Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Land Uncharted ~ Chapter One

Chapter One

Lydia Colburn refused to allow a child to bleed to death. Pulling a sprig of gray tree leaves out of her wind-whipped hair, she rushed inside the farmhouse and found the injured boy sprawled across the bed exactly as Mr. McIntosh had said she would. She dropped her medical bag on the floor beside Mrs. McIntosh, who was holding a blood-soaked rag against young Matthew’s lower leg.
The globe of an oil lamp provided the only light in the dim bedroom. Matthew’s breath came in rapid spurts. Lydia touched his clammy skin. “He’s still losing blood. Get the pillows out from under his head.” She slid her hands beneath his fractured limb and gently lifted it away from the mattress. “Put them here under his leg.”
Mrs. McIntosh’s thin hands shook as she moved the pillows. “I gave him tea from the gray leaf tree as soon as his father brought him in the house.” Her voice cracked. “I know he doesn’t feel the pain now, but it hurts me just to look at all this blood.”
“You did the right thing.” Lydia opened her medical bag and selected several instruments. She peeled back the bloody rag, revealing the fractured bone. Its crisp, white edges protruded through his torn skin. “You’re going to be all right, Matthew. Do you feel any pain?”
“No, but it feels weird.” His chin quivered as he stared at his mother with swollen eyes. “Am I going to die?”
Mrs. McIntosh drew her lips into her mouth and stroked his head. “You’re going to be fine. Miss Colburn will fix it.”
When Lydia touched the boy’s leg, he recoiled and screamed. It was not from pain but from terror. With his fractured leg tucked close to his body, he buried his face into the pleats of his mother’s dress.
Lydia gave Mrs. McIntosh a chance to muster her courage and make her son cooperate, but instead she coddled him. Though Lydia appreciated a nurturing mother, this was no time to help a child hide his wound. “Your mother is right. You’re going to be just fine.” She reached for his leg again. “You don’t have to look at me, but you must leave your leg on the pillow. Matthew? Let me straighten your leg.”
Mrs. McIntosh glared at the bloody wound and began to weep. “Oh, Matt, I’m so sorry. My baby!”
“Mrs. McIntosh?” Lydia raised her voice over the woman’s sobs. “Rebecca! I know this is hard, but please have courage for Matthew’s sake. I need you to help me. Can you do that?”
Mrs. McIntosh sniffled and squared her shoulders. “Yes. I’m sorry, Lydia.”
“I need more light. Do you have another lamp in the house?”
“Yes, of course.” Mrs. McIntosh wiped her nose on her sleeve and scurried out of the room.
Relieved that Mrs. McIntosh was gone, Lydia caught the boy’s eye. She touched his foot with both hands. “Matthew, you must lie still while I work on your leg. You won’t feel any pain since you were a good boy and drank the gray leaf tea your mother made, but now you have to be brave for me and hold still. All right?” She was prepared to hold him down but loathed the thought.
Matthew allowed her to move his broken leg back onto the pillow. She worked quickly and methodically until the bleeding was under control. She cleaned his flesh with gray leaf oil then looked into the open wound and aligned the bone.
Mrs. McIntosh’s footsteps echoed in the hallway, but Lydia was not ready for the anxious mother’s return. “Please, bring cold water and a few clean rags first. I need them more than I need the extra light.” The footsteps receded.
She continued to work. Matthew’s eyes were clenched shut. Her heart ached for the pallid and broken boy. “I heard you had a birthday recently, Matthew. How old are you now? Fifteen? Sixteen?”
