Remembering Freedom, Conclusion

battle%20-of-monmouthSmoke seethed through the trees like a living thing, thick and choking, until people became nothing more than vague shadows. The heavy pounding of mortar shells punctuated the ragged roar of musket fire.  Shrill screams of men and horses sliced through it all.

Rivers of sweat carved runnels of mud through the caked dirt on Ichabod’s face. His shirt clung damply to his back. His aching feet felt every pebble under the thin soles of his boots, burst blisters burning like fire. The commander’s horse flicked his tail at a buzzing fly.

Colonel Hale observed the combat from his saddle. Somehow, Hale was able to see what was happening and occasionally gave Ichabod a command to beat out on his drum. Other drummers relayed the command through the lines.

A gust of wind shredded the curtain of smoke. Men in homespun lined the slopes of the ravine seeking cover behind trees and logs firing round after round into the British ranks. Many of the colonials no longer loaded their weapons, instead clutching shredded clothing, red stains spreading from beneath their fingers. Others lay still, broken and bloody. The redcoats fired back, but their dead and wounded already littered the ground.

As Ichabod watched, the big artillery lobbed mortars down into the already pockmarked road. A British officer tried to pull his mount away from the blast, but the pair went down. The horse screamed as its shattered legs twitched uselessly. The heartbreaking cry echoed through the woods until the officer raised himself up on one elbow and ended the beast’s pain with his pistol. Then he lay back and did not move again.

The breeze died once more and the smoke drew its veil across the ghastly scene. But the images were emblazoned forever on Ichabod’s memory.

Is it worth it? The question drifted through his mind. Is Freedom worth the price we paid in this bloody battle?

b9cd2605b8033340344e17e2b10afb60The thought of his mother weeping over the grave of his father and the memory of an innocent kiss beneath the apple blossoms answered him back.

Yes, Freedom is worth it all.

 

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Remembering Freedom, Part 3

swat_refugees-2 campIchabod approached the camp just behind Lieutenant Clark. Row after row of white tents filled the trampled field. Cook fires were evenly spaced between the rows, each one circle by men clutching tin plates. The eyes of the men silently followed the ragged line of recruits as they passed through the tents.

The recruits stood out from the established troops like a fresh young colt beside an ancient plow horse. One man, whose tangled hair nearly hid his eyes, drew Ichabod’s gaze. But those eyes were hard and relentless in their study. The man’s face was heavily lined and a fresh scar drew a red line from brow to chin. As Ichabod watched, the man’s right eye closed in a wink. Ichabod flinched and hurried to catch up with the Lieutenant.

The new arrivals were dispersed to their new squads until only Ichabod was left. His toe nudged the sack of belongings at his feet. Maybe he would be sent home after all.

“What about me, sir?” Ichabod asked the man beside him. After coming so far, he was afraid there was no place for him. After walking through the solemn camp, a small doubt had crept in.

“I have not forgotten you, Ichabod. I have something for you.” Lieutenant Clark ducked into a nearby tent. Almost immediately, he returned holding a drum. It showed signs of having been brightly painted at one time, but now the paint was scratched and peeling, the skin discolored. “Do you know what this is?”

“Yes, sir, it is a drum.”

“Do you know what it is used for.” The Lieutenant stared at Ichabod with unreadable eyes.

“To keep time, sir.”

“Yes, but in the army it becomes more. It is a tool for communication. With it, I can pass along orders and encouragement to men out of range of my voice.”

“Yes, sir.”

“My drummer has become incapacitated and I need someone to take his place. Are you willing to do so?”

“Yes, sir. But I do not know how to play.”

“Percy will show you.” Lieutenant Clark ducked into the tent once more. Ichabod followed him.

A boy, not much older than he, sat on the narrow cot with a crude crutch beside him. The boy’s right leg ended just below the knee.

“Percy, this is Ichabod, he will need you to show him the rhythms. Now I will leave you two boys to get started.” Lieutenant Clark left leaving stark silence behind him.

