Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First Chapter Wednesday--Easterfield




In 1850, Catherine Waters of Lancashire, England, meets Mr. Wilson, a Mormon missionary from America. Catherine is receptive of Mr. Wilson's message, but before she can be baptized, she learns that her uncle is in dire financial straits. Catherine accepts an unwanted marriage proposal from the wealthy Mr. Davenport to save her family from poverty, despite the fact that he refuses to allow her baptism to take place. But when Mr. Wilson also proposes to Catherine, she is left with an impossible decision. Will she abandon her family, or the man and gospel she loves?


ONE
While Lancashire has never been renowned for its lively or fashionable society, its southernmost parish might make the rest of the county seem quite cosmopolitan by comparison, having no landmarks of any interest or historical or scenic merit, and boasting only a single inhabitant of any consequence, and she a recluse who rarely ventured beyond her own walls. Unaware that congeniality is the true measure of superior character, Lady Forrester preferred to mix only with those whom she considered her equals, of which there were none in the environs. When she ventured from her large estate it was generally to visit some place of far greater import—most notably Bath, York, or London—and invariably by a route that did not take her through the village of Easterfield.

Her ladyship had kept up this style of living for many years and was thus of little interest to any but the most determined of gossips and newsmongers. She lived alone but for an elderly cousin, a slight woman of pinched and haughty features whose huge beribboned bonnets entirely masked her grey hair and much of her face besides. Miss Chester, as this relative was named, was rather more frequently to be seen in their small market square and was therefore the means by which the residents of Easterfield enquired after Lady Forrester’s health. In these more hurried times, however, it seemed that only a resolute few had little enough alternative diversion to trouble to ask whether her ladyship planned to go to town this season, or whether she might be making alterations to the Hall, or whether she had received any visitors of late.

Mrs. Waters was a fine woman of good birth, sound education, and even features, although her hair was as likely as not to be wayward and unruly, and her tongue had a similar propensity. She was also, it must be said, of great earnestness and compassion, and so it is entirely to be expected that she was one of these most concerned of neighbours. Living in close proximity to Easterfield Hall, for Westleigh House bordered its extensive lands, Mrs. Waters felt herself entirely justified in waylaying Miss Chester at each opportunity in order to acquaint herself with every part of Lady Forrester’s business. It can come as little surprise also to learn that it was she who first acquired the information regarding what was possibly the most interesting event in Easterfield’s history, one spring Thursday during the early afternoon outside the haberdasher’s.
As soon as was polite, Mrs. Waters took her leave of Miss Chester and, arms aloft, hurried into that same shop, where she found her daughters and niece examining fabrics and ribbons and discussing ideas for their new dresses.

“Well, now, Catherine, Lillian, Sophia, what do you think!” She paused to catch her breath, emphatically slapping a hand to her chest.

“I cannot think anything, Mama,” replied Catherine when the dramatic pause had extended longer than she considered necessary, “since you have not yet told us what excites you so.” She continued to finger the thin fabric, her thoughts still on summer styles, so used was she to her mother’s frequently misplaced exuberance.

Mrs. Waters continued in the same lively tone. “A visitor is come to Easterfield Hall!”

This was news indeed, Catherine conceded, since she had never known it happen before.

“What visitor?” Lillian asked, intrigued.

“Oh, that Miss Chester! She vexes me so, knowing how keen we all are here to learn who is visiting our little village, and yet telling me nothing more than—” here her voice dropped to a whisper lest the haberdasher overhear the intelligence she claimed as her own at present “—that it is a man, a relative of theirs, who will stay only one week.”

“Then it can be of little interest to us,” Catherine said. “We are never likely to meet him. The park is large enough that he may take all the exercise he wishes without ever leaving the grounds.”

“May we not call on them, Aunt Waters?” Sophia’s eyes sparkled at imagining such fun. “I should love to see Easterfield Hall! I should strut around and imagine myself mistress of it.”

“You know very well Lady Forrester will not receive us,” snorted Mrs. Waters in reply. “She is most impolite in such matters. She considers herself above us all. It is very rude of her, in my opinion.” She was careful, in saying this, to look out through the window as though ensuring that her ladyship was not within earshot. Catherine smiled. Were she really to see Lady Forrester standing in the market square, then this day would be remembered forever as the setting for two remarkable events: the arrival of a visitor at Easterfield Hall and the observance of its mistress in the village.

“Anyway, that is enough choosing. You must have your new gowns as soon as may be. It just would not do to meet Lady Forrester’s relation in old clothes.”

“But even were we to meet him, he would never know they were old, Mama.” Catherine protested, but Mrs. Waters had waved over the eavesdropping haberdasher, indicated that they would take this, this, and this, and asked that their choices be delivered to Westleigh as soon as might be possible, accompanied by his most able seamstress. She accepted his bow and departed immediately, calling her bemused daughters and niece after her.

Catherine Waters found herself vexed greatly by her mother on occasion, her apparent inquisitiveness, foolishness, and frequent impertinence seeming at odds with the high value she placed on her own family’s privacy and the care she took to protect her daughters from the more undesirable aspects of society. Mrs. Waters had been born into a good family, married into a better one, and earned much praise and respect wherever she went for her spirited conversation and elegant figure, and for the pains she took to instill good manners and an excellent education into her daughters, Catherine and Lillian. The change in her had come when her husband died suddenly of a fever four years ago. Mrs. Waters had taken to her bed in grief for almost two months and refused to be comforted. When she emerged, it was as though the better part of herself had been buried with her husband. She now lived only for her children and what fleeting pleasure might be obtained from other people’s scandal and gossip, as though their lives afforded her more pleasure than her own. In living for trivial things, it seemed, the harsher realities of the times might be chased from her thoughts.

It had been Catherine’s idea to invite Mr. Markham, her mother’s brother, to stay with them at Westleigh. Mrs. Markham had died shortly after the birth of her only child, Sophia, who was just a little younger than Catherine and older than Lillian, and Mr. Markham had never seen fit to remarry. The arrival of her brother had restored Mrs. Waters for a time, and it had comforted her to know that he was taking care of the household while she herself was too weak and despairing to do so.

Sophia’s presence had also encouraged her grieving cousins, for she was lively and exuberant and thought it nothing to be deprived of the love of one parent, having been without her own mother since her arrival in the world. Although not sixteen when she had arrived at Westleigh, her figure was elegant and her face as pretty as any ever seen in Easterfield, framed by hair that seemed naturally to fall in lively auburn ringlets about it. She was inquisitive and fearless, gregarious and gracious in her addresses, which had led to the considerable extension of their social circle and more than compensated for Catherine’s reserve and Lillian’s timidity, and the sisters considered their position much improved by Sophia’s company.

They had not walked far towards home before Mrs. Wiseman, an acquaintance of theirs and a woman at least as earnest in her pursuit of diverting gossip and scandal as Mrs. Waters, was discovered to be running after them, her face flushed as much with excitement as with the exertion. “Oh, Mrs. Waters! Miss Waters, Miss Lillian, Miss Markham, you must come at once! You cannot imagine what is to be seen!”

“Then you must tell us,” Catherine put in impatiently, wondering if the second miracle was indeed occurring and Lady Forrester herself was walking in Easterfield’s square.

“Oh, no, I shall not tell you. It is too strange! You must see for yourselves or you will never believe me, I am sure. Come, come, this way.”

Mrs. Waters’ countenance bore an expression that suggested that she found this new distraction exceedingly tiresome, for scandal and excitement loses much of its attraction when one is not the master of it. But Sophia insisted that however dull Mrs. Wiseman’s entertainment might prove to be, a return to the market square would not be in vain, for they had forgotten to visit the milliner’s to discover what bonnets might best set off their new dresses. At this information, Mrs. Waters bade them all follow Mrs. Wiseman to learn what strange sight might be seen in their sleepy little village.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Get to know you Monday--Anna Jones Buttimore

Today we are getting to know Anna Jones Buttimore


author of Easterfield.


Who's birthday is TODAY (I had no idea when I scheduled her) so happy birthday Anna!

Get to Know You Questions

1. What is your favorite food? Chocolate, doughnuts and curry. Not at the same time, obviously.

2. Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Chocolate – the more exotic the better. Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked, for example.

