Welcome!

Welcome to the Jones Home!

Visit my About page, where I introduce ourselves, or just scroll down for the most recent wit and wisdom and… well, just whatever I decided to post about today. Glad you’re here. Leave a comment, and “Follow” the blog to keep up with the Joneses!

— SJ

Flowers in Winter

I’m trying to grow some basil plants in front of my bedroom window, and the struggling sprouts look a lot like I feel. It’s not actually very cold yet, and we’ve still got some leaves and some green grass. But the slanted light is very wintery.

And so is my driving need to create something.

I’m working on a story that I think I’m going to love, but I can’t do that all day (darn it). For me, busy hands means a busy mind. I build plotlines or work through feelings that I can’t untangle head-on. Since I’m not in the mood yet for puzzles or coloring, I’ve turned to origami.

In general, I’m no good at origami. Precision isn’t a spiritual gift of mine. Cut first, measure afterward, try to make do anyway, make a mess — that’s my motto. But I found two paper-folding projects that were forgiving enough for me. I can make flowers!

I like to sit down on the floor and put on music, and lose myself in creating these roses and lotus blossoms. Bookgirl and Sparkler join me occasionally, and the rest of the family comes and goes around me. The bunny usually settles down within reach of me. For an hour or so, the world is bright and warm and satisfying.

Here are a few of the roses that Bookgirl and I created the other night:

20161204_180606

My laptop sits with me because I listen to music on Musicbed, browse Facebook, and look up tutorials.

The “quilt blocks” below are what really got me started on this paper frenzy. I was researching quilt patterns for my story, and found very interesting ideas. I always want to try quilting until I read the instructions and see things like “measure 4.21 cm on the diagonal and cut with a scant .674 seam allowance, cut 547 more” that I realize that God didn’t intend me to be a quilter. I tried to reproduce Storm at Sea on paper and couldn’t, so settled for simple triangles and squares.

Then I stumbled on these simple roses.

20161204_180248

Bookgirl liked making — in her 15-year-old terminology — “smol” roses. (Small. That’s what that means) She then decorated DJ’s shoes and announced that “Moses supposes his toeses are roses.” She knew she’d get points for quoting Singin’ in the Rain to me.

20161204_172404-1

This lotus blossom looks really impressive but isn’t at all difficult. That’s kind of my forte. (Hand model: Sparkler)

20161205_131507

So what will I do with my newfound talent? Maybe make gifts! Sell on Etsy! Or most likely create a dozen or so more, get tired of it, and not come back to it for three years. That’s how it goes. Writing is the grand exception. Oh, and also my family, fortunately.

20161206_083441

Watercolors, flowers, and butterflies. Take that, Winter.

 

 

Books I Like: Holes, Secret Powers, and a Talking Mountain Lion

book-1760998_1280While DJ worked on supper, I worked on story ideas. I’ve got one I really like, but I’m handling it very gently for fear it will all fall apart before I can get it into shape. It involves a lot of unrelated items, an unexpected thread that connects all of them, and a woman’s train trip through loss to hope.

Wow, that sounds great. If only I can actually do it.

Thinking about how I want all the pieces to fit together reminded me of a book I consider a modern masterpiece of young adult writing: Holes, by Louis Sachar.

If you’ve “only seen the movie,” I’ll forgive you long enough for you to find the book. The movie actually did a very good job with the story; I enjoyed it thoroughly. But the book is what you really need in your life.

The premise is that Stanley Yelnats, whose family is perpetually unlucky, is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to the juvenile detention center at “Camp Green Lake.”

There’s no lake. There was, a hundred years ago, but it’s all dried up now. All that’s left is a vast dry lakebed, where boys spend the blazing daylight hours digging holes. Eventually, Stanley and the others figure out that the Warden is looking for something, and using them as the means to find it.

Meanwhile, the book flashes back to events a hundred years before, involving a schoolteacher and the black man she fell in love with.

Meanwhile, there are references to an old legend in another kid’s family about a man who had to break a curse by carrying someone up a mountain.

And there are poisonous lizards, onions, and canned peaches.

And the stories go along parallel to one another until about a fourth of the way from the end — when suddenly they all intersect, fitting together like pieces of a puzzle, each one illuminating the questions asked by the others. It all makes sense, but you don’t see most of it coming.

