the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Child Without A Voice

Not long ago, I posted about the plight of autistic children in many parts of the world, and asked what a writer could do to stop it. I still don't have an answer to the larger questions, but one comment started me thinking of one thing we can all do. No matter what else may happen in the world, we can each try to help one person at a time.

Anna's son, Red, has apraxia, which means he can't talk. And her health insurer has decided Red's need for a speech therapist doesn't qualify. So Anna read my post and said, "Children who can't speak. God, how I understand that subject."

Anna's comment left me thinking about her son. Too many people are seeking donations for too many needs for a button seeking donations through PayPal to do much good. It always seems easier to raise funds if you offer something in return; that's why bake sales and raffles are so popular. But what can a blogger offer? Well, a lot of bloggers are writers, or want to be.

The best idea I've had to date is to produce an anthology of short stories on one theme: "a child without a voice". When it's ready, put it up for sale on LuLu and publicize it all over the Internet, hoping enough kind souls will buy the book, knowing all the profits are going to a good cause. I was considering this idea when I read on Anna's blog it was Red's birthday.

I'd planned to take more time, so I could have everything worked out. But I just couldn't wait. When I brought my idea up in the comments, Anna mentioned that Red will be without therapy over the summer, when school ends. I'm not at all sure it's even possible to do this that quickly, but I've got to try. All I'm asking you to do is read on, and see if there's anything you'd be willing and able to help with.

I understand many of you have your own worries, but I do hope you'll at least keep up with this project so you can write a short post about it - (please read what's needed, first...) - to help get the word out. I know many of you who read this blog are friends, and I don't want to presume on our friendship, but I don't think it's asking too much to hope most of you will write a short post or two to help out. (And, if you have your reasons for not doing so, I'll understand and respect that.)

I'll give more details on the anthology in a few paragraphs, for anyone who might consider writing a story for it, but there are other points that need to be worked out so the book can be published. First of all, the book can't legally be published without an agreement written by someone who understands copyright law, granting rights for this project but allowing each author to retain the remaining rights to their own work. If possible, it should cover submissions from any country, and sales to any country as well.

There is also the problem of setting this up so neither Anna nor I winds up with a nasty surprise from the tax man, and so everyone who participates can be sure the money really goes to help Red. I wouldn't even begin to know how to do that. I'm also not sure if such an arrangement is possible under LuLu's current terms of use, or whether a special accommodation will be necessary there. I can probably find that out on my own, at least.

Most of you can't help with the legal questions, but if you do have a relationship with any blawgs, or happen to know a good lawyer who might donate a bit of time, I'd appreciate your help. I'll also be seeking help myself, but I already know this - if I could afford to pay the lawyers, I could pay for the therapy myself and spare myself all the work! I'm just hoping the legal issues can be broken down into smaller tasks, and there will be enough lawyers willing to help.

If any of you have thoughts on how to improve the project, increase the chances this will raise enough money, or get things done quickly enough to help out this summer, please leave a comment! I promise that sharing ideas won't obligate you to do anything more, unless you want to. And if you're willing to help publicize the book once it's out, just e-mail me at thewanderingauthor [at] yahoo [dot] com so I know and I'll e-mail you to alert you when it's time.

A few of you might be willing to write a story for the anthology, and I'm hoping the rest of you might write a short post pointing my project out to anyone who might consider it. A lot of publicity is not good yet; that should wait until the book is ready for sale, or just before. But I do need to get the word out far enough to ensure enough submissions to make this work, and I'm hoping you'll each help there.

Now, what all the writers have been waiting for - the guidelines. You won't be paid for this, of course. And I'm going to try to produce as professional quality a book as possible. For a very few of my readers, that may mean I'd only need to proofread your manuscript. For most of you, I'll be editing your story (unless I can find a better editor) and I'll be merciless! You may learn a lot about cleaning up your prose, but I want you to be prepared.

And, no matter how good a friend you are, the important thing here is to help Red! So, if the story you submit isn't good enough, or it's late, I'm sorry, but I won't include it. Exactly how good the stories are will depend on who I can persuade to submit, and how soon I can get enough together for a book. So please, if you're a friend, don't expect special treatment.

I will consider stories of any length from flash fiction through novella (say, from as few words as you can pack a story into up to a maximum of about 25,000-30,000 words). If your story is over the limit, submit it anyway - chances are the prose will need pruning, and that will cut the word count. The more submissions I get, the better my chances of putting together a quality book that will serve the purpose well.