He opened his eyes but stared at the ceiling. “I’m seven,” he slurred through missing teeth. His respiration had settled; the gray leaf’s healing power was beginning to take effect.
“Ah, I see you’ve lost another baby tooth.” She cut a piece of silk thread for suture and kept the needle out of his sight while she threaded it. “Soon you will have handsome new adult teeth.”
He closed his eyes again and lay still.
Mrs. McIntosh walked back into the room with a pitcher of water in her hands and a wad of kitchen towels tucked under her elbow. She set the water jug on the floor beside Lydia’s feet and bundled the rags on the bed. “Is that enough?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“I’ll be right back with the lamp.” Mrs. McIntosh vanished from the room again.
Lydia covered the stitches with a thick layer of gray leaf salve. As she wrapped his leg loosely with clean muslin, the front door slammed and a man’s worried voice drifted down the hallway.
Mrs. McIntosh spoke to her husband in a hushed tone and then walked into the bedroom holding a lamp. She sighed. “Oh, thank heavens you’re done.” She lit the lamp and placed it on a doily-covered table by the bed. As she sat on the edge of the mattress beside Matthew, she whispered, “He’s asleep.”
Lydia slathered her hands with the disinfecting gray leaf oil and wiped them on a clean rag. As she gathered her medical instruments, Mr. McIntosh stepped in from the bedroom doorway, holding his wide-brimmed hat in his hands.
He cleared his throat. “Is there anything I can do?”
Lydia replied, “I need a couple thin pieces of wood to splint his leg.”
Mr. McIntosh nodded and left the house. While he was gone, Lydia cleaned and packed her instruments. A short time later, he returned with two flat wooden shingles. Lydia used them to splint Matthew’s leg and gave Mr. and Mrs. McIntosh instructions for bandaging and cleaning their son’s wound.
She handed Mrs. McIntosh a jar of gray leaf salve. “Use this twice a day on the wound. With rest and proper use of the medicine, he should heal completely in a few days.”
She followed Mr. and Mrs. McIntosh out to the porch. Stars crowded the clear sky and crickets’ intermittent chirps pierced the cool night air. Lydia’s horse snorted as Mr. McIntosh gathered the reins and walked it to her.
“Thank you, Lydia.” Mrs. McIntosh fanned her face with both hands.
Mr. McIntosh wiped his brow with a cotton handkerchief. “It seems too dangerous of a job for a woman—taking the forest path alone at night like you did to get here.” He slapped his hat back on his head and dabbed at the sweat on his neck. “I’m grateful you got here in time to save my boy, no doubt about it, but the way you rushed down the forest path instead of taking the main road worried me. Granted you beat me back here by twenty minutes, but still it’s too dangerous at night to—”
“I haven’t seen a night dark enough to keep me from my duty.” She stepped around Mr. McIntosh and strapped her medical bag to the saddle.
He nodded. “That’ll be the last time Matthew climbs to the roof of the barn.”
“Yes. Please see to it.” She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
Mr. McIntosh handed her the reins. “I heard your family will be gathering tomorrow night to celebrate Isabella’s seventy-fifth birthday. How about I deliver a lamb roast as your payment?”
“I accept. I’ll tell my father to expect you.” She mounted her horse. “Aunt Isabella will be glad to have roast lamb at her party.”
“A lamb it is. Thank you, Miss Colburn. Oh, and do take the road back to the village. I’d never forgive myself if something happened to you on your way home.”

