Why it matters to develop your narrative as an artist and writer

by Danie Botha 

What is your personal manifesto as a creative individual?

How do you respond when people ask you what you do? How do you refer to yourself?

Do you shrug your shoulders and say, I’m an accountant by day and a writer of fantasy by night? Or perhaps you’re a teacher, a nurse, a lawyer, a plumber, a doctor or a journalist who writes in your spare time and dream of your big break one day to quit your day job and write full-time. Perhaps you don’t even tell people about your writing. Maybe you’re a closet writer.

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Or, maybe you’re an established professional writer and published author! Irrespective whether you hold a regular day job and write as a second career or a hobby or are a professional author and writer, the question remains:

 

What is your narrative?

What is your story?

How do you present yourself to the world?

According to Daniel H. Pink, we don’t have to sell Buicks from an auto dealer’s floor to be a salesman; regardless of what we do for a living, we are all selling, in fact, “to sell is human”, he claims.

Speaking of narrative, we are not talking about fiction or nonfiction or genre or plot and character arcs and story development, but about what drives you as a person. What is the underlying thread in your life, what is the line that runs through your writing? If you’re not sure, go and look for it—it’s there.

What are you about?

What drives your ideas?

What drives your stories?

What grounds your stories?

This applies to nonfiction as well. What do you build, or hope to create through your writing or art? Yes, I know, in essence, it’s about making a living, sell your books/stories/ essays/poems and survive. And then repeat more of the same.

What if there’s more? (Because there is…)

According to Diane O’Connell, it is one thing to take yourself seriously as an author but an entirely different narrative (forgive the pun) to build a successful author career. To be a best-selling author or a professional writer who makes a living off one’s writing, irrespective of the publishing path you choose, you need to become an engaged entrepreneur and an informed marketer. Writing an excellent book is no longer enough. She points out how important it is to ask yourself these ‘why?’ questions from time to time. How do your training and experiences influence your author identity? Perhaps your writing is brave enough to tackle pressing issues of the day such as socio-economic injustices, corruption and power play in politics, the plight of refugees or perhaps the devastation of abuse and how hope is to be found amidst the ruins of life.

Diane further points at the importance of polishing your presentation as an author. No one else is going to do it for you—the importance of presenting yourself as a professional. You have to be committed; you have to put in the work. You have to take yourself seriously. Even smaller things such as your website, the way you present yourself online in comments, in articles you write, matter. Your book covers, your business card, the way you dress. The way you talk and what you say. It all matters. Which does not mean you shouldn’t have a sense of humor. Laugh often—it’s therapeutic. Learn to laugh at yourself. Life is short.

You will do yourself a favor by reading Jeff Goins’s most recent book, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age. He makes a compelling case to debunk the myth that to be an artist (creative persons/artists/musicians), equals poverty and misery and being seen as a second-class citizen. His book is not a “quick-fix to become rich through writing,” but is filled with actionable steps for creative individuals on how to become financially independent while following their dream of creating art. What I found profound in the book is the importance for each one of us (as creative individuals) to take our art seriously. To place value on our work, take pride in our art, and then through hard work and entrepreneurship and close collaboration with other creatives, turn our work into an income stream. The goal is not the money (which is crucial) but the ability, by being paid well, to continue to grow as artists and keep on creating art and make our world a better place. My only critique of the book is its title; I would have preferred it to read, Serious Artists Don’t Starve.

When I look at my writing, I’ve noticed a thread which had manifested itself throughout; forgiveness and reconciliation and a willingness to delve into uncomfortable topics such as history we choose to forget, abuse in all its different formats and the importance of work ethics. Without setting out to do so, my published novel and novella, Be Silent and Be Good, as well as my soon to be published novel, Maxime, (31 October 2017) has forgiveness and the need for it, laced throughout—although, in a hidden fashion. I am convinced it stems from growing up in the African interior, growing up in a household where there was love, but also ample emotional abuse from the paternal side. Also following decades in the medical field, witnessing the devastation in lives when mercy and forgiveness are absent or scarce, abuse is rampant, and work ethics become blurred.

The challenge and our task are to find order amidst the chaos and to create beauty from a broken reality. How else can our writing offer hope (or escape) to our readers? I am a physician: an anesthesiologist, who writes. I blog at daniebotha.com, and you will find my books and stories there.

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What we read and the company we keep impacts us more than we care to acknowledge. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Daniel Plan and the Daily Hope devotionals, goes so far as to say, “I will be able to tell what kind of person you are without meeting you by the books you read and the friends you keep.”

We cannot be prolific or serious writers without reading wide and extensively. Learning how to read like a writer, is vital. The same goes for our writing collaborators. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings met on a weekly basis in Oxford for close to twenty years between 1930 and 1949, producing some of the greatest stories known to us.

Being multi-faceted is a good thing, if not vital to help us blossom into vibrant, well-balanced humans, endowed with humility and compassion. Never stop learning and diversifying your craft—remain a student for life.

Take for instance Kazuo Ishiguro, the 2017 Nobel prize for literature winner, who gave us works such as The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go and A Pale View of Hills. He’s a Bob Dylan fanatic, and a man who’s been playing the guitar and writing songs from before the publication of his first book.

Even if you believe you don’t need to develop your narrative, give it serious thought. I would love to be thought of one day, in Sebastian Barry’s words speaking of Ishiguro, as someone “between genius and gentleness … a measure of the best mankind can be.” Or, as Robert McCrum describes Ishiguro, “an artist without ego.”

How do we get there?

By giving thought to our personal manifesto first as human beings and second as writers and artists. You and I, as creatives, as individuals, play a role in how others read us, in what we become.

The choice to a large extent is ours!

 

 

References:

 

  1. Jeff Goins: Why the story of the starving artist needs to die – http://bit.ly/2xupr1g
  2. Real Artists Don’t Starve – Jeff Goins
  3. Diane O’Connell: How to build your author career – http://bit.ly/2ybn7RC
  4. The Guardian on Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2017 Nobel prize for literature win – http://bit.ly/2ytdEW8
  5. Daniel H. Pink: To Sell is Human. The surprising truth about moving others.
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Barton Cottage Chapter 5 Part 1

the drawing with color

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Word count: 1727)

 

Volume 1 Leaving Northland

(Read Chapter 1 here)

(Read Chapter 2 here)

(Read Chapter 3 Part I here)

(Read Chapter 3 Part II here)

(Read Chapter 4 here)

 

Chapter 5 The Drawing

Part I

 

Conner avoided Dottie the next morning, keeping to his room, waiting for her to leave. Caroline sat at the breakfast table casually scrolling through her phone, keeping a lookout for Dottie to go. Conner’s phone buzzed. “She’s gone,” the text read; and they headed out.

The morning sun glinted through the trees as they drove east toward downtown Asheville. Melted snows and spring rains had left the countryside lush and green.

Since Conner hadn’t eaten, they stopped at a breakfast house with an outdoor patio. Conner had an omelet and Caroline a small bowl of fruit.

Caroline stabbed a strawberry with her fork and asked, “Why didn’t you tell Dottie I was the friend you had plans with this morning?”

Conner swallowed a bite of omelet. “That must have been confusing for you. I’m sorry. It wasn’t a reflection on you. Dottie thinks I’ve been wasting a lot of time during my stay and she would’ve thought this morning’s activity was also a waste of time. I thought she’d ask fewer questions if she assumed I was with a college buddy.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Caroline said, shrugging her shoulders in agreement.

 

They arrived at the gallery and Caroline enjoyed telling Conner all she knew about the work there. They walked; she talked; he listened and learned.

Conner was enchanted by the passion in her voice as she talked about the artists, colors, and stories behind some of the pieces. Though never having an interest in art before, he found himself wanting her to teach him everything she knew.

