As I branch out on my writing tree, I thought it was time I began a blog for my YA/middle reader markets. Here I will post samples of my stories and accept your positive remarks. Thanks for finding me!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Preview: Stumptoad

Stumptoad was an idea I carried for quite a while. It started off as a picture book but the story became so engaging I expanded it. Later, during the edits, it looked like it would be a picture again. Eventually my editor and a friend of hers in the middle reader chapter book world helped me to finalize the story. Below is an excerpt.

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Stumptoad at Home

Stumptoad loved the stone house he built and spent sunny days inside it for the sun bothered his eyes and irritated his mottled skin. When he did go out on bright, sunny days, he pulled on a large, floppy hat with a wide brim to protect his eyes. He wore a long, brown coat he crafted from a bolt of lightweight fabric he felt like he had always owned, a magical material that never seemed to run out no matter how much he used. When it rained, he danced outdoors and splashed his long, wide, web-toed feet in the puddles around his yard.
He would sometimes hear the happy calls of villagers across the Rolling Meadows on the opposite side of the Crusted Swamp from where his stone house sat. He would peer out from behind his thick drapes to see families tossing feather rings above the billowy grass or flying paper diamonds against the blue sky so high in the air they appeared like glittering shadows.
Stumptoad’s smile would curl up at the ends of his thin white lips just before it drooped into a sad smile beneath each flat, pressed back ear.
Travelers often approached his home to ask for directions only to run away in fear when he opened his creaking door, perhaps confusing him with some of the other inhabitants that lived beyond the beyond where Stumptoad lived. Stumptoad knew of their existence, but like the villagers who avoided him, Stumptoad avoided those beasts that stomped or slithered or paddled or hovered. He was caught between two worlds, shunned by one and frightened by the other.
When he was younger, it upset Stumptoad when the villagers or travelers ran away, but as he grew older, he toyed with the lost passers-by and laughed when he scared them off.
But the truth was, Stumptoad was lonely. He was not a part of the villagers. Nor were the villagers a part of him. Stumptoad was the end of a time that had begun long ago. Sometimes he had dreams of others from that time but as far as he knew, he was the only one of his kind still in existence, which added to his loneliness.
On a drizzly autumn afternoon, Stumptoad stood on the muddy edge of a leech pond raking out the juiciest leeches for his dinner when, quite by accident, a visitor on horseback stopped behind him.
“Excuse me?”
Stumptoad ignored the call of the woman thinking she was a lost traveler speaking to a passing villager. He was used to eavesdropping in these situations. Stumptoad raked up two very long and thick leeches. He bent his curving back forward and picked up each leech, depositing each one after the other into a soggy leather pouch hanging off his belt.
“Excuse me, is there someone there?”
Stumptoad hesitated with his leech rake in his hand. He slowly turned his head, as he was accustomed to doing when he worked outside, making certain to not surprise a stranger with a quick snap. There was no fun in it for Stumptoad if the passerby hurried away before Stumptoad could set the trap and surprise the unsuspecting journeyer.
Stumptoad made a gasping croak. His large dark watery eyes grew larger.
Sitting high on a horse was a beautiful, blindfolded young maiden.
“Curse this horse. Every time it stops I think it’s found the prince.”
Stumptoad’s mouth rippled along the long, thin white lines that were his lips. He tried to find his voice but all that came out were light puffs of leech breath. He puckered and whispered, “Prince?”
The maiden’s nose wrinkled. “Hello?”
Stumptoad held the comb end of the leech rake up near his face and peered at the maiden through the slits, hiding as though the maiden could see him from behind her blindfold. “Hello,” he croaked, making his voice softer than usual.
The maiden on the horse relaxed and smiled. “I think my horse may have lost its way and wandered into the Crusted Swamp. It’s hard for me to tell where I am, actually, as I have to ride with this blindfold over my eyes. I am searching for the village of Hickling where I am to meet the prince I am to marry, although I am not to lay eyes upon him until the day of our wedding, hence the blindfold I must wear. Have you heard of Prince Tilbert of Hickling?”
Stumptoad’s mouth parted and closed and parted and closed until at last he said in his deep, echoing voice, “I am he.” Admittedly, Stumptoad was a bit perplexed. By now, most people who stumbled upon him had run away. He was a diminutive creature, not quite human, but also not exactly a beast. His mottled back was forever curved forward like that of a toad. It rolled forward whether he stood on a dirt path or he sat on a moss-covered rock. Yet his baldhead would be perfectly normal to anyone looking at him from behind.
When he turned, however, his large, watery, dark eyes would blink at whoever stared upon him. His huge nostrils would flare outward on each exhale or pinch inward on each inhale around the hump of a snout. The skin beneath his jaw sagged. His lips were thin white lines nearly stretching from flat, pressed back ear to flat, pressed back ear.
Long, spindly fingers grew out from his palms.
Wide flat swim flippers feet jutted out beneath his bent legs.
A sticky stretched tongue occasionally zipped out to snatch hovering no-seeums or lap up leeches.
Yet this visitor, this beautiful stranger, remained upon her horse, smiling at him, Stumptoad, thinking he was Prince Tilbert of Hickling.
“Well, it’s me, silly Tilly,” she said. “Hilary, and I am to be your Princess.”