NaNoWriMo The best excuse out of the whole year to write starts tomorrow. Are you going to do it?
There are contests for people who write the most words. Support groups for people sprinting through a novel in a month.
Me? Uhm, I'm celebrating by actually getting my laptop and flashdrive out of hiding. If I can find my flashdrive. It's been SEVEN months since I last wrote.
I feel like I'm at an AA meeting. My name is Laura Bingham and I haven't worked on a novel for seven months.
Wait, I just found my pink flashdrive. (Why couldn't have been green?)
Now I want to plug it in and see if the story I started is still any good. Maybe I'll start over. It would be the perfect excuse...November starting tomorrow and all.
Then the question is, can I still write?
Yes, the seven month writing diet was painful. Necessary for studying for my TCRG exams, but agonizing all the same. And yes, it turns out this was a successful weight-loss strategy, not that I intended it to be, but as long as we're talking about diets...
But now that the diet is officially over, it's time to see if my brain still knows how to string a story. There's only one way to find out. I can't believe I'm nervous that I might have lost my touch. Maybe I wont' be any good at it any more. Writing might have been one of those flukes.
Even if it was, there's no way I could live without it. Bring on November. I'm ready.
If you want to e-mail me, write email@example.com
My other e-mail still works too.
"Alvor" is a middle grade fantasy written for all ages and its award winning sequel "Wings of Light" is available too. But about me, I have a clogging studio in my backyard, am very close to finishing my TCRG exams this year, and now teach Irish dance as Shamrock Irish Dance in my studio, have five energetic and imaginative kids who all dance too, the perfect husband, three miniature horses, a little white dog and most of the time, an hour or two a day to write.
Chapter 1 A New Book Erin sat on the back seat alone. The sound of laughter drowned out the drone of the school bus. It was amazing how much noise two fifteen year old boys could make. Soon it would be just her and her brother left for the thirty minute drive home. She thumbed through the yearbook. Grandpa Jessie always insisted on buying them each their own. “See you in the fall, man. Woo-hoo! It’s finally summer!” the boy shouted as he stepped off the bus. “Yeah! Have fun in Florida, you lucky dog!” Bain called back. The bus jerked down the street again. Bain got up and walked to the back. He sat backwards in the seat and looked at her. “Trade you,” he said. “I didn’t get to sign yours yet.” She handed him her book as he let his bounce on the seat next to her. She picked up his yearbook and let the page open randomly. Colorful permanent ink graced the page with hearts, smiley faces and lots of exclamation points. She turned the pages looking for a blank space. “I think I’ll just sign over top of my picture. It could only improve it.” Erin looked for the section where the black and white photo of her stared out. She took her red marker and wrote, “Here’s to the summer!” “Erin, didn’t you even go outside for the yearbook signing? There’s practically nothing written in here.” “Oh, I was talking to my chemistry teacher about my grade. I didn’t expect to see an A-. I was sure I had an A in there.” “The last day of school and you spend your time talking to a teacher on purpose? I think you might need professional help.” “Thanks.” “Anytime, little sister.” “Hey, only by ten minutes. “I’m still bigger than you.” He smiled with a crooked grin. He had her there. He was already almost six feet tall. At this rate, she was never going to catch up. He flipped back around in his seat so he was facing forward. She stared out the window. The trees walled the sides of the street in green. As they approached their village, the familiar Pennsylvania misted hills came into view. She loved seeing them every day from the bus after school. A purple butterfly flickered into view before it was gone again. That was one thing she loved most about her home. There were more butterflies here than any of the neighboring little towns. She never understood why there were so many gathered in her tiny village when only a few strays could be seen anywhere else. Maybe there was some kind of plant they loved in the hills. The ride home made her feel as though she was ominously leaving her familiar school. She loved school. It wasn’t that she really had very many friends, she just felt like she was somewhere when she was there. And during the school year she only had to live in an empty house at night. With Grandpa Jessie gone every Monday through Friday for work, the summer days dragged on in the quiet house. She watched as the houses began again to pass by her window and imagined what it would be like to have her mom greet her at the door. How many times had she let herself slip into the same daydream? She had to stop. It wasn’t like she should really miss her parents. She never even knew them.