A man approached. “Hello, I’m Stan Jameson. I own the gallery,” he said with a friendly smile and outstretched hand. “I hope you are enjoying your visit.”

“Very much, sir,” Conner responded, shaking his hand.

“And you, young lady?” he asked.

“Delighted as always,” Caroline said. “I’ve been here before.”

“My friend’s giving me quite an education,” Conner said, motioning to Caroline. “And I was informed last evening she’s an award-winning artist herself.”

Mr. Jameson clapped his hands. “Wonderful! What kind of work do you do?” he asked.

Caroline disliked being the center of attention but she smiled humbly and replied, “I draw and paint with watercolors and oils…”

Mr. Jameson rubbed his hands together. “Could I talk you into drawing something for the gallery?” he asked with a jolly smile, motioning to a drawing table near the back.

“Now?” Caroline blurted, immediately thinking how awkward she might feel drawing an impromptu piece in front of Conner.

“Unless you have to hurry off,” he warmly appealed.

“Oh, we’re in no hurry at all,” Conner assured him while goading Caroline on with a teasing grin and raised eyebrows.

Her eyes widened, she wasn’t used to drawing in front of an audience, other than classmates who shared the same pressures of an assignment.

“Please,” Mr. Jameson begged. “I would be so honored to have you create a masterpiece in my own gallery.”

Her cheeks flushed rosy pink as she relented. “Well, I don’t know if I can give you a masterpiece, but I guess I can draw something,” she said.

The two men smiled at each other in triumph, and very soon Caroline was seated at the drawing table. She settled herself in the chair, closed her eyes to bring to mind some previous scene, opened them again and began to draw.

Her hand glided over the paper—back and forth, large sweeping motions and small delicate strokes—the pencil seemed to be part of her hand as the two worked in perfect unison.

Conner watched as a beautiful garden began to take form on the page, resembling the one at Northland. A gazebo housing a small orchestra appeared next, followed by a dance floor and then a couple dancing—resembling Conner and Caroline when they danced in the garden at Northland.

She finished and looked over her work, hesitating before daring to look at Conner. She drew a long breath, and looked up, anxious for his reaction.

His eyes were wide and his breathing heightened as he gazed at the picture. He was silent for several moments before expressing, “It’s stunning Caroline. Your drawing is masterful and the subject…” He paused to catch his breath before continuing, “well, it’s a beautiful drawing.”

She gently lifted it from the table and held it out to him. “Thank you. I drew it for you, I’d like you to have it.”

He backed away, a look of sorrow sweeping over his face. “I’m so sorry Caroline,” he said in a breathless whisper, “I can’t accept it. Please forgive me.”

The look on his face seemed to plead for her understanding. Dottie’s voice came to her mind: “No time for silly girls.” She nodded her understanding.

Conner walked to the front of the gallery to wait.

Caroline choked back emotion and stood in silent agony for several moments.

“My dear,” Mr. Jameson said softly, “why don’t you display it here? If it sells, you’ll make a pretty penny from it.”

She blinked tears away. She was conflicted between wanting to hide it under her bed, like a buried treasure, for the rest of her life and wanting to tear it to pieces the way her heart was feeling torn. She reluctantly agreed to Mr. Jameson’s request and handed it over.

“I think we’d better go now, Mr. Jameson,” she said.

“You come back and see me whenever you wish, my dear,” he said in a kindly manner. “And if you have any other such lovely pieces you’d like to display, just bring them in.”

She thanked Mr. Jameson as the two left the gallery.

As they walked toward Caroline’s car, parked a few shops down, they passed the window of a restaurant where Dottie sat with a couple of city council members. Dottie spied the two. Her eyes narrowed and her mouth gaped open.

 

Later that afternoon Caroline went for a walk in the garden to clear her mind. She hadn’t realized until the moment she decided to draw the image of herself and Conner dancing in the garden how deep her feelings were for him. She understood the challenges he faced with his family’s expectations and controlling nature but still the rejection of the gift hurt.

The late afternoon sun dipped below the tall pencil pines lining the back of the garden. She loved this time of year when the entire world was renewed with fresh growth and bursting color; but today, she took little joy in it. She sat on a stone bench at the far edge of the reflecting pool and stared at the very spot where they had danced, a tear fell and she turned away. She drew her legs up, wrapped her arms around them and rested her chin on her knees.

After a few moments of solitude, Ashelynn bounded up to her declaring, “You’re falling in love with Conner! And… it’s obvious he’s falling for you too,” she said with a grin plopping herself next to her sister.

While keeping her chin on her knees, Caroline turned her head to look at Ashelynn. “Humph.”

“You do like him, don’t you?” Ashelynn asked.

Caroline raised her head, drew in a frustrated breath, and let it out. “Of course, I like him!” she said. “He’s smart and kind and such a gentleman! And I know you don’t think he’s very good looking, but to me, he’s the cutest, most amazing man I’ve ever known!”

Ashelynn placed her hand over her heart and dramatically responded, “One day he’ll get down on one knee and ask you to be his bride, and at that moment, I’ll think he’s every bit as cute as you do!”

“That isn’t going to happen,” Caroline said.

Ashelynn furrowed her brow. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Did your date to the gallery not go well?”

Caroline sighed, searching for the right words to explain. “Sometimes when I’m with Conner, I’m so sure he has feelings for me, and I feel as though we belong together. Then there are other times when I’m painfully aware we may only ever get to be friends.” She released her knees and her feet fell to the ground. “Maybe that’s for the best,” she continued. “I know what his family wants for him—demands of him! They want him to follow in his father’s footsteps and even become president one day! And I’m sure they’d prefer him to marry some senator’s daughter with powerful connections to better his chances.”

Ashelynn grimaced and shook her head. “Well, that doesn’t suit him,” she said. “They may want that kind of life for him, but I can’t imagine he wants it. No Caroline, I’ve seen the way he looks at you and I believe you two are meant to be and one day he’ll find a way to show you that he loves you!”

Ashelynn placed her arm around her sister, giving her a squeeze. Looking up, she saw Conner approaching. She announced she had some homework to finish and left the two alone.

Caroline straightened up, trying to look composed.

Conner sat at the opposite end of the bench. “I wanted to thank you for taking me to the gallery with you,” he said in a slow, even tone. “I did truly enjoy it and your talent is beyond compare.”

Caroline smiled, concealing the fact she had come to the garden to feel sorry for herself. “Thank you,” she replied, “I enjoyed it too.”

Leaning elbows to knees, he laced his fingers together and focused on the pool.

She gazed upon him and at that moment she thought he was so perfect she could never look upon another and find them half as handsome. She longed to tell him what she was feeling and wished he could declare some sort of feeling for her; something to put the fears to rest that they may only ever be friends. She looked back toward the reflecting pool and resolved instead that until he gave her some indication he may feel for her what she was feeling for him, the safest course was to keep her feelings to herself.

They both sat quiet—gazing into the reflecting pool, he on one end of the bench, she on the other; neither aware they were being watched from the house.

Up next in Chapter 5 Part II: Goodbyes

 

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Barton Cottage Chapter 4

Barton pic with others star warsx

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Reading level: grade 7, Words: 2792, Est reading time: 2 mins)

 

Volume 1 Leaving Northland

(Read Chapter 1 here)

(Read Chapter 2 here)

(Read Chapter 3 Part I here)

(Read Chapter 3 Part II here)

Chapter 4 Ashelynn’s Movie Night

 

Ashelynn’s friends—the not so well off and wealthy alike—arrived at Northland precisely on time the evening after the party. Ashelynn had texted them beforehand: “Don’t ring the bell, come to the back door, text me when you arrive, we’ll come get you.”

Dottie was in the study and unaware of the maneuvers going on in the other part of the house. Caroline played lookout while Ashelynn snuck her friends from the back door—tiptoeing through the halls—to the family room. They pulled the double sliding doors to a close behind them.