* * *

Lydia surveyed the feast as she straightened the turtle-shaped brooch pinned to her dress. Satisfied with the preparations for Isabella’s party, she left the kitchen through the wide entrance to the parlor, walked past the staircase, and knocked on her great-aunt’s bedroom door.
“Come in,” Isabella answered with a gravelly voice.
Lydia turned the glass doorknob and stepped inside. The dark room and unmade bed struck a chord of sadness in her heart. She left the door open, and the afternoon sunlight that filled the rest of the house spilled into the room.
Isabella was sitting in her rocking chair by a curtained window. Her knitting needles clicked in rhythm. “What is it, dear?”
“We are ready for you, Aunt Isabella.” Lydia smiled as she spoke, but her blind aunt’s face remained impassive.
Isabella continued knitting for a moment then lowered the yarn and needles into the basket beside her chair. She reached for her cane. “I do hate a fuss. I hope you didn’t waste time on decorations. They are a frivolity.”
Lydia walked closer. “No, there aren’t any decorations, but the food looks wonderful. Mr. McIntosh delivered a roast lamb, and it smells delicious. Everything is ready for you. Won’t you come to the kitchen?”
“It does smell good.” Isabella’s fingers traced the cane’s curve. “Seventy-five. Isn’t that old?” She sounded surprised by her own age.
Lydia knelt beside her and touched her arm. “I think seventy-five is lovely.”
“Sweet girl.” Isabella patted the top of Lydia’s hand. “I’m blind and even I can see that seventy-five is old.” She leaned on her cane and remained in her chair. Her lips twitched before she spoke. “I mostly thought of my mother today. I always do on my birthdays. I suppose that’s odd after all these years.”
“Not at all.”
“Yes, you understand. You miss your mother as much as I miss mine. You always will, dear. I assure you.” Isabella stood with slow, stiff movements. “Have your father and Levi come in from their chores yet?”
“Yes, they’re washed up and waiting in the kitchen. Maggie and Adeline made all your favorite dishes, and Bethany came straight home after school to help too. You should have stayed in the kitchen with us while we cooked. We had an enjoyable afternoon together.”
“The four of you girls together in the kitchen all afternoon and with the little ones whining at your feet—” Isabella guffawed. “My years of finding that enjoyable have passed. Besides, I don’t like a crowd—not for long anyway.”
“Maggie and Adeline and their families so rarely visit. I like it when we’re all together.”
Isabella smoothed the front of her dress. “Is Mandy here? I want her to play her violin in the parlor while we eat so I can hear the music—but not too loud. Tell her not too loud.”
“Yes, she knows.”
Isabella held her cane in one hand and found Lydia’s elbow with the other. “Which dress are you wearing?”
“The maroon one with the white lace at the bottom.”
“Your blue dress is softer.”
“It isn’t cold enough tonight to wear the blue dress.”
“It will be cold soon; the equinox is coming. I can feel it. The atmosphere changes somehow on the autumn equinox. It always has. Do you have on your mother’s brooch?”
“Of course.” Lydia touched the silver turtle pinned to her dress over her heart.
Isabella took one step and stopped. She waved her cane in front of her. “I was born in this house, just as you were. Not in this particular room. After your grandfather and I were born, our father added this room onto the house. Then when your grandfather married your grandmother, they made this my own private room. They added a new nursery onto the house when your father was born. Oh, how they hoped for many children, but neither of your father’s siblings lived past infancy.” Isabella sighed then smiled, causing Lydia to wonder if the nostalgic interlude was authentic sentiment or a stall tactic. “But when your father married your mother and they had the five of you children, well, that’s when the house finally felt full to me.”
They inched out of the bedroom then Isabella stopped in the hallway. She faced Lydia, but her unseeing eyes didn’t settle. “I’ve lived seventy-five years in this house, and none of my time was wasted so long as I’m not a burden.”
“You aren’t a burden to anyone. We all love you, and that’s why we are honoring you tonight. Come now, everyone’s waiting.”
Isabella straightened her posture as if readying herself for the crowd. “I can face another seventy-five years, so long as I find a way to make myself useful.”
Lydia walked Isabella into the kitchen. After her father said the blessing, she filled a plate at the buffet table and scanned the room for a place to sit. Unable to find a seat in the crowded kitchen, she took her plate to the staircase in the parlor. From there she could see into the nearby kitchen where her family crammed around the table with Isabella.