“Wait up!” she called. “I can’t believe you still have so much energy after your run.” She could feel herself pant as she jogged to meet him. He didn’t even glance back. “It’s right over there,” he pointed. “I’ve never really gone this way before, but I found if you climb through a few bushes it opens up on the other side.” The landscape here was full and green. From the road they could only see a few feet into the foliage. High humidity and plenty of precipitation encouraged the trees, grass and plants to thrive. “Right,” she offered as she eyed the bushes. She hesitated. He just chuckled quietly and moved in. Beautiful as the greenery was, Erin was not fond of climbing through the mountain laurels that reached taller than her. Bain held the branches for her and helped her through the thick shrubs, all while somehow avoiding scratches from the dense vegetation. She was grateful he didn’t tease her when she tripped twice and then accidentally smacked him right in the face with a stray branch. He just laughed good-naturedly and kept going. “How far did you get this morning?” Erin asked as she tried to calculate the forest waiting for them. “Not too far, really, I just followed a trail for a few minutes. It kept going though, and we haven’t seen a new trail for a long time.” He gave her a smile as if trying to reassure her. “Don’t worry; this is going to be great.” “You didn’t waste any time finding a new place to explore this summer,” she said, trying to stall the hard hike ahead. “Did you bring all the regular gear in your backpack? We are going to need to mark the trees so we can find our way back.” “No worries. I am totally prepared, as always. There’s enough food to last a couple of days. What else could we need?” She couldn’t help but smile. It would take an enormous amount of food to actually satisfy him for a couple of days. After two hours, Erin was glad that Bain had come through with the water. They tied red twine around a few trees along the way so the trail back would be easier to find. The trees all seemed the same to her and Erin was sure she would never find her way back without the marks. Bain was a born compass though. He always seemed to know which direction they were going and how to find their way around. The bushes finally gave way into a clearing where the view made her stop in astonishment. She had seen houses that the founding fathers of this country built. Century-old homes could be found in their own village. Some were fancy, and some were not. But nothing she had ever seen could even begin to compare to the stark beauty that stood before them now. There in the lush grass stood a small cottage. It was petite, but astounding. The eaves were carved with skill into a curling Victorian pattern. Each window was framed with a lace-carved shutter. The whole structure was in different shades of wood. There was no paint to be found, but the colors that exuded from it were vibrant and contrasting. “Oh wow,” she breathed. “What? How?” She looked at Bain. He was just as mesmerized by the work of art as she was. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “It looks brand new but it couldn’t be. All around the grass and trees are untouched. There’s not even a worn path on the ground.” “What do you want to do?” She wasn’t sure if they had found a new treasure or if their adventure was at an end. “Eat lunch.” “Are you serious?” Bain just smiled. “Sure. I’m starving and if there is anyone in the house maybe they will see us and come out. Besides, I need some time to figure out what this place is and the easiest way to get in.” “You could try knocking.” He was already sitting on the grass pulling out the bag of food. She gave in and sat down too. They ate peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches while they puzzled out the little house. It could be a miniature mansion. The detail suggested that the cottage was built by someone who wished to explore all the avenues of master wood carving. It must have taken ages to chisel the wooden swirls and delicate squared patterns. The oddest part was that it looked brand new. She had seen the graying effect time had on some of the older wood houses in her village, but this place looked like it had been completed just yesterday. It was perfect. “Do you think anyone lives here?” she asked as she picked up an apple. “I was wondering that too. There is no electricity. No phone line. There is a chimney, but no wood pile. The grass looks like it has never been walked on. It’s maybe the weirdest thing I have ever seen. It doesn’t make sense to build this place and not hook it up at least to electricity.” “Maybe they’re not done yet. It could be a rich person’s summer cabin that they haven’t finished yet.” “I don’t know. It still doesn’t make sense. I think we should look around. I seriously doubt this place has been lived in.” “Well I’m still going to knock on the door,” Erin said as she got up and brushed off her pants. She walked up to the rich mahogany door and knocked loudly. “Is anyone there?” she called. It didn’t surprise her that no one answered. She tried the door handle just to see. The knob turned easily in her hand. “It’s open.” Bain started packing everything into his backpack. “What are you doing?” she asked. Knowing Bain, he would assume that this was their invitation nailed to the front door inviting them inside. “I bet no one is here. Don’t you want to take a look at the inside too? It’s not like we’re going to hurt anything, just look around.” He walked up to the door and winked at her as the brass knob turned smoothly under his hand. They stepped inside onto the shiny hardwood floor. There was a stone fireplace on one wall and several wooden chairs seated around the room. There were no switches or light fixtures on the golden pine ceiling. In the corner sat a small tree with delicate leaves of bright lime green that fluttered against the white bark without the benefit of a breeze. An oil lamp sat on a small table next to one of the chairs. “Who do you think owns this?” she asked. “I don’t know.” He inspected the chairs around the room. “You have to try this! The chair is so comfortable it’s like it was built just for me to sit in!” She just watched him, not