After browsing the Hathcock’s extensive movie collection, the friends unanimously voted for Star Wars and Ashelynn put the disc in. She and Caroline passed out bags of microwaved popcorn and cans of soda. Ashelynn had prepared a large bowl of sugary treats and placed it on a cocktail table in the middle of the room. The movie began on the 65-inch screen and the theme song boomed in the speakers.

“Ashelynn turn it down,” Caroline warned, “Dottie will hear.”

Ashelynn turned the volume down but the chattering of her friends created another dull roar. Caroline shushed them and they kept it down for a few minutes until someone broke out in laughter and the noise level rose again.

Caroline put her finger to her lips. “Shh…” she said, trying to remind them to keep it down.

One of the doors slid open and the girls gasped, thinking it was Dottie, but Conner’s head poked through. On the screen, Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi were watching a hologram of Princess Leia pleading for help.

“What’s all this?” he asked.

Caroline waved him over and motioned for him to sit next to her.

“We’re watching Star Wars,” she said. “Have you ever seen it?”

“Of course, it’s a classic!” he answered with a broad smile.

“Dottie doesn’t know Ashelynn has friends over, so we’re trying to keep it quiet,” she whispered.

“I see, why don’t I stick around and help you keep a lid on it,” he said in a lowered voice.

She smiled in agreement and handed him a bag of popcorn and a can of lemon-lime soda.

All was quiet for a short while but like waves on the ocean, the chatter would swell and only break when Caroline, Ashelynn and now Conner, would shush them.

A couple of kids started talking loudly and someone threw a piece of popcorn, telling them to shut up. Another piece immediately flew back the other way and within moments popcorn was flying around the room—accompanied by bursts of loud laughter and shrieking voices.

Dottie came in search of the commotion. She slid the doors open. The Millennium Falcon was escaping the jaws of a gigantic snake Han Solo had mistaken for a cave. Popcorn, soda cans, and candy wrappers littered the room.

“What’s going on in here?” Dottie demanded, storming into the room. “This is my home! Nobody asked my permission for these people to be here!”

She growled like a snarling beast but before she could devour the guests, Conner stood up like a knight to the rescue—his shield a bag of popcorn and his sword a soda can.

One of Ashelynn’s friends called out, “Use the force!”

Another said, “These are not the kids you’re looking for.”

Dottie sneered at the jesters.

“Dottie, calm down and reconsider,” Conner said while the other kids chuckled. “It’s a harmless activity—a simple way for Miss Caroline and Ashelynn to reconnect with their friends and lift their spirits after grieving the loss of their father.”

“Well, no one asked my permission,” Dottie responded, crossing her arms. “If they want to plan something like this, they need to consult me first.”

Frank soon appeared. “What’s all the shouting?” he asked.

“Frank,” Ashelynn called out, “you said Northland was still our home. Is that true or not? If it is, then I should be able to have friends over without her screeching at me!”

“Well…” Frank stammered, “yes… but… you see, it would be best if you ran your plans past Dottie first.”

“I knew it!” Ashelynn said. “This is her house now, not ours! And we’re only allowed to do whatever she tells us to!”

“Oh, no dear…” Frank started before Dottie interrupted.

“I want these kids out now and this room cleaned up!”

Conner gently put his hand on his sister’s shoulder, leaned toward her and whispered. “Dottie, look around you, some of these fine young people are from some of the very families we met with last night.” He paused while she scanned their faces. “We wouldn’t want to offend anyone,” he continued. “I’ll stay with them and make sure everything gets cleaned up before they leave if you’ll let them stay until the movie is over.”

“Oh,” Dottie said, composing herself. “I guess, that’d be alright. I was just, well, I was taken by surprise—caught off guard. Of course, they are welcome to stay.” She forced a cordial smile before taking Frank’s arm and leaving the room.

“Sir Conner!” Ashelynn declared, bowing toward him. “Our knight in shining armor!” Everyone clapped and cheered.

One of Ashelynn’s friends called out, “He used his Jedi mind powers!” Everyone laughed.

A smile came over Conner’s face as he enjoyed the cheers.

He returned to his seat and Caroline asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to be a politician?”

“Yes, why?” he asked.

“That was very diplomatic,” she said with a chuckle.

“Then my professors would be happy to know my education wasn’t entirely wasted,” he said.

The movie ended and everyone pitched in to clean up the trash and tidy the room. Ashelynn walked her guests out, thanked them for coming, and rejoined Caroline and Conner in the family room as they were putting throw pillows back in place.

They hauled bags of trash out to the large cans by the garage. As they walked, Conner asked, “I seem to remember Caroline once telling me she liked to draw and was rather good at it. Do you still do any of that?”

“She’s amazing,” Ashelynn piped up in praise of her sister before Caroline could answer. “You should have seen the portrait she painted of our family.”

“Should have?” he asked. “Did something happen to it?”

“Well, it was over the fireplace in the parlor,” Ashelynn said. “But Dottie made us take it down.”

“Take it down. Why?”

“She’s replacing it with a picture of her family,” Caroline answered.

“Oh, I see,” Conner said, with a hint of sorrow in his voice. “I would still like to see it sometime. I’d like to see any of the work you’d care to show me.”

Caroline smiled. “It’s in my mom’s room, I’ll bring it out tomorrow and I’ll bring some other stuff out too.”

Caroline and Conner exchanged smiles while Ashelynn looked on. The notion struck Ashelynn that her sister was developing feelings for Conner and in a romantic fancy, she thought she’d encourage things.

“Did you know Caroline has a scholarship to UNC Asheville to study art?” she asked Conner.

“I had no idea,” he said.

“She won a state-wide competition with a painting she did as a senior in high school!” Ashelynn exclaimed. “The piece is on tour with other winning pieces from high school kids across North Carolina with the ‘Artists of Tomorrow’ exhibit.”

“Incredible,” Conner said. “What did it look like?” He looked to Caroline, eager for a description.

“She hates to toot her own horn,” Ashelynn said. “It was a stunning watercolor of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.”

“Ooh,” Conner said, “sounds beautiful. Did you paint it from sight or from a picture?”

“From memory,” Caroline answered. “Dad took us on a tour of lighthouses one summer. We saw some breathtaking sights. I’d love to go again one day.”

“Painting all along your way?” he asked.

Her cheeks colored and she nodded. “Absolutely.”

“Maybe you’ll paint something for me one day,” he added.

She smiled and repeated under her breath, “Absolutely.”

“Should I guess you’ll spend your life as a famous artist? No time for us regular Joe’s,” he said, teasing.

“Of course not,” she said with a laugh. “I would like to own an art gallery one day though. I want to travel the country to find works by new artists and showcase them in my gallery.”

Conner smiled at her. “I believe you’ll realize that dream one day.”

 

After dumping the trash bags in the large cans, they returned inside to find Dottie waiting for them with arms crossed and an impatient glare.

“Conner, have you finished up those thank you notes to our guests for yesterday evening?” she asked.

“No, I haven’t,” he said, sheepishly.

“Now would be a perfect time to do that,” she said. “And don’t forget, we are attending 9 a.m. Sunday service with the Mayor in the morning.”

“Of course,” he said. He thanked the girls for the fun evening and said “goodnight” before climbing the stairs toward his room.

Caroline watched, he seemed like an ox pulling a heavy yoke.

“Ladies,” Dottie said, in a low voice, “for future reference, you will consult me before having company over and… Conner is a busy man, stay out of his way.”

No time for silly girls, Caroline recalled as Dottie turned and walked away.

Ashelynn headed off to her room grumbling under her breath and Caroline went to the kitchen for a quick glass of water.

She found her mother there finishing preparations for Sunday’s dinner—pot roast, potatoes, and carrots—with a dessert of pineapple upside down cake being pulled from the oven.

