As I mentioned a while back I took a break to finish my next book, “Escape to Freedom.” It’s for young adults and over. Again it’s based on American historical touches. You might say I am growing up a bit in my writing. One clue is it is wholesome, what you might call Christian but it is about a strong willed young woman growing up. So many of the teen books I reviewed were about an illness or had dark and sad elements. So I wrote in another direction. Anyway, it has kept me busy. Here are a few words from the beginning.
Excerpt from “Escape to Freedom” soon to be available on Amazon and Kindle. ISBN 13:978-1537705507 (Registered LOC)
“What was going to happen to her now? It was a foggy, cold day in the English village of Ipswich and even colder in the small attic room where Adrian sat by the bedside of her Uncle Matthew. A week ago yesterday he had fallen down a flight of stairs into the basement of the tavern where he worked and where they lived.
“He has broken at least three ribs that probably have punctured a lung,” said the doctor. Before the week was over he came again.
“He has pneumonia,” pronounced the doctor, shaking his head. His voice was harsh and unsympathetic. “There’s nothing more we can do for him now. Make him as comfortable as possible,” he instructed Adrian. “He won’t last long!”
Adrian was instantly in shock and sat down hard in the chair she had pulled next to his bed. In silence she picked up his hand. It felt so cold. She imagined she could feel his life slowly draining away, but he was still breathing. She felt his chest moving slowly up, then down. As she waited, she let her mind wander because it made her forget the present. What should she do?
She had been fourteen when her mother died. Now that seemed like such a long time ago. She considered herself lucky to have been invited to come to Ipswich to live with her Uncle Matthew. She had met him only once when she was about eight and didn’t remember him very well. But, her mother had spoken of him so often that Adrian felt that she knew him. He was her only relative.
Adrian thought fleetingly of her mother and how little she knew about her family. Except for Uncle Matthew she had spoken very little about other relatives. Once she had said that the name “Adrian” was really a boy’s name but when she was born a girl, the name was kept anyway.
Shock turned to fear. Now she would be an orphan!
She closed her eyes to think. But it didn’t matter because the room was already filled with darkness. Where could she go? What experience did she have? She could wash dishes and pots and pans. She could peel potatoes. But where would she sleep?
Click! Somewhere she heard the faint click click of a clock marking the hour. The sound broke into her thoughts. She had never heard it before. It sounded suddenly louder, and she realized she was stroking her Uncle’s hand in rhythm. The feel of his skin was soft but the palm of his hand felt damp. She felt her heart beating with the same rhythm.
Adrian opened her eyes. It was still black all around her. There was nothing to see. She rubbed her knees with her free hand, they felt cramped and stiff. Should she pray? Why? Maybe just saying the words would give her courage?
“Be with me. Guide me, no matter what.” She whispered into the silence and empty darkness.
Now her feet felt numb. Her shoes were too tight so she wiggled her toes. They felt cold too.
Earlier she had placed a damp cloth across her Uncle’s forehead. She stood up and carried it to a small basin of water setting on the dresser. She dipped it in and wrung it out, then replaced it across his brow again.
She couldn’t escape thinking about what might happen when the morning came. The night seemed to be continuing forever. For some reason she remembered once seeing an old lady, wrapped in a blanket and sleeping on the curb with a tin cup in front of her. No, she wasn’t going to go begging on the street; she felt resolute about that. So, where would she sleep? That thought frightened her the most. The Sisters of Mercy had told her she could work at the hospital and board with them. She felt weak at the thought of helping another sick person.
She took a deep, deep breath. Now, she felt calmer, content to sit there and listen pensively to the night sounds outdoors along the road and those invading the little room. She listened again to the sound of her Uncle’s breathing. Evenly for a moment, then a harder short gasp.
Once he mumbled in his sleep and she leaned closer to hear whether he was saying words. It must have been her imagination.
Don’t cry she told herself sternly. Still she felt as though a drop of moisture was moving slowly down her cheek. She blinked. Her eyelashes felt wet. She realized she was holding his hand again. It felt the same. Toward morning his breathing become very low and labored. Minutes passed. Then he breathed a deep sigh and was quiet. Total silence filled the room. His hand in Adrian’s hand went limp, but she continued holding on to him.