I was utterly thrilled the first time I read this book, and have never been disappointed by re-reading it.

(When I was in elementary school, I also loved Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School.)

Another young adult book with a plot twist that made the rest of the book fall into place is Hidden Talents by David Lubar.

This time, it’s Martin who is sent to a last-chance school for delinquents*, but he kind of deserves it.

* It’s not that young adults identify so strongly with delinquents that all the books feature them. This is just an easy way to fulfill the first rule of a good young adult story: get rid of the parents.

Martin is mouthy and knows how to push people’s buttons. But he’s not actually a bad kid. He soon makes friends with a motley assortment of guys who insist they’re falsely accused of whatever landed them there. One says he’s not an arsonist, even though he’s always starting random fires. Another says he’s not a plagiarizer and cheater, even though the reader gets glimpses of his schoolwork where he blatantly copies what his seatmate writes. Another is not a thief, although his room is stuffed with objects that don’t technically belong to him. It’s Martin who puts everything together and solves the puzzle. Well, part of the puzzle. Sometimes it’s easier to see everyone else’s hidden gifts.

I love both of these books because the storytelling is very skillful, while still giving the reader fun characters whose lives are worth the emotional investment.

(He wrote a sequel, True Talents, but neither DJ nor I thought it lived up to the originality and skill of the first one.)

While I’m on a roll here, I’ll also mention another book I read recently. I doubt I’ll do it justice. Kind of like Elizabeth Bennett trying to praise Lady Cathering DeBourgh, but Mr. Collins had to take over and do it properly.

The book is Covenants by Lorna Freeman.

It’s Bookgirl’s favorite book, and I don’t say that lightly. She she literally wore out her first copy. On our trip this past summer, Swanson the Second happened to have a copy in his library (why, yes, both Swansons have actual rooms dedicated to their books). He gave it to Bookgirl, who not only read it another four times before we got home, but has promoted Swanson the Second to the position of All-Benevolent Grand Bookgiver of the Galaxy. “We went to California and I got my favorite book!” she tells people.

She handed it to me this summer. I was very relieved that I liked it.

It features Rabbit, a soldier for Iversterre, a land which has no magic; his troop is assigned near the Border, which is populated by magical people and talking beasts. The farther you get into Iversterre, away from the Border, the more mythical all that magic seems. But it’s very real, and Rabbit certainly believes it; his own parents (in a hippie forsaking-the-world back-to-the-earth type of thing) left their royal lineage behind them and raised their children on the Border.

It’s a long, sweeping story that takes in royalty, assassination plots, dawning mage powers, ghosts, two clashing cultures, smuggling, spiders, ships, rebellion, elves, betrayal, evil magic, good magic, hidden identities, and coming to terms with the tragic effect of evil even when it happened a hundred years ago.

Bookgirl says it’s “really well written and Rabbit is funny,” and she has a crush on Rabbit’s commander, Captain Suiden, who is also a dragon.

I liked it because Rabbit is a very good man to spend a whole book with; he’s smart, but not arrogant, and he has good reasons for doing what he does. I also appreciated the way the author didn’t assign one particular race as “good” and the other as “bad.” There are bad elves and humans, and good elves and humans, bad talking animals and good talking animals, bad churchmen and good churchmen… it’s a mix. I think that’s why the book rings true despite the fact that one of the main characters is a talking mountain lion.

It’s a good book. Which is entirely too tepid a description for Bookgirl, but she’s not around to correct me. I’d called her in to help me with details, but she wandered away to read the book again.

Speaking of books — I can do this because it is, after all, my own blog — you should buy a couple of new books for Christmas! The Fellowship and Go Right are good reads, and different enough that you won’t feel like you got the same thing for two prices.

go-right-yellow-font-2-high-resolution cover

I didn’t set out to write a thousand words about books I like (or wrote), but I guess I’ll leave them up now that I’ve done so. I need to get back to my ideas about this story that could be pretty grand. But shh, say that quietly for now. We don’t want to scare it away.

Mundania: Find the Clues

See if you can spot the clues in these pictures!

