex’s family have adopted me? We’re already like brothers.

Josiah sighed because he knew why. Though Alex’s family was generous, there was a limit to the help they could give. They could barely keep up with feeding their own children. In comparison, Lady Margaret and Lord Gregory had a surplus and no children to care for. Even though Josiah felt more like a servant than a son in their home, he couldn’t complain. He had food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and a roof over his head.

“Hey Josiah!”

Josiah turned to see Alex wipe a wad of soap bubbles out of his tangled brown hair. “You done with soap duty?”

“Yeah, you done with bucket duty?”

Josiah rubbed his calloused hands. “Yeah, for today anyway.”

“You want to go to the beach?”

“Actually, I was thinking of… you know.”

Alex shrugged. “Sure, we can go there today.”

“Well let’s go then! I only have an hour you know,” Josiah said as he sprinted toward an old dirt path.

Alex picked up a smooth walking stick and swung it over his head. “I’ll get ye yet ya slippery eel!”

“You’ll have to catch me first!” Josiah called over his shoulder. He darted through the forest, ducking under low limbs and jumping over thick tree roots like a wild animal. Then he dived behind a bush and waited for Alex to catch up.

Five minutes later Alex came up the path poking his stick into several bushes. He stopped and called out, “Alright, you can stop hiding now Josiah. I’m tired of this game.”

Josiah grinned as he watched Alex and mimicked a bird’s sharp whistle.

Alex sat down and crossed his arms. “I’m not playing anymore Josiah. You always win.” He waited for an answer and poked his long stick into the thick foliage. “At least give me a hint!” Alex searched a bit longer than threw his stick down. “Ugh, you’re no fun. I’m going home.”

Josiah suddenly sprang out of the bush he had been hiding in and tackled Alex to the ground. “Got you!” he said triumphantly.

Alex pushed him off. “No fair! You didn’t even give me a hint that time.”

Josiah sat up with a grin. “Sure I did. Didn’t you hear the bird calls?”

Alex tilted his head to the side. “That was you?”

Josiah winked.

“It’s not fair,” Alex pouted. “I never got special lessons about being quiet in the woods.”

Josiah frowned. “Yeah, well, just be glad it wasn’t you.”

“Come on, tell me about it.”

Josiah shook his head to dislodge the image that had popped into his brain of a man with feathers sticking out of his dark hair.

“Please,” Alex whined.

“Cut it out Alex. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“But I’m your best friend! You can share your secrets with me.”

Josiah stood up with a grunt. “Come on, let’s go to the house, I don’t have much time left.”

Alex got up reluctantly.

The two boys scurried through the woods and soon broke into a clearing. They raced up the familiar path that led to a well-worn cottage in the distance.

“Are you still planning on living here one day?” Alex asked.

“Of course, we’re going to be neighbors. I’ll live in my cottage, and we’ll build you another one right… there.” Josiah pointed to an uncommon spot of level ground.

“I wish you could live here now,” Alex sighed. “Then we could play all the time… like before.”

“Like when we were kids.”

“What are you talking about? We’re both ten. We are kids,” Alex said, a bit confused. Then he laughed. “Except when I’m doing dishes, then I’m just like a real adult.”

Josiah shook his head and laughed. “Yeah, you’re a real grown up now.”

Alex hit Josiah in the stomach playfully. “Hey, it’s a start.”

“Yeah well, don’t be in a hurry. Being an adult isn’t that great. Trust me.”

Alex stared at his friend with concern. “What do you mean?”

“Never mind.”

“One of these days Josiah, you’re going to tell me what happened to you.”

Josiah studied the ground and kept silent.

Alex sat down with a huff and stared out at the ocean. “It is a nice view though. I can see why you like it up here.”

Josiah nodded, but he turned to look at the cottage instead. He closed his eyes and imagined his family standing there with him.

“Guess you have to go home now,” Alex muttered.

Josiah’s eyes snapped open and he glanced at where the sun was in the sky. “Oh no, I’m going to be late,” he groaned.

“Well, guess I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Alex said as he stood up and wiped dirt off his hands and onto his pants.

Josiah nodded glumly but didn’t move; he didn’t want his hour of bliss to end.

Alex headed for the worn path that led to his home and turned to wave. “You better hurry Josiah!” he called.

