I have lots of different writing projects going on right now–so many that I don’t often blog about it anymore. There isn’t really one thing I’m working really hard toward at the moment. I’m just constantly going back and forth between different stories and writing and editing. So I decided recently to create a new way of sharing my WIPs (works in progress) with you–Tiny Tidbits. In a Tiny Tidbits blog post, I will share either an excerpt from one of my WIPs or maybe give you some insight into my current writing/editing process (i.e., the struggles and/or victories I’m currently facing with that project). I hope to make this a semi-regular thing. But I say that about so many things, so…I better make no promises. 😉
Today I want to share a scene from The War Within, so before I continue, I’ll give you some background information. For those of you who don’t know, I wrote The War Within last year and entered it into a short story contest for a Snow White retelling (I didn’t win, but I did get an honorable mention, which was super cool!). My retelling is historical and takes place during the Civil War era. Lillian Clark is an only child whose mother died when she was a baby. Her father owns a very prosperous cotton plantation in Virginia and he remarries when Lillian is six years old. Lillian is determined to like her new mother–in fact, she’s determined to live a good life–under her terms. When her father arranges her to marry her best friend, Clifton Young, she does everything in her power to break the match. For she believes she has the right to choose who to fall in love with and when.
Now that I’ve gotten you introduced to Lillian’s world, here’s a sneak peek into Chapter One when Clifton and Lillian first meet.
It was a beautiful day in September. Lillian reveled in the feeling of the wind in her hair as she raced through the cotton fields to the apple orchard, her cheeks beginning to hurt from smiling so widely. When she reached it, she collapsed onto the soft grass and looked up at the blue sky through the swaying trees.
Something interfered with her view and her eyes focused on a bee flying a few inches above her head. She waved it off, but two more quickly replaced it. She sat up and heard a subtle buzzing nearby. She looked behind her to see a boy poking a fallen beehive with a stick. No, not just any boy.
Lillian rolled her eyes and stood up. She wasn’t sure what she thought of this grubby next-door neighbor who was almost three years older than her. He seemed to always be getting into some kind of trouble. She usually tried to steer clear from him, even though their fathers were good friends. So, she was turning away when she heard a yelp.
When she looked back at him, Clifton dropped his stick and started backing away from the broken hive. A swarm of bees was rising from the mess a few feet away from him.
This would certainly not end well.
“Clifton,” Lillian whispered. “Back up toward me. Then run!”
Without responding, he bolted toward her and shouted, “Run, run!”
Lillian screeched when she saw the bees following close behind him. She turned and began running again. But when she reached her favorite tree in the whole orchard, the biggest one with the most apples, she stopped and looked up. Then she called over her shoulder, “We’ll never outrun them. Hurry and climb this tree!” She jumped and grabbed hold of a sturdy branch.
Clifton was yelling, but he followed her lead and started climbing the tree. Lillian was only a few branches ahead of him when she heard a loud crack! She glanced behind her and saw Clifton grasp a thick tree branch with both hands as another broke under his feet. He held on, screaming as bees began stinging him. Lillian carefully inched down and held out her hand.
“Hurry!” she yelled.
He looked up at her, eyes wide and knuckles turning white, but didn’t budge.
Lillian leaned forward a little closer, her hand less than a foot away from his head. “Reach!”
Reluctantly, Clifton released the fingers from his left hand and thrust them toward hers. She seized his hand and pulled him up. He swung his legs toward the trunk and started to maneuver up the tree until his feet settled on firm branches again. They climbed a little higher and rested on the top boughs of the apple tree. They sat against the trunk, trying to catch their breath. Unfortunately, their plan only partially succeeded. Many bees still managed to find and sting them, but after a few minutes of torment, the rest flew off. She and Clifton worked through their faces, necks, arms and legs, searching for stingers and removing them. Bright red bumps were forming, but Clifton had obviously bore the brunt of it.
“What were you thinking?” Lillian asked bluntly.
Clifton shrugged. “I’ve never seen what a hive looks like on the inside. I didn’t think…”
“What? Did you think there weren’t any bees in there just because it had fallen off the tree?” She sighed.
“Well…” He scrunched up his face. “All right, so I was stupid. Thanks, I guess.”
“You guess?” Lillian asked incredulously. “You’re welcome, then…I guess.”
“You picked a good tree.”
Lillian smiled. “Of all the apple trees in this orchard, this one is my favorite to climb.”
“Do you like apples?”
“Like them? I come almost every day each autumn to pick some. I love apples!”
Clifton immediately looked over his head and reached for the nearest apple. He tugged and when it gave way, he handed it to her. It was small and not quite ripe, but she accepted it anyway.
“A thank you gift…I guess.”
Lillian smirked. ” ‘You guess’? Well, I ‘guess’ I like it.” She took a huge bite.
“Do you…want to pick some…together?” Clifton looked at her hopefully.
Clifton blushed. “It’s just…there’s no one else…”
“No one else will play with you?” She knew what that felt like. Sometimes it seemed like Daisy was her only friend in the world.
“It’s just…there is no one else.” His face was pale.
Lillian didn’t know what he meant exactly, but as she started to decline his offer, she thought about the long walk back home…and realized that as much as she enjoyed playing in the woods like she had just now…it was lonely. Maybe, as silly as this boy was, it would be better to be his friend than to continue to play alone. After all, as Daisy was a slave, she wasn’t always free to play. “All right, then. I bet I can pick more than you!”
Clifton’s freckled face broke into a grin. “We’ll see about that.”
Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed this Tidbit and I hope to share some more with you soon!