One of Lydia’s brothers-in-law sat between his two small children at the table, and the other brother-in-law sat nearby on the edge of the stone hearth with his plate balanced on his open palm. Her two-year-old niece couldn’t reach the breadbasket and began to cry. The men strained to keep their conversation going over the top of the other voices. The flurry of familial sounds flowed into the parlor.
Levi walked out of the loud kitchen and sat beside her on the staircase. Her brother grinned as he handed her a napkin. She took it and offered him an olive. He popped the olive into his mouth and followed it with a forkful of potatoes from his plate. Then his expression changed as his gaze settled on the violinist in the corner of the parlor.
Mandy Foster stood near the front door playing slow and soft music on her heirloom violin. Her eyes were closed as the notes flowed from the instrument. A blanket of auburn curls covered her back and danced along her trim waistline.
Lydia glanced at her brother as he watched Mandy. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?”
“Yes, and she knows it.” Levi looked back at his food.
Lydia let it go. She took the bread roll from her plate and picked off one bite at a time as she listened to Mandy’s music. One tune ended and another began. “This is the song she composed for the dance last year. I like it.”
“It would sound even better if she played it on one of the new wood violins.”
Lydia smiled and nudged his knee. “That might be true, but don’t let Aunt Isabella hear you say it. She has strong opinions about the new wood instruments.”
Levi nodded and continued eating, watching Mandy all the while.
When they finished eating, Lydia relaxed into Levi’s thick shoulder. Though ten months her junior, he had been bigger than she since they were toddlers. People who didn’t know their family usually assumed he was older.
“Come with me tomorrow and see the land I selected.” His voice held a secretive tone. She shifted and looked at him. His light brown eyes matched hers. His hair was the same light brown as hers, but his included lighter strands from days spent working in the sun. “I’m done with the land survey, and I started drawing plans to build.”
“Does Father know?”
“Of course he knows, but he doesn’t understand.” He tapped one foot rapidly on the stair. “I’m a grown man. I want to build my own house.”
“And so you should. People just don’t understand why you need to build a new house. They expect you to inherit this house one day, so it seems odd for the overseer’s son to break from tradition—especially since you don’t have a family of your own yet.”
He sighed. “Father says the same things. But I don’t live my life worrying about what other people might think. You’re like Father—you both take comfort in the founders’ traditions—but I thought you understood me.”
“I do. And I’m sure you’ll build yourself a fine house someday, but you should try to find a way to do it that doesn’t cause strife.”
“It’s not the fact that I want to build my own house that offends Father. It’s that I want to build my own life.” His frustration was palpable.
“This tension between you and Father has been building for years, and I understand both sides. Father followed Grandfather’s footsteps gladly. You are his only son. He has always had the same expectations for you. But you’re right—you should be able to decide how to spend your life and where to live.”
Levi pushed his hand through his hair. “Then why does Father condemn me for not being exactly like him?”
“He doesn’t question your character—only your choice of profession.”
“I’ve been told all my life I should be a preacher just as my father is and his father was before him. But I’ve never felt called to that profession. If I were, I would gladly obey. But I’m not. Just thinking of it fills me with anxiety.” He shook his head. “No. Give me a hammer instead. I'd rather build all day long.”
She laid a hand on his arm. “You’re an excellent carpenter, and your work is needed by the village. Be proud that you have the strength for building—many men don’t.”
“Father has the strength for anything.”
“But he prefers preaching. Try to remember, he is peace-loving above all. This friction between you two won’t last forever. I truly believe that.”
Mandy finished her song, and Lydia and Levi clapped. The sound caused a brief silence in the kitchen, followed by a short applause. Mandy gently placed the violin in its case like an infant in a bassinet. She used both hands to corral her curls into a loose bun at the nape of her neck then lifted her violin to play again.