3. What is one food you despise? Peas and grapes. Anything small, round, squishy and healthy.

4. Where did you grow up? Essex, about 30 miles East of London. I moved to Wales for University and moved back to the village where I grew up 17 years later.

5. What was your favorite childhood picture book? I had all the Ladybird fairy tale books, but the one I recently rediscovered is A Child’s Garden of Verses.
6. Is there a book that changed your life? The Farthest Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks. It’s one I read when I was about ten and it’s what made me realize how powerful and absorbing a well-told story could be.

7. What is your favorite sport? Quidditch. It’s the only sport I will ever watch.
8. What is your favorite kind of music? I love rock music. My favourite band – to the point of obsession – is Queen, but I have recently got into Muse, and I also like Def Leppard and Magnum.

9. What one place would you like to visit that you haven’t? I’d like to see the Northern Lights someday, probably from Iceland or Lapland or somewhere in Scandinavia.

10. What is your favorite thing about yourself? Being naturally blonde. It has so many advantages, such as the fact that I’m going grey but no one can tell, and I can get away with shaving my legs very infrequently.

12. What is the strangest thing you ever did? As a Vicar’s wife and anti-Mormon campaigner, I actually converted to Mormonism.

12. What is the strangest food you ever ate? Pancakes with weird shaped sausages and maple syrup. You Americans have the craziest eating habits. But I have also eaten Ostrich and Kangaroo.

13. Have you ever met a famous person? John McCarthy –who recognised me! – and Clarissa Dickson-Wright. They were guest speakers at a works event I organised. I also knew Lord Aberconwy, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, quite well at one stage and he is my eldest daughter’s godfather. He took my husband and I to dinner at the House of Lords where we met the Archbishop of Canterbury. Oh, and I was interviewed for baptism by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and have met President Monson.

14. What was a favorite adulthood event? Having my children and just the amazingly rich tapestry of my life – traveling, meeting great people and having fun.

15. What was a favorite childhood memory? I have such a bad memory I can’t remember much that isn’t on film somewhere. But I went to see Queen in concert when I was 16 and according to my mother I was on cloud nine for weeks.

16. What are your hobbies? I like cross-stitch, but actually writing is my main hobby. I also play Dungeons and Dragons.

17. What countries have you visited? America several times, Majorca and Ibiza (Spain) several times, Portugal, France, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, and I lived in Germany briefly as a child and Wales for 17 years as an adult. I speak fluent Welsh.

18. Are you a 'morning' or 'night' person? Morning, definitely. I start slowing down after lunch and am good for very little after 4 p.m.

19. If you could have 3 wishes granted, what would they be? I’ve worked this out very carefully. First, I would wish that every child born into the world would be born to married parents who would love and cherish and nurture that child. I think within a generation that would put paid to lots of the crime and violence and family breakdown. Then I would wish for no illness or premature death. Then I’d probably wish for lots of money for myself. Or world peace. Haven’t decided yet.

20. Were you named after anyone? My middle names are Margaret, after my mother, and Katharine, which begins with the same letter as my Dad’s name, so my middle initials are my parents. My Dad also tells me I was named after Anna Karenina, his favourite book, although I’m not sure I believe him.

21. What are you favorite smells? Hot tar and woodsmoke.

22. What book are you reading now? I’m reading Twilight to my daughter, and I’m reading Alfreda Abbot’s Lost Voice for my book club.

23. If you could have a dinner with three people (real or fictitious, dead or alive), who would you choose and why? Robert Pattinson, Kerry Blair and Stephenie Meyer. Rob and I live near London, and Kerry and Stephenie live in Arizona, but I think Rob and I would fly to Arizona together for the dinner. First class, naturally, in adjacent seats.

24. What is the best gift anyone has ever given you? When I was sixteen my parents gave me a perfume set. It was L’Aimant by Coty. I absolutely loved it, and I still buy that perfume because one smell of it and I’m sixteen again and sublimely happy.

25. What was the best decision you’ve ever made? Sadly, it was probably to divorce my ex-husband and move back to England. I know that’s controversial, but even now, six years later, I find myself filled with joy when I think of how wonderful it is to be free of all that fear, loneliness and sadness.

27. What is one item that you really should throw away, but probably never will? I have hundreds of teddy bears and soft toys, some of them mine, some of them the children’s, but I could never throw them away. As a child I once discovered a much-loved cuddly lion in the dustbin and was traumatized and seeing something I loved disposed of. I rescued that lion, and I have never been able to part with anything that can look me in the eye ever since.



Anna as a child.

Anna as a teenager.

Anna at 25.

Anna hanging out at a castle.


Anna with her youngest daughter.


Buttimore family, 2007.

Buttimore family at the Orlando Temple.

Anna and Roderic wedding's day.

Why I Write

I wrote my first novel -about squirrels- when I was nine. I always loved books, and as soon as I realised that someone actually created these amazing stories that was all I wanted to do. I love writing. I love the creative process, and the wonder of putting across what is in my mind and imparting something I want others to feel.

I joined the LDS church in my twenties and was surprised to discover (somehow I came across an Anita Stansfield novel) that there was a whole genre of, and market for, LDS fiction. I admit that my first thought was that this might be a chance to get "a foot in the door". It would be easier to get published in such a small niche market, I reasoned, and I could then write a "real" novel and have a "real" publisher accept it because I would be taken more seriously. I was, of course, entirely wrong in my assumptions. LDS publishers expect just as high a standard as national market publishers.

I wrote a book about a sister missionary who falls in love with a man she is teaching, and sent it to a publisher. Obviously it was unacceptable, but the editor told me she liked my writing style and gave me some suggestions regarding things I might write about. I picked up on one of those, and Haven was published in 2000. I hadn't intended writing a sequel, but Haven was successful and my editor suggested I do so to cash in on that success. A World Away, published the following year, also enjoyed moderate success. I loved getting fan mail - still do!

To my surprise, though, the third in the series was turned down. I wrote two further novels, but both were rejected. Finally, Easterfield was published by Leatherwood Press in 2008. I have recently had another novel accepted which will hit the shelves in February 2011. Two more are currently under consideration, with another two in the pipeline.

I haven't entirely abandoned my dream of writing books for the national market. But LDS literature is, in many ways, something I feel more comfortable with for now. I know I couldn't write certain explicit scenes which are expected in the national market, and I refuse to write anything I wouldn't want my children, or my parents, to read. Besides which, LDS literature is as good as anything else out there, and much better than plenty of other books I have read. I think in Stephanie Black, Kerry Blair and others, the LDS market can hold its head high. And LDS publishers are just beginning to carve their way into the general readership with books which are not specifically LDS but do not have objectionable content either. I want to be part of that move to bring good, clean literature to the world. And in the meantime, I want to inspire and entertain the LDS people I love.

Free Book Friday Giveaway--Redemption

The winner of Sun Tunnels and Secrets by Carole Thayne Warburton is JoLynne who wrote that for every secret one person should know the truth. Unless it involves Santa Clause.

Today's free book is Redemption by Susan Dayley




Entering is easy, but you must be done by MIDNIGHT MST THURSDAY, September 30th. Winner will be announced October 1st.

To enter, leave us a comment with the answer to the weekly question.
Make sure to include your email address if it isn't found on your blog profile.

The weekly question is
"If you were commanded to go to Ninevah would you have gone?"


It is eighth century BC. No Hebrew will purposely venture into the Assyrian Empire, whose practice of barbarous slaughter casts a shadow of fear over all of Israel. But God calls Jonah, an Israelite prophet, to cry repentance to the evil empire's capital - the great and terrible city of Nineveh. Fearing the Assyrians and doubting the wisdom of the divine call, Jonah flees in the opposite direction. But in a series of miracles, God gives Jonah a second chance to obey.

Journey with Jonah in a wealth-laden ship of Tarshish, hear his prayers inside the belly of a great fish, witness his struggles working in a desert caravan, and feel his terror as he finally arrives in Nineveh. And while Jonah does eventually preach in the great city, the prophet still has some lessons to learn...

With historically accurate details, Redemption is a story of repentance, trust, and God's love for all his children.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

First Chapter Wednesday--Redemption



It is eighth century BC. No Hebrew will purposely venture into the Assyrian Empire, whose practice of barbarous slaughter casts a shadow of fear over all of Israel. But God calls Jonah, an Israelite prophet, to cry repentance to the evil empire's capital - the great and terrible city of Nineveh. Fearing the Assyrians and doubting the wisdom of the divine call, Jonah flees in the opposite direction. But in a series of miracles, God gives Jonah a second chance to obey.