I had Ranger dictate a “Thankfulness List,” then assigned him to copy my words for handwriting practice. See if you can figure out where I got distracted doing something else and was no longer engaged in the activity with him.

20161122_182249

*
Yesterday, DJ brought a pie home for Thanksgiving, but he didn’t actually say it was for Thanksgiving. Can you deduce why we now call it a Tuesday Night Pie?

20161122_194525

*
This recipe is sneaky and evil. See it? See?
You don’t see?

screenshot_2016-11-20-20-19-42-1

Let me illuminate it for you.

2016-11-20-20-23-45

“Fresh coriander” is, of course, cilantro. Point made. Wait, what? You don’t get my point? Are you one of those people who likes cilantro? Despite the fact that it tastes like caterpillars? Well, I don’t, as I explained with passion and eloquence in this post.  And this recipe is trying to sneak it past me. In an evil way.

I guess, to wrap up this little post, I’ll say that I’m thankful that there’s no cilantro in Tuesday Night pecan pies.

 

Gamerboy is 14!

Recently, Gamerboy and I were at Target by ourselves — a pretty unusual happenstance for a homeschooling mom and the second child of four. We were being goofy, and in a random moment, he almost called a reindeer a mushroom. It just got funnier as we referred to all the Christmas mushroom decorations.

A couple of days later, I announced, “I have our first Christmas decoration!” I hung it up proudly. It was a poster of mushrooms, labeled in French. I used a red Sharpie to translate “Les Champignons” as “Santa’s Reindeer.”

Gamerboy reacted with his laugh that could raise the roof (Gamerboy’s volume control is iffy).

These moments are more frequent as he gets older, less of a boy and more of a man.

He’s a good bit bigger than me now, and almost taller than DJ. He loves to swoop into the room and announce “NUGS!” To him, that means snuggles. To his hapless target, it means being enveloped in layers of purple fuzzy slanket and the equivalent of a Great Dane puppy.

Sometimes he can’t handle the fact that everybody else exists around him. Other times he throws himself in among the family, alternately entertaining and aggravating everybody in the house. He loves any kind of game, but roleplaying games are his great love. He’s good at schoolwork but not particularly passionate about it. He prefers not to dwell on heavy subjects because they affect him too deeply.

He can make us laugh when we’re trying to be serious. He can sway us when we’re trying to be firm. He came lurching into the kitchen recently, drawn by the scent of fresh cookies. “Only one!” I warned.

He stumbled on his way to the pan. “I tripped. Hey, Mom, I tripped and accidentally got TWO cookies!”

Haha. Nice try. Happy birthday, Gamerboy. We definitely rolled a 20 when we got you.

20160917_132215
Gamerboy and Ranger playing an early European board game at the Frontier Culture Museum. Any game welcome, any time.

Mundania: Apples, Cherished Moments, and Dead-like Bunnies

Let’s open the treasure-chest of pictures and see what life’s been like for the Joneses recently!

Every year we buy seven to ten varieties of apples at the local farmer’s market, and hold a family tasting evening. We vote on which ones we like best, and everybody always comes up with the same answers. But we’re always willing to try it out again the next year.

Here we are read to start.

20161004_195516

For a broader look at our apple-tasting history, here’s a post I did two years ago with more pictures. Although I didn’t get a picture of it this year, I baked an apple pie as usual. I also dropped apple peels on the floor in case there were any foraging rabbits in the area.

A family game of Apples to Apples seemed appropriate to the occasion.

20161004_201443-1

In other Jones news…

This trenchcoat was a happy find of mine at a thrift store. I thought Bookgirl would like it. Ha, silly me. Bookgirl adores it. She’s all about the Sherlock/agent/spy vibe.

She’s taken over our storage room as her personal workspace. Or, as we refer to it, her “cave.” Two walls are covered with her own concept art for the worlds she inhabits in her head. Of course, considering the aforementioned Agent vibe, there might be way more to it than we ever suspect…

20161013_110448

We recently took a family trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Biltmore Estates? Who would even want to see a fantastically luxurious mansion built in the days of Robber Barons and obscene wealth? The kids were happy with bowling.

I snapped a picture of this framed flyer as we were checking out. Evidently this bowling alley had been around longer than we had. Join a league! Eat snacks! Put the kids in the nursery!

