I’m celebrating at the Grantham house. Why? Because my kiddos went back to school yesterday, and I’ve been writing like a machine.

Yesterday, I worked on four different novels/short stories. For those of you not familiar with my writing, I write mostly young adult fantasy, similar to Meg Cabot or Suzanne Collins.

Here’s a look at one of my short stories called Deadlands . . .

“What’s the worst pain a person can feel?” I asked Anafi, my blind guide. The man sat across from me, the camp fire popping bright orange sparks, illuminating his scarred brown skin.
            “You ask the oddest questions, Yonto.”
            “It’s Sabrina.” I don’t know what Yonto means, or why he calls me that. Anafi smiled as he chewed a mouthful of dripping hot salmon.
            “I think Yonto suits you better.”
            “You didn’t answer my question.”
            His gaze penetrated me, though I knew he saw nothing through the scars that had once been his eyes. “Why would you think I have the answer to such a question?”
            “You’ve been through a lot. I just thought—”
            “Do not ponder these things. Sadness, pain, they are an abyss that consumes.”
            “Right,” I mumbled, chewing the fish, wondering why he couldn’t be straight with me just once. “So what’s on the schedule for tomorrow?”
            “The Deadlands. Nasty place.”
            “Worse than where we’ve been yet?” Honestly, I had trouble believing it.
            His voice became quiet. “Much worse.”
            “Hmm.” We’d almost drowned, burned, starved to death. But it would be worth it if we came out alive. I had to finish this. For Damon.
            “Do you ever wish you could go back? Fix things without all this?”
            He laughed.
            “What’s so funny?”
            “I’ve been a guide for twelve years. Never have I heard such strange notions.”
            “But it would be easier, wouldn’t it? If we could just go back, knowing what we know now, and fix all those things we regret.” Saying it out loud brought back memories I’d tried desperately to push away. Leaving Damon behind, thinking he’d be okay.
            “You should eat your fish, Yonto.”
            Though hunger escaped me, I took a bite.
            “My daughter talked as you do. She had an imagination, that one.”
            “I didn’t know you had a daughter.”
            “Esther. Named after the queen who saved her people. But we never called her by that name.” He smiled, as if re-living a memory. “Only her mother called her Esther, and only when she’d caused trouble.”
            A muggy breeze wafted, smelling of the swamp, of peat and mold. The chirps of cicadas increased into a high-pitched wail. Of all the places we’d been yet, this felt the most like my home in Louisiana. But home was millions of miles away, another planet. Another life.
            “So what’s in the Deadlands?”
            “You’ll find out tomorrow.”
            “Don’t you think you should tell me now? So I’ll be prepared.”
            All righty then.
            “Three hours we sleep. Wake before dawn. We leave before the sun rises.”
            Anafi stood and unrolled his bed pack. I watched him work with nimble movements, his fingers feeling the seams of his blanket, his bare feet searching the ground for stones.
            When I’d first learned that he’d be my guide through the Race, I’d cried. I thought I’d be dead in a day. Really, I’d asked. A blind man for a guide?
But here we were, day thirteen, and already we’d outlasted half of the others.