Please, don't worry about how good a writer you are! If you have the ability to get the raw material for a good story down on paper, I'll work with you to improve it if I need to. If I get enough submissions that need less work, then, yes, I'll pass you over. Again, the point here is to help a little boy who can't speak for himself, who can't do something as simple as just tell his mother he's terribly thirsty.

The theme of each story should be "a child without a voice". The child doesn't have to have apraxia, but they should literally be unable to speak so others can understand them. No allegories, or children who are just too afraid to speak, just children who share Red's plight, if not his condition. If your story ends with a solution, it shouldn't be too simple, and if you don't keep your story to roughly a PG-13 level, I'll edit it down to that.

At the moment, I'm considering several possible titles. Children Without Voices, The Words Just Will Not Come, and I Cannot Speak Up for Myself are the ideas I'm toying with right now, although that will probably change before publication. Feel free to submit ideas for a title, as well, or tell me what you think of the ideas under consideration. I'll be posting periodic updates, and there may be changes as I try to make this work as quickly as possible, but I'll try to put up a visible link to the most recent post, and provide a link back in that post to this one, so you can always keep up.

I close this with a final challenge - bloggers are viewed with disdain and disrespect by many people who don't blog. While helping Red is the most important part of this project, some of you could perhaps use a bit more motivation: this is a way to show the world what blogging can accomplish, and that bloggers can improve the world, one little bit at a time, if we put our minds to it.

Labels: , , , ,

An Interesting PhotoBlog

I've been meaning to write about this for some time now. Every time I try to, some urgent subject comes to my attention, or I'm too exhausted or sick to write a word. So, I finally decided I'd better write a short post now. It will be buried very shortly, but I hope to write a longer one later.

In the meantime, there is an interesting photoblog with many very nice photos, and a few excellent lithograph style illustrations created from photos. What's even better, these photos are free for private, non-commercial use on the web, as long as you comply with the terms of use. So give A Photographer's Eye a visit, and if you find something you think would look great on your personal home page, read and follow the terms of use and then go ahead and enjoy it.

Labels: , , ,

Sorry for the Hiatus

I had intended to post more frequently than this. First, I finally met my grandson for the first time; he was only visiting for a few days, and I wasn't about to spend time posting while he was here. Then, while he was still here, I had some very urgent work come up, which kept me quite busy.

I ended up staying up so late, I completely exhausted myself, and came down with something nasty which is still, slowly, clearing up. My attention has also been taken up with the pet food recall - my son's cat ate Science Diet Savory Cuts when he came to us. The kittens sampled it, and decided they liked it better than their own food.

So, we ended up feeding all the cats mostly better pet food, but with some of the Savory Cuts mixed in for taste. Thanks to the efforts of the companies involved to limit the recall rather than admitting they didn't even know which batches might have been contaminated, we kept giving it to them up to the blanket recall. So now we have an appointment on Wednesday to bring three cats to the vet's for bloodwork to have their kidney function checked.

Why are we doing this when they aren't showing obvious symptoms? There is always the possibility of damage that won't show up immediately. And, as we learned when my last cat died of kidney disease, the earlier any damage to the kidneys is caught the better. They can be fed a special diet to limit stress on their kidneys, and so on. So I'd appreciate your prayers, until we get the results. I'll let you know, either way - I'm desperately hoping the whole thing will prove to be unnecessary, of course, but I can't take that chance...

Labels: ,

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fifty Questions

I got this over at Anna's blog, and decided it looked interesting. I wanted to head this post with the VisualDNA thing I've seen on some other blogs, but whenever I click on Get Your Own... it just takes me to a blank, black page, so I guess you'll have to settle for this.

1. Name one thing you could not live without:

I have chosen to define pen, ink, and paper as "one thing", since none of them is any use without the others.

2. Name something you'd love to never see again:

Hate propaganda of any type.

3. What color is your bathroom rug?


4. Did you ever wear braces?

Never. Probably should have, though...

5. Extrovert or introverted?


6. What do you make of all this Anna Nicole Smith saga?

It's sad when anyone dies (well, almost anyone) but I really don't think she was significant enough to make this much fuss over.

7. What's the population of the city you live in?

30,000+ and growing. shudder

8. Have you told a lie today?

Not yet; if I just said "no" that would be a lie, since the day isn't over so how can I be sure...