You know what this looks like? It looks like today’s ads for gyms. That indicates to me that people used to go bowling for fun, and now they go to the gym. I, personally, find this a very sad commentary on today’s society. Mostly because I like bowling but don’t like gyms. It’s a time-honored way to judge the current state of society.

20160922_170726

I browse thrift shops for fun; I buy stuff only about 40% of the time. Everything in a thrift shop was once in someone’s else’s house, and I muse about the people who would have owned fish-shaped dishes or gold-weave brocade draperies.

This battered bag of silverware caught me. It’s monogrammed–somebody was once proud to own it. It’s poignant to see it for sale for $8 in a thrift store.

20161003_132234

You know how they say, “Cherish every moment!”? I hate that advice. Not every moment is cherishable. However, I’m all in favor of seizing those moments that are. Even if it means taking a quick, blurry photo before they notice.

Sparkler had been looking forward to a sleepover for two weeks, and then it was canceled. She was absolutely devastated, as only Sparkler can be. All her siblings were sorry for her. Gamerboy isn’t much for small talk or setting others at ease, but he isn’t afraid of emotional storms. Below, he’s the purple blanket, comforting the pink striped blanket that is the sobbing Sparkler.

P.S. The sleepover came off after all.

20161019_180407

Gamerboy is also the one who walked out from his room to confess that he’d broken a cup. Actually, he didn’t confess so much as announce that he’d created “Harry Cupper” with the a lightning-bolt scar.

20161024_184414

I walked into my room and found… a dead bunny? Oh my gosh! No wait. It’s a flopped bunny. It means he’s particularly happy and comfortable. “Aah, life is so good, I’m so fat, I think I’ll show my appreciation to my owners by infusing a moment of horror and panic into their lives!”

20161109_090105

Winter’s coming, and I can already feel the effects of the fading light. But autumn has some glorious moments, and I captured a couple. The tree almost looked like a woman in evening dress, with the way the ivy covers the trunk. The texture of the clouds doesn’t show up to advantage, but I tried anyway. The picture of the November Supermoon is compliments of Ranger.

Life’s been pretty good lately. Thanks for visiting!

Dear Tooth Fairy

Thursday
Dear Tooth Fairy,
Sparkler lost a tooth, so be sure to gladden her young heart and do that tooth-exchange thing we talked about!
Love, SJ

Friday
Dear Tooth Fairy,
You ought to have the hang of this by now. Kids have been losing teeth in this household for eight years. It’s always the same routine: they lose tooth, you take tooth, you leave money. Remember how we talked about that? Yes? Okay, great! Tonight’s the night!
Love, SJ

Saturday Morning
Dear Tooth Fairy,
Exactly what is the problem here?

As you requested, we don’t even do the traditional “under the pillow” trick anymore. We do the “tape an envelope to the outside of your door” trick. But here it is, two days later, and that envelope has entirely too much tooth in it.

Patiently, SJ

Saturday Night
Oh, “you’re just so busy with life,” are you? Don’t think I didn’t see those photos of you at Disney World from this past weekend! Maybe if Sparkler slept for a hundred years, you’d get around to the tooth?

Get on the job, Tooth Fairy.
Sternly, SJ

Sunday
Dental Removal Fae-being? No, I am not calling you that. It’s not even clever. Besides, you’re not into “dental removal” anyway. It’s more like “Dentally Neglectful Imp” Or “Dentophobic Pixie.” Or “Sorry excuse for a cherished childhood dream.”

Are you going to get the tooth or not?
Fed up, SJ

Monday
Dear Tooth Fairy,

Fine.

You were “too busy seeing friends.” I get it. We just aren’t a priority. Oh, and I know who you were hanging out with — Santa. And that explains a lot. We’ve done all of his shopping and wrapping for years. Did he ever show up to do anything except try to take credit? No.

I see how it’s going to be. And you’re fired.

We’ll just do it ourselves from now on. It’s not like we can do much worse.
Disgusted, SJ

***

Dear Friends: Please consider giving $1.99 to help with tooth fairy expenses and get a new collection of original short stories in return!  /shameless plug

“Go Right” (Almost) Available!

