NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

An Unthankful Thanksgiving

I was perusing through some old short stores I’d written several years ago and I came across one that happened at Thanksgiving. It reminded me that it’s just as easy to find things to be thankful for as it is to find things to complain about. You can ruin your own vacation by complaining or you can find joy even if the midst of hardship by being thankful. Sometimes I wonder how much I would have enjoyed that trip if I’d practiced gratitude. I hope this year you focus on the things you’re grateful for and enjoy the blessings God’s given you and don’t get stuck focusing on what’s wrong or hard.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the story!

Thanksgiving Cruise

I think it’s a bit ironic that the only cruise I’ve ever been on was set during the week of Thanksgiving. However, this is one of the trips that I can remember a lot of unthankfulness. But it did teach me a lesson. And it is one trip I’ll never forget.

We started our cruise from Galveston, TX. We should have been very thankful that we didn’t have to fly all the way to Florida to get on a cruise, but unfortunately, we were late getting to the ship, and this caused some bad attitudes.

“If only we would have left when I said we should,” Dad grumbled as he parked the car.

We hurried to unload our many suitcases and glanced up thankfully at the tall ship. At least we weren’t being left behind… yet.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” my younger sister Alicia said with a whine, “I’ve been holding it for fifteen minutes.”

“Just a little longer,” Mom assured her. “We’ll go sign in and I’m sure they have a bathroom somewhere.”

“Come on already,” my younger brother Jonny said with frustration. “I don’t want the ship to leave without us.”

I agreed with Jonny and started following him towards the wharf, with my wheeled suitcase in tow. We soon found the check-in area, and I was a bit relieved to find out that we weren’t the only family that had gotten there late. But there were some consequences. As Dad signed papers, I stared up at the ship’s deck high above us, and spotted groups of passengers clumped together in formation at the lifeboats. They were undergoing a mandatory safety training, and we were missing it.

“You’ll have to do the late training this evening,” the check in person said.

I shook my head; of course it would be my family that missed the safety training. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to experience a Titanic like adventure, but I still wanted to be prepared in case some kind of emergency happened. Now, while everyone else was having fun, we’d have to stand like a bunch of idiots out on the deck and do our safety training, basically singling ourselves out as the irresponsible ones. But it could be worse, at least we didn’t have to do it alone, there were several other families who were late too.

As our trip got underway, I found myself spending a lot of time in our cabin, a tiny room with two bunk beds, and a TV. We watched a lot of old cartoons that I hadn’t even known had existed. There was Adam Ant, and Mighty Mouse, and the Spiderman movie was played continually on one channel.

“Uh, I wish they played some better cartoons,” I whined. “Like Scooby Doo. There’s nothing good on these channels.”

“I’m bored of TV,” Jonny joined in.

“Yeah, I’m so bored.” I knew complaining about being bored was kind of dumb: I was staying in the room watching the same cartoons over and over instead of getting out on the ship. But I didn’t want to make any effort; I just wanted to be entertained. Thus the unthankfulness epidemic grew. Every little thing there was to complain about somehow got mentioned.

“Uh, I wish that stupid rule about not swimming in the adult pool never existed,” I complained.

“Yeah, that current is so fun to play in, and it’s not as crowded as the kid pool,” Jonny added.

“And we’re all good swimmers, it’s not like we need a life guard or an adult to watch us, we can take care of ourselves,” I added.

“You know what I’m sick of?” Alicia asked.

I turned my head lazily to face her, “What?”

“Those lady fingers that they put in all the desserts, they taste disgusting and I’m so tired of having to pull them out of everything.”

“Speaking of food,” Jonny added. “Did you know they ran out of free ice cream in the lounge today? Talk about disappointing.”

This kind of talk would go on and on, and what did we do; sit and watch more boring TV.

Thankfully, this was not the case every day. On the days we were stopped at an island or foreign country, there were chances to explore, and get off the boat. But complaining fests still crept upon us. The worst stop was in Cozumel, Mexico. For some reason, everyone found something to complain about that day, and even though we were all a part of doing something very enjoyable, we focused in on the parts that didn’t meet our expectations.

I climbed into the taxi after Dad had finally flagged down a taxi van that was big enough for our whole family. It had been a long day. We had split up this time with Mom and me going to a ranch to ride horses, and the Dad taking the other kids to the beach. “So what did y’all do?” I asked Alicia.