“Mom, what do you think of Conner?” Caroline asked taking a glass from the cupboard.

“Well, he’s been rather quiet so far—as he always was, I suppose,” she answered with a shrug. “But he looked quite the gentleman last night dancing with my beautiful daughter,” she said with a romantic twinkle in her eye. “I will have some reservations however if he shows any signs of being like his sister.”

“Oh, Mom, he’s nothing like his sister,” Caroline said. “He’s so sweet and kind!” Her eyes sparkled as she continued. “You should have seen him tonight. He saved us from a snarling Dottie. She came into the family room demanding for all of Ashelynn’s friends to leave, but Conner talked her out of it!” She sighed in delight, recalling his gallantry.

“I see,” Sarah said with surprise. “I guess I’ve been so busy in the kitchen I missed it all.” She searched her daughter’s face, bright with expression and smiled as she took notice of Caroline’s budding affections for Conner Burroughs.

 

A beautiful, sunny Sunday morning dawned over Northland. Caroline opened her window to the sounds of chirping birds and a gentle breeze rushing through the trees—she fancied the sound a chorus of hymns.

She showered and donned a pink floral print dress, hoping to catch a glimpse of Conner before they left. She emerged from the east wing as Conner emerged from the west.

He stopped mid-step. “You look beautiful this morning,” he said.

“Thank you,” she replied, “and you look very handsome.”

“Thanks,” he said, starting toward her as if wanting to say more until Dottie’s loud voice was heard booming around the corner.

She, Frank and little James appeared and Dottie hurried them down the stairs. They were running late.

From the top of the stairs, Caroline watched them all the way down. They reached the front door and Conner glanced up at her. Her heart raced at the quick smile he gave her before they disappeared—off to rub elbows with the Mayor at Sunday services.

 

An hour later, Sarah and her daughters left to quietly attend their neighborhood church as they’d always done.

 

After church and sandwiches for lunch, Dottie went to put little James down for a nap and Conner joined the Hathcock ladies in the parlor.

Caroline brought out several of her art pieces and delighted in showing them off. Conner “ooh’d” and “aah’d” and praised her talent.

“Is this the portrait my sister made you remove from over the fireplace?” he asked holding it up.

Caroline nodded.

Conner shook his head. “That’s too bad, it deserves to be seen—look at your father’s smile and the brightness in his countenance. You captured it beautifully and it shows the love he had for your family.”

Caroline smiled. “That’s how I feel about it too.”

He continued looking over her work from sketches in books to paintings on canvas; he claimed to think all were beautiful.

Caroline watched him looking over her work and mentioned, “There’s a great art gallery downtown I’d love to take you to.”

“I would like that,” he responded.

“Tomorrow morning perhaps?” she asked.

“Sure,” he agreed.

Ashelynn sat at the piano and played inspiring tunes. Some from the church hymnal and others from popular plays.

 

After a while, Dottie strolled in. Her high heels click-clacking on the marble tile as Ashelynn played was like a turntable needle scratching across a record in the middle of the song.

Ashelynn stopped playing.

Dottie peered over Caroline’s artwork. “Hmm,” was all she uttered before saying, “Conner, can I speak to you for a moment?”

“Sure,” he said, excusing himself.

She led him to the study, out of hearing range of the rest of the household. “Conner,” she began with a sisterly affectionate yet overbearing smile, “have you finished those thank you notes?”

“Yes, I finished them last night,” he said. “I’ll put them in the mail tomorrow.”

“Excellent,” she said. “Now aren’t there other things you could be doing with your time? More productive things?”

“What do you mean?” he asked somewhat confused.

“You could be writing letters, making phone calls, getting in touch with some of Dad’s old acquaintances, doing research. Anything would be more productive than sitting around with the girls,” she said.

Conner furrowed his brow and any trace of a smile disappeared. “Dottie, do you have a problem with me spending time with Frank’s sisters?”

She sighed. “It’s not that, it’s the kind of future Mother and I have in mind for you. I don’t want you sitting around wasting time when you could be putting your efforts to better use.”

“Dottie, it’s Sunday,” he calmly said, “a day of rest, a day off from work, and family is never a waste of time.”

Conner returned to the parlor with the girls, not saying a word about his conversation with Dottie.

He picked up a Bible sitting on an end table. “My father used to read to me on Sunday afternoons. Do you mind if I read aloud?”

“That would be nice,” Sarah said with a smile. “Thomas used to read to us out of that Bible.”

“I don’t have any particular chapter or verse in mind. Let’s just flip it open and see what we find,” Conner said as he let the Bible fall open where it may. It opened to Matthew chapter 11. His eyes skimmed to verses 28 – 30.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

He sat in silence for a few moments before looking up with a sad smile and excusing himself from the room.

 

At breakfast the next morning everyone dug into stacks of pancakes Sarah was turning out—hot of the griddle.

Dottie laid out Conner’s itinerary for the day. “A meeting with a city-councilman, lunch with a senator…”

Conner interrupted her with a calm, soft voice. “Dottie, I’m sorry, I’ve already made plans this morning.”

“Plans?” she questioned. “With whom?”

He thought of their conversation last evening about him “wasting” time with the Hathcock girls. “A friend,” was all he said.

“A friend? What friends do you have in Asheville?” she asked, mockingly.

“When I was at Duke I met people from not only across North Carolina but all across the United States,” he explained. “I do have former classmates right here in Asheville.”

“Well, tell this ‘friend’ you have more important things to do,” she demanded.

“But I’ve already given them my word. It wouldn’t be right to go back on it now,” he said.

“What about my plans?” she asked. “I went through a great deal of trouble…”

“I’m sure you did and I’m truly sorry,” he said. “Next time check with me in advance so I can clear my schedule.”

Dottie huffed and left the table, muttering that no feminine waist-line could afford pancakes.

Up Next in Chapter 5: A drawing and a rejection

If you were to have a movie night with your friends, what would you watch? Answer in the comments below.

 

 

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Barton Cottage Chapter 3 Part II

Chap 3

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Reading level: grade 7, Words: 1719)

 

Volume 1 Leaving Northland

(Read Chapter 1 here)

(Read Chapter 2 here)

Chapter 3 Conner Burroughs

Part II

(Read Part I here)

 

She saw him walking straight toward her.

Her pulse began to race, she remembered the words she uttered before meeting him that evening and hoped she had not given offense. She reasoned, however, he wouldn’t walk over just to tell her his feelings were hurt.

“Miss Caroline,” he said with a polite smile taking a seat next to her. “I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve seen your family.”

“It’s all right,” she said. “If we’d made more of an effort to visit your family in Charlotte, we would’ve seen each other more often.”

“But,” he added almost laughing, “I do seem to remember how your father felt about my mother…” They both chuckled in agreement.

Conner and Dottie’s mother, Mrs. Burroughs, was a haughty woman and Caroline’s father took so little pleasure in visiting with his son’s mother-in-law they rarely made trips to Charlotte to see them. The last time they went, he’d become so aggravated with her disdainful comments they hadn’t made any further attempts to see Dottie’s family.

Conner’s smile faded as he added, “I was very sorry to hear about your father.”

“Thank you,” Caroline said.

The gentleman of the couple sitting with Sarah called over to Conner raising his glass toward them. “I’d dance with that pretty girl if I were you, young man.”

Caroline’s eyes widened and she looked away—embarrassed.

Conner stammered to answer, “Oh, yes, well, I think I will…that is, if she’d agree.” He looked at Caroline—the equivalent of the poor deer caught in headlights—she almost giggled but nodded her consent instead.

Her legs felt rubbery, she wondered why she felt so nervous, as they walked to the dance floor, a raised wooden platform which had been brought in for the evening.