Journey with Jonah in a wealth-laden ship of Tarshish, hear his prayers inside the belly of a great fish, witness his struggles working in a desert caravan, and feel his terror as he finally arrives in Nineveh. And while Jonah does eventually preach in the great city, the prophet still has some lessons to learn...

With historically accurate details, Redemption is a story of repentance, trust, and God's love for all his children.

PROLOGUE

Long, long ago—nearly 800 years before Jesus Christ was born into mortality, 230 years before Daniel was cast into a den of lions (554 bc), about 150 years before Aesop was born (620 bc), and approximately 30 years before Romulus laid the foundation of the city of Rome (753 bc), lived a reluctant prophet and thrived a magnificent city that was mightier than the mightiest. In about 785 bc, the choices of those living in that city would surprise many, including that same prophet.

In the middle of a vast, green world flourished the great and terrible civilization known as the Assyrian Empire. Through the middle of this most terrible of empires ran two legendary rivers: the Euphrates and the Tigris. These two rivers stretched from the mountains above the land of Mesopotamia to where they joined beyond the great city of Ur, hundreds of miles away. From there the waters continued onward to divide into many small outlets, sink into salt marshes, and finally drain into the Gulf of Persia.

The Euphrates and the Tigris were the main highways for trade among the cities of Assyria and the lands beyond. Sooner or later, from the caravans to the west bringing goods from the Great Sea, or rafts traveling up the Tigris River with wares from the populous cities to the south, all that man had to trade arrived at the center of commerce and power. This city, built larger by stages through a succession of kings, would soon become the capital of the Assyrian Empire—the beautiful, vast, and wicked city of Nineveh. Nineveh lay on the eastern bank of the Tigris, across the river from the modern-day city of Mosul, Iraq. Nineveh was built on a plain, and through the middle of the city flowed the Khawsar River, which joined the Tigris.

Nineveh stretched along the banks of the Tigris River for about seven and a half miles. From the river, the city stretched east toward the hills. Yet the province of Nineveh was even larger. The Old Testament states, “Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey” (Jonah 3:3). The city grew to include the communities of Nimroud, Kouyunjik, Khorsabad, and Karamless. Each of these four royal estates, built in succession by kings or rulers of Assyria, contained palaces, statues, gardens, and tree-filled parks surrounded by walls as if they were individual cities. During the reign of Sennacherib, walls were built to encompass the city, joining the four estates. These walls were forty to one hundred feet high and broad enough for three chariots to drive side by side along the top. High towers rose from the walls of Nineveh, which featured no less than fifteen main gates into the city.

The palaces of Nineveh were lined with calcite alabaster slabs brought from the quarries of Egypt and carved into pictures of conquests, brutalities, captured slaves, and pagan gods. Massive carved figures also featured winged females wearing garlands or carrying a fir cone or other religious emblem. Ivory and gold leaf ornamented chairs, tablets, walls, and pillars. Carved to emerge from the alabaster walls were winged sphinxes, lions, bulls, kings, soldiers, slaves, lotus flowers, and scrolls.

At Kouyunjik, winged, human-headed bulls from fourteen to sixteen feet square formed the entrance. The carvings at Khorsabad were not as large as the ones at Kouyunjik, but they featured more detail. In the center palace of Nimroud was a hall with four entrances formed by colossal, human-headed lions and bulls. These colossi stood through the ages of men, looking blindly away from their doings, their passionless faces disregarding those who had created them.
Between the palaces of Nineveh, families lived in tents or simple houses made from mud bricks. These houses were neat, with tables, couches, chairs, and—always—separate apartments for the women. Many Assyrian houses enclosed prized gardens and orchards. Throughout the city, water from the Tigris River, from the foothills of the Kurdish Mountains to the north, and from the Khawsar River was directed into canals to irrigate the farms, gardens, and orchards. From tent poles hung vases filled with clear water so that it might cool in the shade of tent shadows. There were also many cattle pastures within the city.

Together, these enclosed palaces, fountains, and parks—and among them, the smaller houses, huts, tents, gardens, farms, and pastures—formed the great city of Nineveh.

Everything in Nineveh moved to the pace of a growing empire. There were slaves to tend cattle and serve in the palaces. There were sculptors and artists constantly at work within the palaces or carving in cuneiform on large stone tablets for the city’s library. (One day it would be the greatest library in the world, with more than 22,000 clay tablets. It would contain the accounts of the conquests of Assyria, the story of the Great Flood, the epic of Gilgamesh, and other books on history, law, and religion.)

There were gardens to tend, fruit to pick, children to rear, produce to take to market, baskets to fill, and dinners to prepare. There were soldiers and guards in constant drill, and horses to exercise, groom, and feed. There were camels to unload of the goods they brought, and boats to empty. And the motion behind it all—even in the still of the night when the men and women of Nineveh rested, when nothing could be heard but the occasional bellow of a camel or the cry of a child—was the constant flow of the Tigris.

Beyond the beauty of Nineveh, though, was an enduring darkness, because Nineveh was a city enriched by the spoils of war that had come home with its returning soldiers. “In the palace at Kouyunjik, engraved in bas-relief into an alabaster slab was represented the invasion of a mountainous country. The enemy defended the summit of a wooded hill against Assyrian warriors, who were scaling the rocks, supporting themselves with their spears and with poles, or drawing themselves up by the branches of trees. Others, returning from the combat, were descending the mountains, driving captives before them, or carrying away the heads of the slain” (Austen Henry Layard, Nineveh and Its Remains [London: John Murray, Albermarle Street, 1850]; spelling standardized).

It was just one of countless battles recorded on the palace walls. Such scenes always displayed the brutality of wanton conquest and merciless treatment of conquered people. And darker still, beyond the wicked, bloodthirsty quest for power and the indolent life of plundered riches and slaves, was the daily worshipping of pagan gods with sexual sins and human sacrifice. For along with the fabrics, ornaments, and household goods that came to Nineveh, there came also storytellers, philosophers, false gods, and abominations of foreign lands. In Assyria, dark ideas accumulated; in Nineveh they flourished.

The time had come for God to send a prophet to this city.

CHAPTER ONE

T he young widow gazed into the barrel, knowing its contents would be the same meager grains she had left there the night before. She gripped the rim and slowly lowered the large earthen jar onto the floor, propping it against the rug she had rolled up to stabilize it with. By kneeling on the floor, she could reach her right arm into the barrel up to her shoulder. There, with a knife and her fingers, she began to scoop the remaining meal into a wooden bowl.

The knock at the door startled her. “Mother, there is a visitor,” her young son called out. Afraid he would answer it, exposing her in an awkward position, she dropped her tools, stood up, and immediately set the barrel upright again, the bowl and knife now inside.

“Jonah, please sit on your stool,” she whispered as she adjusted her shawl to cover her head.

Her pale, hungry son meekly obeyed. The knock came again, but she had moved across the room and was able to open the door even as the man’s hand was lifting for a third tap.

The widow did not recognize the man, and she immediately thought of the law regarding the giving of hospitality to strangers. Despair crossed her face, for she knew there would not be enough meal. But the man spoke before she could invite him in.

“Go to the city gate to gather sticks for a fire. There the Lord’s servant will find thee.” Then he turned and walked away.

For a moment she watched his retreating form disappear into the shadows of the approaching twilight. However, three minutes later she had reassured her son and carefully closed the door of her home behind her. She did not know which bewildered her more, the surprise command by the messenger, or that she had left her son to go do as the stranger had directed. She passed the pottery workshops and kilns of Zarephath. The industry of the town had slowed little during the famine; they still traded their jars with Sidon and Tyre, which were major seaports of the Phoenicians. But the trade that provided beautiful objects and clothes did not bring food when there was none to be had. The drought was severe and stretched far.

She left the city by the narrow, southern gate where the road to Tyre stretched. She had not asked which gate she was to go to, but had simply gone to the one closest to her home, being too weak herself to consider doing otherwise. Outside the gate, she obediently began to search for sticks beneath the dying trees of the drought-filled land. The ground had already been gleaned of dry twigs, and most of the lower branches of the trees had been broken off. Then she saw two sticks that had blown down during the night that had not yet been claimed. She stooped to pick them up, reflecting that she was not in need of a big fire for so small a meal.