Josiah lifted his hand in farewell and watched as his friend disappeared into the trees. “Bye,” he said under his breath. He took one last look at the snug little cottage then took off at a sprint, heading for the cold stone manor that he now reluctantly called home. He arrived out of breath and as he suspected, late. He could hear Lady Margaret mumbling to herself through the door. He couldn’t make out the words, but she sounded irritated. Part of Josiah wanted to turn and run away. I could just leave, never look back. I could just live on my own…. But something held him there, for though the situation was almost unbearable, being alone seemed far worse.

“I can hear you breathing,” Lady Margaret said loudly. “Get in here now!”

“Too late now,” Josiah muttered to himself. He pulled the door open and walked into the dimly-lit manor.

“You’re late,” Lady Margaret said with quiet impatience.

“Sorry,” Josiah mumbled.

“You don’t even have an excuse this time?”

Josiah shook his head.

“Gregory is not going to like this.”

Josiah cringed.

Lady Margaret smiled with satisfaction. “Go wash up now, dinner is ready.”

Josiah nodded and sulked over to the washbasin. He rinsed his hands slowly, his mind racing, wondering which punishment Lord Gregory would inflict on him this evening.

Just then, Gregory’s oversized body squeezed in through the door. “Ah, it’s good to come home to a warm meal,” he said happily. “What’s this I smell Margaret? Could it be lamb?”

Margaret laughed. “No, guess again.”

Gregory’s heavy footsteps caused the stone walls to echo with loud thumps as he made his way to the table.

Josiah frowned at the large muddy tracks scarring the freshly polished floor. Great, guess my punishment will be cleaning that floor again.

Gregory inhaled deeply, moving the thick brown hairs of his mustache. “Hmm, perhaps venison is our treat of the evening.”

Margaret shook her head. “Come now, stop being so extravagant.”

Gregory frowned and rubbed his scruffy beard. “We’re not having chicken again, are we?”

Margaret nodded. “Unfortunately, when we have more mouths to feed the delicacies give way to the practical.” She eyed Josiah accusingly.

Josiah avoided her gaze and took his seat. It’s not like I wanted you to take me in either.

Gregory sighed. “I was hoping for something else, but at least it’s not fish.” As he sat at the head of the table, his massive chair gave a groan.

A servant rushed in with a platter of steaming chicken and another followed with a platter of rolls. The two servants rushed in and out of the kitchen, carrying dish after dish of delectable food.

Gregory began tearing into a chicken leg and several rolls before the whole meal was even on the table.

Margaret sat delicately in her own chair and began picking out several choice berries and a slice of chicken breast.

Josiah sat still as a statue, waiting for them both to begin eating. He had come to the understanding that the more his presence went unnoticed, the better. Once the two had finished serving themselves, he grabbed a few leftovers and nibbled at them quietly.

As Gregory started on his second helping of food, Margaret cleared her throat.

Gregory ignored her as he kept eating.

A servant refilled Margaret’s glass, but she cleared her throat again, more loudly this time. When her husband still ignored her, she raised her voice. “Gregory.”

Gregory made eye contact but refused to stop eating.

“We’ve had another unfortunate mistake that needs correcting.”

Gregory rolled his eyes and swallowed. “What is it this time?” he moaned.

Margaret locked eyes on Josiah. “Our dear little boy has refused to follow directions again. He needs to be disciplined.”

Gregory glanced at Josiah with annoyance. “Can’t you go one day without getting in trouble?”

Josiah’s eyes dropped to his plate.

“Apparently not,” Margaret said with distaste. “It’s a pity that we have to deal with all his childishness. His parents really should have done a better job of raising him.”

Josiah glanced up at Lady Margaret, stunned. He felt like crying and yelling in rage at the same time, but nothing came out of his dry throat.

“Margaret,” Gregory said calmly. “There’s no need to bring that up. It’s not like he could help it.”

Margaret sniffed and went back to cutting her chicken into bite-sized pieces. “Well, he still needs to be punished. I won’t allow his uncouth behavior in my house.”

“Fine,” Gregory said quietly. “Then he won’t sleep in your house tonight, how’s that?”

Margaret gave a quick nod of approval and went back to eating.

Josiah glanced up at Lord Gregory. “So where will I sleep tonight?”

Gregory’s face softened; he almost looked apologetic. “In the barn.”

Josiah stared back at his plate of food.

