Jim Miller Jim Miller
Recommendations: 29

the rose sill in her hand,..still?

Paul Day Paul Day
Recommendations: 5

Yes, she presented it to him earlier to sniff. She had not let it go. :)

Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 39

Yes Jim, it is supposed to be spelt 'still' and not 'sill'. Okay with that Paul?

Jim Miller Jim Miller
Recommendations: 29

his latest find, a scull...skull? (that's the American spelling, anyway.)

Paul Day Paul Day
Recommendations: 5

Yes you are right. Will fix it now.

Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 39

No Jim, it is spelt 'skull' here in Australia.

Paul Day Paul Day
Recommendations: 5

Lucy, I had misspelled it and I've now changed it from Scull to Skull. :)

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Paul Day Paul Day
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Dragon Bones

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

Ok, so I got the picture book thing done and out of the way for now. I thought I would turn my attention to a YA novel I have had brewing. This is aimed at young people aged mainly between 8 and 14. Tell me what you think about the structure, language, dialogue etc. Please note change to chapter 1 title now "The Dancer". Next chapter is The Explorers.

Chapter 1: The Dancer

Tommy loved learning about the great explorers, Wentworth, Lawson and others. But he didn’t like his history teacher very much. Mr Patterson was a crabby old man who had been teaching far too long, Tommy thought. Nevertheless, he loved the subject and was prepared to put up with the odd outburst in class and his teacher's droning voice. Apart from Science, it was the only other subject he was any good at and he usually got B’s and even the occasional A for his efforts. It was in science though that Tommy really flourished. He was lucky enough to have a good science teacher, Mr Cromwell, a man who always wore a smile and greeted his class each day with a funny story before the lesson began.

Tommy’s father had identified his rare talents very early on and had insisted he start school earlier than normal. This meant that Tommy was always the youngest in his class. The youngest in Reception, then the youngest in Middle School and now, as he started a new year in year 7, he was the youngest kid in High school. He was little too. The Hobbit, the bigger kids had nick-named him. In his usual way, he saw the brighter side, confessing to his brother Kenneth that it could be worse.

Tommy’s mother Patricia had always disagreed with his dad about starting school so young and she and his father had always argued about that and many other things besides. In fact, Tommy hardly knew a day when his parents had not argued. If his dad said left, his mum said right. It was the same with everything else. Little wonder then, one day his father did not return home from work.

“When’s dad coming back?” Tommy had asked one morning, tears welling up in his little eyes. His mother had looked away and for a while Tommy was afraid she would not answer. Then, she turned to him, knelt down, placed a hand on his shoulder, looked him right in the eyes and said with quivering lips, “He’s not.” Tommy’s older brother Kenneth had been standing at the kitchen doorway the whole time.

“It’s your fault!” he almost yelled. “You did this. You’re the reason he left and you’re the reason he’s not coming back.” With that accusation, he had left her and Tommy standing there crying. Of course it was completely unfair to level all the blame on one person, but what else could a young man do. At the tender age of 9, Kenneth was an abrupt and blunt young man. He had loved his father. They both had. It hurt deeply that his dad had left them without so much as a wave goodbye. Neither of them understood why and their mother never found it in her heart to try and explain. Perhaps, Tommy thought when he was older, she did not know the reason herself. Maybe there wasn’t just one reason, but lots of them.

One night Tommy woke to hear someone crying and he crept down the hallway and peered through the doorway into his mother’s room. He found her curled up into a ball on the floor next to her bed, her body convulsing as she sobbed. Tommy’s first thought was to go to her, but he decided he did not have the words to say that would make her feel ok. It broke his heart to see her like that and he made up his mind that no matter what, he would not blame her. His brother, on the other hand, seemed to want to use every opportunity to have a go at her, often bringing her to tears. The two of them fought a lot. Seeing them fight reminded Tommy of the times when Dad was home. In fact, seeing Kenny like this reminded him more and more of how similar his brother was to his father. As time wore on, Tommy thought less and less of his father. Being so young when he had left, it was easier to forget in some ways. But Kenny was much older and it appeared he would never forget and possibly never forgive.

“Are you coming?” asked an excited Tommy, when his brother walked into his room.

“What camping? I suppose, if I have to. Nothing to do around here anyway. Did you ask mum?”

“Not yet.”

“She won’t let you. Not in April. Not so soon after summer.”



Tommy grimaced. “You ask her then.”

“Me? No way. It was your idea. You wanna go. You ask her.”

“What about if we take others with us.”

“Others? Who the hell are we gonna take that would wanna come?”

Tommy thought for a minute. There was no one at school he liked or who liked him enough that they would be willing to go camping for a week in the sticks. Then he had a brainwave.

“Katie. I’ll ask Katie.”

“What, next door? In ya dreams.”

“Why not?”

“Look, I know ya got the hots for her kid, but she wouldn’t even know your name, let alone go out bush for a week with ya.”

“How da you know?”

“I just know alright?”

Tommy was losing the argument quickly. He decided to pull out all stops.

“I’ll make a deal with ya.”

“A deal?” Kenny scoffed.

“Yeah. If I can get Katie to agree to come, then you have to take someone too.”

“Oh boy. Really? That’s your deal? Well, now let me see. How about this then. If you can somehow get Katie, a girl who is way out of your league, to come camping with us, then I’ll ask…Sandy.” he said sarcastically.

“Sandy Summers? You don’t even like her.”

“Exactly, cause it aint gonna happen. Got it?” Kenny was about to walk away when Tommy continued.

“We have a deal then?”

Kenny rolled his eyes and pulled a face, wobbling his head from side to side in the same way he always did when he couldn’t be bothered arguing anymore.

“Whatever kid.”

“We have to shake on it.”

“What are we, in Kindy or something?”