One tiny tear, then another rolled down Adrian’s cheek. She felt completely alone. The walls around her seemed to narrow in on her and the temperature in the room fell, turning incredibly cold.
Solemnly she laid her Uncle’s hand on his chest and walked over to the door. Quietly she closed it behind her and went to find the landlord.
As part of his salary at the tavern her uncle had been given this small attic room that held a narrow bed and a high chest. There was just enough room left over for one chair, a chamber pot and a space where Adrian had spread down a bedroll each night.
Despite the tight quarters, Matthew had invited his niece to come and live with him. To pay for her meals he had arranged for her to help out in the evenings washing dishes and waiting on the tables. Sometimes she had worked in the kitchen helping the cook. She especially liked cutting up liver and onions, making cabbage rolls and rolling out the dough for meat pies. These were the hearty foods served at the tavern.
However, despite her good work habits, the tavern’s owner wasted no time in removing Matthew’s body from his premises. In fact, he did it that night when the removal would not attract neighbors or possibly customers.
What does Adrian do next? Ironically, Angus Peters comes to the tavern to recruit bond servants for his Half-Way House tavern in the New World. Could this be the answer? In a few days I’ll be back with another excerpt. Keep checking in!
I hope you enjoy this excerpt from “Spirit Dog” my book last year. It’s the adventures of Jeff and his dachshund, Adolphus, in the Oklahoma Territory in the 1850. I’ll be happy to email you a teacher’s guide for anyone that is being home schooled. firstname.lastname@example.org Excerpt from Chapter 10::
If the Osage were intent upon making Adolphus a Spirit Dog, that dachshund was just as intent on not being one. Those braves that had already been nipped by Adolphus wasted no time in telling their friends to beware. Jeff wondered what might happen to Adolphus now?
The Ancient One left Jeff laying in the center of the lodge. She was gone only a few minutes before she returned leading Hawk along on a thin rope. Without a word, he sat down too on the floor. Minutes later Adolphus came pouncing into the lodge, immediately jumping on Jeff’s lap and covering his face with warm wet laps of his tongue. He was dragging the rope. He must have chewed his way free. His tail was wagging back and forth, slowly at first, then vigorously in quick beats as he jumped just as eagerly onto Hawk’s lap.
“Let me look you over.” Hawk laughed and let the dog push him back until they both were laying on the floor again. “They have painted circles around his eyes,” Hawk pointed out.
From his prone position Jeff gazed into the dog’s eyes. “Those must be Spirit markings.” A rope was tied around his neck with shells and an eagle’s feather attached to it. Adolphus squirmed free, ran to the door and then looked back at them. Hawk followed him to the door and peered out cautiously. There was no sign of a guard. Still he sensed that they were being watched and guarded from a distance.
With Adolphus’ disappearance, they should have guessed that someone would miss him. It was not long before the Medicine Man swept back the door flap and entered. He gazed down at Adolphus who was now content to lie quietly beside Jeff.
The Medicine Man stared down at the dog and then shook his rattle over their heads and vengefully under Hawk’s nose. It-was a highly ornamental rattle that looked to have been made from a hollowed shell of a terrapin that had been dried and then filled with small rocks. Obviously it held special power in his opinion.
“He has pronounced a terrible curse on us,” whispered Hawk as the Medicine Man left continuing to shake the rattle in a frenzied manner above his head and in front of him. Jeff shivered. He didn’t feel any different. He continued to hear the Medicine Man still rattling as he walked away. He must be pronouncing a terrible curse!
Jeff turned to Hawk for some explanation. “The Ancient One spoke English! Is she a princess? She seems to have some authority doesn’t she?”
Hawk nodded, although he seemed to be as puzzled as Jeff.
“Yes, she definitely is an important person to this tribe. Maybe she will tell us.”
When the evening meal was set before him, Jeff dived hungrily into the thick corn meal mush, dipping it awkwardly out of the shallow clay bowl with a crust of flat bread. It was the first food he had eaten since he had been captured. Even the strong pungent odor of the rendered animal fat did not kill his appetite. He was getting pretty good at scooping food up to his mouth with his fingers or eating with a smooth flat wooden ladle.