“What do you say?” Margaret said with an air of satisfaction.

“Yes, sir,” Josiah said with as little emotion as possible.

* * * * *

Josiah stepped into the weather-beaten barn. The small lantern in his hand illuminated the damp quarters, revealing several stalls where quiet animals stood staring back at him. It was more unnerving in the dark than it ever was when he had to feed the animals in the light of day. Josiah clung to the thick blanket in his other hand and took a deep breath. “Alright, nothing to be afraid of in here,” he tried to reassure himself.

The wooden panels creaked as a sharp gust of wind came in from the sea. Little streams of air whistled through the cracks in the siding.

Josiah gulped and took another step inside. He jumped as the wind slammed the door shut behind him. Calm down. It’s just wind, it can’t hurt me. He settled down on the damp hay of an empty stall and snuggled in his thick blanket. Josiah wasn’t sure he’d be able to fall asleep in the dark barn, but he tried to get comfortable anyway.

* * * * *

Josiah’s was running through the forest but his legs began to give out. Then he stumbled over a rock and tumbled into a shallow creek bed. He landed on his back and before he knew it, a boot had pinned him to the soft wet ground. Josiah stared helplessly at Harold’s terrifying face, and knew nothing he could say would deter this monster.

“You’ve done it now,” Harold gloated. “I gave you a chance, you know I did. But now it’s too late. I really shouldn’t have let you live this long.”

Josiah closed his eyes.

Suddenly the pressure of Harold’s boot lessened. “What the?”

A twang reverberated through the forest, and Josiah opened his eyes to see Harold with an arrow sticking out of his chest.

Harold stood with a surprised look on his face for a second and without another word tumbled over, dead.

Josiah was too stunned to move, he stared at the arrow, then slowly sat up and looked around the woods frantically.

It wasn’t until the stranger was ten feet away that Josiah saw him. He was a young man who wore odd clothing and had two feathers sticking out of his dark brown hair. He approached Josiah slowly, barely making a sound. He was neither smiling nor frowning but was studying Josiah with keen inquisitive eyes.

* * * * *

Josiah’s heart was pounding as he opened his eyes. He sat up and looked around the shabby barn. It was just a dream, it’s not real. He tried to breathe slowly. It was just another stupid nightmare. Gradually his heart’s quick beats began to slow. He lay back down and tried to get comfortable but he couldn’t fall asleep. So he did what he always did; he started picturing his father, then his mother, and proceeded to each of his brothers, finally ending on the one person who wasn’t dead, but had left him anyway. He visualized the man with the feathers again. Why? Why did you leave me here? Why does everyone have to leave me?    

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Sneak Peek: Chapter 1 of The Lost Brother

Merry Christmas everyone!

I’ve been editing up a storm this past month and I’m about to print my first test copy of my sequel novel Finding Home: The Lost Brother. Since it’s Christmas time, I thought I’d post the whole first chapter for y’all to read. So enjoy! Merry Christmas! And feel free to leave comments if you’d like to.

 

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A Lost Home

“The rich rule over the poor,

and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

Proverbs 22:7

The small town of Hampton was full of life as the salty air rushed swiftly by in the afternoon breeze. The stalls of vendors reeked with fish and mollusks. Even the children playing hide and seek amongst the crowd wore smiles of joy. War, it would seem, could not touch this place or leave any lasting marks on the landscape.

However, for young Josiah, life was not well. It wasn’t that he was ungrateful for the family that had taken him in, now that he was an orphan, but still things would never be the same. Josiah set the heavy water bucket down for a minute to catch his breath. It was a long climb from the village well back to the breezy hillside where he now lived. He studied the imposing stone structure for a minute, so different from the home he had grown up in. He tried to picture the old cottage, with the kitchen fire bringing warmth and light to the whole family. He could still picture each of his brothers smiling faces. That’s how he remembered them, always smiling, always having fun.

Josiah had been completely content as a child, ignorant of his parent’s money problems, and constantly babied by his mother, he was after all the youngest. Although he was inevitably picked on by his older siblings, life had seemed good to him; that was until things turned for the worse.

He stared at the full bucket and sighed. It was no good brooding on the past. He had been told over and over that he couldn’t change what had happened and that he should be thankful for his life.

“Josiah? Are you going to dawdle all day or are you going to fetch me that water?” a loud voice echoed down to him.