She raised her head when she heard the footsteps along the road, and there she saw a man with a long, gray beard, wrapped in the rags of what had once been fine robes. She waited as he drew nearer. “Fetch me,” he called out hoarsely, “I pray thee, a little water in a vessel that I may drink.”

Clearly, this old man was worn from his journey. The young mother gently helped him to sit in the shade beneath a tree that still clung to a few shriveled leaves. Then, scooping to pick up the two meager sticks she had set down, she assured him, “There is still water in the well of the town. I will hasten there and return quickly.” She gathered up her skirts with her right hand so that her feet would be unencumbered by them. She was concerned that she was away from her son too long, and hurried toward the city gate as quickly as her own feeble strength would allow.
She stopped short when she heard the old man call after her again. Turning around slowly she heard him ask what she had feared.

“Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.”

His voice pierced her heart, but she knew she could not refuse. She had been commanded to come by the messenger, who said this man was the servant of the Lord, but she would have obeyed regardless; the tradition of hospitality was too strong. Still, it was so much to ask! In weak protest she explained, “I have not a cake, but only a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse.” Then to emphasize her plight she held out the sticks in her left hand and added, “Behold I am gathering two sticks that I may go in and dress it for me and my son that we may eat it, and die.”

Her pitiful words hung in the dry, windless day, then seemed to drift away into eternity. Then the man said, “Fear not; go and do as thou hast said; but first make me a little cake of the meal, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.”

She opened her mouth to protest again, but then she closed it and turned with her head bowed to do as he bid. What did it matter? But the raspy voice called to her again, and though there was now more distance between her and the old man beneath the tree, she heard each word clearly. She turned to stare at him even as he spoke.

“For thus saith the Lord God of Israel” —the voice was surprisingly strong— “the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.”

She gasped as she stood there, and the words repeated themselves in her mind. Then the leaves above her rustled in a breeze and several broke free to fall around her like a soft, brown rain. Suddenly her heart rejoiced. “I will return.”

Back in her small home, she again tipped the barrel and dug out the meal. She mixed it with some water and the drops of oil from a clay bottle, making a cake the size of her palm. Then she built a tiny fire with the two sticks and baked the small cake in a flat pan on the fire. Her son watched her silently, but when she wrapped the cake in a cloth, picked up their now-empty water vessel, and reached to open the door, he spoke, “Mother, where do you take our cake? Will there be no supper for us?”

“Jonah, there will be supper for us, but you must wait a bit longer. I am taking this cake to a man who serves the Lord.”

“Where is this man?”

“He is outside the city gate. I will not be long.” Then she was gone and hurrying to where she had left the older man.

She paused at the city well and lowered the bucket. She felt it reach the bottom and tip on its side to receive some of the shallow water at the bottom. When she pulled up the bucket, it was only partially filled with brownish water. But it was as she had expected, and she poured it into the vessel she had brought from home. Then she hurried again toward the gate.

The old man was walking to meet her. His rest had apparently done him good, but the water she gave him and the small cake fortified him with a forgotten strength. He smiled and insisted on carrying the water vessel for her.

At the door to her home she paused, then awkwardly tried to explain, “I am a widow—my husband is dead, but you are welcome to stay with my son and me.”

“Thank you,” he replied simply and opened the door for her to pass through.

After the old man had sat down, there was an awkward moment as she realized she had promised her son she would return to make him a meal. Then Elijah spoke, “Do not be afraid to look in the barrel. The Lord has promised there would be enough. You demonstrated your faith by serving his prophet, putting the will of the Lord before your own concerns. Go and prepare the cakes for you and your son.”

Slowly the widow walked to the large earthen jar. She did not look inside as she positioned the rug and again lowered it by the rim to the floor. Somehow it seemed a bit more stable as if the bottom had been weighted. Then, as she knelt to scoop meal into her bowl, she looked into the shadowy depths and realized the knife would be inadequate. The bottom was covered with rich golden meal that was now spilling toward her. She gasped a great sob back and withdrew to get a cup.

“Mother!” Jonah called with concern. “Why are you crying?”

“Come see, Jonah,” his mother held out her hand for him, tears streaming down her face. “Come see the miracle the Lord has provided.”

Suddenly the mother could no longer contain her sobs of joy and wonder. She ran to the privacy of the other room, where much of their food had been kept before the famine. Now it was where she slept, surrounded by empty jars and a pile of sacks. She went to her knees beside a chest that sat untouched in the corner. “O, Lord of heaven, thou hast looked down upon this small house and blessed it by sending thy servant to us. And in this time of want, thou hast blessed us that we are provided for. I thank thee for the meal that does not waste and the oil that does not fail.” Her voice caught. It was a miracle that would be told through the centuries of mankind, but to her, in her own small world, it was a miracle that spoke of how the Lord loved and cared for her and her son. “I cannot give back to thee, who art the Master of all, but I offer my life to thee. I will serve thy servant as long as I am needed. And my son” —she paused as she thought of her son, her only child and comfort— “and my son I will have taught that he may grow up to serve thee.” She whispered the words, making a covenant to give her son to the Lord. A deep peace settled on her and she stayed by her bed a while longer.

When she tipped the cruse the oil did not drip, but poured in a thin, steady stream. Later, as she and her son were eating their cakes ( the old man, who was sitting on a bench near the window, spoke, “My name is Elijah. I am the Lord’s prophet. While I stay with you it will be as the Lord has promised and you will have food to eat. Tomorrow, we will talk to the men of the town about digging the well deeper. The Spirit of the Lord has told me that there is more water, but we must dig.”

The woman looked up, tears still on her cheeks, and a smile lighting her face. “After much sorrow,” she said, “it is good to have hope.”

There was a pause as the old man looked deeply into her eyes as if examining her soul. Then he probed gently, “Tell me of your sorrow.”

The young widow sighed, then pushed back her chair and carried her dish and her son’s dish to be washed in a basin of warm water over the small fire. There, with her head bent over her task, she began to speak. “My husband, Amittai of Gath-hepher, died when our son was but five. I returned to Zarephath to be near my mother and so that my father could train my son in the word of God. Last year when the famine was first severe, my mother died, and this spring my father died. Now there is no family for me but Jonah.” She indicated the lad who sat across from her at the table.

“How old is your son?” Elijah asked.

“He is now eight.”

“And who teaches him?”

“There is no one,” the young woman said with a sigh.

“Then while the famine lasts, I will stay and I will teach the lad,” Elijah declared. “The Lord has a work planned for your son.”

The woman had no response, but suddenly she found herself laughing and rejoicing. “The Lord has heard my prayers,” she said, reaching out to hug her son.

It was the beginning of hopeful, happy days in the small house near the southern gate of Zarephath. Elijah, who had gained much strength, was given a place to sleep in a loft above the now-empty goat shed behind the house. The young housewife watched the prophet mount the ladder easily, as if he were not as ancient as his wrinkled face and hands suggested.

Each day he took his meals with the widow and her son, and after breakfast he would read with the son from the scrolls the widow had kept from her father’s house. Elijah taught Jonah his prayers, and told him the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David, and many others.

The prophet met with the men of the city, and each of the town’s wells was dug deeper, starting with the one near the widow’s house. People often came to visit with Elijah and ask for his blessings. They were grateful to have plenty of fresh water, but even more so to have the Lord’s prophet with them, giving them living water—the word of God.

And each day the widow would go to the barrel and find more than enough meal in the bottom to fashion cakes for the day. It was a cold, scarce winter, but the little home always had food to eat and stories by the small fire. Each day Elijah would go out and return with an armful of sticks. The widow was never certain where he managed to find the wood when supplies were becoming rarer. The well near their home kept providing water, and each day Jonah learned more. So even in the scarcity, there was plenty to be grateful for.

Then one morning, after Elijah had been there five moons, the young mother arose early, her heart filling with happiness to see the sunlight streaming in the eastern window of her home. It was a warm, friendly light that seemed to seek out every dusty corner. Spring had arrived.

Grabbing a broom, she swept the floor with a vigor she hadn’t felt in a long time. Next. she went to the well and filled a bucket with water, and then began to scrub every inch of her small home with its two rooms and the lean-to addition where her son slept.

