Eighteen months ago, I introduced many readers to Chincoteague Island, a place long-known and loved by many in the Mid-Atlantic area. The response to the award-winning novel was overwhelming, and I fell in love with the characters as much as my readers did. In less than a month, on June 15, the sequel to Island of Miracles will be released. In this darker story, we learn that promises are like castles made of sand… Read more
Over the past year or two, I have fallen in love with a particular family. I’ve cried with them through their pain and heartache. I’ve celebrated with them in their times of joy. I’ve cheered for their accomplishments. And from what I’ve heard, others are falling in love with them, too. No, I’m not speaking about the Pearsons of This is Us fame, though I truly love them as well. I’m talking about the Middleton and Kelly families, and if you’ve read my award-winning novel, Island of Miracles, then you know exactly to whom I’m referring.
A couple nights ago, Ken and I shared a toast over dinner. He raised a bottle of beer to my glass of whiskey (which, in case you missed it, is the new healthy drink of our age). We toasted to the completion of the first draft of the next installment in the story of Kate, Aaron, Zach, and Kayla. While it’s far from being a fete accompli, as there are still revisions, additions, corrections, etc. to be done, this is the first time that I finished a first draft and felt like I could send it off to the publisher as is. And I think it’s because I have gotten to know the characters and their stories so intimately that it feels natural to hammer it out in print. The words simply flow fro my fingers onto the blank pages, effortlessly filling the spaces in no time at all.
And since I’m so excited about this first draft, I’d like to spread some of the excitement around by giving you a sneak peek into one of the chapters of Island of Promise. Read, comment, share, and let me know if you, too, feel my excitement. I can’t wait for this summer to be able to take you all back to Chincoteague Island, to the place where miracles happened for Kate and Aaron and where promises are made and broken and made again for Zach and Kayla. So, sit back, relax, and take a short trip to the island. I hope it leaves you wanting to come back for more.
As soon as they got home, Kayla instructed the boys to do their homework, and she went right to work in the kitchen. She stirred the pot pie filling and started putting together the dough. She lost herself in the task, making her signature dish without a recipe and without having to think about the ingredients or the steps. Kayla was on autopilot, and she loved it. She reveled in the feeling of the smooth pie crust as she kneaded it beneath her palms. She stirred the thick filling again, tasted it, added more seasoning, and then tasted it again. It was perfect, and she allowed herself to take pride in her work.
This was what she missed, what kept her grounded. She loved Second Helpings and didn’t want to have to give it up, but she didn’t love the hectic pace at which she had to cook the meals. By providing dinner for sometimes as many as five or six families each night, she had lost the passion for cooking. She had forgotten how it felt to let the seasonings slowly run through her fingers as she dropped them into the pan, to knead dough until it was smooth and shiny, to place a beautifully prepared dish on the table and watch everyone enjoy their meal. She thought that she could have all of that and share it with others, but now she saw that all she was doing was hurrying through the process in order to have everything ready for pick-up. She was cooking her beloved recipes but without the love.
Using her palm, Kayla slowly rolled the dough into two perfect balls, setting one aside, and flattening the other onto the counter. She was in a trance, unable to see anything beyond the pate brisee as she rolled it out to the perfect size for the round baking dish.
“Did you not get enough to eat at your mother’s?” Zach asked, his voice soft and low.
Kayla’s trance was broken. She slowly looked up at him, feeling as if she was awaking from a dream. A dream where she was doing her favorite thing, with Zach lazily watching her as he leaned against the doorjamb, a look of pure love and admiration on his face. She blushed, realizing that she was not dreaming, and that that was exactly how Zach was looking at her.
“I’m sorry,” she said, hoping the catch in her voice didn’t give away the rapidity of her pulse. “I didn’t know you were there.”
“I could tell. You looked… peaceful.” He pushed away from his stance against the wall and walked toward the island where she rolled the dough. He spread his hands apart and placed them on the hard surface, surveying her work.
