Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Song of the Flute (Ugly Stick Origins #2): Excerpt

Good afternoon, net-friends!

Here is a teaser scene from the second story of my debut novel Ugly Stick's bonus material!


(If you haven't read about Ugly Stick's bonus stories, please see this previous post.)

I released a full story about Leili, the first daughter in April's family tree who had to live with the curse, in "Brave Flowers" a few weeks ago. From this point onward, I will be releasing just teaser scenes of these companion stories. At the end of the summer (I will have a release date set soon), the origin stories will all be compiled and made available as an e-book. If you have any thoughts for character back stories you would like to see included in the Ugly Stick bonus stories, please let me know. I want to write the stories you want to read!

For now, enjoy this excerpt from the story of Hilda, Leili's granddaughter and a first-generation American, awaiting the birth of her eighth child in the small town of Thimble, Iowa in 1870.

Happy reading!

---

The fortune-teller at the 1849 Iowa State Fair waved his hands over a smoky glass ball and told me I would have eight children. I was nine years old at the time, and the thought terrified me.

He twisted the edge of his thin mustache and peered at me from under his thick turban. "You will be a strong woman," he said. "Your youngest son will look after you in your later years, and you will lead many people."

As he looked into the globe, his gaze darkened. "There is something else, my child, something surrounding you. I have not seen such a thing in all my years... yes, this is dark magic indeed..."

"Dark magic?" I gasped. How could it be? I went to church every Sunday and had never even touched a black cat.

He nodded, twisting his mustache further. "It seems as if... no, it could not be..."

"What?" I demanded.

My mother found me then, and she ushered me away from the fortune-teller's tent with a few well-chosen words of chastisement.

"Our fortunes aren't meant to be seen in advance," she told me then. "You will see your life as you live it, Hildy."

That was twenty-one years ago, but I have never forgotten the fortune-teller's words.

--

The familiar pain strikes my belly as I hang the last bed sheet on the line. The baby is coming.

I pick up the empty basket and calmly carry it back towards the house. "Tom!"

My husband and my oldest son both pop their heads out of the barn's hay loft.

"It's time," I say.

Tommy lets out a whoop of excitement while his father vanishes back through the door.

With the clunk of work boots upon the wooden ladder, I picture my husband hurrying down with eager anticipation, just as he has done every other time a baby has arrived. He emerges from the barn and rushes to me, taking the basket from my hands.

"Get your brothers together," Tom yells up to Tommy, who is still in the loft. Our son salutes and disappears from view, and another round of clunking boots echoes behind us as Tom walks me to the house.

Tom unbuttons my shoes and helps me onto the straw tick mattress. "I'll take Max to town and fetch the midwife," he says. "Can I bring you anything, dear?"

"Iced lemonade," I say, smiling as much as I can manage through the pain.

Tom laughs at my joke. We haven't had ice since Independence Day, when the ice house in town was opened to mix into the luxurious lemonade that old Mrs. Springer made. My mouth waters at the very thought of the lemons, brought on the Wells Fargo from the south, and the icy sour-sweet chill of the lemonade under the baking sun.

That was two months ago, and there will be no more lemonade until next year. At the moment, during this hotter-than-Hades Indian summer, lemonade sounds as impossibly far away and perfect as Heaven itself. "Just water, please," I say.

Tom runs out to the well and fills a bucket. The familiar slosh as he sets the bucket next to the bed stirs my memories: thoughts of the seven times before that I have lain on this straw mattress for a birth. Tears spring into my eyes. "Oh, Tom, what if..."

"If it's meant to be, it will," he says, squeezing my hand with reassurance. "My dear, I will love you no matter what happens. You know that."

I nod and swallow back the tears. Tom brings the dipper to my lips, and I gulp the cool water.

The sudden cacophony outside tells me that Tommy has assembled our brood. "I'll be all right," I say. "You know the boys will look after me. Go on, or the baby will be here before we know what's happening."

Tom nods and kisses my forehead. "I'll be back quicker than lightning," he assures me.

I watch him go out, and not a minute later I hear him mount Max and start away at a gallop. The boys have surely saddled the horse for him, I think with a smile. They are a good lot, the seven of them. From Tommy, quite a young man at thirteen, down to Jamie, who learned to walk only this past spring, they are a set of blessings. But the fortune-teller said "eight children." That means I have only one more chance.

---

The rest of "The Song of the Flute" will be included in the Ugly Stick origin stories e-book later this summer. Stay tuned for more excerpts, updates, and exclusive content!