“Coming!” Josiah replied, trying to sound respectful. He flexed his fingers and again took hold of the rough handle.

The large woman with dark brown eyes that met him at the door could have been pleasant to look at if she wasn’t constantly frowning. She glared down at Josiah with her permanent frown planted squarely on her face. Then to make things worse she crossed her arms, “What took you so long? A grumpy old donkey could move faster than you.”

Josiah’s eyes fell to the ground, “Sorry Margaret.”

“It’s Lady Margaret to you!” the lady said with a huff. “How many times do I have to remind you? You’re such a dunce. Now give me that water bucket.”

Josiah handed the bucket to her, and reluctantly took another empty bucket from her outstretched hand. “Yes Lady Margaret.”

“Now be quick with this one, no more lollygagging, got it?”

Josiah nodded, and turned back down the large hill. He plodded along, willing his legs to move faster than he felt possible.

An hour later, Lady Margaret finally felt satisfied with the amount of water Josiah had collected and released him from his chores. “I shall be indisposed for an hour, but I expect you to be back here when I am through. Do you understand?”

Josiah nodded, “Yes Lady Margaret.”

“Good.” With that Lady Margaret shut the door curtly.

Josiah sighed and turned to face the sea. This was his favorite time. Lady Margaret for all her faults also had a love for long baths that allowed Josiah a precious hour of freedom. He skipped down the hill’s worn path towards his best friend’s home.

A sturdy little cottage, covered with flowers came into view. The woman of the house loved flowers, and so the sweet scents overpowered the salty sea air around the home. Vines covered with little purple flowers climbed all over the stone walls, while window boxes overflowed with yellow and pink blossoms. Even the ground seemed to explode with growth. No matter what season, some kind of flower was always in bloom at this home, even if only in the windowsill while a wintry storm blew outside.

Josiah smiled to himself and called out, “Alex?”

A woman’s face popped out from behind a bush teeming with little pink flowers, “He’ll be out in a minute Josiah. He’s washing the dishes for me.”

Josiah nodded and smiled back at the woman’s kind face. “You need any help?”

Thin strands of her brown hair swayed as she shook her head, “Not today, I’m almost done.”

Josiah nodded and began to wander through the various flowers while he waited. As he watched the bees hum from one bloom to the next, he finally felt a sense of peace. Compared to the dark stone mansion where he now lived, this place felt like heaven. Why couldn’t Alex’s family have adopted me? We’re already like brothers. Josiah sighed because he knew why. Though Alex’s family was generous, there was a limit to the help they could give. They were not well-off, and could barely keep up with feeding their own children. In comparison Lady Margaret and Lord Gregory had a surplus, and no children to care for. Even though Josiah felt more like a servant than a son in their home, he couldn’t complain. He had food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and a roof over his head.

“Hey Josiah!” Alex said excitedly.

Josiah turned to his see his friend wipe a wad of soap bubbles out of his tangled brown hair, “You done with soap duty?”

“Yeah, you done with bucket duty?”

Josiah rubbed his calloused hands, “Yeah, for today anyway.”

“You want to play at the beach?”

“Actually, I was thinking of… you know.”

Alex shrugged, “Sure, we can play there today.”

“Well let’s go then, I only have an hour you know,” Josiah said as he sprinted towards an old dirt path.

Alex picked up a smooth walking stick and swung it over his head, “I’ll get ye yet ya slippery eel!”

“You’ll have to catch me first!” Josiah called over his shoulder. He darted through the forest, slipping under low limps and over thick tree roots like a wild animal.

Five minutes later Alex called out, “Alright, you can stop hiding now Josiah. I’m tired of this game.”

No one answered, just the call of birds echoed under the green canopy.

Alex sat down and crossed his arms, “I’m not playing anymore Josiah. You always win.” Alex waited for an answer, and still there was nothing. “At least give me a hint!” Alex searched the brush, poking his long stick into the thick foliage. “Uhgg, you’re no fun. I’m going home.”

Josiah suddenly sprang out of a bush and tackled Alex to the ground. “Got you!” he said triumphantly.

Alex pushed his friend off, “No fair, you didn’t even give me a hint that time.”

Josiah sat up with a grin, “Sure I did; didn’t you hear the bird calls?”

Alex tilted his head to the side, “That was you?”

Josiah winked.