“Why are you here?” the boy, Percy, stared at Ichabod.th ichabod drummer

“To learn to play the drum, I guess.”

“No, I mean why are you here in camp instead of at home with your family?”

“I came to fight the British.” Ichabod paused, Percy’s expression seemed to require more. “The redcoats have killed my father and have taxed my family into poverty. We are little more than slaves on our own land working ourselves to death to make some foreign king rich.”

“What if you end up like me, or like your pa, will you feel the same?”

Ichabod looked at the other boy. Even though he was only a year or two older, his eyes seemed ancient and full of pain. Was freedom worth this?

“Yes, even if I die, if it makes life better for those I love, freedom is worth it.”

Remembering Freedom, Part two

Ichabod paused at the washbasin beside the door. His shoulders and back were pleasantly tired from holding the plow steady as the team pulled it across the field. He had worked until dark to finish the plowingil_570xN_395608811_702s ichabod. It was the least he could do. He was leaving his mother alone while he went off to war. Uncle Abijah said that he would see the fields planted and tended until Ichabod came home. Guilt still curled in his belly.

The cool water felt good against his face and arms, the harsh soap stripped away the layers of dirt that had accumulated through the day. With one hand, Ichabod groped for a towel burying his face in its folds. It smelled of the lavender sachet that Ma kept in the linen cupboard. When he opened his eyes, he ran his fingers over the delicate embroidery along the edge. Ma’s company towel. He blinked away tears.

“Supper is ready, son.”

Ichabod gently laid the towel on the washstand and stepped into the warm kitchen. Ma stood before the hearth, scooped a roasted haunch of venison from the iron cook pot, and placed it onto the waiting platter. She bent to lift the heavy platter, but Ichabod took it from her hands, carrying it to the table.

“Are we having company for dinner?” Ichabod set the meat at one end of the table. Ma had set the table with her good dishes, heirlooms that had crossed the Atlantic with her grandparents.

“No, just us.” Ma wiped her hand on her apron and adjusted her cap. “I wanted you to have one good meal before you left.”

“You told me to pray before I made a final decision. How do you know what I will choose?” Ichabod frowned. Then he saw her red eyes and flushed cheeks.

“I know you will go. You are your father’s son and will do what you think is right.” Her eyes filled and a single tear trickled down her cheek. “I knew when they came to tell us of your father’s death on the battlefield that you would go.”

“Then you do not mind?”

“Of course I mind. This war claimed my husband, and now seeks to take my son as well. I do not want you to go, but I know why you must. We have been tied torebeccajpeg dorcas perry2 Britain long enough. Even I know that if we do not claim our independence now, we may never have another chance. I want my grandchildren to live in a free country, unbound from the decrees of people so far away. The Brits have used us and exploited us for years giving little in return.”

Ichabod stared at his mother. He had no idea she felt that way.  She smiled at him and dabbed at her tears with a handkerchief.

“You see, son, I have listened to your father and the others talk, I do understand.” She patted his hand. “But I do not have to like it.”

Remembering Freedom

il_570xN_395608811_702s ichabodThe drooping branches covered with apple blossoms created a private bower filled with soft pink light. The sweet smell of flowers was strong, but not enough to mask the fresh-bread scent of the girl beside him. Ichabod tried to etch the scene into his mind so that he could bring it out again when he was far from home.

“I still don’t see why you have to go. You are to young to fight.” Jemima brushed at the dusting of flour coating her apron, refusing to meet his gaze. Jemima had been helping her mother with the daily baking when he had signaled her to meet him

“I turn sixteen today, and that is old enough.” Ichabod took her hands and waited until she looked at him.  It was the first time he had touched her as anything other than a childhood friend. Finally, her warm brown eyes met his. A flush crept over her face making the dusting of gold freckles stand out. She tried to tug her hands out of his, but not very hard.

“When will you go?” Jemima’s voice had grown soft so that he had to strain to hear her. She no longer pulled her hands away, gripping tightly instead.

“Tomorrow. I promised ma I would spend the night in prayer before making a final decision. I couldn’t deny her even though I am sure this is the right thing to do.”