“A deal’s only a deal if ya shake on it.”

Kenny knew his brother wasn’t about to let it go. He could see the determination in his eyes. He hated being pestered and, figuring it wouldn’t matter when Katie said no, he decided to agree. They shook hands. Tommy grinned.

The next day Tommy went next door and found a smiling Katie sitting on her porch out front. When she saw him she didn’t roll her eyes. She didn’t turn away. She didn’t pretend she hadn’t seen him. Instead, she lept up and met him at the bottom of the stairs that led out onto the front garden and quickly picked a rose.

“Smell it.” she said cheerily.

Tommy leant forward and took a big sniff. He sniffed so hard that a petal was sucked up his nostril and he began to cough and then sneezed it back out into his hand. Katie started giggling and Tommy would have left right there and then had she not pulled out a tissue from her pocket and wiped his nose, right there in her garden.

“Your face is almost as red as that rose.” she said, laughing some more. It wasn’t the sort of laugh Tommy was used to, like the bullies at school who teased him relentlessly. It was a much friendlier, more innocent and playful laugh. Tommy couldn’t help but laugh too.

“What’s it called?”

“What, the rose? It’s called Scarlet Love.”

Tommy must have blushed again, because Katie laughed. He knew her father was a gardener and was more or less famous for his roses. He was the new owner of the florist in town and his own mother had bought flowers from him, though Tommy didn’t know what for.

“How many have you got…roses I mean? How many growing?”

“Oh, hundreds. We’ve got more out the back. Wanna see?”

“Um, sure, I guess.”

She took him by the hand and pulled him round the side of the house, through the wooden gate and out into the back garden. Tommy was astonished at the variety and colours of the flowers in the yard.

“Gee you guys have been busy.”


“I mean you’ve only been here a couple of months and you’ve grown all this?”

“Well, yeah, daddy is an expert ya know.” She shot him a puzzled look and Tommy wasn’t sure what it was supposed to mean.

“They are beautiful…I mean, for flowers…roses.”

Katie giggled again and then took off into the middle of the yard where there was a large paved area, surrounded by garden beds. She started spinning round and round, the rose sill in her hand, occasionally bringing it up to her nose to sniff at it. In that moment Tommy was struck by how pretty she was. She wore a short light dress, dotted with pink flowers. She had a ribbon tied in her hair, which was fair and light as well. Her skin was pale and she was thin. She stopped spinning and lifted one leg out to a point at the toes and effortlessly balanced on the other foot which was now pointed as well. She held that position for a moment and then fell to the ground on one knee. For a moment Tommy thought she had hurt herself. He was about to rush to her aid when she flung her arms out wide, lifted her head upwards and with her nose pointed to the sky she looked at him sideways. 3 comments

“Tadah!” she pronounced with a wild grin. Tommy was impressed.

“Are you a dancer?”

“Not really, no!” she said as she sat on the paving and motioned for him to join her. “My mother is. Well, she was.” Katie looked suddenly serious and thoughtful. Tommy was almost not going to ask the obvious question, but he felt compelled to.

“Where is she? Your mother, I mean.”

Katie took a long time to answer. She seemed preoccupied with a butterfly which had come to rest on her shoulder. She carefully and gracefully placed her hand under its feet and the butterfly flapped a couple of times and crawled onto her hand. She brought her hand slowly around in front of her face and examined it closely. Tommy forgot for a moment about the question he had just asked. He was struck again by her beauty, by her liveliness, by her energy. He had never been this close to a girl before. He had heard other boys talk about girls, about girlfriends and such and had often wondered what girls were really like. The only girl he had ever known was his cousin Julie and they had only seen each other once in a blue moon. She was an odd girl, very boyish, plump and into things boys did. So Tommy had decided she wasn’t your typical girl. But this, this was different.

“Do you suppose butterflies go to heaven when they die?” Katie suddenly asked. The question took Tommy by surprise.

“I don’t know…I mean, I suppose so…butterfly heaven, I think,” he stammered clumsily.

Tommy gulped. He guessed that Katie had lost her mother, though he was too scared to press her any further in case he upset her. He was about to change the subject when Katie turned to him suddenly and planted a soft kiss on his cheek. It caught him completely by surprise. He was shocked at how utterly spontaneous she was. He suddenly felt awkward and uncomfortable and was about to get up, when Katie answered the question he had wanted to ask but couldn’t.

“It was a car accident. She was coming home from a party. She was drunk. She hit a tree…I never got to say goodbye.”

She said this in a manner that was strangely matter-of-fact. Tommy didn’t know what to think, much less what to say. He had dealt with grief before when his father had left, but this was something quite different. He did not want to upset Katie, nor break the spell she was in. He decided to distract her instead. He kissed her on the cheek. She drew back in surprise, then a small smile crept over her otherwise emotionless face.

“I think your mother is in God’s garden, surrounded by butterflies and roses tended to by Angels.”

Tommy was surprised by how easily he had said it and by the way he had said it. Katie seemed surprised too. In that moment a very small tear formed in her eye, but before Tommy had time to consider it, Katie was up again spinning. As he watched her spin and dance and shuffle and glide, he decided he wanted to stay there forever, that if ever he had wanted to be happy, this is how happy he had wanted to be.

Later that day, as he sat on his bed, examining his latest find, a skull he had found on a neighbouring property, his brother came in. Tommy must have been smiling from ear to ear, for Kenny had noticed straight away. 4 comments

“What? Don’t tell me she said yes.” Tommy only nodded.

“Your turn,” he said knowingly. Kenny looked suddenly uncomfortable.

“Well it doesn’t matter, cause she won’t be allowed to come, even if I do ask.”

“We shook on it.”

“Boy you can be a pain in the backside.” And with that Kenny left Tommy to his thoughts.

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