“It’s not fair,” Alex pouted. I never got special lessons about being quiet in the woods.”

Josiah frowned, “Yeah, well just be glad it wasn’t you.”

“Come on, tell me about it.”

Josiah shook his head.

“Please,” Alex whined.

“Cut it out Alex, I don’t want to talk about it.”

Alex continued pouting, “But I’m your best friend! You can share your secrets with me.”

Josiah stood up with a grunt, “Come on, let’s go to the house, I don’t have much time left.”

Alex got up reluctantly.

The two boys scurried through the woods and soon broke into a clearing. They returned to the path that led to a well-worn cottage in the distance.

“Are you still planning on living here one day?” Alex asked.

“Of course, we’re going to be neighbors. I’ll live in my cottage, and we’ll build you another one right… there.” Josiah pointed to an uncommon spot of level ground.

“I wish you could live here now,” Alex sighed. “Then we could play all the time… like before.”

“Like when we were kids.”

“What are you talking about? We are kids,” Alex said a bit confused. Then he laughed, “Except when I’m doing dishes, then I’m just like a real adult.”

Josiah shook his head and laughed, “Yeah, you’re a real grown up now.”

Alex hit Josiah in the stomach playfully, “Hey, it’s a start.”

“Yeah, well don’t be in a hurry, being an adult isn’t that great, trust me.”

Alex stared at his friend with concern, “What do you mean?”

“Never mind.”

“One of these days Josiah, you’re going to tell me what happened to you.”

Josiah studied the ground and kept silent.

Alex sat down with a huff and stared out at the ocean, “It is a nice view though; I can see why you like it up here.”

Josiah nodded, but he turned to look at the cottage instead. He closed his eyes and imagined his family standing there with him.

“Guess you have to go home now,” Alex muttered.

Josiah’s eyes snapped open and he glanced at where the sun was in the sky. “Yeah,” he mumbled.

“Well, guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” Alex said as he stood up and wiped the dirt off his hands and onto his pants.

Josiah nodded glumly, not wanting his hour of bliss to end.

Alex headed for the worn path that led to his home and turned to wave. “Bye Josiah,” he called.

Josiah lifted his hand in farewell and watched as his friend disappeared into the trees. “Bye,” he said under his breath. He took one last look at the snug little cottage then took off at a sprint heading for the cold stone structure that he now reluctantly called home. He arrived out of breath and even though he had run the whole way, he was still late. Through the door he could hear Lady Margaret mumbling to herself. He couldn’t make out the words, but she sounded irritated. Part of Josiah wanted to turn and run away. I could just leave, never look back. I could just live on my own…. But something held him there.

“I can hear you breathing,” Lady Margaret said loudly. “Get in here now!”

“Too late now,” Josiah mumbled to himself. He pulled the door open and walked into the poorly lit structure.

“You’re late,” Lady Margaret said with quiet impatience.

“Sorry,” Josiah mumbled.

“You don’t even have an excuse this time?” Lady Margaret said disappointedly.

Josiah shook his head.

“Gregory is not going to like this,” Lady Margaret said matter-of-factly.

Josiah cringed.

Lady Margaret smiled, pleased that her comment had the desired effect. “Go wash up now, dinner is ready.”

Josiah nodded and sulked over to the washbasin. He rinsed his hands slowly, his mind racing with which punishment Lord Gregory would inflict on him this evening.

Just then Gregory’s oversized body walked in through the door. “Ah, it’s good to come home to a warm meal,” he said happily. “What’s this I smell Margaret? Could it be lamb?”

Margaret laughed, “No, guess again.”

Gregory’s heavy footsteps caused the stone walls to echo with loud thumps as he made his way to the table.

Josiah frowned at the large muddy tracks scaring the freshly polished floor that Gregory left in his wake. Great, guess my punishment will be cleaning that floor… again.

      Gregory inhaled deeply, moving the thick brown hairs of his mustache. “Hmm, perhaps venison is our treat of the evening.”

Margaret shook her head. “Come now, stop being so extravagant.”

Gregory frowned and rubbed his scruffy beard, “We’re not having chicken again, are we?”

Margaret nodded, “Unfortunately when we have more mouths to feed, the delicacies give way to the practical.” She eyed Josiah accusingly.

Josiah avoided her gaze and took his seat. It’s not like I wanted you to take me in either.