* * *

Lydia’s morning office routine was interrupted by a visit from Levi. She didn’t have a patient, so it seemed like a good time to go look at the land where her brother hoped to build. Levi sat beside her desk as she straightened her office and prepared to leave with him. Startled by a shrill voice yelling outside, she rushed to the office door. Levi beat her to it and yanked it open.
She stood on her tiptoes and craned her neck, trying to see what the commotion was. Auburn curls bounced as Mandy Foster stomped to the cottage.
Levi held the door open for Mandy, but he didn’t leave the doorway. He furrowed his brow at Mandy. “What were you yelling about, woman?”
Mandy brushed his shoulder as she passed him and looked at Lydia. “I could see that little rat from the road! He had his head at your window, peeping in, you know?”
Instantly mortified, Lydia put her palm over her stomach and lowered herself into the chair at her desk. “No, I did not know.”
Levi threw his hands into the air. “Who?”
“Who do you think?” Mandy spat the question at him.
“Frank Roberts?” Levi’s nostrils flared. “I’d like to teach that degenerate a lesson!”
“Levi!” Lydia scolded. “You will do no such thing.”
“It would serve him right!” Levi fumed.
Lydia propped her elbows on her desk and pressed her fingers to her temples. The strange loner only came into the village to follow her around. She cringed at the thought of Frank Roberts paying her any attention, let alone in a way that others might notice. And now someone had witnessed him peeping in her window. Scandalous gossip would not help her chance of receiving her title from the village elders, not to mention what everyone might think. Levi and Mandy knew her and loved her, but did they think less of her because of Frank’s behavior?
The wooden floorboards creaked as Mandy paced them. “It would put Frank right here inside Lydia’s home because she would have to stitch his battered face. Oh, he’d love that! Go ahead, Levi, give Frank exactly what he’s after—Lydia’s attention!”
Mandy and Levi exchanged a fiery glance. At least they were angry at the same person and not at each other. Levi marched to Lydia’s desk and dropped into the chair beside it. He drummed one finger on the top of the desk with rapid thumps.
Lydia wanted to diffuse their anger and hoped they would forget about the incident. “I have dealt with Frank for years,” she said, forcing her voice to sound unaffected. Though certain she had caused Frank’s unrelenting attraction to her, she would never admit it to anyone. “He’s harmless.”
“Harmless?” Levi raked his hand through his hair. “Lydia, the man was just staring in your window. Frank is a pervert, and he has become bolder in his depraved behavior since you moved out here by yourself last year. You should move back into the house.”
Lydia’s embarrassment made her nauseous. She shouldn’t have confided in Frank all those years ago; it had ignited his affection and made her responsible for his advances. But no one else could ever know that. “Please, stop it, Levi. I feel terrible when anyone speaks of him. And I won’t move back into the house. Since Doctor Ashton is no longer able to care for himself—let alone others—I’m now the village’s only physician. It’s important that I’m accessible to the people.”
Mandy halted her pacing. “Levi is right. You need protection if you’re going to live out here by yourself.” She turned to sit, but when she only saw the patient cot behind her, she remained standing. “As long as you’re unmarried you are available for harassment to a man like that.”
Lydia found Mandy’s suggestion of marriage ironic and smiled. “You sound like Aunt Isabella.” She looked at Levi when he snickered then she returned her attention to Mandy. “I have yet to encounter a danger great enough to give up my medical practice and get married. And even if I did marry, I doubt it would deter a man like Frank. I will put curtains over the windows.” She stood and brushed her hands together. “Yes, curtains. Problem solved. That should ease your minds.”
Mandy reached for a long strand of curl and twirled it in her fingertips. “Still, I think every woman should at least consider a husband.” Her green eyes looked at Levi.
Lydia looked at Levi too, but he continued staring out the window. She thought he wasn’t listening. Then slowly he turned his gaze toward Mandy. “This from the woman who prefers to forgo the deep affections of one man in favor of the distant admiration of many men.”
Mandy grinned and lowered her pointed chin. Lydia marveled at how Mandy’s mood could change from aggressively angry to playfully offended without a breath in between. At least they were no longer talking about Frank Roberts. Her secret was safe for now.
Levi blew out a breath and stepped to the door. “Lydia, come and get me when you are ready to go look at that land we spoke of last night. I’ll be in the barn.”
After he closed the door, Lydia grinned at Mandy. “Sometimes I think you torment him on purpose.”
“What do you mean?” Mandy smiled wickedly as she moved to the chair left vacant by Levi. She sat and crossed her legs high above the knee.
“Any time you suggest marriage as the solution to a woman’s problem, I detect insincerity.”
“All right, so I felt like aggravating Levi a bit. He can handle it. Would you rather I had pointed out that it’s not your singleness that causes your trouble—it’s your fear?”
“Fear?” She almost laughed. “I’m not afraid of Frank.”
“Maybe not. But you’re afraid of what people think of you because of Frank.” Mandy nodded once as if confirming her statement. “See—it is fear. You’re afraid others will think that if someone as wretched as Frank Roberts loves you, you must be wretched too.”
Lydia cringed at the truth in her friend’s assessment. “That would make me rather snobbish, wouldn’t it?”
Mandy traced her finger along the wood grain on the top of the desk, and her face became solemn. “After your mother died, you went to great lengths to prove to everyone that you were all right. You still strive to present yourself as perfect as possible.”
“I’d hardly consider that a fault, Mandy. Father says it is important for someone in my position to have a good reputation.”
“Your position as the overseer’s daughter?”
“Well, yes, the village has certain expectations of me in that regard, but I meant as a physician. People won’t feel they can come to me for help if I appear to be in need of help, which I am not. Besides, I’m still awaiting the elders’ decision to award me the title of doctor. I don’t want anything to jeopardize that honor. If they knew a man like Frank Roberts follows me around, they might question my aptitude… my morality. I studied and trained for years for this position. I intend to see it through.”
“And so you will. I’m sure of that.” Mandy’s fingers left the desk and found a curl to play with. She glanced at the door then back at Lydia. “I have to teach the music class for the primary students today. Come with me to the school. It will do you good to get out of here for a while.”
She rose from her desk. “Thanks, but Levi is waiting for me.”
“Ah, yes, his land.” Mandy winked and sauntered back to the road.