That day she fetched extra water to launder all the clothes and blankets in the house. As she was collecting bedding from the room she slept in, she stood facing the old chest she had avoided since her husband died. Taking a deep breath, she laid the bedding down and crossed the room to kneel beside the chest. The young mother gripped the sides and lifted the lid that was unsecured, revealing the contents she had put off sorting through. Then, she began to carefully remove them one by one, using her apron to wipe the dust from each and set it aside. There in the bottom, beneath her husband’s keepsakes of shells, a prayer shawl, and several scrolls, was a beautiful glass vase from Sidon. She removed it gently, sure it was to have been a gift for her.

The anniversary of her birth was a week after he had died. She stroked the vase tenderly, then set it on her bed. The scrolls she set aside for Jonah’s studies. Finally, in the bottom of the chest, she touched a robe that had once been her husband’s. It was still sturdy, and later that day she laundered it and gave it to Elijah.

“Thank you,” he said sincerely.

“It is to thank you!”

She was glad to see that he seemed to stand a bit taller now that his rags were tossed away. She filled the vase with early spring flowers and sat it on the table.

Within a week, however, tragedy came to the cheerful little household. Jonah had not yet regained his full strength from the times of hunger, and without the much-needed fresh food, or warmth from a strong fire during the long winter nights, he had grown increasingly weaker. That morning he did not come to breakfast. His mother went into the small room built onto the house behind the wall where the stove was. “Jonah,” she called, “it is past time to be up.”

Jonah moaned and tried to sit up. “Mother, I am so thirsty,” he whispered. She fell to her knees beside his bed and took his hand. It was too warm. She reached out with her left hand to rest it on his forehead. It was hot and wet.

“Jonah,” she gasped. Then she forced herself to sound calm and reassuring. “Everything is fine. I will get you some fresh water.”

She made the trip to the well as swiftly as she could, but when she returned her son was moaning and tossing on his bedroll. Lifting his head, she held it to her bosom as she fought to get him to drink from the cup of water she held to his lips. Then she wiped his hot body with a cool cloth and wrapped him in a dry blanket while she pulled the damp bedding from his sleeping mat.

Soon Jonah lay between warm, dry blankets. He began to shiver, so his mother ran to build a fire in the stove to heat the wall his bed rested against. Next, she grabbed a blanket from her own bedroll and tucked it around her son. Still he shivered, so she wrapped her own arms around him and prayed, “O, Lord, is it my own wicked heart that has wanted too much? I promised thee my son, but that knewest I coveted him for myself. Without him I would be alone, but still I promised him to thee. Please forgive my sin. It was the weakness of a mother’s heart. Do not hold him to blame! I ask that thou dost not let him perish!” She was sobbing quietly in a corner where she would not startle Jonah, when she heard sounds and knew Elijah had returned with more wood for a fire.

She rushed into the other room, where the prophet stood staring in bewilderment at the fire. “Is my labor of no value that you build a fire without cause?” he asked when she entered.

“It is to warm the wall against which my son lies,” the widow explained hastily. Grabbing his hand and pulling him toward the small room, she added, “He is ill! Come quickly.”

Elijah went to the lad and touched his hot, feverish brow. Jonah tossed and groaned, but did not open his eyes. Though his body was wet from the fever, he still shivered. His mother began to wipe his face again.

“I will get my blanket,” Elijah offered and left the room.

Even with the added blanket, Jonah did not seem to shiver less. All day his mother tended him, with Elijah rushing to bring whatever she asked for, but mostly it was she who ran to the well for fresh water or made cakes, hoping to entice her son to eat. She did not know what to do, and action was the only thing that kept her fear in check. When evening came she was exhausted.
“Go lie down for a while and I will sit with him,” Elijah said.

Meekly she obeyed, going to her own room where she rolled out her bed mat and lay down on it, still disheveled from the day. The light that entered through a small window in Jonah’s room became dimmer and dimmer as the sun set and the cloudless night wrapped the city in a soft darkness. For the next several hours Elijah tended the boy, wiping his brow with a cool cloth, holding him close when he shook violently, and trying to force water between his pale lips. Yet each time Elijah held Jonah, he could feel the boy growing weaker and his breath becoming shallower as the thin body labored to breathe.

It was deep into the night when a deeper shadow entered the room, passing before the window where the light of the moon had slipped in. The young mother had returned. She looked at the figure bent over the body of her son that lay too still.

“Tell me,” she whispered.

“He is gone.”

Suddenly, she wailed and ran toward the frail body that no longer expanded with breath. Grabbing her son to her, she spun on the man in the room who had risen and stepped back. “What have I to do with thee?” Her voice became bitter. “O, thou man of God. Have you come to us only to slay my son?” She was nearly incoherent in her grief. “Is it my sin that I loved him too much?” She collapsed onto the small bed, still gripping the limp body to her bosom, and sobbed.
Elijah started to retreat but then touched the woman’s shoulder. “God does not punish you,” he said. “You have been faithful. Give me your son.” His voice was the commanding voice of a prophet.

Weakly, she raised her head and relaxed her grip. Elijah lifted her son into his arms.

“I know that if it is God’s will, you can save him,” she said pleadingly. Then she covered her face with her hands and sobbed.

Elijah carried the body, which was wrapped in blankets and hanging lifelessly from his arms, out of her house, then crossed to the shed where his room was. Carrying him up the wooden ladder to his loft was difficult. With his left hand he would grasp the left-side support pole, worn smooth from years of use, and step upward with his left foot. Then he would pull himself up to the next rung while his right arm held tight to his precious burden.

In the loft, he walked across the creaking boards and laid Jonah upon his own bed. Then he raised his arms to the heavens, and while gazing through a window at the cold, brilliant stars in the sky, cried aloud, “O Lord, my God, hast thou also brought grief upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?”

Then he stretched himself out upon the body of the child and cried, “O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again!” The room was as still as the sky above. Elijah stood up; he had heard the sound of a door opening. The widow had entered the courtyard behind her house. He cast himself upon the boy’s inert form and again prayed, “O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again!” He heard her footsteps stop below and her hand upon the door to the shed. Again he sprang up. He stuck his head out of the small window and saw her standing below in the moonlight. She did not move; she seemed frozen there at the door to the shed. Tears poured from Elijah’s eyes. Stepping quickly back to the bed, he again stretched himself upon the young boy and with great pleading spoke to his maker, “O Lord, my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again!”

Elijah felt the small chest expand beneath him and heard a small gasp from the boy’s lips. Elijah lifted himself off and grabbed the boy’s hand. Slowly, the breathing increased, the color ebbed back into Jonah’s face, and his hand began to warm in the grasp of the older man.

“I’m thirsty,” a small voice said.

“Then let’s get you back to your mother and a drink of water.”

As Elijah lifted the boy into his arms, Jonah turned to him. “Why am I here?”

“I brought you here.”

Carefully, the old man carried the child down the ladder. It was a slow descent, as the strength had gone from the prophet, but he held tight to the still-weak boy in his arms.

The young mother was no longer below. She had lost courage, though not hope, and had returned to her house, where she was sitting silently in the dark. Elijah kicked the partially closed door until it swung open before him. Then he entered the room and moved toward the sitting figure.

“See,” he said, handing her the boy, “thy son liveth.”

Jonah struggled to sit up on her lap. “Mother, I am thirsty.”

She laughed. She cried. She held him so close that she soon felt him struggling to breathe. She laughed again. Then she turned her head toward Elijah. “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth. Forgive my doubts.”

“The Lord loves you, daughter,” Elijah said softly. Then he left to drag himself off to his bed in his loft, where he collapsed and slept until the sun was high.

The next day, Elijah and the widow sat down with Jonah and related to him what had occurred. He sat silently listening. Finally he asked, “Was it Elijah’s prayer or his power as a prophet that brought me back to life?”

“As a prophet, I am able to exercise the power of God, but it was his will that you returned.”

Elijah had leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and peered earnestly into the young boy’s face. “He has a great work for you to do yet.”

“If I study hard, will I have this power some day?” Jonah asked.

Elijah sat up and chuckled. “You must study hard, but this power is not earned. It is given to those who have lived worthy of it that God chooses. And remember, it was his will, the power I have, and one other thing.” Elijah turned to where the young widow sat. “It was also your mother’s faith and goodness that brought you back to life.”

