Friday, January 24, 2014


Well, folks, this has been a tremendous week. A week of fantastic art. A week of quirky characters. A week of straight-up fun!

You've seen the cover reveal, met some of the good guys: Prudencethe FabrikatorFebruaryRePeter, and even the bad guys: Captain Bleak, the Mayor, and the notorious Match King

Thank you all so much for joining me during BEWILDER-Palooza, but don't worry! There's going to be more fun when Bewildered releases!

Until then, please enjoy the first chapter...

...and don't forget to get enter the drawing for a free ebook- you have until midnight tonight! *at bottom of post



Written by A. B. Harms
Illustrated by Angie Kwon

In which Prudence Receives an Ill-Fated Telegram

Professor Pinochle's wriggly hand scrawled a collection of markings on the blackboard at the front of his class of twelve-year-olds. The students moved uncomfortably in their seats, and beads of sweat sprouted from their brows. It seemed Professor Pinochle lived under the illusion he still taught mathematics at the university instead of at a small private school for girls. After five minutes of chilling squeaks and rapid chalk scratching, he turned toward the class, his face covered in white dust, his eyes looking as large as plums through his bottle-glass lenses.

"I need a volunteer," he warbled in his ancient voice.

A perfectly manicured hand shot into the air. The class groaned. The only thing worse than Professor P's intense calculations was the student who never missed a chance to show off her brilliance. A girl whom everyone knew but nobody liked.

Prudence Parks.

"My prized pupil, do come forward." Professor Pinochle couldn't hide his pride; his chest puffed out with it. He considered himself quite the educator, though Prudence was the only student he hadn't thoroughly confused. With a smirk, Prudence nearly skipped toward the blackboard.

Professor Pinochle took the time to make the class dislike her a little bit more. "Take note, girls. Keep up with your studies and perhaps you can be like Prudence one day."

"And make everyone want to vomit," someone whispered.

But Prudence didn't hear, and neither did Professor P, who was too busy watching his shining star work the mile-long equation with ease. Thirty seconds later, Prudence was on her way to her seat, her nose too high in the air to notice her classmate's foot crossing the aisle.

Boom. Down went Prudence. "Ouch!" She scrambled up, rubbing her knees where they'd slammed into the wooden floor.

"Oops, sorry. Accident," a girl with bright-yellow curls said with a grin. The other girls snickered.

"Prudence, are you okay?" asked Professor Pinochle, who had missed the whole thing.

Prudence glared at the girl. She knew it hadn't been an accident. This kind of thing happened all the time. Gum magically got stuck in her silky black hair, her shoestrings miraculously tied themselves together under the dining table, and inkwells couldn't help but spill over her freshly pressed dresses.

Always, she heard the same line: "Oops. It was an accident." No, it wasn't. It was on purpose because everyone was jealous. She hadn't asked to be perfect, but it was a responsibility she took seriously. Though it won her no friendships, Prudence was proud as peaches of her genius and wouldn't trade it for the world.

Besides, today was special. Today her father was coming home.

"I'm fine, Professor. Just clumsy." She glared at the curly headed girl and took her seat. As she admired her handiwork on the board, the x's and decimals in all the right places, she beamed. No amount of "accidents" would bother her today.

It had been months since her father had left for the deserts of Africa, but she was used to his absences by now. He—Orville Parks—was a writer and adventurer, and when he got it into his head to do something, nothing could deter him. His latest quest? To find the Sandman.

"There's no such thing as the Sandman, Father," Prudence had told him. She suspected he was crazy, but that didn't make her love him any less.

"We'll see about that," he had replied, his blue eyes sparkling. Though they had the same eye color, her father's eyes had some quality Prudence never saw in her own reflection. What it was, she could never figure out. Eyes were eyes, weren't they?

"It's fairy dust," he told her. She always shook her head at that. How silly could someone be? There were no such things as fairies. Or giants, or pixies, or talking animals. Some things just didn't exist, and the world was fine without them. But still he had left her, in search of something that wasn't even real. As always when saying good-bye, he'd kissed her on the forehead, once on each cheek, then on the tip of her nose, and recited, "My heart, my soul, and even my skin, I'll be broken until we're together again."