“Well the boys went swimming and climbed a big blow up iceberg, but it was too far out for me, so Dad stayed with me on the beach. It’s no fun being small. The iceberg looked like fun.”

“Yeah it was,” Jonny said. “But you got to go on the bounce trampoline and do flips.”

“But you got to do both,” Alicia whined. “I wish I could have gone with you Lydia. I would have rather ridden horses.”

“Well it wasn’t too exciting. I was separated from Mom for most of the ride. My horse wouldn’t go at all, even when I kicked like the guide said, he wouldn’t listen. He just walked when the horses in front of him walked. I really wanted to gallop with the others, but when I tried, the horse was still really slow.”

“So you didn’t have fun?” Alicia asked.

“No, it was fun. There was a cool show they did for us where this rider danced with his horse. And we saw a lot of ruins on the trail ride… they looked fake to me though.

“Well I’m starving,” my older brother Brain said. “I can’t wait to get back to the ship. Dad didn’t want to pay for any of the food at the beach. He said it was too expensive.”

Just then we pulled up to the curb. I glanced out the window at the ocean in the distance; there was our cruise ship, still as a sunken log. “Good timing then,” I said. “Let’s go eat.”

We jumped out of the van, ready to get back to our temporary home aboard the ship, but as we started moving towards the ship, a yell disrupted the evening air.

I turned back to see Dad yelling at our Taxi driver, saying something about the amount was wrong and that it shouldn’t be that expensive to drive three miles. I kept walking, hoping the other vacationers returning to the ship didn’t think we were part of the same family. I hated this day, not only had the horse ride been quite disappointing, but now my Dad was having a breakdown about money for the whole world to see. At that moment, it seemed like I was on the worst vacation ever.

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Sutherland Springs Church Shooting

Yesterday and today I’ve been struggling through the latest shooting and it’s aftereffects. This one hits much closer to home than any one before. Some of my friends know people who were murdered. They’re sad, hurt, confused and I don’t know what to say. So I wrote this poem/prayer to God just now. I hope it brings comfort to someone out there.

Image result for church shooting

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God there is so much pain,
Every time I turn around there’s another victim,
another reminder that this world is not alright.

Why? The question I hear again and again.
How could He let this happen?
Where is He? It hurts so much.

In the midst of all the pain and questions,
part of me knows it’s in Your hands.
You have a plan,
This too shall pass.

And as I search the past, Your Word, the lives of ones before,
I see the same questions and cries.
Why Lord Why? Why have you forsaken me?

Jesus cried it on the cross,
My friend cries it in a small Texas town,
My brothers and sisters in persecution cry it too.

And You say,
I have never forsaken or forgotten you.
I was there, I am here.
I will never leave, I will never let you go.
You are mine and you must trust Me.
For when you cannot see, cannot understand,
I can.

I hold the world in my hands,
Each breath, each story, each purpose is Mine to command.
I see the connections, the problems.
I’ve felt the pain, the sorrow, the anger.
And I have not left you alone.

I entered in.
I took the full weight that you could never carry.
So don’t try to carry it now. Don’t despair.
Give it to Me, give it all to Me.
Trust Me now in the darkness, in the pain, in the hurt.

And wait.
Just you wait.
I have better plans in store.
A hope that does not disappoint.
A future that is secure.
And one day you will see what I see now.

That I bring life from death, rejoicing from sorrow, and good from evil.
I am the God who saves and nothing can stop me.
No death, no evil, no disaster, no sorrow,
No depression, no sickness, no plan.

So trust me now.
Let me hold you now.
And watch and pray.
I am coming soon.
And you too shall be changed.

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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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Companion

I’ve been struggling with what to write this week. So I decided to look through some old work from college and I found a poem I wrote my senior year about companionship. The picture of my two cats seemed to go along well with it. So, Enjoy!