She still felt guilty about what she said earlier in the reception line. As they began to dance, she softly said, “Conner, I need to apologize…”

With a little chuckle, he replied, “I just hope the poor man you were talking about has a good enough personality to make up for his unfortunate lack of good looks.”

She looked down with embarrassment, giggled, and looked back at him with a grateful smile. She felt the kindness she remembered from their youth.

“It seems your sister is very interested in shaping a future political career for you,” she commented.

“Yes,” he acknowledged. “Everyone seems interested in that.”

“But perhaps it’s not what you want?” she questioned.

A puzzled look came over his face. “What makes you think so?”

She worried; maybe she was wrong. She continued, “Well, it seemed your sister was more excited about dining with the governor than you were.”

“I’m surprised at you Miss Caroline,” he said.

She held her breath, wanting to kick herself for saying anything, sure now she was wrong.

“You’re keenly perceptive,” he added, “and maybe one of the few people on earth who understands.”

She breathed out slowly in relief.

The song ended, and before he could thank her for the dance and head back to his sister’s company, she quickly asked, “Would you like to go for a walk? There’s a pond beyond the stables; it’s gorgeous when there’s a full moon out, like tonight.”

He looked around wondering if he’d be missed if he snuck away. “I suppose it’d be alright,” he replied.

They left the garden walking along the path to the stables, continuing to become reacquainted along the way.

“So, if not politics,” Caroline said, “what then?”

“Can you keep a secret?” Conner asked.

“Sure,” she answered.

“I’ve been doing some work with my family’s business—incognito,” he said in a spy-like voice. “The staff I’m working with know who I am but my mother says ‘that’s what we pay others for’ so, I use a pseudonym, the way a writer would.”

“But you’ve been away at school. How did you manage it?” she asked.

“Well, there’s a funny thing we have these days called technology… you know, it keeps the world connected.” He teased her with a grin.

“Oh, stop it!” She laughed, giving him a shove.

“I haven’t told my family yet though,” he went on, “but I do prefer business to politics. I have so many ideas for improvement and we’ve been working on some great stuff!”

He paused and looked at Caroline smiling sincerely. “I haven’t told hardly anyone—outside of the staff who have promised to keep my secret—but somehow it feels easy to talk to you.”

“Why haven’t you told your family?” she asked.

“My mother and sister have different plans for me,” he explained. “The eldest son of the late senator. My duty to the legacy of political influence… we’ll have a Burroughs in the White House one day!”

“I see,” Caroline said, her eyebrows raised, “that’s quite an expectation to fulfill. Is your brother Randall expected to do the same?”

“Sure,” he answered. “Though Randall has a real taste for it. He loves knowing people think he’s important because he’s the son of the late Senator Burroughs. My dad would have never wished for such a notion!”

“Your dad was a good man,” Caroline agreed. “And I remember your mother’s and father’s ideas were sometimes at odds. I am sorry though, your family can’t respect your choices.”

“Thank you,” he said. “Please don’t misunderstand me, though, being an elected official is a sacred trust, I respect anyone who dedicates their time to public service and I’m truly proud of my father’s accomplishments. I love my mother and sister for dreaming I could possibly be president one day—it’s a great dream! The problem is… it’s not my dream.”

“That’s understandable,” she said. “What makes America great is people applying their God-given talents where they can do the most good and if your talents lean more toward business than politics then that’s what you should pursue.”

He looked at her for several moments and smiled wistfully. “My thoughts exactly,” he said.

They arrived at the edge of the pond and gazed over the water as the moonbeams shimmered on the surface—the occasional ripple sent them dancing.

“You’re right,” he said, “this is beautiful.”

Caroline looked from the pond to Conner and noticed the moonlight shining on the red highlights of his dense auburn hair. She studied the details of his face, the strong brow line over his steel-grey eyes, glistening with a hint of slate-blue. She noticed how his full lips seemed to form a perfect heart shape when he smiled. She couldn’t agree with her sister that he wasn’t attractive; she thought his might be the most handsome face she’d ever seen.

They walked along the edge of the pond and Conner picked up a rock skipping it on the pond’s surface. He challenged her to do the same. She looked around and found a perfect skipping rock—hers skipped farther than his. They laughed and skipped a few more.

After deciding it was time to head back to the party Conner commented, “This has been a wonderful night. I haven’t had this much fun since…”

He paused and by the look in his eyes, she could tell there were several thoughts racing through his mind. Some not so happy she perceived as his eyes turned down and his smile fell but then brightening he looked up again.

“Do you remember that Christmas, when we first met and went sledding in the snow?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered thinking back to the time and smiling.

He nodded. “Since then.”

A grin overtook her face to think some of his best memories included her.

 

While they made their way back to the garden, they talked about some of their favorite things. Caroline discovered his favorite flavor of ice cream was pecan praline, and Conner found out her favorite gemstones were…

“Sapphires, of course,” he remarked. “Makes sense, they match the color of your eyes—which haven’t changed a bit by the way,” he said a little under his breath, “still as beautiful as ever.”

His compliment left her breathless.

 

Moments after stepping back into the garden Dottie started toward them, looking furious. She got to them and pulled Conner aside. “Where have you been?” she asked, in an angry whisper.

“I took a walk with Caroline, we were catching up,” he answered.

Dottie huffed. “I gathered these important people here tonight for you and you run off with Caroline? You owe your time to our very powerful guests here and now,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” he mouthed, to Caroline as Dottie towed him away.

Caroline felt selfish and guilty, I shouldn’t have distracted him from such an important party. She reconciled to make a full apology.

The rest of the evening was spent with Dottie towing Conner around, showing him off like a prized pony.

Caroline was asked to dance a few more times by friends and acquaintances. She caught Conner glancing at her on occasion as she danced but they didn’t get a chance to speak again for the rest of the evening.

She waited for the guests to leave and found Dottie in the kitchen. “I want to apologize,” she started, “I know you went through a lot of trouble putting this party together for your brother. I shouldn’t have taken him away from such important people. I’m sorry.”

“And you should be,” Dottie quickly replied. “But I’m glad you understand. His career will take years of dedication, sacrifice, and hard work! He has no time for silly walks and… silly girls. He must focus all his efforts on his future goals without wasting time.”

Caroline’s eyes widened realizing how heavy the weight of expectation was on Conner’s shoulders. How does he bear it, she wondered.

She lied in bed that night, waiting for sleep to come, wrestling with feelings of wanting to help Conner make his family understand but finally reasoning there was nothing more she could do than support him as a friend. Her thoughts returned to their stolen stroll and she fell asleep remembering how she felt when he told her her eyes were beautiful.

Up Next in Chapter 4 part: Ashelynn’s movie night

Who did you last dance with and where were you? Answer in the comments below.

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Barton Cottage Chapter 3 Part I

Chap 3

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Reading level: grade 7, Words: 1971)

 

Volume 1 Leaving Northland

(Read Chapter 1 here)

(Read Chapter 2 here)

Chapter 3 Conner Burroughs

Part I

 

The next few weeks at Northland were stressful as remodelers and landscapers worked their magic tending to Dottie’s total estate make-over wishes. Sarah and her daughters did their best to steer clear of the construction and keep to the east wing—which was receiving none of the “make-over” attention.

“Looks like the projects are nearly completed,” Sarah commented at breakfast one morning as the workers applied the finishing touches.

“Yes,” Dottie said, “and just in time since I’ll be hosting a party in the garden this Friday evening.”

Ashelynn glanced at Caroline, her eyes wide with anticipation. Caroline knew how much she loved parties. Caroline liked the idea too—after weeks of mourning their father and adjusting to life with Dottie—a party might lift their spirits.