      Gregory sighed, “I was hoping for something else… but at least it’s not fish.” He sat with a loud thump in his massive chair at the head of the table.

“True,” Margaret said.

“Well, come now, let’s eat,” Gregory said.

A servant rushed in with a platter of steaming chicken, and another followed with a platter of rolls. The two servants rushed in and out of the kitchen, carrying dish after dish of steaming food.

Gregory waited for no one and began tearing into a chicken leg and several rolls before the whole meal was even on the table.

Margaret sat delicately in her own chair and began picking out several choice pieces of food.

Josiah sat quietly, waiting for them both to begin eating. He had come to the understanding that the more his presence went unknown, the better. Once the two had finished serving themselves, he grabbed a few leftovers and nibbled at them quietly.

When Gregory was starting on his second helping of food, Margaret cleared her throat.

Gregory ignored her as he kept eating.

A servant refilled Margaret’s glass, but she cleared her throat again, more loudly this time. When her husband still ignored her, she finally sighed, “Gregory.”

Gregory made eye contact, but refused to stop eating.

“We’ve had another unfortunate mistake that needs correcting.”

Gregory rolled his eyes and swallowed. “What is it this time?” he moaned.

Margaret locked eyes on Josiah, “Our dear little boy has refused to follow directions again. He needs to be disciplined.”

Gregory glanced at Josiah with annoyance, “Really? Can’t you go one day without getting in trouble?”

Josiah’s eyes dropped to his plate.

“Apparently not,” Margaret said with distaste. “It’s a pity that we have to deal with all his childishness. His parents really should have done a better job of raising him.”

Josiah glanced up at Lady Margaret, stunned. He felt like crying and yelling in rage at the same time, but nothing came out of his dry throat.

“Margaret,” Gregory said calmly. “There’s no need to bring that up. It’s not like he could help it.”

Margaret sniffed, and went back to cutting her chicken into bite sized pieces. “Well he still needs to be punished. I won’t allow his gruesome behavior in my house.”

“Fine,” Gregory said quietly. “Then he won’t sleep in your house tonight, how’s that?”

Margaret gave a quick nod of approval and went back to eating.

Josiah glanced up at Lord Gregory, “So where will I sleep tonight?”

Gregory’s face softened, he almost looked apologetic, “In the barn.”

Josiah stared back at his plate of food.

“What do you say?” Margaret said with an air of satisfaction.

“Yes sir,” Josiah said quietly.

* * * * *

Josiah stepped into the weather-beaten barn. The small lantern in his hand illuminated a damp structure with several stalls where quiet animals stood staring back at him. It was more unnerving in the dark than it ever was when he had to feed the animals in the light of day. Josiah clung to the thick blanket in his other hand and took a deep breath. “Alright, nothing to be afraid of in here,” he tried to reassure himself.

The wooden panels creaked as a sharp gust of wind came in from the sea. Little streams of air whistled through the cracks in the siding.

Josiah gulped and took another step inside. He jumped as the wind slammed the door shut behind him. “Calm down,” he told himself quietly. “It’s just wind, it can’t hurt me. He settled down on the damp hay of an empty stall and snuggled in his thick blanket. Josiah wasn’t sure he’d be able to fall asleep in the dark barn, but he tried to get comfortable all the same. It’s nothing like sleeping on the hard ground, and I’ve done that plenty of times….

* * * * *

“Josiah? Come on, we’re moving on, you can’t sleep anymore.”

Josiah saw his father leaning over him. He yawned and wiped his eyes, “Where’d our roof go?” he asked confused.

His father laughed, “We don’t have a roof out here. We’re not at our cottage, remember?”

Josiah stared up at the trees, “Oh yeah. When will we get to go back?”

“Soon, very soon…. Come on now, up you go.”

Josiah sat up and looked around at his brothers also stirring out of their slumbers. He tried to focus on their faces, but they all looked fuzzy, and the harder he looked, the more blurred they became. Soon everything around him was nothing but a haze of colors.

* * * * *

Josiah opened his eyes, everything was dark. “Father?” he whispered.

Something stirred next to him.

Josiah turned and his eyes adjusted to find a chicken snuggled up next to him. “Ah!” he yelped as he jumped up.

The chicken clucked and flapped away.

Josiah sat back down with a sigh, “It was just a dream.”

     

 

 

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