Companion

No one wants to be alone in this world
Everyone wants a friend or companion
Someone to talk to or sit beside
It doesn’t even have to be human

A cat will curl up and keep you company
A dog will stand watch and keep you safe
A bird will bring music to the silence
Even a fish will not leave you alone

But there is nothing like a real person
To laugh with, talk to, and even listen to
We were not made to live in silence
Or sit by ourselves at the table

We are social animals and we need
Others of our kind around

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Poem for Victims of Natural Disasters

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There are so many people going through such a hard time right now. Fires in Montana, flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, flooding in India, mudslides in Sierra Leone, another hurricane on the way to hit islands in the Caribbean and possibly Florida. With all of these disasters it can be hard to find hope, to find peace, to even know what to do.

I’m so thankful that it is not on me to save the world, to solve all the problems or figure this all out. God sees everything, each person in need, each problem, each fear. And He promises to go with us through the troubles and provide for us in them. He has unlimited resources, patience, love, and hope. And we can trust Him to do what’s best.

I hope you join me in praying for all of these people affected by disaster and look for the opportunities He gives to get involved and help.

Before I share the poem, I want to share a verse from Isaiah. It’s one that has helped me and many of my friends through hard times in life, whether from an actual natural disaster, or difficult relationships, transitions, or problems in life.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”           -Isaiah 43:1b-3a

And here’s the poem I had written for Flood victims several years ago. I think it still applies today.

A Victim’s Prayer

Why do I sigh at night?
Why is this load so heavy?
I can’t be sure what’s right.
Will You lead me with Your light?

Show me the path at my feet,
make clear the terrain unseen.
Give me the courage to move,
to take a step towards the new.

O God I can’t see the end.
There’s no way that it will mend.
The night is heavy and still.
Please just give me the will.

Help me move, help me go.
Teach me to trust, and to know
that despite my fear
You are always here.

Bring me home, bring me home,
and remind me that I’m not alone.

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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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NaNoWriMo in April

So apparently there are writing camps and all sorts of fun things that NaNoWriMo does throughout the year. I’ve only ever done the write 50,000 words in November contest before. But this month my sister was thinking about joining a cabin and writing for the month of April. When she told me about it, I suggested that we use the month to start writing our co-authored book together. You see, we talk about story ideas all the time. Usually we keep our writing separate, but we’ve talked for years about writing a novel, or even a series together. So I figured, why not try it this month?

Our story idea revolves around a middle school student getting the super power of teleportation and then learning how to use his powers and become a hero all while keeping his identity a secret and keeping up with normal teenage life. It’s been a blast so far, though I still have very little direction for where this story is going. But I figured y’all might like getting a glimpse of what I’m working on, so here’s a section that I wrote.

Keep in mind that this is unedited and subject to many changes.

Our working title is:

