Saturday, September 17, 2016

Memories of Grandma

Posted by: Janni Nell
   My Grandma was a strong, amazing woman, who raised two kids, two foster kids, and, for a few years, her grandkids. This was all the more remarkable because she battled lifelong asthma without the medications we take for granted today. When I was little, we lived just a short walk from Grandma’s house. Luckily not through a wood with a resident wolf. (Lucky for the wolf, that is. Grandma wouldn't have stood for a hungry canine messing with her granddaughter.) I have very fond memories of being cared for by Grandma, a few hours every day, while my mum did her housework in peace.
   It's no surprise that, in my books, there's often an older female character who helps and cares for the heroine, just as Grandma did for me. In Darkwood, Ellie’s grandmother, is a woman full of wisdom and strength and magic. Much like my Grandma—well except for the magic—although love is its own kind of magic, isn’t it? And my Grandma had that in spades. She never told me in so many words, but I knew she’d walk through fire for me, fight dragons to the death, and keep all the wolves away.  Oh, and she made the best salmon and potato cakes ever.
   Love you, Grandma

Excerpt from Darkwood.

   Grandma got to her feet. “Come with me, Ellie. I have a list of ingredients for you to gather.”
   While Amalina stacked the dishwasher, I went with Grandma to her stillroom.
   Above the large wooden bench that ran along one wall, shelves supported a huge array of glass bottles and ceramic jars containing the oils and powders that she used for her potions. Bunches of drying herbs hung from a beam, filling the air with a sweet fragrance. In the middle of the room a chair had been pushed back from a table littered with books and scribbled notes. A large window bathed the room in soft natural light.
   She produced a handwritten list. “I need all these as soon as possible. I have to fill a lot of orders for potions.”
   It was always like that at the end of the tourist season. People from the mainland wanted to collect their orders before the seas became rough and prevented the ferries from making the crossing. Grandma had a website where orders could be placed but she didn’t deliver. Even on the island, she insisted the potions be picked up in person.
   I glanced at the list. The first ingredient was the green-star cockle. My stomach gave an uncomfortable roil.
   “I’m sorry, Ellie, I wouldn’t send you to the cockle pools unless I really needed them.”
   “It’s okay.” I wasn’t going to shirk my job because of something that had happened when I was a kid. After pocketing Grandma’s list, I grabbed my satchel and headed off with the promise I’d return soon.
   Many of the ingredients on the list were unique to Freshwater Island, including the green-star cockle, which was found in the rock pools at the western edge of Cockle Beach. I’d been going there since I was a kid, when Mom lived on the island and practiced her own talent for potions. As a kid, I’d imagined following in her footsteps, living in Oxrider Lodge with her, Grandma and Amalina forever. Back then Dad didn’t live with us, but, although my parents weren’t married, he visited the island whenever his schedule on The Forthright Way permitted. 
On that day—fifteen years ago—Mom and I had gone to gather green-star cockles. Of course, only Mom went right out onto the point, where the waves broke hard against the rocks.
   “Stay on the beach,” she warned me.
   For a while I actually did what I was told, kicking the soft sand as I watched her move across the rocks. She was sure-footed, my mom, like the goats that old Tom had owned before he died. Mom walked easily, her long toes gripping the uneven rocks. Her braid of chestnut hair swung back and forth as she moved toward the cockle pools. I knew the moment she saw the green-star. She became very still, like those big cats you see in nature documentaries stalking their prey. She crouched beside the pool. I knew I should stay where I was, but I was too excited to remain on the beach. I wanted to help her gather the ingredients.
   While she was distracted by her hunt for the cockles, I padded across the sand and crept slowly and quietly across the rocks. She didn’t realize I was standing right behind her as she swooped like a hungry bird, dipping her hand into the pool and pulling out a cockle. She raised her eyes to the beach, lifting her hand to show me her catch. When she didn’t see me, her happy expression changed to worry.
   “Ellie?” Then louder, “Ellie!”
   “I’m right here, Mom.”
   As she whipped around, the rock pool erupted like a geyser, spewing cockle shells high into the air. They rained down, slicing my skin. Mom gathered me into her arms, protecting me with her own body as she took the full force of all those sharp shells. I felt her shudder as the maelstrom of water and shells whipped around us.


On sale! Darkwood is 99c for a limited time only.

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