Jeff had not quite figured out everything that had happened to him, but he did know one thing. He was grateful to the Ancient One for rescuing him, whatever her reasons might be..
Since their return to the lodge neither Jeff nor Hawk had spoken, except to say thank you in English to the Ancient One. Jeff instantly recognized that their remarks seemed to please her. He tried to smile but his mouth and lips were too dry. Apparently the Indian meal did not consist of any kind of drink. His throat felt parched and dry. He wondered if he could ask for a drink of water but thought better about it.
“Spirit Dog” is available from Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle.
Have you ever heard of “sandwich board signs?” Historically they were started years and years ago, but they are still being used.
A local automotive sales company near me–named Koon’s– has one or two men wearing sandwich signs out on the highway nearly every day. As you are driving past, how much can you read? In many ways this reminds me of people reading texts while driving. Now the first word or two is “Car Sales” and then beneath runs 10-12 more other words. Unless you would turn in their drive and stop you would not be able to randomly read the other words. Maybe they hope that you will be so curious that you will turn around right there in the middle of the highway and come back to catch the rest of the message.
A few years ago I gave a talk on using signs effectively. I suggested that to be effective a sign should carry no more than three to five words. One of the most popular signs we see are the “Garage Sale” signs. Maybe under it the sale day such as “Saturday.” Then under that come the times. Although that information is getting smaller and smaller in lettering.
Restaurants have used sandwich board signs effectively and put them out right before lunch or dinner hours. They usually say “Lunch Specials” and then name one or two. An art store nearby also used a similar sign listing two sale items and a small meat market combined with a deli also places a sign out on the sidewalk for a few hours listing one or two specials.
Another similar type of sign is the one that hangs from light poles along the roadway. Sometimes they will say “Class Reunion” and then under that a year date. Or there may be some other type of special event such as “Centennial” and a date. Have you ever tried to read that sign as you pass. They are posted up and over your head and you do indeed take your eyes off the road to read it. Now you can either hit the car in front of you or skid your right side tires into the curb. Indeed I do — so I no longer read hanging signs.
Another type of sign is the flapping banner stuck in the ground. One near me marks where the “State Farm” office is located. I used one of these myself when I was with a company in Richmond, VA. It marked where the driveway entrance was located . However, we just used the company logo. You’ll see these a lot lining a car lot, a gas station or more recently I saw one beckoning me into a McDonald’s.
So, I guess what I am getting around to saying, is that a point can be made in a few words. . Is is effective? Does it draw more sales? Probably some is my conclusion. .
Hail to the first book I had published–“Reggie the Goat.”
That was in 1962 I believe by T.S. Dennison, now gone the way of all good publishers. Originally it was named Gilbert’s Goat but the editor and publisher L.M.Brings changed the name. The good folks at Dennison returned the authors copy rights to me and I have recorded that with the Library of Congress, should I ever want to reissue Reggie again. However, all those left over books are still up for sale on the Amazon website.
Reggie had a nice adventure, being rescued by Gilbert from a shelter, traveling in a taxi, not fitting in a dog house and finally winding up as an ambassador at the local zoo. I noticed recently that the zoo now has many goats hanging around. They are easy to care for, eat down the grasses, and turn up in the Petting area for kids to feed. Goats are less expensive than larger animals and probably help pay for themselves by mowing the grass and weeds, and serving as a pleasant, nonviolent attraction.
See below is Reggie, chewing on a scrap of cardboard after he chewed his way out of a box that Gilbert placed over his head to hide his identity. After all, what taxi driver would want to have a goat as a passenger. As Dennison was a supplier to libraries, Reggie was distributed quite widely. However, I never gave up my day job as a newspaper writer. But I did visit a lot of schools, and received nice fan letters from youngsters who enjoyed meeting Reggie.
