Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Writing Sample Wednesday - Dark Water Is A First Place Winner!

Sorry for the delay in getting today's post out. I thought it would be easier having all the kids back at school so I could get more work done faster. Oh, how wrong I was.

Although it still gives me a bit of solitude here and there, I still have had kids' appointments to deal with, house chores to fight through PLUS dealing with two crazy furballs ripping around the house and getting into crap they shouldn't. I even threatened the cat this morning, who walked proudly out of my daughter's room with a chocolate bar wrapper in her mouth, that I'd turn her into a mini throw rug if she didn't behave. She just stared at me, then ran up the stairs with the wrapper.


Anyway, today we are still celebrating with the news that Dark Water (the first book in the Watcher Series) was first prize winner in its category (Paranormal) in the Chanticleer Writing Contest. It's always such an honor to receive this kind of acknowledgement knowing that the hard work you'd partaken in just to get the work written and put out there is appreciated. I've always said that the readers who take the time to read the work, then let me know their thoughts, are what I value the most. After all, it is for them that I do what I do. But this is still pretty cool.

In honor of this award, we will share the second chapter in the book as our sample today. I shared this chapter because not only does it introduce the main characters that the plot circles around, it also shows the relationship among them as well as a bit of background in order to understand the events to come.

I hope you enjoy this sample and, again, thank you to all of you who took the time to read the book. You have no idea how much that means to me.

Happy Reading!

Eleven  months  later... 

“Freesia!  Sage! Can you girls come down here please?”

Freesia Worth broke from her communication game with her younger  sister, Sage, to respond. Couldn’t keep Gran waiting for too long, after all. She  didn’t tolerate being ignored or being sassed. Any reply that took longer than a minute had her stomping up the stairs looking for one.

“We’ll be right there, Gran,” Freesia yelled back. “We  just have to clean up the cards!”

Sage had to be the smartest eight‑year‑old Freesia knew. Just because a  group of people had decided she had some condition called  Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), it wasn’t going to stop her from being everything she could be and more—at least not if Freesia had anything to say about it. Their mom worked really hard making sure Sage had everything she needed to be right out there with all the other kids her age. And Freesia didn’t want their mom coming back seeing that Sage stopped talking. It wasn’t supposed to happen to  a  high‑functioning ‘sensational’ girl (who'd never stopped talking a year earlier!), but it did.

They, all those 'experts' trying to tap into Sage’s brain, decided that she didn’t have the huge social struggles that other kids with things like autism or Asperger’s had. They told Mama that Sage responded to things in ways that those other kids didn’t or couldn’t. Something about the social aspect of what was going on with Sage wasn’t a problem, really. You  know, except that she yelled  at people  not to touch her or  not to  sit too close to her or stuff like that. Freesia guessed with that social piece missing, Sage didn’t fit nice and neat into any of those other big categories.  So they stamped her with SPD. Mama was relieved just to understand what was going on. But Sage wasn’t supposed to stop  talking.

Doctors were stumped. The occupational therapist was stumped. Their grandparents were stumped. No one had any clue why Sage just stopped talking. They called it ʺa response to traumaʺ. She’s more sensitive to these things than regular  people are, they said. No matter who calls it what, Freesia was going to help her sister talk again. She may have only been sixteen, but Freesia was the only person Sage responded to now that Mom...went  away.

“C’mon, help me put these back in the box before Gran comes up here,” Freesia said to Sage, who dug frantically through the pile of noun cards. She found the card for ʺlamb" and shoved it in Freesia’s face.


Sage nodded.

“You need Lamby?”

Sage nodded again.

“C’mon, Sage. I know you can say ‘Lamby’. He’s your favorite thing in the universe.”

Sage looked down, then  started  arranging the  cards  in a circle around her. Freesia grabbed her hands. “Sagey, I’m just trying to help,” she said in the same silky, calm way their mother spoke to them. “Please talk to me. Even though you used to blabber on  forever  about  stuff  I  didn’t  always know about, it was just awesome hearing your voice. Just say..something!”

Not a word. Sage pulled her hands away, tucking her fists under her chin,  and hummed, “Michelle”. Their mother used to sing it to Sage during her home therapy sessions to calm her. Except she always sang, “Sage‑y, my belle...these are words that go together Sage‑y.”