“I was remembering how much I love to cook, especially when there’s a special reason.”
He cocked his head to the side. “And the special reason?”
“It’s for Justine and Hank. Anne organized a meal calendar. She asked if I would donate a gift card or have a pizza delivered.” Kayla shook her head and smiled. “She should have known better than that.”
“She should have. You’d never send someone a pizza.”
Kayla looked up and saw the humor in his expression. He was teasing her, and it sure felt better than him feeling sorry for her. So often these days, she felt like everyone was looking at her with pity or trepidation. She much preferred being teased.
“How’s Nick settling in?” she asked as she rolled the dough over the thick, marble rolling pin and lifted it to the baking dish. She gently set it down over the dish and unwrapped the dough so that it fit perfectly inside the hollow of the dish.
Zach watched her with appreciation, and it made Kayla feel good. She was in her element, and she knew it.
“So far, so good. He’s checking the listings in the paper, circling potential jobs, and coming up with his plan of attack.”
Kayla turned to stir the filling and watched Zach, from the corner of her eye, break a small piece of dough off from the second ball and pop it in his mouth.
“I saw that,” she said without turning around.
“Man, I forgot that all moms have eyes in the back of their heads.”
“We do,” she said as she returned to the island. She pressed the dough onto the counter, sprinkled flour over it, and began to roll it out. “So, what brings you over, other than to steal a piece of pie crust. You can’t be hungry after Mom’s Sunday spread.”
“You’d be surprised,” he said, moving behind her to enjoy a giant inhalation of the pie filling.
“Don’t touch that,” Kayla commanded as Zach picked up the spoon.
“How did you—”
“Eyes in the back of my head,” she reminded him. “You didn’t answer me.” She finished rolling out the top of the pot pie before returning to the stove and turning off the flame under the filling.
Zach watched as she poured the filling into the pie shell and proceeded to cover the top with the dough, using the same maneuver she had used to lay the bottom crust in the dish.
“I wanted to make sure you don’t need anything before tomorrow.”
“You asked me at mom’s if I was ready.” She crimped the edges of the crust and poked three holes in the top of the pie.
“That’s not the same,” he said, opening the oven for her.
After placing the pie in the oven, Kayla noted the time and began cleaning up her cooking tools.
“I suppose it’s not,” she said, turning toward him and resting her back against the kitchen sink. “I’m good. The boys need to pack for Dad’s, but otherwise, there’s not really anything to do.”
“And you’re still holding off on telling them what’s going on?”
“Until I have a diagnosis, there’s really nothing to tell.”
“So, the boys have to pack. What about you?” Kayla felt a chill run down her back as he looked at her with such intensity that she felt naked.
“I’m good,” she faltered. “There’s not much for me to do.”
“How about that dinner?” He gestured toward the oven. “Can I take it to Justine and Hank for you?”
Kayla looked at the oven and thought for a moment before shaking her head. “I want to take it and let them know that I’m thinking of them. But…” She hesitated and lowered her voice. “Maybe you could go with me? Under the circumstances, I’m not sure I want to go alone. Todd is very close to Henry and wants to go with me. I’m afraid it might be difficult. I don’t even want to imagine what they’re going through.” She shuddered and glanced toward the den where the boys did their homework.
“Of course, we’ll all go together. What about EJ?”
“Well, he’s going to fight us, but I don’t think I can leave him home alone. I know he’s old enough to stay by himself, but until we know what happened to Henry…”
“I understand. I’ll talk to him. He’s Todd’s big brother and can take some responsibility for looking out for his little brother. Don’t you think?”
Kayla knew exactly where he was going with that and agreed wholeheartedly. If EJ thought he was helping his mom and being given the responsibility to look out for Todd, he’d take the task very seriously.
“Perfect,” she said. “The pot pie will be ready in about forty-five minutes. Should we meet at the truck, or would you prefer we take my car?”