The Land Uncharted is available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook

Audiobook: Audible, Amazon, iTunes

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Blog Tour: The Gladiator and the Guard by Annie Douglass Lima

Annie Douglass Lima's new young adult action and adventure novel The Gladiator and the Guard is now available for purchase. This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach.

Monday, April 25, 2016

From My Collection: Murray’s English Grammar 1827

My 1827 copy of A New Abridgement Of Murray’s English Grammar
I collect books. Not surprising for an author, I know, but the books I collect aren't on most wishlists.

I only collect certain antique textbooks. My favorites are pre-1860 American schoolbooks because I imagine these books could have been taken to the Land with the founders in my Uncharted series. Good condition is a plus, but I love little notes and doodles by students. I also find fading, foxing, and crackly pages charming.

Title page of A New Abridgement Of Murray’s English Grammar

Since this hobby is strongly linked to my fiction series, I decided to feature some of these wonderful old schoolbooks. I refer to them in my stories and sometimes show a character reading or holding one. Today I present an 1827 copy of A New Abridgement Of Murray’s English Grammar. The actual title is: A New Abridgement Of Murray’s English Grammar, with questions, containing all that is generally used in the duodecimo and octavo editions, condensed and arranged to facilitate the learner.

Fun 190 year old doodle of a goat and a house.
Lindley Murray was an American Quaker born at Swatara, Pennsylvania in 1745. After the American Revolution, he moved to England where he wrote many prominent textbooks, including Murray’s English Grammar. 

According to the now public domain article[1] by Charlotte Fell Smith (1894): His attention was... drawn to the want of suitable lesson-books for a Friends' school for girls in York, and in 1795 he published his ‘English Grammar.’ The manuscript petition from the teachers requesting him to prepare it has been religiously preserved. The work became rapidly popular; it went through nearly fifty editions, was edited, abridged, simplified, and enlarged in England and America, and for a long time was used in schools to the exclusion of all other grammar-books.

Lindley was married 57 years and had no children. He wrote and published 11 textbooks. Hundreds of thousands of copies of his books were used in schools around the world. Through his books, he taught more children than most of us ever will.

The author, Lindley Murray, died in 1826, so it's understandable the publisher didn't consult him on the alteration.

You can see and feel the press marks in the paper. Love the old process!

[1] Smith, Charlotte Fell (1894). “Murray Lindley”. Dictionary of National Biography. 39. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Unbeaten: How Biblical Heroes Rose Above Their Pain And You Can Too by Lindsey Bell

One perk of being an author is getting a bazillion free books. One pain about being an author is being asked to read and review a bazillion books. I usually say no. I have to.

When fellow CrossRiver Media author Lindsey Bell needed reviewers for her upcoming Bible study Unbeaten: How Biblical Heroes Rose Above Their Pain, I said I could only help with marketing. But God had something to teach me through this wise book and impressed on my heart to read it. I'm so glad He did!