Posted from SaraRobertsJones.com

Go Right, my new collection of short stories, is now available for pre-order.Need something to escape into after the fevered political drama? Looking for an inexpensive but meaningful Christmas gift? Just plain want a new book to read?

Go ahead and reserve your copy over at Amazon! It will be auto-delivered on November 14.

Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. I’ll have two other formats available — ePub, which is the generic e-reader format, and PDF for computer reading. Email me (see Contact tab) to reserve a different format.

They’re good stories and it’s a fun, quick read. Pre-order here.

go-right-yellow-font-2-high-resolution

New Book FAQ

Posted from SaraRobertsJones.com

go-right-yellow-font-2-high-resolution

I thought I ought to offer an FAQ about this new release coming up. It’s really more like a FAQIAPWAM (Frequently Asked Questions I Assume People Would Ask Me). I haven’t had anybody ask me all these questions, so I made some up.

Q. Why did you choose to write short stories?

A. Because I thought they’d be easier than a novel. (Pause for overwrought laughter.)

Q. Do they involve the same characters as in your novel?

A. No, they feature new characters in new settings.

Q. I loved your novel…

A. Thank you!

Q. … but its subject matter is a little heavy. Do you tackle the same issues in your stories?

A. No, the stories are much lighter. Substantial enough to make a good read, but without the difficult moments in my novel.

Q. What are the stories about?

A. They’re about ordinary people in ordinary life, making decisions that affect the outcome of their day—or their whole lives.

Q. So, not to be offensive, but ordinary people aren’t very exciting.

A. I’m not offended. After all, you’re pretty boring. Haha, just joking! The fact is, ordinary people aren’t boring; we’re all a complex mix of good and bad, wise and foolish. These are sympathetic and funny stories about people you feel like you know.

Q. I’m not convinced. Tell me about some of these ordinary people who aren’t boring.

A. Well, there’s McKee and Cheryl, who take a wrong turn in an unfamiliar town and unknowingly leave a very lasting impression. Or there’s Makayla, whose husband Hunter drives a big expensive truck even though all they can afford to live in is a trailer—plus she’s got a few issues from her first marriage that she hasn’t exactly fixed up. And you’ll want to hang out with Paige Parker—wife, stay-at-home mother of four, superspy, music tycoon, and fantasy wizard warrioress. Other stories involve discovering love in a canoe, Uncle Bobby laid out on the porch, and five pizza recipes.

Q. Hm, you’re right, sounds intriguing.

A. I thought you’d think so. For my longtime “knew-me-back-when” readers, the final story has a distinct Tales from the Creekbank flavor. You’ll like it.

Q. Will it be available in print as well as ebook, like your novel is?

A. As an independent author, I pay for everything. So I’m selling it as an ebook first, and will release it in print when funds allow.

Q. When is the release date?

A. I’m still wrapping up details, so for now it’s “November.”

Q. Will this make a good Christmas gift?

A. Absolutely. Amazon allows you to give an ebook as a gift. If you need a different format, I sell those too.

Q. I bet it would make a good birthday gift, too. Or just a friendship gift. Or maybe an inexpensive splurge on myself!

A. It’s like you’re reading my mind!

Q. So what about the dromedaries who can’t behave? What are the titles of the stories?

A. Oh, come on. You know what I’m going to say.

Q. I have to get the book and see for myself, right?

A. Enjoy! (I really think you will.)

New eBook Release

Over on my author blog, I explained that:

“I’m just puzzled that dromedaries can’t behave.”

Actually, I didn’t explain it, I just stated it. What could it possibly mean? Well, as it turns out, it has nothing to do with criminal camels. I bet you already knew that.

I’m just puzzled dromedaries can’t behave is the mnemonic device I use to remember the titles in my new short story collection.

That’s my real announcement.

I’m launching a new ebook next month.

Six original short stories that will make you laugh, probably won’t make you cry, and will remind you of your own world.

I’ll be posting Frequently Asked Questions on my author blog to talk more about it. But you’ll definitely want to get a copy, trust me.

Trapped! (Ch. 13-19)

20161009_185756

And here’s the (somewhat tepid) climax and conclusion of this teenage literary masterpiece. To read previous installments, click on the “Trapped!” category above the post title.