*******

Later, while Jonah was resting in the sun behind the house, he thought about what had happened. There were many who believed in other gods. There was a shrine to Astarte in another part of the town. But he had never heard of a miracle such as this being done in the name of Astarte or any of the Gods of the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, or Philistines.

Jonah had been taught that these were all false gods, and he was not sure how many there were in the world. Sometimes he had wondered how he was to know that the god of his father, of his grandfather, and of Elijah was the only true God. When the miracle of the meal and oil had happened, he had been impressed, but not convinced. His mother might have miscalculated, or Elijah might have brought some with him unseen.

But they claimed that last night he had died. Perhaps he had just been unconscious, but that answer left him cold and empty. It felt like something more had happened than just a swift recovery from being very ill.

Jonah realized the time had come that he could no longer continue without knowing in his own heart if what they testified was true. He dropped to his knees beneath an olive tree that was beginning to bud in a misguided hope of rain. He bowed his head, and with the awkwardness of a boy’s first spoken prayer, he asked, “O Jehovah, Creator of the earth and” —he paused, trying to recall the words of other’s prayers— “and all things thereon.” Jonah took a deep breath. “I ask thee, is it true that I died?” He paused, but there was nothing. “Is it true that because of the power of Elijah and the faith of my mother that I live today?”

He had nothing else to ask. He kept his head bowed and eyes closed for a long time. Finally, Jonah sat up and opened his eyes. The olive tree had not changed. The goat shed where Elijah slept was still in the northern corner of the yard. The spring sunshine still shone down, warming the stone beneath Jonah’s bare toes. But slowly the warmth spread through him, and his whole being felt as if angels were embracing him. And Jonah knew.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Get to know you Monday--Susan Dayley

Today we are getting to know Susan Dayley


author of Redemption

GET TO KNOW YOU QUESTIONS

1. What is your favorite food? Shrimp, especially PF Chang’s Shrimp with Candied Walnuts.
2. Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Burnt Almond Fudge.
3. Where did you grow up? Pocatello, Idaho

4. What was your favorite childhood picture book? Miss Suzy (about a squirrel saved by tin soldiers).

5. Is there a book that changed your life? Atlas Shrugged

6. If you go back in time, where would you go? I’d like to be in Jerusalem during King Hezekiah’s reign when the Assyrians laid siege.

7. What is your favorite kind of music? Instrumental Jazz. Especially a good horn (trumpet or coronet.) I still love Chuck Mangione.

8. What is your favorite song? Some days it’s “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus,” some days it’s “From the Font of Every Blessing,” and some days it’s “American Pie” or “Bridge over Troubled Water;” or “No Arms can ever Hold You like These Arms of Mine;” or almost anything Michael Buble does; or (I’m sorry did you say favorite song as in singular? Oops.)

9. What one place would you like to visit that you haven’t? There you go making me choose again. Switzerland. No, Lake Louise above Calgary. No, the ruins of Mexico. I guess it better be Scotland. Oh, but then there’s the Church sites. China in the provinces is a definite. Arrgh, don’t make me do this. It’s a big world.

10. What are three adjectives that best describe you? Innovative, happy, principled
What was a favorite adulthood event? Going to the Philippines with my husband where he served his mission.

11. What was a favorite childhood memory? Riding horses with an uncle and cousins through trees along the Snake River in a light rain. Again, I could give a dozen others. There are so many since I grew up the 2nd of nine children. Every day happenings became a treasured memory.

12. What are your hobbies? Writing, hiking, gardening, reading, sending messages to good friends.

13. What countries have you visited? Are we counting Mexico and Canada border crossings? Other than that: Philippines and Japan (just Tokyo).

14. Are you a beach, country, or city person? Mountain. Think lodge pole pines, quaken aspen groves, fresh creeks, trout, tall grassy meadows, rushing waterfalls and the Tetons.

15. If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be? Philippines or South America.

16. If you knew you could you try anything and not fail, what dream would you attempt? I’d become a pilot.

17. If you could have 3 wishes granted, what would they be? 10 grandchildren, to be able to go on missions with my DH, and to lose ten pounds permanently.

18. Were you named after anyone? My mother’s doll, Susie.
19. What are you favorite smells? Easter lilies, pine gum, rain storms.

20. If you could have a dinner with three people (real or fictitious, dead or alive), who would you choose and why? Other than my husband: My granddad because I miss him, Thomas Jefferson, because I admire his brilliance, and King Hezekiah because I have a few head-shaking questions I’d like to ask him. (The last one may change by next year when I’m writing about someone else.)

21. Craziest thing you've ever done? Played night games in a cemetery.

Hiking in Mapleton Canyon

Gyro Helicopter


Dayley Family

Susan and her husband, Mark, in Japan

Bryce Canyon

Proud new grandparents

WHY I WRITE

Amy and I ducked from one tree to another, moving deeper into the darkness of the cemetery and away from the streetlamps on the perimeter. We skirted around the chapel with its gothic arched windows and cement balustrade. It wasn’t ghosts that we were worried about encountering.

The sound of footsteps echoing on the gravel road that came in from the left, froze us. I ducked behind a large tombstone, and pulled Amy down beside me. She was barely ten, I felt like I needed to protect her.

“Steady your breathing, and don’t move,” I whispered. My own pulse was pounding in my ears.

The rustle of bushes to our right alerted us. They were converging on us from either side. It was too late to run.

“Susan?” Amy was gripping my arm.

“Shhh.” I tried to count the shadows that moved. There were at least five of them. Maybe six. If they detected us we wouldn’t have a chance.

“Stan,” is that you? It was an adolescent male on the left.

“Yeah, Kevin, think you can take us?”

“I’m ready when you are.”

And then it began. The rain of pinecones as the group on the left bombarded the group on the right with the jagged missiles. The ones on the right returned fire. Neither group knew that we were caught in the middle. If they found out, they would join forces against us.

So the simple answer to why do I write? Because I’m too old for night games in the cemetery.

Bigger answer: When I write I can go anywhere, do anything, and see the world from anyone’s POV. I can even return to the cemetery of my youth.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Free Book Friday Giveaway--Sun Tunnels and Secrets

It was interesting to see the responses from last weeks question. Like our winner Sheila Hatch, most of you wouldn't marry a stranger even if your dying father asked you to.




Entering is easy, but you must be done by MIDNIGHT MST THURSDAY, September 23th. Winner will be announced September 24th.

To enter, leave us a comment with the answer to the weekly question.
Make sure to include your email address if it isn't found on your blog profile.

The weekly question is
"Is there ever a time when keeping a secret is good thing?"

On a trip to the Sun Tunnels in the Utah desert, Norma and her sisters find a body on the side of the road. But this awful discovery turns out to be the least of their problems. Norma's husband just passed on, and she learns he kept a secret from her for sixty years. LaRue is keeping a secret from Norma. The sisters' young friend Tony is keeping a secret about his famous father, and Tony's mother is keeping a secret of her own. Tony is secretly in love with his friend Kelli, who recently escaped from a polygamist cult. And who is the mysterious young car thief with whom Norma feels a special connection? Everything converges in Grouse Creek at the Fourth of July celebration.

Will secrets prove everyone's undoing?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Chapter Wednesday--Sun Tunnels and Secrets


On a trip to the Sun Tunnels in the Utah desert, Norma and her sisters find a body on the side of the road. But this awful discovery turns out to be the least of their problems. Norma's husband just passed on, and she learns he kept a secret from her for sixty years. LaRue is keeping a secret from Norma. The sisters' young friend Tony is keeping a secret about his famous father, and Tony's mother is keeping a secret of her own. Tony is secretly in love with his friend Kelli, who recently escaped from a polygamist cult. And who is the mysterious young car thief with whom Norma feels a special connection? Everything converges in Grouse Creek at the Fourth of July celebration.

Will secrets prove everyone's undoing?

CHAPTER ONE
It looked like a body.

The three elderly sisters had just turned off the lonely highway onto the even more desolate dirt road when Norma saw it. Her foot trembled as she pressed the brake pedal.

“Oh, are we here?” LaRue asked, looking up from her embroidery and squinting through her spectacles. “I can’t see those sun pipes. I thought you said they were out past Lucin.”

“What is that on the side of the road?” Mabel pointed from the back seat.