Freesia breathed out sharply, tears stinging her eyes. She reached under her leg, retrieving the lamb, and rubbed it against Sage’s hands.

"Fine. Here’s Lamby.”

Sage grabbed her lamb, then snatched up a card before Freesia could put it back in the pack, shoving it in her face. ʺMom".

See? Freesia thought.You’re  in  there. No  matter  what  they  say.

“I know,” she whispered, brushing hair from Sage’s face. “I miss her too.”

Suddenly, their grandmother’s gruff voice from downstairs startled them both. “Girls! Please come on down. What’s keeping you? Don’t make me put the timer on!”

Both girls scrambled to pick up the last few cards, leaving the Mom card on Sage's bed. Freesia put an elastic around the rest of the pile, then stuck the deck on top of her bookshelf, out of Sage’s reach. Sage  frowned.

“Sorry, kiddo, but the OT is right. Signing is faster and better for you. I shouldn’t have let you bring the cards back down. We were only supposed to use them until we all learned the signs for the words. You don’t need them anymore.”

Sage crossed her arms across her chest, deepening her furrowed brow.

“Yeah, I know. More changes. It sucks. But if you get the keyboard that Gran’s trying to get for you, you won’t need to sign as much. They’re just trying to make it easier for you to talk to us. Writing and the cards take forever to get everything out, right?”

Sage held her stance.

Freesia rolled her eyes, grabbed her sister’s hand, then they  rushed downstairs. Sage ran her  hands along all the family portraits lined up on the wall going down the staircase. It drove Gran insane  when she did that. It left crooked pictures and fingerprints behind.

Freesia loved her grandparents. Her grandfather, George Freisen, was a retired general and her grandmother, Lillian, was an artist. She had her work put up in galleries and everything! You’d think Granddad would be the super strict one since he spent all of his work days giving orders and stuff, but he wasn’t at all. He was as soft as a teddy bear. Gran was the stricter one, but more about the order of the house. She never yelled or punished or anything. She just had the view that everyone should put in his or her effort to make things run smoothly. And she was super protective of her family.

She had so much respect for her grandparents. They didn’t have to take on the challenge of caring for them after their mom, Tamara, disappeared. They weren’t old or anything. They were both in their early sixties. Freesia remembered hearing them talk about looking forward to spending their twilight years up at their cabin tucked in the hills of West Hawk Lake, Manitoba. They planned to winterize it so they could even spend the colder months there.

Tragedy hit their family twice when Freesia and Sage’s dad, Lieutenant Colonel  James Worth, was killed on a special peace tour mission in Afghanistan. Their mom fell into a deep depression, but seemed to be doing okay. She was a clinical psychologist, after  all. She’d  have  known when to get help. Then she disappeared, seemingly without a trace, a month after Dad’s death.

Tons of rumors started up around their mother’s disappearance. Like she couldn’t handle their dad dying and took off, or that she  killed herself, or she was kidnapped or something. Freesia tried her best to shield Sage from all the crappy stories. People could be so stupid sometimes.

Search parties were put together; a hefty reward was set since the Freisens were really well off. Not rich or anything, but doing pretty well. Nothing  happened. No one saw her. They’d found a few clues, but the trail seemed to run dry. Almost a year later and not one person had come forward. Not even to try to get the money! But Freesia didn’t buy any of it. No one could just disappear like that, right?

It wasn’t like her grandparents kept her updated with her mom’s case. They didn’t want her to  worry. But she listened in when the police came over or whenever Detective Barry  Cuaco, the head investigator into her mom’s case, and a close family friend, came to update her grandparents. And she watched CSI and Law and Order and all of those other detective shows. Granddad watched the shows with her and explained stuff.

"Something is always left behind,” Granddad always said when the team came to a dead end. “Someone always knows something or forgets to cover something up.”

And that was what Freesia held on to. No matter what happened, her mom would never have just left them behind, especially without Dad. And not when Sage needed her so much.

“Well, Hallelujah,” Gran said, lifting her arms up and nodding to Granddad. “They’re finally here! Granddad and I  thought we’d have to send ole Rudy here to go up and find ya!”

