Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Leash

When I was in first grade, we lived in a small very small town in Washington's San Juan Islands.  In all honesty, we lived approximately two miles beyond the nearest small town - Olga - which boasted a total population of nine hardy souls.  We didn't have any crime; even locking your door was an afterthought and kids were often left alone (as I had been that evening) while parents went out alone. 

With one eye on the television and one eye on the road, I slapped off the movie and raced into bed the moment their headlights illuminated our driveway.  My blankets were still cold from the night air, my heart still pounding from the hurried dash across the house, when they called my name.

Hopping out of the bed, I went into the kitchen, not sure how I could be in trouble when they sounded so pleased with themselves.

"We're back from the auction and we got you a surprise," they announced proudly.  "It's down in the basement."

Apparently my father had snuck in the basement door because, just as they had promised, there was a box sitting in the middle of the concrete floor.  Once upon a time it had held a dishwasher, but as I hurried over and pulled open the interlocking quarters of cardboard that held it closed, I discovered that the appliance had been replaced with my childhood version of a pirate's booty.

The box was filled to the brim with books.

Each day I would take a few books out of the box, sorting them into two piles.  One pile was composed of a small, disorganized heap of books that failed to catch my interest; the other was a crooked tower of titles that I thought were "cool."  I regularly read from the cool pile, discovering forgotten corners of history locked away in countless dusty tomes and indulging my love of animals as I slowly worked through a college zoology textbook.

On a morning very similar to all the rest, something changed.  The piles of books were forgotten the moment I found it hidden in the bottom of the box.

I'd never seen anything quite like it.  It looked like a book but its cover was made out of faded red cloth stretched across a hard backing.  When I opened it up to a random page, I found a story of a legendary knight, the words written in a magical language I had never seen before; not quite English but one I could understand.  The ancient book even smelled old and I held it in my hands as if it were as delicate as a baby bird.

As the endless winter on a northern island stretched on and on, I read "A Boy's Book of Legendary Heroes" over and over again.  In its pagers were the original versions of the heroics of Robin Hood, El Cid, King Arthur, Beowulf, and countless other heroic figures.  Written in Old English and published in the 1800s, it would have been a find for any collector - and it was a priceless treasure for a first grade boy.

As I read the stories, I discovered that there was a world before our own, one where even measurements held a bit of magic.  Instead of twenty, something was a score.  A brace indicated two; a leash was a brace and a half (three).  A fortnight was a period of two weeks.

To honor the sense wonderment that boy of long ago held as he read his magic book, I've placed a leash of chapters online for my next novel, "The Awakening," which comes out May 13th.  Enjoy!

The Awakening will be published on May 13, 2011


  1. What a wonderful treasure trove. During the bombing 2nd world war, I was left on my own a lot, there was a mildewed Victorian library where I spent most of my time and I read my way through the lot, too.

  2. A lovely story, and proof that early discoveries of the amazing world of literaure can unleash the creativity within! Will have a read of the 'leash' of chapters .. thanks for posting the link to them.
    All best

  3. I just finished the first 3 chapters (I promise I didn't skim I READ them -=P) and I have two words for you...WRITE FASTER!! I like this story even better than the last one, and I didn't think that was possible! -=)

  4. Now that's my kind of gift. A box full of books!!! Love this blog!

  5. Oh, wow. Those three chapters you provided us with contained some of the most seamless prose I have ever encountered. I am absolutely floored by the power of your voice in this story.

    Dude, this puts you right up there close to some of my other favorite authors, like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. Keep delivering like that, and you'll definitely weave your way into the top 5.

  6. Was it Friday Harbor by any chance? I have been there many times as my in-laws lived there for about 10 years. Lovely place, and remote. I can see where living on the San Juan Islands would train up a writer and lover of books.

  7. Thank you everyone (Karla, Raven, and Mammo). I've had one of those days where you're constantly running - and I'm out the door to a school concert in a few moments, so many apologies for the lump response... *sigh*

    Karen: It was actually Orcas Island, which at the time was considerably less developed than Friday Harbor. We lived at the end of the road (about as far from the ferry dock as you could get) and I spent countless hours on the beach and in the forest on my own. The box of books gave me reason to be inside when the weather was poor and I literally read that book over and over again until it fell apart in my hands.

    Jeffrey: Thank you! I will do my very best to live up to such high praise. My novels tend to "start slow," so if you enjoyed the first three chapters, you're in for a treat. We priced the ebooks at $0.99 last time around and I think we're doing the same this time. If you have a Kindle, Nook, or other reader, it's only a buck. :)

    Carole Ann: The mom of one of my childhood best friend's survived the bombing of London during WWII, so I understand some of what you went through. I almost feel guilty about the childlike delight I feel when thinking about having the run of a library...

    Thank you again! I'm off to listen to my favorite sixth grade clarinetist! :D

  8. Hi again
    Finally had chance to read the chapters and wanted to say I agree with the other comments, this is great writing and a powerful, intriguing story line.
    All the very best with the book on and after May 13

  9. Karla: Thank you so much for not only taking the time to read the chapters, but for coming back to comment! That means a lot to me. :)