“What will she do without you. Your pa is scarcely cold in his grave.”

“That is exactly why I have to go. Pa died fighting for what he believed in, but the war isn’t over. I need to go finish what he started.” Ichabod looked down into her face, no longer flushed, put pale. Her eyes had gone wide.

“You are actually going to fight the British? Papa says that there is no way we can win this war. He says that we should just give up and pay the stupid taxes before we are all killed.”

“Does he really think that the Lobster Backs will go quietly home if we let them get away with this? ‘Cause they won’t. They will stay and make us pay for daring to rebel against the crown. If that happens we would be better off dead.”

Jemima gasped. “Ichabod Perry, you can’t mean it! It is a sin to wish to be dead.” She tried again to pull her hands away, but he continued to hold them.

“I don’t want to die, but I want to live in a land where I can be free to make myself heard. A land where I can marry and raise children without being afraid that some far off king can take all that I have worked for, all that I love. Jemima, my pa paid for that freedom with his life, can I do less than offer my own for what he believed in, what I believe in?”

“But what if you die? What will become of your mother, of the people who love you?” Jemima looked down at their joined hands. “What about me?”2502436305_47e562154f_m Jemima

Ichabod’s heart leapt in his chest. That was what he had been hoping for.

“That’s why I came over today. I am leaving before first light tomorrow and I wanted to see you before I left.” Ichabod released one hand and placed it under her chin, drawing her gaze up to meet his once more. “Jemima, I know that I am only sixteen and you are just fourteen, but I know my heart. Will you wait for me while I am going off to war? Will you promise to write to me? I don’t know how often I will be able to get mail, or write back, but will you write and let me know how you are and how Ma is?”

Jemima’s face flushed scarlet at his improper request. He knew  he should wait until they were older and received her father’s permission, but he was going away into a fearful future and wanted something to encourage him until he returned. He could feel the heat of her blush through his fingers, but her eyes stayed steady on his.

“I will wait for you Ichabod Perry. I will wait for you until the end of time.” Quick as a darting bird, Jemima rose to her toes and pressed her soft lips to his. She pulled away and her soft brown eyes filled with tears. “Just make sure you come home so I don’t wait forever.” Then she put her fingers to quivering lips and fled through the apple blossoms.

 

 

Kate’s World Blog Tour

I have been invited to participate in the world blog tour by my friend, Diane Tatum. Her blog  http://tatumlight-tatumsthoughts4today.blogspot.com/posted last week and 9835_4780107118993_1150957166_n book coverwas very informative.

Diane and I met at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference and were drawn together by our shared love of history and writing. After teaching middle school language arts in Tullahoma City Schools for 11 years, Diane retired with her husband’s encouragement to write the historical fiction books that she had been starting and saving on her computer. Gold Earrings was published in 2011. She has started a generational series of historical fiction novels set in American history. The first in that series is Colonial Dream and is completed. She has started the second in the series set in 1809, Transforming Bitterness Into Joy .  The third book in the series is set during the Civil War is completed, A Time to Choose.  She has also added college professor to her resume teaching English as an adjunct professor for Motlow State Community College. I have read her book Gold Earrings as well as parts of Transforming Bitterness Into Joy on the critique loop of ACFW. I can’t wait to read the final product.

For this blog, I was told to answer 4 questions then introduce 3 writers who will do the same on their blog posts next week. So here we go.

1. What am I working on?

Well, That is a loaded question. I am working on several things at the moment, depending on my mood for the day. My biggest project is Safe Within These Walls which is the tale of Rahab and the spies at Jericho. I have completed the rough draft and am slowly working through the editing and rewriting process. It is far more complicated than I thought when I started which is why I turn to other projects when I need a break.

My other big project is a collection of short stories that I have written over the years. They all tell the tale of either Jesus’ healing miracles or life changing encounters. I have some stories published in The Other Side of Miracles for this collection, I want something different. I have created a character that is seeking the truth of Jesus and when he encounters people with a story to tell, it brings him one step closer to faith.