“The party will be in honor of my brother, Conner’s graduation from Duke University,” Dottie continued. “He’ll arrive Friday evening with guests from Charlotte who will also attend the party. Afterward, Conner will be staying with us for a while. A crew will be here in the afternoon to set up, so try to keep out of their way.”

Caroline poked at her scrambled eggs with a fork. Conner Burroughs, she thought with a smile. The last time she had seen him they were both awkward teenagers; she wondered if he would even remember her.

“May I invite some friends?” Ashelynn asked with guarded enthusiasm.

“You want to invite someone?” Dottie asked with a haughty laugh. “And what sort of people would you invite?”

Ashelynn answered slowly as if she were a school kid being scolded by the teacher. “The nice sort, neighbors, friends…”

“Are you aware the mayor, two congressional leaders and the governor are going to be here Friday evening? My brother has just received his degree in political science and this event will be the springboard for his career,” Dottie informed them.

“Well,” Ashelynn offered, “one kid I wanted to invite has an uncle who plays golf with former President Bush.”

“Oh, I see,” Dottie said, her tone changing as her lips turned up. “Why don’t you give me a list, Ashelynn dear. Include their parents’ names and numbers, and I’ll give them a call. If I find they are right for our gathering, I’ll offer the invitation.”

Ashelynn nodded and quietly sighed.

 

After breakfast, Sarah and Caroline saw Ashelynn and Maggie off as they left for school. Ashelynn would drop Maggie off at the elementary before heading on to the high school.

“That comment about staying out of the way on Friday was aimed at me,” Sarah grumbled as she and Caroline walked back inside. “Dottie’s point was to tell me I no longer have any say in what goes on around here.”

Caroline sighed in agreement. “I’m sorry, Mom. Try to have patience, things may get better soon.”

“My patience is running thin this morning,” Sarah said. “Living with them might be more difficult and detrimental than we originally thought. And since I believe Frank will honor his promise to your father to help us with extra money, it may be time to start looking for another place.”

“You might be right Mom but has Frank offered any money yet?” Caroline asked.

“Well, not yet…” Sarah answered.

“It’s been weeks,” Caroline said, “if he was going to offer extra money I think he’d have done so by now and with the amount of money they must have spent on all this remodeling, what if he’s no longer able to give us extra? If we decide to move, we’d better stick to something we can to afford without his help, just to be safe.”

Sarah was silent for a moment before telling her daughter, “You have so much of your father’s good sense in you.”

Caroline felt proud to have any of her father’s attributes.

 

Friday evening arrived and Caroline and Ashelynn sat primping at the double-seated vanity in Ashelynn’s room.

“I should’ve known Dottie would only invite my richest friends,” Ashelynn ranted.

They wore boat-neck, vintage tea dresses, Caroline’s azure blue with small white polka dots and Ashelynn’s cream-colored with a floral pattern.

Caroline listened quietly to Ashelynn’s complaints as she fluffed the golden blonde ringlets in her shoulder length hair; her blue eyes gazing back in the mirror, trying to convince herself she looked adequate enough to see Conner again.

“I had to apologize to my other friends and explain if it were up to me, everyone would’ve been invited,” Ashelynn said. She polished her lips with a dusty rose gloss and gathered her long, auburn hair to one side, securing the curly locks with a ribbon.

She turned to Caroline with a rascally grin. “So, do you know what I did to make it up to them?”

The mischievous sound in Ashelynn’s voice unsettled Caroline and she asked with worry, “What did you do Ashelynn?”

She explained in unconcerned tone, “I invited them over tomorrow night for a party of my own, and I’m not going to tell Dottie. I told them to show up at seven o’clock and we’ll watch movies, play games and hang out!”

“Oh,” Caroline replied, “like a normal Saturday night around here before everything changed.” She let out a long sigh, sad to think such an innocent activity would likely aggravate Dottie and cause further contention. There was nothing to be done about it now so her thoughts returned to the evening’s party.

“What do you think Conner looks like now?” Caroline asked.

“I don’t know,” Ashelynn said with a shrug. “He was kind of dorky looking when we were kids but I’m sure he’s at least decent looking now. We haven’t seen him in so long, though, how do we know he hasn’t become just like Dottie?”

“But he was always so nice, more like his father than the rest of the family,” Caroline muttered, reminiscing. She remembered him being quiet and awkward but kind and gentle with a cute smile.

“True, but his father’s gone now isn’t he?” Ashelynn countered, “And he’s been under the influence of his pretentious mother and snotty sister for the past few years. Who can say what he’s like now!”

Caroline shrugged, hoping Ashelynn was wrong.

“Come on,” Ashelynn said, jumping up from the vanity. “Let’s not let this party get started without us!”

 

Soon everyone was in the garden and the festivities were underway. Circular tables were dressed with white linens and centerpieces of red and blue flowers—a patriotic theme. Clear lights were strung around the trees, gateways, and walkways. Lighted candles floated in the newly added reflecting pool and the smell of jasmine graced the air. A small orchestra in the newly built gazebo played classical melodies.

Caroline strolled through the scene, committing every detail to memory. Her passion was drawing, and she would want to recreate this scene later on paper.

Ashelynn darted toward Caroline, disturbing her concentration. “I just got a glimpse of Conner,” she hastily reported.

“Oh,” Caroline said, trying not to sound excited. “What does he look like?”

Ashelynn looped her arm through her sister’s as they walked toward the trellised archway where Dottie was introducing Conner to the guests. “Well, he’s still dorky looking but his pimples have cleared up,” she said with a teasing laugh.

The girls stood in the line of guests waiting to be introduced to Conner. Caroline tried looking over and around heads and shoulders to catch a glimpse of him without luck. “I can’t imagine he’s completely unattractive?” Caroline said.

Ashelynn did not reply. Caroline looked at her sister’s face and knew immediately something was wrong. Ashelynn had a tightlipped smile and looked as if she wanted to tell Caroline to shut up.

Caroline felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to see Dottie glaring at her with Conner at her side. Caroline had been looking in the wrong direction not realizing they were at the head rather than the end of the line. She immediately felt sick to her stomach thinking of her previous statement, hoping he hadn’t heard. The look on Dottie’s face suggested they did.

“Caroline and Ashelynn Hathcock,” Dottie said, overlooking the impropriety and introducing them in a formal manner, “you remember my brother, Conner Burroughs?”

The girls said hello and expressed their delight in seeing him.

“It’s a pleasure seeing both of you again,” Conner said.

He looked into Caroline’s eyes, smiling as if wanting to tell her, it was okay. The expression surprised her, and she found herself returning an awkward, embarrassed grin.

 

Dinner was announced and everyone moved to their assigned seating. Dottie, Frank, and Conner sat at the head table with the governor and the other political leaders. From Caroline’s table, several down from the head—marking the inconsequence of Frank’s step-family—she discreetly watched Conner throughout dinner and noticed while he seemed polite in manner and decorum, he also seemed relatively uninterested in promoting himself to the powerful political leaders.

After the dinner service was removed the governor stood at the podium to speak, followed by a few remarks from one of the congressman before Conner got up to speak. Caroline supposed his speech was going to be about his grand plans to go into politics, but it was not, instead, he humbly spoke of other things. He first thanked his sister for the lovely party, then his family for their support of his education and his professors for their tireless efforts in educating himself and his classmates. He went on to thank God for the country in which they lived and declared it was a true blessing to live in such a free country. He spoke of his gratitude for the founders whose dedication and sacrifices had built a free and independent nation. The conclusion of Conner’s unpretentious testimonial met with resounding applause.

The slanted smirk on Dottie’s face suggested it wasn’t quite what she expected, perhaps she had wished for Conner’s speech to be more self-promoting—given the company they were in—still, Dottie clapped along with the others as though she was pleased. When Conner returned to his seat, next to his sister’s, she bent toward him to whisper in his ear. The uncomfortable look on Conner’s face left Caroline wondering if Dottie had scolded her brother for a timid performance.