Chapter 13
Meanwhile, in the Silverstreak Mine, Hartfour and the Ron guy have spent two hours wandering deeper into the mine trying to find a way out. Another beam falls just behind them, blocking their way back to the collapsed entrance. Jeremy remarks on it with a sigh. By the way, Sarah’s hurt foot seems to be holding up okay at the moment. It’s pretty inconvenient to have a broken foot when you’ve got walking to do, so it’s useful if you can just ignore it.

They sit down to rest. Daryl is flicking the flashlight all over the place, and Amy spots another track across the gully. Ronny says that if they can get over to it, they can take it back to the entrance. Amy asks how they’re supposed to get to it, Ronny snaps back at her, Daryl yells at Ronny for talking like that to Amy, Sarah tells everybody to cool it, Jeremy snaps at her, Daryl goes all caveman about “pesky girls,” Sarah lashes back with “pesky, hot tempered, stupid boys!”

(My dialogue shows an uneven influence of contemporary young adult books, stories written in the 60s, and C.S. Lewis.)

Then we pause this moment for Sarah to reflect on how bad she feels anytime Jeremy and Ronny fight. She also realizes that Amy is jealous about Daryl, but didn’t Amy realize that Sarah and Daryl were simply good friends? Daryl would laugh at the idea of being with Sarah. Besides, Sarah already has enough boy troubles. I’m very good about bringing things back to what’s really important.

Back to the action, they’ve discovered a huge iron hook hanging from, um, somewhere above. In fact, Daryl is swinging on it. Over the deep gully, presumably. I’m kind of seeing how all the adults in my stories turn out to be idiots.

“We can swing across,” he was saying. But Sarah heard a sickeningly familiar sound. A cracking.

“Beam!” she yelled. “Get off, Daryl!”

Too late. The beam fell. It hit the hook. Daryl fell. Amy screamed.

Then a huge pile of dirt fell. It hit the track, which swayed, then crumbled.

That was the last Sarah remembered.

Uh, oh. Please hurry with your crazy idea, Jill!

Chapter 14
This chapter has a clammy-palm sense of panic to it. Not so much the action, which consists mostly of Jill gathering up her friends to launch her “plan.” But the author, who had no idea what this plan was, why it was crazy, and how it was supposed to rescue anybody, sure was in suspense.

Jill gets permission from her dad, who is an idiot, to help look for her friends. Then she goes from house to house collecting Lynn, Susey, and Care (whose name was really Caren, but she’s a tomboy so… anyway, moving on.) I mention in passing that Jill called everybody by their first names, even adults. That’s how crazy she was, whew.

(Susey got permission to go with Jill and the others to go to this town an unidentified distance away because “her mother wanted so much for Susey to be well liked. The whole family was like that.”)

Lynn was the hardest sell.

“And how will you search the mine?”

Jill told them the plan.

“Jill Carver! That’s crazy!” Lynn exclaimed when she’d finished.

Dang it, Jill! Speak up! The author couldn’t hear your plan!

The plan seemed to hinge on a balanced equation; as Susey pointed out, there were five kids stuck in the mine, and only four of them. So they asked Lizzy if she’d join them. This was a big moment for this set of characters. Lynn and Lizzie had been friends, but then Lizzy joined snobby Susan’s group and they hadn’t spoken since.

But Jill was willing to bury the hatchet now. A line that reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Ellen Conford, who wrote the exchange, “She’s ready to bury the hatchet.”  “Yeah, in my head.” I think the influence is obvious.

Anyway, they get Lizzy on board just in time to be picked up by Lennie, the Carvers’ chauffeur in a white limo. Jill is really rich, by the way; her dad owns an oil company, and his headquarters are in the very same town where the mine is. You can’t accuse Jill of not making the most of coincidences.

Lennie mentions casually that another part of the mine has caved in. “The whole thing is expected to soon.”

Jill was glad that she was crazy. If not, she’d have backed out right then.

Come on, Jill, stop being so coy. Let me in on this plan! Readers are depending on me to tell this story!

But the chapter closes with that.