“The truck is fine. I’ll talk to EJ and then go let Nick know what’s up.”
Kayla watched him go and let out a breath. As much as she hated to admit it, having Zach in her life felt a lot better than not having him around at all. But she knew better than to put her trust in him. He was still holding something back, and she needed assurance that they could count on him to be there when it matters. With her impending diagnosis and Henry’s disappearance, she realized all the more that you never know what the future will hold or if there will be a future at all.
Are you looking for a new way to meditate on the Stations of the Cross this Lent? If so, check out the newly revised edition of Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms. You can download the ebook version today!
What I was writing about this time last year: Not a Thing Could Come Between Them
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)
We spent this past weekend on the island of Chincoteague, located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. It was one of those rare weekends when we didn’t really have any plans. I had just finished the first draft of my next novel, which takes place on the island, and Ken asked if he could read it. Several chapters in, he told me that he loved the writing and the storyline, but I had many geographical errors. It has been years since I spent any time on the island, and to be honest, I never paid that much attention to which waterways were which or how much marsh there is instead of sand. His remedy? To pack up the camper and head to Virginia.
Ken’s brother, Tom, and his family moved to Chincoteague many years ago, but as the children grew older, and life got busier, we found it hard to all get together on the island, so Tom and his crew always come up to Maryland rather than everyone going down to Virginia. But true to his nature, Tom welcomed us with open arms and was the perfect host and tour guide. We arrived late Friday night after watching Morgan’s field hockey game, ironically, just thirty minutes away from her cousins’ home. Ken and I stayed in the camper while the cousins all slept in the house, or didn’t sleep, as they hadn’t been together for a while and wanted to spend as much time together as they could.
On Saturday, Tom gave us a tour of Chincoteague, a name taken from the Native American name, Gingoteague, which is believed to mean, “Beautiful land across the water.” It is indeed across the water, across the Chincoteague Bay from the rest of Virginia and across the Chincoteague Channel from Assateague Island, both a State and National Park. Many people my age and older will recall the beloved novel, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, about the pony who swam across the channel to the annual firemen’s pony auction and then made her home on Chincoteague. We drove to the beach on Assateague, passing several herds of the wild ponies, and then back to Chincoteague to Memorial Park and then through the downtown.
After lunch, Ken, my mother-in-law, and I struck out on our own so that I could see everything through the eyes of Kate, my main character. We climbed to the top of the Assateague Lighthouse and visited the island museum. At the museum, I learned so many things that had never turned up in my research, such as, when Assateague, once the more populated island, became privately owned, the inhabitants rolled their homes down to the water, put them on boats, and floated them to Chincoteague where some are still standing today, almost one hundred years later! You can bet that someone in my book will live in one of those homes! Also, in the museum, we saw the real Misty, a treat for any girl who, like myself, devoured the book series as a child.
Later in the afternoon, Tom and his wife, Sandi, took us on a boat ride. We literally circumnavigated the entire island, and I was treated to a view of the island that I had never before seen. I also found the perfect location for Kate’s winter getaway. To wrap up the day, Sandi served us some of the best crab cakes I’ve ever had. We talked about my book and the island, especially the history of the island as it relates to the Coast Guard. Approximately 75% of the retirees on Chincoteague are former Coast Guard. Those valiant men and women play a large role in my book, and I was honored to spend the weekend of 9/11 in a place where those who serve are held in the highest regard. Banners honoring all of the young men and women currently serving in the Armed Forces are proudly displayed up and down Main Street, including one of my nephew, Ty.
As I learned with my previous books, nothing beats personal research. There’s a lot that I can learn and see online, but there’s nothing like visiting a place in person, talking to its people, seeing firsthand its beauty, and immersing oneself in its culture. I am so grateful for the time and attention that Tom and Sandi gave to our tour and my questions and to my husband for giving up his weekend so that my book can be as authentic as possible. I look forward to paying my respects to the people and history of Chincoteague Island.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.