The speeches concluded and the orchestra began playing tunes for dancing, while the guests began to mingle. Caroline watched Conner as Dottie dragged him around from one VIP to the next.

She told herself she should stop watching him then failed in her attempts to keep her eyes off him.

After a while, she turned her chair in an earnest effort to turn her attention away from him. Maggie had been seated next to her mother and sisters throughout dinner, but had made the acquaintance of a couple of kids her age and went to show them around the garden. She skimmed her eyes over the guests to see how Maggie and her new friends were doing. She spied them at the reflecting pool, swirling their fingers in the water, trying to make the floating candles spin. She giggled to see them having fun.

Ashelynn had also met with some friends and had left the table; Caroline’s eyes searched them out. She saw them gathered together at the west end of the garden, talking and laughing. She smiled; pleased they were having a good time.

She tried to listen in on the conversation her mother, still seated next to her, was having with a couple from their neighborhood—the ones with the relative who golfs with the former president—but soon realized her eyes were once again searching for Conner.

She couldn’t immediately see him and thought it was for the best, but before she could convince herself to stop looking, she saw him walking straight toward her…

Up Next Chapter 3 part II: Distracted

 

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Pebbles In My Way by Alice Klies

Thrilled to present Pebbles In My Way by Alice Klies!!!

13 Sept Cover Front

Have you ever felt life’s challenges are like pebbles in your way… irritating trials and challenges along your path? Maybe you too have questioned your walk with God or have used the statement, “Why me?” when the pebbles turn into boulders. Karen takes this kind of journey to find God’s grace and learns how to let go and let God.

In Pebbles In My Way, Karen is faced with challenges, trials and struggles which feel like pebbles in her way, and some are so overwhelming she thinks they are boulders! Karen faces cancer, the death of loved ones, an unwanted pregnancy and more! Will these things overwhelm her to drag her down to the depths of despair or will she find the faith in God she needs to overcome?

Pic of Alice 2

About Alice—

Alice has written since she could hold a pencil. She is currently president of Northern Arizona Word Weavers, a chapter of an international writers group. It is through their encouragement Alice began to submit her work for publication.  She has nonfiction and fiction stories published in sixteen anthologies. She is a seven-time contributor to Chicken Soup For The Soul books and has articles published in Angels On Earth, AARP and Wordsmith Journal. She has also been featured in the Women of Distinction magazine.  Besides her involvement in Word Weavers, she serves on boards for the PWG (Professional Women’s Group) and Y.E.S. the ARC in her community. She is a deaconess and Stephens Minister in her church.
Alice is a retired teacher who resides with her husband and two Golden Retrievers in beautiful Cottonwood, Arizona.  She prays her stories cause a reader to smile, laugh or cry, and most of all turn their eyes upward to God who loves them.

Contact Alice at: alice.klies@gmail.com

Congratulations Alice!

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Barton Cottage Chapter 2

Barton Pic 1 copy 2

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

A few of you may remember this story originally published a few years back under a different title by this author. Contract canceled by the author, it has been reworked and retitled to be shared here. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Reading level: grade 7, Words: 2387)

 

Volume 1 Leaving Northland

(Read Chapter 1 here)

Chapter 2 Dottie Burroughs-Hathcock

 

The next morning a furiously ringing doorbell awakened the Hathcock ladies as they slept in—Ashelynn and Maggie weren’t ready to return to school just yet and had taken one more day off to dry tears and improve their countenances.

They met Frank in the hallway as they headed toward the door.

“You look dressed for a day at work,” Sarah commented to Frank.

“Taking a trip to the office,” he answered.

“Law firm or Hathcock business?” she asked.

“Hathcock,” he said, pulling on his suit coat as they walked. “Headed into Asheville this morning.”

“Good, you’ll do well at the helm Frank,” she said, patting him on the back with encouragement. “Your father would be proud.”

He smiled gratefully. “Thank you. Father began preparing me when he discovered he was sick. I hope I’m ready to fill his shoes.”

“How are you going to juggle the law firm and Hathcock enterprises?” she asked.

They reached the door before he could answer. Frank opened it to find his wife Dottie and son James.

“Dearest!” Frank said in surprise, as James wrapped his dad’s legs in a hug.

“Hello,” Dottie called in a boisterous voice coming through the door.

The girls made way as Dottie pushed through like a princess parting a crowd.

“Hello Dottie,” Sarah said.

“My dears,” Dottie said pulling each to her, one at a time and making a kissing sound to the sides of their faces—except for Maggie whose head she patted. Maggie stepped back with furrowed brow.

“I’m so sorry I couldn’t make it to the funeral,” she said. “Little James’s preschool schedule simply wouldn’t allow it. Besides, I had a speaking engagement at the Women’s Club yesterday and they couldn’t let me out of it. But since James’s preschool is always out on Fridays, here I am!”

“And you must have gotten an early start too,” Frank commented. “It’s only nine o’clock in the morning.”

“With so much to do, there’s no time to waste is there?” Dottie said, smiling and looking around as if sizing up the place—though she had been to Northland many times before.

“Oh, well, why don’t you and James relax after your long drive,” Frank said. “I’m sure there are milk and muffins or something in the kitchen. I was actually heading out to the office for a while but I shouldn’t be too long.” He nodded to his step-mother as though enlisting her help.

“Yes,” Sarah spoke up, taking the cue. “I believe we have blueberry and banana nut muffins. Are you hungry James?” she asked, offering her hand toward him.

He nodded excitedly and was about to take it when Dottie scooped him up. “Don’t disappoint us,” she protested to Frank, with pouted lips. “We’ve come all this way to spend the day with you. Can’t your business wait till Monday?”

“It’s just a quick errand. I’ll pop in, show my face, get up to speed on all the latest and be right back. You’d barely have time to miss me,” Frank gently argued.

“Surely all of that can wait till Monday,” Dottie said as if the matter was settled. “Help us bring our luggage in, won’t you girls?” she asked, putting James down and towing her husband to the car.

“Well… I… I… suppose so…” Frank said, relenting. He glanced at his sisters, the generous gift would have to wait.

“I packed some more of your things too Darling,” Dottie told her husband as he opened the trunk and drew out two suitcases.

“I don’t like the look of this,” Ashelynn grumbled to Caroline. “Looks like they have enough to stay for weeks!”

“Are they moving in?” Maggie asked in a whisper.

“Keep your voices down girls,” Sarah warned in a hushed tone. With arms loaded they trailed behind Dottie and Frank toward the guest rooms. “Frank said he wasn’t moving his family here. I’m sure it’s just a visit and I expect you to be on your best behavior.”

“I hope Mom’s right,” Ashelynn said in a low voice.

“I’m sure she is,” Caroline added.

 

The girls observed from a window seat upstairs as Dottie toured the grounds alongside her accommodating husband, carrying a clipboard and writing things down.

“What’s she doing?” Maggie asked.

Ashelynn crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. “I don’t know but I have a sneaky feeling we aren’t going to like it.”

“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Caroline said smiling and rubbing Maggie’s shoulders.

Frank and Dottie returned inside where Dottie continued her touring, observations, and notetaking. As they made their way upstairs, the girls retreated to Caroline’s bedroom.

Caroline and Maggie sat on the bed, Caroline brushing Maggie’s hair as Ashelynn browsed through Caroline’s closet.

“You have so many cute things you never wear,” Ashelynn said. “Like this red top.” She lifted the hanger from the rod and went to the mirror admiring the top in front of herself.

“It’s a little small for me,” Caroline said. “You can have it if you’d like.”

Just then the door swung open, startling the girls. Ashelynn dropped the top and Maggie shrieked as Caroline tugged a bit of hair when she jumped.

Dottie stepped in—apologetic looking Frank behind her.