9. Name something you're good at doing:

Writing. I hope so, anyway.

10. Now, something you do badly:

Modesty. See above. Also, singing. Very badly.

11. Who do you share your secrets with?

Whatever page I'm writing on.

12. Who's your best friend?

Tristan Brighteyes, Hero. (My tiger cat.)

13. Do you lie about your age?

Why bother?

14. Confrontation or avoidance?

If it's over an important issue, confrontation. But I'd rather avoid battling over silly stuff.

15. What's the last film you watched?

Fifty First Dates, on DVD. At least, I think that's the last one. I don't watch too many films, so it's been a while...

16. What about books?

Beyond the Gap by Harry Turtledove

17. Do you enjoy eating sushi?

To me, that's the reverse of the question "Is the Pope Catholic?", or the question about bears and their habits - something you use to indicate an obvious, loud, and resounding, "No!". Example: "Would you like me to break your kneecaps?" "Do I enjoy eating sushi?"

18. Name a place you long to visit:

Most places I could possibly go, and many impossible ones, too. (Hy Bresail, the legendary Celtic land beyond the sea... the past...)

19. Now tell me somewhere you would refuse to go?

North Korea.

20. Do you believe in life after death?


21. Do you talk to God?

Not as much as I ought to.

22. Any regrets?

Oh, yes. Too many.

23. If you could be anyone else in the world for just one day, who would you pick?

There's nothing I could do that would really change the world in one day as anyone else, so why bother? Whoever you were, they'd just change things right back the very next day. I think that would be even more frustrating than leaving them the way they are.

24. Who would you never want to be?

Anyone else.

25. Why wouldn't you want to be that person?

I'd rather be myself.

26. Tell me something that makes you uncomfortable:

Performing in public.

27. Now, something you are completely comfortable doing?


28. Do you have a favorite childhood memory?

Reading The Hobbit while eating vanilla filled chocolate Pop Tarts.

29. Worst one?

If 17 counts as 'childhood', 15 May 1976, otherwise, second grade.

30. Think of a song that describes how you feel at this point in your life

I Got A Name - Jim Croce

31. What was the last social function you attended?

My son's wedding. In 2003. I don't do social functions often.

32. Is your life what you thought it would be at this point?

In some ways yes, and in some ways, not at all.

33. You can change one thing about your life right now. What would it be?

Without losing any of the cats I have now, my old cat, Sir Andrew Bugbane, would still be alive.

34. Is there anyone who knows everything about you? All of your secrets?

I'm not sure I know all of them myself; who ever understands themselves perfectly?

35. Is there anyone that you trust completely?

That would be God.

36. How did you find your way to your profession?

I didn't 'find my way' to it, it was a part of me since I was born, or at least as far back as I can remember.

37. Do you believe in life long monogamy?

I believe it's a good ideal, that some people are able to achieve, while some aren't. I don't believe in persecuting anyone, or pointing fingers, because they can't live up to an ideal.

38. What's your favorite food?

There are a lot of possibilities here: ham and eggs, at the moment.

39. Favorite alcoholic bevarage?

I don't drink; too afraid I'd turn out an alcoholic. My favourite non-alcoholic beverage is Virgil's root beer.

40. If you could talk to anyone in the world, who would it be?

Anne Frank.

41. What would you say to that person?

I'd tell her how sorry I was that the human race failed her so badly, and how much I admire the little writing she had time to do, and how very badly I wish I knew how to build a time machine so I could go back and get her out before she died. I'd let her know she was famous; that the Nazis didn't destroy her writing, her spirit, or her impact on the world. I'd tell her I hoped that made all she went through just a little bit easier. And then I'd tell her I knew just how little all that I said was, in the face of what she was dealing with...

42. What was the first concert you went to?

Olivia Newton-John (Making a Good Thing Better tour)

43. The last?

Gloria Estefan (I forget the tour; she did too many hits from too many albums...)

44. Are you a gadget guru? What kinds do you rock, if any?

Not in the high tech sense; I rely on my Pelikan piston fill fountain pens and my Moleskines... I'm pretty good with a letterpress, too.

45. What is the ringtone on your cell phone?

Just a basic ring tone; "Euro Phone", I think it's called.

46. Tell me 3 things you are afraid of:

Height, radiation / anything nuclear, and totalitarianism in any form.