I was just reading the blog of a friend who was discussing when she first began writing. As with many writers it was in grade school. One of my favorite topics was writing about dogs mushing through the snow in the Artic . I knew nothing about that topic but my imagination flowed. Then someone suggested writers should write about what they know. Then when I was in the seventh grade I submitted one of my stories to a children’s page in the Country Gentlemen magazine and would you believe I received a letter saying I had earned a first prize certificate. I can’t even remember what I wrote about. But that inspired me to continue. Through the years I have had a lot of fun writing for different publications such as Day Publications and Meat Processing, Highlights for Children and others. Many of those articles were based on interviews, so I have many people in person or via phone that shared many interesting stories. Now I’ve begun writing again just for myself. What a joy!
Just as with reading, time passes very fast.
Hurrah for author James Patterson for paving the way to shorter fiction books. As some of you know, I too, write shorter books. (Note “Spirit Dog” on Amazon) .Patterson has just introduced through Little Brown Publishers the BookShot books for younger as well as older readers. As described on “Good Sunday Morning” they are 150 pages long.
As do many writers, I have been working on a novel for adults for several years and querying, etc. like writers do. But so many publishers request over 50,000 words and even 80,000. That’s a lot of reading and likewise writing. Some people like that length. (I wonder why newspaper stories have grown shorter?)
Anyway, one premise of these shorter books .is to appeal to younger readers who don’t like to read. Once my son did not like to read. In fact, the teacher said he was failing in reading. So I encouraged him to start putting together those plastic models, thinking that he would have to read the instructions. Guess what? He didn’t read the instructions but pasted together a complete dinosaurs collection. Eventually, he did become a pretty good reader by reading newspapers or at least the shorter items in them.
I grew up reading “Dick and Jane” and at various times in my newspaper writing jobs I wrote about reading situations. At one time I even bought the first two readers in the series. “My name is Jane,” etc. And, of course, we can’t leave out their dog “Spot.” Recite this paragraph to the younger set today, and they will give you a strange look. That’s probably why I liked the first “Tarzan” movies. Come to think of it I just saw a new commercial about a new Tarzan movie.
However, I still love the original Johnny Weismuller (spelling?) with Mia’s mother (Margaret Sullivan, I think). Once when living in Chicago I went to what was then the Intercontinental Hotel and just bought from Sheraton, and went down to the swimming pool. It was an elaborate Neptune’s pool with giant shells all around it. Beautiful! That was one of the places, they said, where Johnny had trained for the Olympics. In later years I lived in Arlington Hts., Ill. and the next town over was Elk Grove Village. A story ran in the suburban paper that Johnny lived in retirement in one of the home developments there. I drove by the area. The homes resembled mine. Of course, in his day, Johnny had not made a great deal of money, so he was then living on a modest income. I wonder if Neptune’s pool is still there?. Michigan Avenue and that hotel has changed many times since then. Oh well!
Today I was just reading an article in “Money” magazine about a topic I have learned a lot about–retirement and spending in retirement. This issue–July–contained the article “Picture a Perfect Retirement” by Rick Kahler. This magazine doesn’t often have articles about money matters after retirement but this was right on the point for me.
There is much advice given about thinking ahead to retirement, planning retirement and making a budget. And there are obvious things to budget such as various regular payments, vacations, utilities, etc. Rick’s article suggested rehearsing one or two months of your retirement, and living on that budget. Good advice! But he did not get into what I have found to be a deep water topic–discretionary spending. This is a prime item for rehearsing or keeping track of for several months.
There are regular periodic items such as barber shop or beauty shop, golf, bowling, etc. that are obvious discretionary items to put in your budget. And most people stop there. No, no, no. Keep track of all the little extras you spend and you will have an awesome list. Here are some from mine: postage stamps, flashlight batteries, treats for grandchildren, birthday cards/wrap, gum, tips, movie tickets, popcorn, lottery or raffle tickets, flowers, envelopes, ink cartridge, a magazine or Girl Scout cookies.
Don’t stop at a yard sale unless you have change to spend. Another tip is don’t buy a magazine–go borrow from the library instead. The same with a book.
After collecting your discretionary spending information for a few months, then take an average and you will have a sum that is close to correct to put in your budget. You will be surprised!