Introduction: This Enchanted Land

While dealing with the aftermath of a plan gone awry, Kathryn Morgan finds herself facing bigger, but related, problems: her uncle dies, her aunt turns against her, her boss still won’t let her write under her own name, and the town is going to burn…

This Enchanted Land is a historical fiction novel set in Eastern New Mexico territory in the 1900s. I have been working on versions of this story since mid 2004, when I was starting my first year of highschool. The current draft has been finished for about a month, waiting to be revised. The revision will begin this week. Here’s an excerpt:

Kathryn watched her worn out boots make shallow prints in the dust, glanced upward toward her destination, and looked back down. The new schoolhouse she approached stood empty, free of the children that would fill it with life when school resumed in about five months. Kathryn, however, was not thinking about school. A frown formed on her face and deepened as she trudged along the dirt road with a full jug of water in her arms. She stopped walking for a moment, bit her lip, tilted her head, and nodded—she looked up once more as if to seek agreement for some conclusion she had reached. All that met her gaze was a clear, cloudless sky. For weeks, Kathryn, and other townsfolk, prayed for rain. The preacher said perhaps the town needed more faith before rain would come. Disregarding the barren state of the sky, Kathryn smiled and continued walking toward the schoolhouse.

###

Geoffrey Benson straightened from his cramped position on the school-house roof. Pain shot up and down his back and throbbed in his thumb as a result of his lengthy use of a hammer and roofing nails. His throat felt as dry as the parched and cracking ground below him. Geoffrey put a hand over his eyes, squinting into the cloudless blue sky as he searched for any sign of his water-bearing cousin. When he spotted her, he smiled.

“She’s on her way, Pa” Geoffrey said. The man squatting beside him only grunted, cocked his head, and swung the hammer once more. They’d already wasted too much time building the schoolhouse roof, and much more work needed to be done before the school would be ready for students. Without waiting for a reply, Geoffrey raked his fingers through his wavy brown, sweat-soaked hair, and moved toward the ladder.

“‘Bout time, cousin,” Geoffrey said, grinning as he jumped from the last few rungs of the ladder.

“I would have been here sooner,” Kathryn said with a frown, “If Aunt Katie hadn’t made me wear these skirts!” She shook the offending fabric impatiently as she spoke, and then with a quick glance at the roof, pulled Geoffrey close. “I’ve had an idea,” she whispered. Geoffrey leaned closer instinctively. “I am going to write for Mr. Johnson’s newspaper. As a man!” Geoffrey squinted at his dust covered cousin. Had she gone mad with the summer’s heat?

“And just how do you plan on doing that?” he asked.

“Mr. Johnson never has to see me bringing my articles. I’ll deliver them at night, and use a man’s name to sign them.” Kathryn glanced at the roof as she explained in whispers.

“Isn’t that a bit underhanded?” Geoffrey asked. Kathryn bit her lip.

“It’s my best plan so far.” Geoffrey shrugged and took another swig of water.

“Well,” he said, keeping his eyes on the roof, “If you can live with it, you might as well give it a try.” The sounds of hammering stopped suddenly, and both cousins jumped apart.

“Hey, Geoff, how about sharing some of that water!” George Benson shouted.

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