Chapter 15
Sarah comes back to consciousness to see Amy crying. Again, if your story has inconvenient elements like “total darkness,” you can just ignore them to keep things moving.

“Amy! What’s wrong?” Sarah cried. Amy whirled around.

“Sarah! You’re okay!” she yelled.

“What happened?” Sarah asked faintly.

“You fainted right before we fell.” Amy wiped away another tear. “I can’t find the boys—any of them. Especially Daryl!”

I guess Amy knew Sarah had fainted because Sarah’s adverb clued her in. Also, notice that I’m not one of those authors who risks having her readers forget anything. Amy’s especially worried about Daryl because he’s her boyfriend, got it? Good!

Poor Amy has been sitting there crying for “a few hours.” But now that Sarah’s awake, they start digging around in the dirt. They find Ronny, who has a big cut across his forehead. Amy says that if they clean it up, it might wake him up too, and wasn’t there water around here? Sarah hears it and reaches for the flashlight, but it’s smashed.

“Wait!” Sarah said, excited. “I can see you! And Ronny! There’s light somewhere!”

Ha! I bet you think I wrote this line because I realized the problem and had to fix it.

But Amy, who now can think rationally now that Sarah is with her, says they need to clean up Ronny and find the others before they look for the source of the light. She goes to look for the water, and Sarah uncovers Jeremy.

(I don’t know why people make such a big deal out of things like avalanches. Obviously all you have to do is just move a little dirt and “a heavy beam.”)

But Daryl is still missing.

Amy is caring for Ronny, and Jeremy wakes up to find out that he has a broken arm. By the way, Sarah’s hurt foot is doing great, thanks for asking.

“Daryl?” Jeremy inquired next.

“Hungry,” Daryl said, walking up behind Jeremy.

“Daryl!” Sarah cried.

“Daryl?” Amy’s voice said through the grayness made by some unknown source of light.

Ha! Fixed it AGAIN!

Daryl explains, “I landed first, you know. I wasn’t hurt, and didn’t waste time. I ran before it all fell on me.”

Can we take Sarah aside here and suggest that she ditch the hunky boys and find somebody with a sense of humor and a clear head like Daryl?

They find one another again by the stream—hey, I was kind of clever to put water there! Never mind that they didn’t think to pack water. But they do have food, thanks to the fact that Sarah is still wearing that backpack.

“Don’t you have some sandwiches in your pack?” Daryl asked.

“No,” Sarah answered. She took out a plastic bag. In the faint light, they could see it was flat. “I have a bologna pancake.”

For the first time in hours, they all laughed.

A lighthearted moment as the dire situation closes in around them.

Chapter 17
Up on the surface, Jill and her crew have put The Plan into motion. They’re tracking down other teenagers to find information about their lost friends. The adults didn’t think of doing this, because they’re idiots.

They talk to somebody named Bridgetta Parker, who wasn’t mentioned before and never gets mentioned after this chapter. But for her moment of glory, she gets a full 15-letter name. Not only did she see the five missing friends, but she knows a secret way into the mine. Of course, Jill’s dad ordered her to not go into the mine, but hey, this is Crazy Jill we’re talking about!

She crawls into the hole. It gets wider as she crawls, then it just “dropped off to a huge gully below.” The Huge Gully is practically another character by now.

Then Jill launches the climax of her amazing plan.

Jill eased herself onto the rickety track. “Sarah!” she called. “Amy, Daryl, Jeremy! Oh, and Ron! The mine is falling! Can you hear me!”

So her plan was to find a different way into the mine and call their names and hope they answer? Heck, I could have thought of that myself!

“Jill Estelle Carver!” It was her Dad, and he sounded mad. “Get up here!”

Jill crawled up, but not before she heard some one call, “Hey, you! Where are you? Hey!”

Jill was going to answer, but her father roared again,

“Jill Carver! Get up here!”

Jill glumly crawled out. Her father jerked her up.

“I told you to stay out! But you just go right ahead!”

“Dad! Wait! They’re in there! I heard Sarah!” Jill pleaded.

“You go home tonight. I can’t trust you,” Mr. Carver growled.

“Mr. Franky! I hear someone!” Lizzy exclaimed. Mr. Carver bent down by the hole.