Rudy was a St. Bernard the same age as Freesia. The gentlest dog you’d ever meet, but she was even more protective of family than Gran. She and Mama were the best of friends. Rudy lifted her head up off her favorite pillow when she heard her name, slapped her tail in acknowledgement a few times, then lay back down.

“Okay, girls, why don’t you both sit down so we can have a little chat,” Gran said, lowering herself into her favorite recliner. Freesia never minded the chats because there were always snacks involved. And she could tell the level of seriousness of the chat based on the type of snacks served. This chat was at the marshmallow-cereal-treat‑squares‑and-fruit‑smoothies level. Since those were their favorites she knew something had to be up. An icy pain shot through her stomach.

“Okay, girls! We’ve got a bit of great news,” Gran said, slapping her palms down on her thighs. “Looks like Granddad and I  have  been  granted  guardianship of you! Remember? We talked about that a few months ago?”

Freesia remembered. When Dad died, the military set Mom, Sage, and her with his retirement funds. That just meant that they’d be given his monthly retirement payments for life. Not  too  shabby. Not only that, but they also promised to take care of Sage’s therapy, equipment, and medical bills as long as she needed it and set up college  funds  for  both  of them. Freesia had no idea how much money was involved, but it was enough for everyone to be concerned about who’d handle everything after Mom disappeared. The Freisens applied for guardianship to oversee everything until Freesia and Sage were older. Or until their mom came back. Whatever happened sooner.

It also meant they’d be like temporary parents. Freesia’s tummy ache went from icy cold to burning hot. She couldn’t even think  about eating any marshmallow cereal squares. Or sucking down a strawberry, banana, and peanut  butter smoothie. Sage wolfed down one square already and was reaching for another as Gran went on.

ʺSo, that works out great because we decided to get Sagey one of those keyboard communicator things that her main OT, Misty, uses at the clinic. What do you girls think?"

Freesia shrugged. ʺCool. We were  just talking about it upstairs. Sage seems to like the keyboard. It gets what she wants to say out faster, you know, when sheʹs concentrating well. What do you think, Sage? Good  idea?"

Sage signed yes without looking up, then shoved the rest of her second marshmallow square into her mouth. Then she picked up her smoothie and sucked until her straw made a loud, airy noise. She  snickered when  Granddad  did the same thing with his own straw.

Gran shot Granddad a side‑glance, which didn’t stop the sucking competition, then said. “Great! Then that’s all settled.” Granddad brushed marshmallow treat crumbs off of his chest, then winked at Sage as they both reached for a third.

“Hey! Slow down on those you two or you won’t eat any supper,” Gran said, slapping Granddad’s hand.

Granddad grabbed another square despite Gran’s warning, then leaned back in his recliner. “You shouldn’t put them out if you don’t want them eaten up, love. Right, Sagey?”

Sage giggled, staring at Granddad’s hand until he pulled it away, then grabbed another one too.

Gran clicked her tongue, then blew out sharply. “Okay, then girls. This next thing isn’t quite as happy, but it needs to be talked about. Your Granddad talked with Detective Cuaco this morning.”

Freesia sat up straight and leaned forward. “What did he say? Did he find Mama?”

"No  love,” Gran said, shaking her head. “I wish I had better news to give you. Good grief, we need it. He still has no  solid leads, and no one has come forward yet. It was a long, cold winter so everything they need to find was probably buried under three feet of snow and many more feet of ice on the lake. I mean the warmer weather is here. Maybe...”

Granddad snapped his recliner back down, patted Gran’s arm, and leaned  forward. “Listen, Dumplin’. The detective said that if he doesn’t hear something  by the end of the summer, or no one  comes  forward with something, he’s going  to have to shutdown the search and hand it over to the Feds. File it as a cold case.”

No! No, he can’t stop looking for her,” Freesia  said, her pulse pounding in her neck. “What if she’s out there? What if she needs us and doesn’t have a way to reach us? What if...?”

Sage’s  chin  quivered. She dropped her marshmallow square treat on the floor, covered her ears, and started rocking. Freesia instinctively grabbed the puppy dog lap cozy beside Sage and stuffed it on her lap. Sage’s rocking slowed, then stopped as she rubbed the fuzzy material on the sensory tool. She had different ones with different weights, but the puppy dog was her favorite. Mom made it for her just before she disappeared.