47. Give me the names of your 3 favorite television programs:

Dempsey and Makepeace (British, from the '80s), Quantum Leap, Early Edition

48. What do you think is worse: having your heart broken by the one you love or breaking the heart of the one you love?

Breaking the heart of the one you love. Much worse. Having your own heart broken heals much faster.

49. Name a behavior of other people that you don't understand:

The whole mob hatred thing. It is just stupid, senseless....

50. What is something about you that you think others would not understand?

Why I've made some of the stupid choices I have, in the past.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


"Let's go see what the storm did!"
"Be careful, Tom! Mom said the creek could still be high."
"I'm not afraid of no creek, even if it is high. You ain't afraid, are you, Sam?"
"Only dummies say ain't."
"Hey! I'm telling Mom you called me a dummy!"
"I told you only dummies say ain't. Ask her if that isn't true."
"Who cares? You're afraid of the creek!"
"The water gets deep enough, it could even knock Dad off his feet."
"Yeah? Wow! Hey, wait a minute! First you said it was high, then you said it was deep. Which one is it, Sam?"
"Ummm.... You know when it's nighttime, how it can be late or it can be dark?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"It's kind of like that. When the creek floods it can be two things at once. It can be high, and it can be deep."
"Gee... words are confusing, sometimes, ai... aren't they? Wow! Look!"
"The bridge is gone! Or maybe that's part of it, down there."
"But how will we get across?"
"We can't right now, that's for sure."
"You're such a smarty pants. You always think you know everything, just 'cause you're a little older."
"Well, we can't, Squirt!"
"Yes, we can! Look, a tree's down, right across the creek."
"So what?"
"We walk across it, that's what."
"Tom, it's not very big. And the ends are just laying on the banks. What if... Wait!"
"Watch this! Whoa! Sam, it's moving! I'm scared!"
"Tom! Are you okay? .... Tommy!?"
"I told you not to call me Tommy, smarty pants?"
"Well, why didn't you answer me, Squirt?"
"I was trying to scare you. You should have seen your face!"
"See ya later, Squirt!"
"Hey! Wait! Wait! I'm sorry!"
"What do you want?"
"I'm stuck over here, Sam! You'll come and get me, won't you?"
"Why would I do a stupid thing like that? I'm bigger than you are, remember?"
"Yeah, so you're supposed to take care of me. Mom said!"
"Listen, Tom, that thing bent when you were on it. What do you think it would do if I tried to walk across it?"
"I don't care! You weren't supposed to let me. What's Mom going to say?"
"Ohhh... wait a minute, you little brat!"
"I'm telling Mom you called me a brat!"
"Tell her that, and I'll tell her why. I told you not to, but you ran out before I could stop you."
"Oh, forget it!"
"Thought so. Okay, here I come. I don't know how we're both going to..."
"Sam!? .... Sam, are you okay? .... Get up, Sam! .... Hey, come on, get up, Sam! It's not funny! .... I know you're just trying to scare me, like I did. .... The water's pullin' at your legs, Sam! .... Sam? Oh, Sam, c'mon, please, get up. I promise I won't ever give you any more trouble, ever again. .... I'll even let you have my fighter plane, the one I got for my birthday. C'mon, Sam! .... HEY! OH, HEY, MISTER DUNPHY! OVER HERE, BY THE CREEK! HELP! HELP!"
"What's the matter... oh, my... is that Sam down there?"
"Yes, oh yes, please, Mister Dunphy, can you make him get up?"
"I'll go call the rescue squad, then I'll come back to stay with you until they come."
"Mister Dunphy! Are they coming? The water's already starting to pull him in!"
"They're on their way, Tommy. They should be here any minute."
"Oh, but Mister Dunphy, it's all my fault. I... What are you doing?"
"I think I can just reach him with this branch. I've got to try to keep him from being washed away."
"It's okay, Tommy. The rescue squad will do everything they can for him. Look, here they come!"
"Mom! What did the doctor say? Is Sam going to be okay?"
"He's got a couple of broken bones, and he hurt his head, but they said it could have been worse. They think he's going to be all right."
"Is he coming home with us?"
"Not yet, Tommy. Do you want to see him? We can go in, just for a few minutes."
"Come along, then."
"Wow, Sam, you look just like The Mummy! How'd you get them to give you all those bandages?"
"Don't worry about it, Mom. He can't help being a little Squirt."
"Calm down, Thomas. Sam isn't supposed to get excited."
"So I look like The Mummy, huh?"
"Yeah. You should see yourself."
"I'll get a chance later, I guess. I just... I don't remember much after I fell, but..."
"Can you remember anything?"
"Not really. It doesn't matter, I guess."
"We'd better go, Tom. We don't want to wear Sam out. Goodbye, Sam."
"Hey, Mom, when we get home, since Sam's not gonna be there, can I eat his piece of pie for him?"

