Entry Nickname: Burning Down the House
Title: The Farmer’s Wife
Word Count: 60k
Genre: Adult Fiction
Samuel and Lillian Miller have spent their entire married life in the farmhouse Sam built by hand. When the house goes up in flames, Lillian barely escapes with her life. Samuel is not as lucky. Fire crews attempt to control the blaze, leaving Lillian with nothing to do but watch helplessly as she loses everything she’s ever cherished.
Lillian’s granddaughter, Jody, arrives at the house just after the first fire truck and offers Lillian both comfort and her spare bedroom. In the days following Samuel’s death, Jody struggles to help her grandmother return to a sense of normalcy. Together, they sift through what the fire left behind. They unearth more than Jody ever expected. Lillian has collected her fair share of secrets over the course of her marriage, and the true cause of the house fire may prove to be the most shocking.
A rich portrayal of rural life in upstate New York, The Farmer’s Wife explores the power of memory, the bonds of family, and the solidarity that comes with shared secrets.
The heat is suffocating, so we keep our distance. The shadows of the flames flicker across our faces as we watch the house burn. Four eyes stare, entranced as the house sacrifices itself to the fire.
The powder blue paint bubbles and peels from the wooden siding like sunburned skin. It cowers in front of the flames, dripping fiery blue drops onto the singed grass. Bit by bit, the color is devoured until the siding becomes a charred remnant of its former self. Pieces of it cling to the foundation it has held for more than fifty years, but I know it won’t be long until they, too, are torn away. They glow bright orange when the wind blows against them, then fade into the night's blackness.
I peel my eyes away from the blaze to glance at my grandmother. Her aged cheeks are dry. The heat from the flames prevents her tears from falling. She stands silent, just as helpless as the rest of us. I can’t recall a time when I have ever considered her helpless. Yet even her well of control can’t douse the inferno before us, so we just watch it burn.
Ashes dance through the air, fiery around the edges at first, then fading as the air sucks the warmth from them. One lodges itself in my grandmother's hair. She’s unaffected by its landing.
Entry nickname: The Connecting Thread
Title: The ORCHAD
Word Count: 60k
Genre: Literary Fiction
A parcel of land is the connecting thread between several generations of strangers in the 60,000-word literary fiction novel THE ORCHARD.
In the midst of the Great Depression, widow Gwendolyn Meeker Hobbs enlists the help of seasoned farmhand Charlie and protégé Phillip to run her 80-acre citrus grove. As she fights to protect her orange groves from development, she imparts to Phillip her respect for the land, "I may have a piece of paper that says I own this land, but nobody but Mother Nature herself really owns any of this. She can take it back any time she wants. Be wary of nature’s fury. She’s got a vile temper when she’s angry.”
Faced with financial ruin, Gwendolyn must begin selling off her acreage. As the property passes from one owner to the next, the rural landscape succumbs to urbanization, and the struggles of its inhabitants reflect the changing times. Ryuichi Nakamura moves his family to Southern California to grow a new kind of strawberry, but when America enters World War II, his life is changed forever. Carl Roberts wants his piece of the American Dream but soon realizes prosperity comes at a high price. Suburban housewives Hazel and Cora struggle to find their place in a modern world while one of them grapples with a life-threatening secret. And George, who has hit rock bottom, finds renewed hope in the wake of a devastating wildfire.
Set against a rich backdrop of California history, THE ORCHARD is a compelling tale of perseverance, despair, transformation and hope that will engage readers from the first harvest until the last trees are lost to eminent domain.
Gwendolyn tied her apron securely over her mourning dress and smoothed the fabric nervously. From her kitchen window, she kept a watchful eye on the squall as she dried the breakfast dishes. Out in the orchard, the citrus trees swayed in unison under the darkened sky, their branches quivering in anticipation of those first drops of rain. Like those trees in the grove, Gwendolyn longed for the quenching showers promised by the impending storm. Though not the worst drought she’d seen, it had been the hardest to weather.
Upstairs a loose shutter banged against the wall, informing her of a window she neglected to fasten. A flash of lightning illuminated the orchard, allowing a momentary glimpse of the trees, shaking wildly, their gentle rain dance now abandoned to the force of the gale.
Gwendolyn counted to herself, one, two, three…
In all her years marking the seconds, she never ceased being surprised by the thunder. But more on edge than usual, she took a double fright when the thunderclap echoed among the trees and rattled the panes throughout the house. The skillet she was drying slipped from her hands and clattered against the cast iron sink.
She unlatched the casement window and nudged it open. The crisp air wafted in and mixed with the stale warmth of the kitchen. She drew in a deep breath, and the aroma of the citrus, the garden, and the dampness filled her lungs. In that moment he was there, his arm around her waist, smelling of tobacco and dirt.