“Oh, is this your room Caroline?” Dottie asked.

“Dear, perhaps we should have knocked first,” Frank suggested.

“I just want to take a peek around, I’m sure Caroline doesn’t mind,” Dottie said.

Caroline stared as Dottie checked out the closets and the attached bathroom and paced the room, foot to foot, to determine the size.

“What a lovely room,” Dottie commented, “and so close to the Master suite. Well, see you girls later.”

The girls sat open-mouthed for several moments before Caroline said, “Ashelynn, I think you’re right, we aren’t going to like this.”

 

At dinner that evening Dottie praised the day spent at Northland. “Such a beautiful old house and such lovely grounds. Your family has kept it up nicely.”

Sarah smiled. “Thank you. We’ve done our best and have employed some very trusty landscapers and housekeepers; they deserve the credit.”

“Yes indeed,” Dottie agreed. “I’ll have to get their numbers from you.”

“Oh, I don’t think they work in Charlotte though,” Sarah said, confused.

Dottie nodded, took a bite of chicken, and swallowed before continuing. “Yes, well, I didn’t mean to have them come to Charlotte dear. I saw a couple of changes I’d like to make here and there as we were looking around today.”

“Oh, I see,” Sarah slowly muttered as an awkward silence crept over the room.

Dottie had everyone’s attention as she continued. “We’ll have the landscapers out to begin making some slight changes to the grounds but there are a few changes I’d like to make inside as well. Nothing big, but it will require some changing of rooms… Mrs. Hathcock,” she called politely across the table in a sugary sweet voice, “if I could get you to move your things into one of the guest rooms, that would be much appreciated. I’ll have someone here first thing Monday to begin remodeling the master suite. And Caroline, I’ll need you to move out of your bedroom as well, please. Since your room is the largest, I’m going to remodel it for little James. He’s the new heir. You understand I’m sure. You can take that room on the other side of Ashelynn’s—the one with the connecting bathroom. That’ll be perfect for two sisters.”

Maggie’s eyes were wide with a questioning look and Ashelynn’s face beheld a look as if to say, “I told you this was bad!” Caroline began to realize she and her mother had been wrong.

After a pause, Sarah said, “Forgive us Dottie but I think we are all a little confused. Frank mentioned your family would be staying in Charlotte. It seems however you are…”

“Moving in?” Dottie interrupted with a triumphant grin. “That’s right dear, we are!”

Sarah looked immediately at Frank, his face had a look of surprise.

“I knew it,” Maggie said, leaving the table and stomping out of the room.

“If you’ll please excuse us,” Sarah said as she, Caroline and Ashelynn followed.

Maggie stomped and cried all the way to her room, where the others caught up with her. They stepped inside and shut the door behind them.

“Frank lied!” Maggie hollered.

“I can’t believe this!” Ashelynn railed.

“I don’t understand why,” Caroline said.

Sarah cut in. “First of all, I don’t think Frank lied. I saw his face and he’s just as surprised as we are.”

A soft knock was heard on the door and Sarah went to answer. Frank stood in the hallway. Sarah stepped out. The girls tried to listen but the voices were soft and difficult to hear.

Sarah came back in. “Frank just gave me his apologies but confirmed Dottie’s wishes to move to Northland. He says she intends to keep both houses and travel back and forth at their leisure.”

“After Frank promised us they wouldn’t.” Ashelynn groaned.

Tears began rolling down Maggie’s cheeks and Caroline pulled her onto her lap. “It’s okay,” Caroline whispered, “at least you don’t have to change rooms. You get to keep yours.”

Sarah took a deep breath before saying, “Caroline’s right! And perhaps it’s better this way. We’ll be in the east wing and they’ll be in the west. They on their side, us on ours and we won’t have to bother each other. This is still our home! Frank said so and I’m sure everything will work out somehow. Now, let’s have our prayers and get a good night’s sleep!”

 

The next morning Dottie barked orders as the Hathcock women complied with instructions of moving Sarah and Caroline’s rooms. They lugged boxes of clothing, furniture, and beds down long hallways. Dottie further shocked them by detailing her plans to remodel the rest of the house as well. Old wood was to be torn out, old flooring pulled up and windows and furnishings replaced—all was to be redone and made over. It was clear, Dottie was taking over.

Maggie began to look tired so Sarah suggested she take little James to play in the garden while they finished up.

After a long morning of work, Sarah, Ashelynn, and Caroline took refuge in the parlor.

“Living in this house with that woman running things is sure going to be hard!” Sarah stated. “Moving us around like we were unwanted furniture.”

“I can’t believe Frank is allowing her to do this to us,” Ashelynn complained. “He seems to want to please his wife more than he cares for any of us.”

“He obviously didn’t know Dottie’s plans,” Caroline spoke up. “She wants to turn Northland into a show house just like her home in Charlotte.”

“Yes, and she’ll have the place crawling with magazine crews!” Sarah said while Ashelynn moaned her discontent.

“I know this is upsetting but what do you suggest we do?” Caroline asked. “The house belongs to them now; we don’t seem to have any choice other than to get along and make do.”

“We may be forced to make a difficult choice.” Their mother contemplated. “We may have to make the choice to move!”

Ashelynn gasped and Caroline let out a heavy sigh.

“Two thousand dollars a month will be tight to get a house and pay expenses for the four of us Mom,” Caroline said.

“You’re right,” Sarah agreed. “But remember Frank’s promise to your father? Perhaps he’ll help us to pay for a place of our own.”

“Anything’s better than living with her,” Ashelynn said.

But Caroline offered a gentle argument. “Things seem stressful now because of all the changes being dumped on us, but maybe after things calm down it won’t be so bad.”

Just then Dottie came into the room and they quickly hushed their conversation.

“I found your hiding place,” Dottie said laughing. “Oh, what is that?” she asked pointing to the painting above the fireplace.

“I painted it from our family portrait,” Caroline said.

Dottie cocked her head to the side. “You do lovely work, Caroline.”

“Thank you,” Caroline was about to say before Dottie cut her off.

“But it will have to find another place of honor, perhaps in your new room Mrs. Hathcock. I’ll have photographers out next week to take a new portrait of Frank, little James and myself to hang over the fireplace.” Dottie smiled, turned, and left the room.

Ashelynn shot a look at Caroline. “You see?” she said.

 

Later Dottie found her husband in the office and began detailing the whole of her plans for the house remodel. This led to a discussion about the finances of the estate, which in turn led to Dottie’s inquiry about the monetary provisions for Mrs. Hathcock and her daughters.

Frank let her know of the original allowance and began to explain the promise he made to his father to take care of any extra expenses they may have.

“I’m going to double the amount of the yearly allowance,” Frank said.

“Double it?” Dottie questioned in astonishment. “What could they possibly do with that much money? They have no mortgage, no rent, no utilities, no living expenses—they will have no need for so much money. It’s silly to offer them such a large sum.”

“Well, dear, I was thinking of the girls’ educations,” he said, in an effort to justify himself. “Caroline and Ashelynn have partial scholarships but that doesn’t cover everything. There are books and transportation and so many other costs involved in going to college and I can only imagine how many other expenses are involved in raising teenage girls these days.”

“There’ll be other resources available to them I’m sure,” Dottie argued. “They can use student loans or some other form of assistance. You are providing them with a home and they’re well taken care of here. Throwing extra money at them will be wasteful.”

Frank took his wife’s arguments into account and finally had to concede his sisters were comfortable and cared for at Northland. “You do make a very good point, my dear,” he said. He always wanted his wife’s approval and wished for nothing greater than to please her. “I guess I must agree, the original allowance will do fine.”

A self-congratulatory grin lit up Dottie’s face as she proudly patted her husband on the shoulder.

Up next in Chapter 3: A handsome face and a dinner party

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