“I . . . I believe it’s a dead man,” Norma answered in a tiny voice she didn’t recognize. She swallowed hard.

“I’m getting one of my bad feelings.” LaRue strained to see around Norma, clutching her embroidery basket to her chest. Suddenly, LaRue yelped, “Goodness gracious! That man isn’t wearing any clothes!”

Norma’s eyes went wide as she realized the man was indeed naked. She drummed the steering wheel with her fingers and thought. “What should we do?”

“Nothing. It would be indecent to—”

“Remember the story of the Good Samaritan?” Mabel interrupted, opening her door. “The man by the side of the road was without his clothes as well.”

As Norma and LaRue watched, their impulsive and somewhat arthritic sister carefully made her way over the gravel to the body, which lay face-up a few yards from the side of the road. Mabel leaned over him, hand on her back, and hollered, “If I fall over, you’ll help me up now, won’t you?”

Norma glanced at LaRue, who was as white as her lace collar. The light gray curls framing her pudgy face shook slightly as she stared out the window at Mabel. “It’s unseemly to see her hovering over a man, a n–naked man, no less.”

“I imagine she’s making sure he’s dead. If he’s not, then we’ll need to help him. Mabel is right about that.”

Norma didn’t think it was possible, but LaRue paled even more at this suggestion.
Mabel shouted, “You still have that umbrella in your car?”

“Yes,” Norma said, reaching under the seat and handing the umbrella to Mabel, who had shuffled up to the car window.

Mabel walked over and poked the body with the tip of the umbrella. The man didn’t move. “Bring over something to cover him with.”

Norma searched under the seat again, then in the glove compartment, but found nothing suitable. She turned to LaRue. “What do you have in your basket?”

LaRue now sat with her eyes shut, as if she thought the dead body would disappear if she didn’t look at it. Finally, she slowly opened one eye, then sighed and pushed her embroidery basket toward her dark-haired, green-eyed sister. Norma fumbled through the paraphernalia and grabbed a partially embroidered pillowcase. “This will work.”

LaRue let out a gasp. “Over my dead body!”

“No, but maybe over someone else’s.” Norma brusquely opened her door, then walked over to Mabel and the body.

As Norma stared at the man, she suddenly felt nauseous. He looked no older than her grandson Zach, who was twenty years old. His sandy hair was matted to his head, and black bruises outlined his closed eyes. Blood had congealed in a gash on his forehead.

“He doesn’t seem to be alive,” Mabel said, shaking her head. “Poor, poor, boy. And would you look at that nasty sunburn? He’s been here a good while—and it sure looks like someone has beaten him, doesn’t it?”

Norma shuddered. The body was indeed scorched from lying in the desert sun, and the man had clearly been beaten. She wondered if the assailant was still around. She scanned the flat landscape and saw only small scrub bushes and gravel—nowhere to hide. She dabbed at her sweaty forehead with the back of her hand. “Well, should we go call the authorities?” She wished her cell phone had service out in the middle of this nowhere.

Then she looked back at LaRue and sighed. There was no way she and Mabel would get her to come out here again. Norma had been looking forward to this outing—her first time out of town since her husband had passed away several weeks earlier. She looked back at the body; it wasn’t going anywhere.

Mabel put her hand on Norma’s arm. “We can’t really do anything for him now, dear.”

“Yes, and I guess we can call the sheriff when we get back home, so . . .”

Norma felt a little guilty at the thought, but what was a little more time to the deceased? And they had already come so far. Besides she hoped to be able to visit with Mabel about the phone call she’d had from a young woman named Katie that morning. “Is Mr. Wesley Weaver there?” the caller had asked. It had shocked Norma to hear someone ask for her husband, but then she remembered most of the bills were still in his name.

“May I ask who’s calling?” Norma had asked.

“Just tell Hummer it’s Katie.”

This obviously isn’t the gas company, and why did she refer to Wes as Hummer? “Katie who?”

“Just Katie. I need help.”

Norma’s mind raced with all the possible Katies she had ever known, but none had any sort of personal relationship with her husband. When she’d told the caller that Wes had passed on, there was silence, as if the young-sounding woman were processing the information. Finally, Norma heard a sob, and then the caller hung up.

The strange phone call worried Norma, and she couldn’t stop wondering who Katie was—and what she’d wanted from Wes.

Now there was this dead man. Norma hugged herself and watched as Mabel leaned over the man once more and asked, “Are you dead?” She poked him again with the umbrella. Silence.

“Get me LaRue’s bottle of water.”

Thinking Mabel was thirsty, Norma made her way back to the passenger-side door. “Mabel needs your water.”

LaRue harrumphed. “What’ll I take my decongestant tablets with?”

“She won’t drink all of it.”

LaRue reached into her basket again and grumbled, but handed Norma the water.

Norma hurried back to Mabel and gave her the bottle. Then Mabel slowly knelt down, her blue skirt scooting up on her bare, wrinkled legs. She poured the water onto the pillowcase and wiped the blood from the man’s forehead. Then she carefully laid the embroidered pillowcase where it would do him the most good. “There now, that’s better. If it were me lying here dead, I wouldn’t want to be exposing myself.” She paused and looked at Norma. “Nor would I want to ruin anyone’s excursion. So let’s just go see those tunnels before we drive back to Grouse Creek and call the sheriff. I think in the long run this young man will feel better about that.”

Norma smiled, glad Mabel thought it was all right to continue on. Mabel stayed on her knees half a minute longer, her soft, gray curls peeking out from beneath her baseball cap.

“I said a prayer for him. I can give him that much.” Mabel straightened up again. Slowly she took off her cap and placed it over the man’s face. Then she opened the umbrella and propped it up to shade his body. “To keep the sun from doing any more damage, and to slow down the poor boy’s decomposition. Now give me a hand up, you hear?”

Norma held out her hand and tugged her eighty-two-year-old sister to her feet.

“Well?” LaRue said when they got back into the car.

“He’s dead.” Mabel handed her the nearly empty water bottle.

“Well, he certainly can’t wear my embroidery. It’s not finished.”

Norma smiled slightly. “Well, LaRue dear, you’re welcome to retrieve it.” LaRue glanced past them at the body and a look of horror crossed her face. She remained rooted in her seat.
The sisters didn’t speak the rest of the way to the Sun Tunnels—a land art project built in the 1970s in the remote desert west of the Great Salt Lake. Norma’s red Subaru bumped over railroad tracks and down through gullies and swells. She recalled the hubbub about the Sun Tunnels when they were first built, but since then, few people other than locals even knew of their existence. And none of the three sisters had ever been to the tunnels. Recently, however, there had been renewed interest in the tunnels, and people from all over were making the trek to the isolated northwest corner of the state to see them. Rumors abounded that during the summer solstice, hippies, Druids, and tree-huggers—although there wasn’t a single tree there to hug—converged on the property, danced naked beneath the lowering sun and rising moon, and smoked marijuana. Norma suspected the rumors were exaggerated and was sure LaRue had never heard them, since she had consented to the trip. Nevertheless, the sisters made certain their outing would happen the day after the solstice, just to be on the safe side. Norma didn’t want to run into any nude dancers, pot-smoking or otherwise.

When they came to a fork in the road, Norma got out her map, crudely drawn by one of the teenagers in town. “Guess we go left.” There weren’t any signs to mark the way, and the landscape was flat, although still somewhat greenish from the spring runoff. To the east were the Salt Flats, white desolation that stretched as far as one could see. Heat rose up like steam in the windswept summer sky.

The farther they drove, the more Norma realized the potential danger of traveling so many miles off the main road. She tried to remember if she had told anyone where they were going. Her nerves were starting to get the best of her. What if whoever killed that young man was still out there somewhere?

Suddenly, Norma saw the four massive concrete pipes and breathed a sigh of relief. She drove to the north side of one pipe and stopped. The three sisters got out of the car and quietly approached the land art.

Each of the Sun Tunnels was about nine feet in circumference and about twelve feet long, and the four tunnels formed an “X.” The waning light of the setting sun cast long shadows, and a diffused glow danced through the strategically placed holes that mirrored constellations in the tunnel walls. The light played on Mabel’s face, emphasizing the creases in her tawny skin. Watching Mabel step into one of the tunnels, Norma thought she could hear their mother’s voice: “Dear, you just can’t leave a man out in the desert like that. He could die from exposure.”