“Mr. Franky” sounds incredibly weird to most people, is my guess. I admit that “Franky” is a pretty awful name for an oil tycoon. But it was very common in my Deep South town to call adults by “Mr.” or Ms.” and first name, and at the time I thought it was a universal thing.

“Please! Somebody! This is Sarah!”

I like how she doesn’t bother to use her last name, or identify anybody else with her. The Queen of the T.N. doesn’t need to do that.

And it filters through Franky Carver’s thick layer of idiocy that something must be done.

“Get someone out here!” Mr. Carver ordered. Bridgetta was off like an arrow.

Ah ha! That’s why he’s even here! Bridgetta Parker is a fink. Also, seeing as he sends her off for help, he’s evidently of the opinion that you shouldn’t send a man to do a ten-year-old’s job. That’s probably wise in this particular version of the world.

Lynn yells into the hole and gets an answer from Sarah, who this time identifies everyone, gives an update of everyone’s status, and adds, “Oh, and my ankle is sprained.”

Then the police came. They notified the fire station and the hospital. Jill slipped away unnoticed. She had a great idea.

On par with this brilliant crazy plan she just executed, I guess.

While the fire department took “at least half an hour” to get the hole big enough for two people to go through, I wrapped up a few plotlines down in the mine:

Amy had finally realized that she wasn’t loosing [sic] Daryl. And Ronny and Jeremy didn’t fight anymore.

Maybe they’d live happily ever after, after all.

The mine obligingly stopped collapsing long enough for the kids to be pulled up via “a hook.” As each kid emerged from the mine, he or she laughed. Sarah was dying to know what was so funny. When she finally made it to the surface, she saw her parents waiting for her.

When she looked behind her mother, though, she saw what was so funny.

All thirty-something of the kids were there. The entire Three Neighborhoods, thanks to Jill.

This was living happily ever after.

I like how they don’t have cell phones yet, but evidently have access to a massive-transport teleporter. That crazy Jill!

Chapter 18
Post-adventure wrap-up, everybody making funny remarks about everybody else’s injuries. Ronny has nine stitches across his forehead. Amy has a cast on her sprained arm, Jeremy has a broken wrist, and Sarah wears a cast on her fractured foot. Because her foot is hurt, now that she has time for it.

Daryl escaped unscathed, so he makes fun of everybody else. But they do blame the whole thing on him, since he ran into the mine first.

Then Sarah makes a grand announcement: She’s moving back to Perridale!

“Mom said that since I wasn’t happy here, she had a great present for Christmas, which was Perridale!”

Because it’s all about Sarah.

But she does realize that she’ll be leaving Ronny in the lurch. But Ronny dismisses her apology… because he’s moving to the Three Neighborhoods too! He’s going to live with Jeremy! Which is kind of awkward, because Jeremy and his mother already live with Daryl’s family! But that’s okay, it’ll work out, since Ronny doesn’t want to live with his mom anymore because she never has any time for him! As the author ends the chapter:

Talk about happy endings!

Chapter 19
But see, the author really really loved her characters and had a hard time saying goodbye. (Peter Jackson stole that from me too.)

So the last chapter features our heroes exchanging quippy remarks in Amy’s bedroom. And then Susan the snobby girl walks through the door, where Sarah has rigged a bag of flour to fall on her. I tell you what, it’s no joke to be brained by a bag of flour. They’re lucky they didn’t give her a concussion.

Susan is incensed, so she and Sarah exchange their customary barbed remarks. Then Sarah drops an even bigger bomb than the flour: she’s moving back to Hartford Drive. Susan is horrified.

They “declare Neighborhood War.” For faithful readers (me), this is a neat little circle: the very first Sarah story featured a Neighborhood War. Sarah is back in the Three Neighborhoods and she’s ready to establish her dominance again.

“I think I’m going to like it here,” Ronny said.

“Who doesn’t?” Amy laughed. “Who doesn’t?”

The End

Sarah and her friends endure the harrowing experiences of boy troubles, snobby enemies, moving away from friends, oh and also nearly dying in a mine… but ultimately find a happy ending.

I bet if I wrote these stories as a manifestation of my personal fantasies, I’d be really pleased with how this one turned out.

Thanks for joining me.