This story was written for the March Creative Carnival over at Write Stuff, and for their contest. The winning entry last month was an excellent story, so why don't you go on over and check out the other entries?

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 12, 2007

Courage or Cowardice?

How should a writer respond to outrages such as the one I wrote about below? I don't ask this question in order to put anyone else on the spot. It is my belief each of us must make the best of our lives in our own fashion. I don't know anyone else's heart, or the deeds they do in secret. So if you've settled this question to your own satisfaction, I have no right to say your answer is the wrong one.

Even if you pursue a different course than I believe is wise, you may be right and I may be wrong, or each of us may be, in different ways, right. You may do more to make the world a better place than I ever manage to do. I ask the question because it is one I wrestle with. I am not satisfied that I have found the best answer.

When I learn of suffering and injustice, should I set aside the writing I'd like to be doing, and write endless articles in the hope someone will take notice? Or, should I learn about these things, absorb them, and then write whatever I am inclined to, trusting that my sensibilities will come through and influence my readers? One way, I am unhappy and it seems that no one ever listens.

The other way seems so inadequate, so selfish, even if there are examples of authors whose fiction has helped to shape the opinions of a society. I understand one of the reasons the media won't cover these stories; most people are tired of hearing about them, worn out with learning of tragedies it seems they can do nothing to prevent. I, too, am tired of hearing about them.

I'd like nothing more than to know that the outrages were ended, there was no need to hear of them or think of them any more. But that isn't the way the world works. So, as a writer, I have to ask myself the question, "What should I do? How can I best help?" Writing is my greatest talent, however limited that talent may be. And those who are weary of thinking about such things are more likely to read my thoughts if they're slipped into a work of fiction.

Yet, as any fiction writer knows, you can't write a thinly disguised tract and have it entertain anyone. Yes, I could churn out a melodrama within a few weeks, complete with sympathetic victims and posturing, horribly evil villains. And no one would want to read it, and even if they did, it would not do justice to the complexity of the subject.

You can't force fiction. I have to write the ideas that come to me. Will the right idea ever arrive? I have no way of knowing. Which way lies courage, and which way cowardice? I will probably continue to do as I have so far, writing fiction, and occasionally howling out in words of grief and rage when I learn of some more unbearable tragedy.

What does that make me? Am I a coward for not confronting these issues head on? Or would I simply be wasting my effort, doing nothing but easing my own conscience? The final decision is mine, I bear the responsibility, but I welcome the opinions of any of my readers who feel they have any answers. And I fear, whatever decision I make, I will never be wholly at peace with it as long as hatred takes its awful toll on the innocent.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 11, 2007

When Will We Learn?

I had hoped to be writing a Marieke story tonight. I enjoy writing, and it's what I prefer to do. But sometimes you need to set aside what you want to do in favour of what you need to do. I read a post over at Kim Stagliano's blog that really upset me, and I believe the issue needs wider publicity.

Please, go over there to read the post. I'm sorry if you're busy and were hoping for a quick, fun read, but this is important. You can come back here when you're done.

A lot of the information you just read shocked and upset me, but one item stood out. It stood out because it was the only one that specifically mentioned life expectancy. It seems that in North Korea, autistic children are sent off to "a remote institution where their life expectancy is less than 2 years". Many of them starve to death.

How is this any different than the groups singled out in Nazi Germany to be sent to concentration camps where they died, often of starvation? Why haven't we heard any of this from the media? Oh, I forgot, they were busy covering the really important stories, like the fate of Anna Nicole Smith's dead body. In fairness to the media, though, they cover what we want to know about.

It seems that, as a society, we are more interested in the fate of one dead woman's body than the fate of thousands, perhaps millions, of living, helpless children. Or at least that's what the media thinks. I hope most of my readers disagree. I hope most of them are wondering why the American government is silent about this issue.