“Mabel, did you say something?” Norma wanted to argue with her mother and remind her the man already was dead.

“I said LaRue went back to the car because her sinuses were closing up.”

“Oh.” Norma watched the glow dim as the sun set.

“It’s almost magical here, isn’t it?” Mabel reached her arms as high as she could in an effort to touch the tunnel’s ceiling. But since she had shrunk to under five feet two inches, the ceiling was a good foot above her outstretched fingertips.

The sisters walked out of the tunnels, then turned and watched the sun, which was just about to slip behind the mountain. The two circles aligned, one inside of the other, black silhouettes against the orange sky.

Mabel gasped. “It’s beautiful.”

Norma nodded, feeling tears well up in her eyes.

Mabel took her arm. “Sweetie, are you worried about that young man?”

“Not worried exactly. Just thinking maybe we should pray or something, so we know what to do.”

“Don’t have to pray to know what to do, Norma,” Mabel said. “We were raised in a good home, weren’t we? I think it’s high time we head back to attend to what has to be attended to.”

As they slowly walked toward the car, Mabel sighed quietly. “What kind of a person would beat someone up and abandon him clear out in the middle of nowhere, more than thirty miles from the nearest town? Maybe he’s dead because he tried to stop something bad from happening.”
Norma shuddered. She thought of how much she missed Wes, and that reminded her of the phone call. “I had a strange phone call this morning. A young woman named Katie asked for Wes.”

“What did she want?” Mabel pulled out a handkerchief to wipe her dusty face.

“She said she needed help, but she didn’t say what kind of help. Who do you think she is? I don’t remember Wes knowing anyone named Katie. Do you?”

“You didn’t ask LaRue, did you?” Mabel stuffed her handkerchief back into her shirt pocket.

“Heavens, no. She would jump to the wrong conclusion.”

“Hmm. Maybe Katie will call back again.”

Norma sighed. It was silly, but she’d hoped somehow Mabel would know exactly who the desperate-sounding woman was. Norma opened the car door and helped Mabel into the back seat.

“It’s getting dark, so it’s about time you got back,” LaRue said. “Just a bunch of old pipes anyway. Besides, don’t you think we ought to call someone about that body we found?”

When the sisters drove to where they had seen the body, Norma slowed the car to a crawl. Mabel peered out the side window, prepared to tell her when to stop. In the dusk, the land all looked the same, with a few scraggly plants struggling for life, and the only distinguishing feature would be the body itself.

The three sisters strained their eyes, looking for the body. “What happened to him?” Mabel

wondered aloud. “Surely we would’ve seen him by now. Dead men can’t walk! See, we’re almost back to the highway.”

“I’m going to turn around and retrace our path. We missed him somehow.” Even as Norma said it, she found it hard to believe. He’d been lying close to the road, his bare belly shining in the sun like some sort of beached fish. Even in the fading light they couldn’t have missed him. Norma turned the car around and drove back toward the tunnels. A little way past the spot where she was certain the body had lain, she turned the car around again and backtracked, slowing the car to a mere five miles per hour. But there was no sign of Mabel’s hat, her umbrella, or LaRue’s embroidery.

And there was no body.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Get to know you Monday--Carole Thayne Warburton

We are so excited to introduce Carole Thayne Warburton

(Grouse Creek, 2010)

author of Sun Tunnels and Secrets

GET TO KNOW YOU QUESTIONS

1. What is your favorite food?
I love so many kinds of food. I’d say any well-prepared food with lots of veggies. I especially love Indian food.


2. What was your favorite childhood picture book? The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter


3. Is there a book that changed your life? To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


4. If you go back in time, where would you go? I prefer the time we are in, but I might want to meet some wonderful women in history like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Eliza R. Snow.


5. What is your favorite sport? To participate in tennis and skiing, but to watch gymnastics.


6. What is your favorite kind of music? I love a wide variety of music, but always go back to 70’s music like Simon and Garfunkel, and James Taylor.


7. What is your favorite thing about yourself? I love that I enjoy nature so much. I am quite creative.


8. What are three adjectives that best describe you? Fun, Artistic, Talented.


9. What is the strangest thing you ever did? My childhood friend and I used to have a tradition that we would go out in the snow every New Years Eve in stocking feet at midnight and scream. I did it even after I got married.


10. What is the strangest food you ever ate? Raw fish in France. Dog food and cat food—just for fun as a child.


11. Have you ever met a famous person? Margot Fonteyn, a famous ballerina. Some of my author friends are on their way to being famous (James Dashner for one).


12. What was a favorite adulthood event? Going to Europe, seeing the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s great works, and other wonderful museums. Hiking in the Swiss Alps.


13. What was a favorite childhood memory? Nearly all of my best childhood memories center around the family cabin near Yellowstone in Montana. There we played, hiked, rode horses, and climbed in the back of my Grandpa’s jeep and drove to a dump and watched bears ravage through the garbage.


14. What are your hobbies? Hiking, riding bikes, walking, skiing, writing, pottery, art, and reading.


15. What countries have you visited? Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Mexico, Germany, France, England, and Scotland


16. What cartoon character best describes you? I hate to admit it, but probably Lucy in Charlie Brown. She’s a bit of a stinker.


17. If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be? Italian countryside.


18. What super-power would you most like to have, and why? I’ve always wanted to fly. Just so I could get places faster and get a better view of the world.


19. What is your favorite color? Yellow


20. If you could have 3 wishes granted, what would they be? Have our house and property paid for. Have all of my grandchildren and children outlive me. And have world peace (of course.)


21. If you could only see black and white except for one color, what color would you choose to see? Green.


22. What are you favorite smells? Sage brush and Pine trees and mountain air.


23. What is the best gift anyone has ever given you? My mother gave me a watercolor paining (painted by my brother) of the house my husband grew up in and that we lived in for five years in Grouse Creek.


24. If you were going to sing karaoke what song would you choose? American Pie


Wedding day, 1979



Warburton family, 1988



Annual birthday hike with writing group


Carole's graduation from Utah State University, 1980


Daughters Utah State University graduation



Grandchildren


Carole in pottery studio, 2009


San Fransisco, 2009


WHY I WRITE

I clearly remember my Third Grade teacher giving our class writing assignments. One prompt was to pretend that we were an apple at harvest time. We’d just seen a film about apples. Well, my teacher had me hooked. I loved creating and imagining “what if” scenarios. Our teacher gathered all our stories from months worth of assignments, typed them out, dittoed them (yes this was before copy machines) stapled them together and had us design a cover for our books. We were all published authors!

Most of my teachers from then on encouraged me in writing, noticing a talent and desire. My mother wrote for the Orem Geneva Times and I remember that she took a home-study course in writing. She often read to us her creative endeavors and I loved them. My Aunt Emma Lou Thayne is renowned poet and writer. My Aunt Mirla Greenwood Thayne wrote “I Wonder When He Comes Again.” Writing was in our family. From early on, it was one of the things that gave me a deep satisfaction. If I wasn’t writing, I was reading books and thinking of stories to write someday.

I was finally a “real” writer when a story about my grandma I’d entered in the New Era writing contest took third place. Years after it won, it was published in the New Era in about 1985. It took me years after that to write seriously again. I concentrated on my family, and making pottery—my other creative endeavor, and teaching school. My husband and I took a job teaching in Grouse Creek, Utah in a two-room K-10th grade school with only 24 students. It was Little House on the Prairie! I loved it and dreamed of using the setting for writing. It took nearly a decade before I would spend much time writing again. I went back to school and this time got a degree in English. After graduating a friend of mine suggested we form a writing group. We began meeting once a month. Within six months I realized I was writing a novel. I started a story with a young woman getting two flat tires on her way to Grouse Creek and an aging rancher picked her up. That was the springboard and each month I added to it. Eventually that first novel was published as “A Question of Trust.” Seeing my baby on the shelves was addicting. The process of writing is something that I am passionate about. Publishing is difficult but it is rewarding in a different way than the process of writing. One of the side benefits I hadn’t expected meeting so many new friends. I have a huge circle of writing friends. I have also met some wonderful bloggers, and readers, and people who like my books. That’s been fun too, although something I’m less than comfortable with. In short, I write because I can. I write because I love it. I write because of the effect and joy it brings to others. I write to expand my mind. I write to be creative. I write because I can’t imagine not writing.