Tales of a Middle School Superhero

This is the story of how I became a middle school super hero. It’s pretty crazy so be warned. You might not believe me but I’m totally telling the truth.
It all started when I was sitting in history class and my teacher, Ms. Robinson was talking on and on about the Great Depression. Which I think is such a bad name, like how can a depression be great or even good? They should have named it something else like the horrible depression. But anyways I’m getting off topic. So I was trying my best not to be depressed listening to her talk about all the horrible things people had to deal with, like dust tornadoes and living in cars instead of houses. And I started thinking, why couldn’t everybody just go to Disney World and be happy? Or better yet why can’t everyone go to Six Flags Fiesta Texas for free? I mean they have so many good rides and like the best water park. Why can’t we all just be happy? And I started thinking about my favorite ride at Six Flags. It’s totally the Superman Krypton Coaster. I love when the first drop makes you feel like you’re really flying and then spins you in the giant loop. I started imagining that I was on the roller coaster instead of stuck in my boring… and depressing classroom. This is a normal thing for me, my mom says I have trouble daydreaming. But I really don’t have any trouble with it. I do it so well that I could actually call it my special talent. I can actually picture that I’m there and not here. But well, this time felt different because, I didn’t just see it. Like I heard it. People were screaming around me and there was wind in my hair and I could feel the twists and turns of the coaster pulling me out of my seat. And that’s when I realized something. I was no longer in my class. This was NOT a daydream, or even a dream dream. This was real! Somehow, I had left my class, traveled over a hundred miles, and landed in a an empty seat on the Superman. I let out a surprised scream, but no one else seemed to notice me. They were already screaming anyway. I realized the restraining bars were a bit tight. I guess the guy who closes the empty coaster seat put it as tight as it could go, since no one was in the seat when the coaster left. Lucky for me, I’m small for my age. I haven’t quite hit that growth spurt yet. So the coaster sped me on my way and gave me a great look at the park. I noticed that there weren’t many people around, which makes sense. It it a school day. Even though summer is definitely on it’s way, most people aren’t going to the theme parks yet. The brakes squeaked loudly and jolted me to a stop, then we coasted slowly into the terminal. The fat guy behind the controls looked at me and blinked a couple times. I froze, wondering if he realized I hadn’t been there when the ride started. Then he pressed a button releasing the locks and our restraints lifted. I unbuckled mine and stepped out of the seat.
“You want to ride again? There is no line.”
I looked up at the operator but I felt a bit unsteady from the coaster. That or reality that I had just teleported.
“No thanks, I’m good,” I said, then quickly got up and hurried past the worker, following the walkway into the Superman gift shop. I sat down at a bench and took a deep breath. Before I could decide what to do next, my phone buzzed in my pocket. I fished the phone out of my cargo shorts and promptly dropped it on the concrete sidewalk. The phone kept buzzing though, so I picked it up and saw the picture of my best friend stuffing an entire slice of cake in his mouth. It was the profile picture I had assigned him. It matched his personality quite well. Sam was always hungry, especially for anything sweet. We joked that he didn’t have any normal teeth, only sweet tooths. I managed to swipe my finger across the touch screen before it went to voicemail and put the phone to my ear.
“Nick? What happened to you? Did you ditch without me?”
“Hey Sam, I uh. I don’t…”
“Dude, that was not cool. Ms. Robinson grilled me like crazy. She said she never said you could leave for a bathroom break. I had to tell her you were about to throw up.”
“Actually, I might.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, you’re never going to believe me Sam, but I think I just teleported.”
Sam cackled. “You’re right, I’m never going to believe you. So where did you go?”
“I uh, went to Six Flags. I just rode the Superman.”
“Are you tripping man? Seriously, do you need a doctor or something?”
“I’m serious. I was imagining riding it while Ms. Robinson droned on and on and then suddenly I was riding it.”
“Okay, you can stop with the joke, it is way too late for April Fools.”
“I’m not joking Sam. I don’t know what happened. One second I was there and the next I was here.”
“So you didn’t sneak out of class?”
“No, I didn’t mean to leave.”
“Wierd. I didn’t even notice. No one did. Ms Robinson just asked me where you went and then I noticed that you weren’t there.”
“What’s wrong with me Sam? People don’t just randomly start transporting places!”
“I know, I know, chill. We’ll figure this out. Where are you now?”
“At a bench, next to the Superman Coaster.”
“I wish I was there, I still have two more hours of torture before school ends.”
“What do I do Sam? I can’t walk home from San Antonio!”
“I know, I know. Just stay calm. Maybe you should call your mom.”
“And tell her what? Hey mom, I just teleported, could you come pick me up please?”
Sam giggled. “Yeah I think she might not believe you.”
“You do believe me though, right?”
Sam didn’t answer.
“Sam?”
“Look I know you like playing jokes–”
“This is not a joke! I’m really in San Antonio. You want me to send you my location on my phone?”
“Sure, do that.”
I hung up and opened up my maps app. I took a screenshot of my location and texted it to Sam. I waited till the text went through then called him back. The phone rang twice before he picked up.
“So did you get it?” I asked.
“Yeah, how’d you do that? This is a pretty elaborate prank.”
“It’s not a prank Sam, I’m really at Six Flags. I can send you pics if you want, or a video. But I’m not lying. I’m really here.”
“But you were in class ten minutes ago. You couldn’t…”
“I did.”
“Okay you’re totally scaring me now. If this is a joke you’d better tell me right now.”
“For the last time, it’s not a joke.”

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An Old Poem

I found this poem in my old school folder today and thought I’d share it. Enjoy!

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Companion

No one wants to be alone in this world
Everyone wants a friend or companion
Someone to talk to or sit beside
It doesn’t even have to be human

A cat will curl up and keep you company
A dog will stand watch and keep you safe
A bird will bring music to the silence
Even a fish will not leave you alone

But there is nothing like a real person
To laugh with, talk to, and even listen to
We were not made to live in silence
Or sit by ourselves at the table

We are social animals and we need
Others of our kind around

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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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