sure what to make of this place yet. The next room appeared to be a historical museum’s kitchen display. In one corner sat an old fashioned oak box with a door. Inside was lined with metal. “I think I found the fridge,” she called. “And the stove,” he said as he leaned against the doorway. “I think you actually have to build a fire in the bottom of that thing for it to work. I don’t think I would want to bake cookies here.” He walked around the room inspecting the ancient appliances. “Check this out! It looks like this floorboard lifts up.” The wooden floor was shiny and smooth with a barely recognizable handle indenting just large enough for him to fit his fingers in. Erin knelt down and tried her fingernails in the crevice. A door began to rise as she tugged on it. She quickly let the floor drop back into place. “What are you waiting for?” he asked as he crouched down and pulled the door all the way open. She stared at the dark staircase and imagined rats and snakes below the unoccupied house. “Are you feeling brave?” he asked. His eyes shone with excitement as he grabbed the oil lamp from the table and lit it with one of his matches. He didn’t wait for her reply before descending the stairs. Erin wasn’t sure what would be worse, waiting alone in someone else’s cabin or following him into the cool dark cellar. She took a deep breath and started down the stairs. “There better not be any spiders,” she called as she caught up to the torch light. The walls were made of the same gray and white granite as the stairs. Specks of mineral reflected in the lamp light on the marbled walls. She touched the cold, flat wall. It felt as smooth as ice. It unexpectedly sparked a memory, as if she had been here before. But before she could grasp it, it was gone. She couldn’t help but notice that each step was carved with straight, perfectly squared edges. It was nothing like the cement steps that led down to the coal room in her house. Bain’s voice pierced the silence as he called up to her. “There are forty nine steps! That’s a pretty big cellar.” “What do you think they keep down here?” She hoped she sounded braver than she felt. Before she made it to the last step Bain lit several torches that lined the hallway. At least she would be able to see where they were going. Already, she could see a hallway extending impossibly far with openings leading into even more corridors. “It looks like an underground maze,” he said. “I wonder who lives here. Maybe they actually live underground.” It seemed reasonable enough. There was far more room under the house than above. Down the hall just a few feet from the stairs stood a grand looking entrance. It was the only door in sight. The tall double doors bore the same exquisite carving as the front of the cottage. Above the door, swirling letters formed words carved in several languages. Erin recognized the German and French, but was only sure of the one in English. “‘Room of Truth’,” she read out loud. “What is that supposed to mean?” “‘To enter here you must tell a truth. The inner eye sees only truth. What do you wish to see?’” Bain read. “Maybe we should knock.” “Now you want to knock?” “Maybe you have to tell the door what you wish to see if you want to enter.” He continued as if he hadn’t heard her. “You can’t be serious. We’re going to talk to the door?” But even as she spoke, an odd sensation enveloped her. The cool stone cellar no longer seemed imposing, but like something she had seen in a dream. Even the door was tugging at a lost memory. How did she know this place? She stepped forward and closed her eyes. “I wish to see the truth,” she spoke in an even tone. She wasn’t sure why she knew what to say, but it all was so familiar, as if she had done this before. The towering double doors opened. She stepped inside the cavernous room as the doors closed immediately behind her. The walls were the same granite stone as the stairwell had been. The large room was empty with the exception of a podium that stood in the center. On it sat a large, leather bound book. The cover was decorated in scrolls and patterns similar to the ones on the house and door. Letters moved before her eyes and suddenly the cover read The Book of Knowledge. Just then the doors swung slowly open and Bain stepped into the room. His broad grin clearly marked how pleased he was to have won the contest with the door. ”Bain, what happened to you? You are glowing white!” “What are you talking about? I’m not glowing, but that book is. Do you see that? It’s shining bright blue! How is it doing that?” He walked over to the table. She couldn’t keep her eyes off of him; a white halo engulfed his whole body. What had that door done to him? She checked the book to see if it had started to glow, but it sat there just as before, a beautiful brown leather book. “Why do you think it’s glowing like that?” he asked. “Do you think this place is radioactive or something?” “I can’t see anything coming off the book, but you are still glowing white. Can’t you see yourself?” She was starting to wonder what was wrong with both of them. She spotted a mirror on the far wall and grabbed Bain’s arm. “Come look at yourself,” she insisted. She pulled him in front of the mirror and watched his face. He did seem to look worried. “I look the same, Erin. Something must have happened to us when we came into the room. I’m not sure what, but we’ll figure it out.” He put his arm around her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ll still love you even if you do think I’m a glow worm.” “Maybe we should check out the book.” “At least we won’t need a flashlight to read it. It has its own super charged light.” She tried to give him a stern look, but he seemed convinced. Shrugging, she touched the butter soft cover and pulled it open. It seemed to set itself open to the first page. You have entered into the first steps of becoming a new creature. Only truth will allow you to enter here. An honest heart is the only key to opening this book and new doors. The gifts you received in this room are yours to prove. Choose wisely. We are seeking the pure in heart. Your journey begins. She tried to turn the page, but it was as if it had turned to stone. She could not even lift a corner.