Why can the United States, which tosses billions of dollars around the world, not do more to help those countries who sincerely want to do more but don't have the funds to do it? Why don't we speak out against the governments that just want to kill helpless children? How many more countries is this happening in? Is it just North Korea, or are there other regimes willing to get rid of the "inconvenient"?

Why haven't we, as a society, learned anything from history? When will we learn? How many millions will die before we do learn? And how can we say, "We didn't know", when in fact the lessons of history have told us enough that we should know? Killing any group of human beings is never acceptable! That isn't such a long lesson, or such a difficult one, so why is it so often ignored? If you don't have time now, come back later to visit geistweg † genocide, a blog about this very subject, one that potentially threatens every human being on earth.

I hope every one of you who reads my post will do what you feel that you can. It isn't my place to tell you what you are able to do, but I can make a few suggestions. Write about this on your own blog, contact the press to ask why they aren't covering it, write to your Senator and Representative to complain that the United States isn't doing more. Please... for the sake of all those helpless children who can't even speak for themselves and are starving to death in North Korea and perhaps elsewhere as I type this.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, March 09, 2007


When Count Ladislav Cernik died in the Crusades, his son Karel inherited his title and the remains of his fortune. He sold what he could, bought a tall new house near the town clock, and considered his options. He began collecting every alchemical text he could lay hands on, assembling arcane instruments and rare substances in the broad attic chamber.

Karel intended to become wealthy again. He devoured bulky tomes and spent hours toiling over alembics and retorts, struggling to turn lead into gold. Nights spent hunched over smoking crucibles proved rewarding enough to encourage him. He hired a succession of pretty young peasant girls to care for his needs.

As he grew older, he realised the true wealth of the alchemist lay in the accumulation of knowledge. He widened his studies, and took to hiring widows who would tend the house and prepare his meals without bothering him overmuch. He found the answers to questions lesser men never thought to ask.

One day Karel noticed he was older than the crone currently looking after him. No wonder alchemical writers paid such attention to the quest for immortality! Feverishly he worked, growing ever more hoary and stooped, until at long last he tasted the elixir of life. Finally, he was free to pursue knowledge without limit.

In time, his housekeeper died, forcing him to seek a replacement. In the marketplace, an astonishing, radiant girl caught his eye. Marieke was an orphan desperate for honest work, more than capable of meeting his simple needs. She proved quick and intelligent, so he began training her to assist him.

Before long, Karel depended on her so much he permitted her to sample the precious elixir. Many years later, rumours spread of his impossible age. It was Marieke who noticed and stopped them. She talked of a family resemblance, and the perseverance of a traditional name. No one ever saw the Count much, or gave much thought to him, so her story was soon accepted.

Girls came from the country to find work all the time, so no one took much notice of Marieke, either. She was careful, whenever she went out, to dull her beauty to no more than an unremarkable prettiness common to most girls. No one save the Count could have said how long she had worked for him, anyway.

Even he couldn't have said how much time she spent poring over the pages of his fragile books, or pottering by herself in his laboratory. He knew she did these things in her free time, but it kept her happy, so he saw no reason to interfere. Unlike her master, she also spent time in the streets and coffehouses, listening to talk there.

Eventually, she found her way to the public library. Her tale of a master who dispatched her to borrow textbooks for his studies was easily accepted. Who had ever heard of a servant girl bothering to read? If a noted scholar chose not to waste his own precious time doing little more than run errands, that was his own affair. So Marieke read what she pleased.

Things might have gone on like this forever, if the Germans had not come. The day they came goosestepping over the cobbles, the Count's ancient house exploded. Some said it was a stray shell from a panzer. Others blamed the planes overhead. Marieke quietly announced the old man was dead, as the last of his books crumbled to ash in the flames.

While everyone else stared at the fading embers, Marieke vanished. Later, when the Germans came with their papers and their questions, asking for the Count by name, they seemed dismayed to find his house destroyed. No one mentioned Marieke. No one even knew her name. Certainly, no one suspected she had understood they would come.

No one guessed that from the moment she knew it was inevitable, she dreaded the use they might make of the knowledge the Count had accumulated. Only Karel ever knew of her efforts to persuade him to stand against them, or flee. And surely he had no idea when he refused how far she would go to keep that information out of their hands. For all his faults, he trusted her.

I'm hoping to write more about Marieke one of these days. She intrigues me; when this vignette popped into my head, I couldn't rest until I set it down on paper. I also know one or two things about her that aren't clear from this story, which should make her an interesting character to work with.