“Look, he hasn’t given up,” Granddad said in his usual soft tone.“He just doesn’t have the man power to keep everyone out there looking for your mom. And almost everyone else is a volunteer, right? They all have jobs and families of  their  own.  We’ll  keep  doing  what  we  can.  We’re  going  up  there  tomorrow  for the summer break. You know I’ll be helping old Detective Cuaco while we’re there. We just need you to understand that once summer is over...if they don’t turn up anything...we’ll have to respect his decision.”

Freesia swallowed past the golf ball growing in her throat. “I don’t respect that decision. I just can’t! I will never stop looking for her. Even if she’ matter what, she deserves to be found. We deserve to know what happened to her! I don’t understand how you could just give up.”

She ran out of the room, up the stairs and into her room, slamming the door behind her. She hated crying, especially in front of Sage. So she pressed her  face  into  her  pillow, gripping the sides so tight her knuckles ached. She finally  released the tears that had been building up for months but she’d refused to let fall.

This entire year has sucked the bag, she thought. First Dad dies. Then Mom is gone. Then Sage stops talking, and no one can help her but me. Then  everyone at school starts treating her like a welfare  case. I’m tired and angry and sick of everything! It just sucks,  sucks, SUCKS!

Freesia cried until it was hard to breathe and her pillow was soaked from her tears and runny nose. She must have fallen asleep after her emotional release because when she opened her eyes, her room was dark and the ʺMom" card was on her own pillow. She grabbed the card, running her thumb over it, and smiled. Her head throbbed and her eyes were sore.

Clanking dishes and the smell of roast beef alerted her grumbling stomach that it was dinnertime. She dragged herself out of bed, putting the card back on  Sage’s pillow, then ran her fingers through her shoulder‑length, strawberry blonde hair. She caught her reflection in the mirror on the closet. Her eyes were swollen and bloodshot. Nice. A few splashes of cold water might be a good idea before resurfacing downstairs.

Granddad was watching “Funniest Home Videos” while age listened to music with her noise‑reduction headphones on, doing a puzzle. Sage looked like  a mini version of Freesia with her reddish‑blonde hair, blue eyes, pale skin, and petite frame. The only difference between the two girls, aside from age and height, was that Freesia’s hair was poker straight and Sage’s hair exploded with springy ringlets.

“Well, look who’s back,” Granddad said, motioning for Freesia to sit on the footrest of his recliner. “Have a good rest, Dumplin’?”

She sat down, and rested her head on his legs. “Yeah. I guess. Sorry I ran off.”

Granddad lowered his hand on her head, and stroked her hair. “Hey, no worries. We all get cranky from time to time. Even me!  And  you’ve had the weight of the world on your wee shoulders for too long. Look. Let’s not worry about what may or may not happen at the end of the summer, right? Let’s just enjoy our supper then pack up to head out in the morning. Sound  good?”

Some loser on the show was dancing on a chair, tumbled over, and landed on the back of the chair on his crotch. Why did people find that crap so funny? And why would you do that when someone is holding up a camera? Freesia rolled her eyes. Granddad laughed so hard he almost knocked her off his lap.

“Supper’s ready,” Gran called from the  kitchen. “Wash up, turn off the TV, and guide Sage in here, will ya?”

Freesia got up and put her hand on the puzzle as a way of getting Sage’s attention. If you just popped in front of her when she was concentrating on something else, the rest of the evening would be spent peeling her off the ceiling and calming her for bed.

Sage looked up and signed eat.

Freesia nodded. She was secretly relieved that they would have the keyboard to talk to Sage through. The signing was great, but she needed a stronger way to get her thoughts out. Otherwise she could get trapped in there forever. And she was way too smart for that.

During supper, there was no more talk about the chat with Detective Cuaco or what he had said, just lots of Granddad’s really bad jokes, a lot of good food, and discussions of summer plans at the cabin up at West Hawk Lake. And in between bites of roast beef, mini roasted potatoes, and mixed veggies (and fake laughing at Granddad’s stinky jokes), Freesia was making plans of her own.

The lake was the last place anyone saw Mom. And she was going to find her. Or find someone who could.

One  way  or  another.

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