I also have two lighter tales in the works, a Western geared toward middle grade readers and my sons and I are actually working on stories based on Minecraft, their favorite online game. They come up with the plot and some of the scenes, and I tie it all together and edit. We are hoping to publish a series of ebooks for others to enjoy.

 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Biblical Fiction is not a well known genre although it is gaining in popularity. I think my stories are different mainly because I try to write my characters so that if you were to drop them into a contemporary scene, they would be able to adapt with only a change of clothes and some technology. I try to keep my stories gritty and real while walking that fine line between showing the reality and not offending my readers. Life 2000 or more years ago was harsh and cruel. It is a challenge to give readers an honest taste while not making them toss their cookies.

 

3. Why do I write what I do?

I am a firm believer that people have not changed since Adam and Eve left the garden. God said that he is the same yesterday, today and forever, and I think that holds true for humans, too. We are broken vessels that seek to hide our brokenness. We love, laugh, mourn and despair no matter what millennium or country we live in. I was raised in the church and grew up thinking that the bible was full of stories and characters that, while interesting to read, they had little to no bearing on my life today. I found out that I was wrong. So I began writing stories taken directly from the scriptures and retold them with my own twists to make them live again. My hope is that my stories will cause people to take another look at the bible and see themselves in it.

 

4. How does my writing process work?

I am a pantser- which means that I write by the seat of my pants. I have tried outlining and storyboarding, but it has never worked for me. In most cases, I have a general idea of where I want the story to go, but getting there is always a leap of faith. More often than not, the story takes on a life of its own and ends up totally different than what I had originally intended, and it is usually better.

I do try to spend some time writing every weekday, although it doesn’t always work out that way. If one story isn’t working out for me, I will try a different one. It is rare that I can’t write something on any given day and if I can’t write something new I can always go back and tweak what is already there.

Which brings me to my last phase, critiquing. This is often the hardest part. I belong to three different critiquing groups, 1 secular and 2 Christian. Each one offers something different and I learn and grow from their comments. But that doesn’t make it easy. I am putting my babies up on display, bits of my heart and soul, and no matter how gentle they are, sometimes that growth hurts. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Well that’s it for me, come back next week for a peek at what some of my other friends are doing.

10302329_10152515130759059_4812858995563312394_nRuth O’Neil has been a friend since . . . well we won’t say how long, but it is safe to say we grew up together and strangely didn’t discover our shared love of writing until recent years. Ruth was born and raised in upstate New York and attended Houghton College. She has been a freelance writer/editor for more than twenty years. She has published hundreds of articles in dozens of publications as well as publishing a few books. She has spent the last few years working in publishing, working closely with writers editing their books and preparing them for print. She helps writers learn about the publishing world through her writer’s forums. One of the things she enjoys doing most is helping others see their publishing dreams come true. This is what led her into acquisitions. When she’s not writing or homeschooling her kids, Ruth spends her time quilting, reading, scrapbooking, camping, and hiking with her family. http://ruthoneil.weebly.com/    http://ruths-real-life.blogspot.com/

Erin Unger is another Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conferee. When we met, it felt as if we had already been friends for years.Memphis

Erin believes that writing was a gift 1234834_510894622328242_59161338_nGod gave her one day when she felt lost and purposeless.  She loved to write when she was young, but it wasn’t until she turned 27 that she claimed that gift. Now she is working on a couple of manuscripts, at least one of which is ready for an agent to peruse and fall in love with. Erin is also a gifted illustrator. Memphis Learns the Hard Way is a children’s book about making the right choices and is filled with Erin’s sweet and colorful art. Check out her blog at http://erineunger.blogspot.com

 

165342_1815290511691_4496854_n

Beth Brubaker is yet another Conferee. I met some truly wonderful people during those few days. Beth has a wonderful and real sense of humor, always able to look on the funny side. It shows in her writing as well as her conversation. http://footprintsinthemudblog.blogspot.com  Beth’s witty commentary offers spiritual lessons taken from daily life. She also has a strong creative side that can make beautiful and useful items from everyday objects.