She was broken, too. Like a little part of her heart was missing, and though it could still beat and pump her blood as it was supposed to, there was always a tiny ache deep inside. Thankfully, it would feel normal again soon. And just in the nick of time, too. She wasn't sure how much longer she could stand undiluted time with Mrs. Godfrey, her plump and excitable nanny. Mrs. Godfrey meant well, Prudence knew, but still, she was worse than Prudence's father—blaming late-night creaks on ghosts, missing socks on gremlins, and her stories of wish-granting fish? Well, it was all more than Prudence could bear most days.

"Ms. Parks?" Professor Pinochle said, "Prudence Parks!"

Prudence started. The room was empty. Had she been daydreaming? Her cheeks went hot at the very idea.
"Class is dismissed," he said, clearly annoyed.

"Yes, of course. Good day, Professor." Prudence scooped up her books and left the room with as much dignity as she could muster. Finally it was time to go home.

Ah, home. Where she could be herself. Where she hung her clothes according to weather and hue. Where her dressing table held her grooming tools in the order she used them each day. Home. Where even her plate was a place of order with exactly the right amount of food from each of the food groups, never mixing, and always eaten in clockwise order.

Prudence stepped into the foyer, which was much quieter than usual, and went down the hallway. Mrs. Godfrey was at the large wooden table in the breakfast nook, sniffling and dabbing at her eyes with a scrap of paper. Prudence tried to tiptoe past. Probably some neighborhood news had sent her into a tizzy. Or maybe her prized roses had been used as a litter box again.

Prudence knew better than to get involved, but the woman's eyes missed nothing. Mrs. Godfrey rushed to the doorway and clutched Prudence to her oversized bosom.

"Oh, Prudy . . . " She could barely speak as she handed over a soggy telegram. In Mrs. Godfrey's suffocating embrace, Prudence read the message.

Prudence twinged. "This can't be right. No, Mrs. Godfrey. It's a mistake."

Her father? Dead? It didn't make sense. But her nanny only cried louder.

In her room, she assured herself he would be back in three hours, as scheduled, and her routine would go on as usual. French on Friday, study sessions all day Saturday, and a father/daughter picnic at the park on Sunday.

Three hours came and went. Then a day. And another. Still, her father didn't come.

Prudence moved about her life in a trance. Professor Pinochle couldn't rouse her from her seat, no matter how difficult his equations became. She didn't notice when she drank salt in her tea instead of sugar, much to her classmates' dismay. Then on Sunday, instead of sitting on a blanket while her father reenacted his adventures, she followed Mrs. Godfrey around the market in a confused and awkward silence. Four days passed.

On the fifth day, Prudence paced in her room. She stared at her personal library, not seeing the thousands of books. There was no pleasure in riding the ladder around the perimeter of the shelves. Even the Prudence-shaped imprint in her favorite study chair couldn't make her feel right. Everything was . . . off.

The staff bustled in, out, and around. They hung white sheets over the handcrafted wooden furniture and packed a trunk on Prudence's behalf, which sat leering at her from the middle of the floor like a dark stranger. Where was he? Why hadn't he come back?

The house became a revolving door of weepy-eyed visitors offering head pats and "poor little dears." Words like "condolences" and "loss" were uttered in hushed tones. But Prudence wasn't pitiful. She was too strong for that! She was angry. How could something frail and papery cause so much destruction?

That witless telegram. How dare it presume anything!

She was forced to skip Latin class on Monday to sit in a depressing parlor filled with portraits of her father and listen to people she rarely saw as they spoke of his greatness.

Not great. Selfish, that's what he was. If he were great, he wouldn't have left her. He would have come back.

By the time she missed chess on Tuesday, she was furious—but things were going to get worse.

In a law office downtown that reeked of furniture polish and hair oil, Prudence sat in a cold leather chair and was informed that, with no living relatives, she had to leave her house of bricks and sensible cream rugs to live in a home for foundling children.

An orphanage? Prudence's fuming mind pictured unruly monsters with frayed hair and unkempt dress, fighting over bowls of gruel.

Her life, her home, and her perfect schedule were ripped away. In her mind, her screams shattered glass, but outwardly she was stone. Without a word or so much as a solitary tear, she accepted a passenger ticket and a small, rectangular box wrapped in brown paper—her only inheritance.

***The End of Chapter One***

Thank you for joining me this week for BEWILDER-Palooza! Look for the release of the ebook by 2/14/14 and the print versions (hardback and paperback) by 2/28/14.

For a limited time only, you can PRE-ORDER the eBook version of "Bewildered" for $0.99 at the following retailers:

A Bewilderness Tale, Book One
Release Date: February 2014.
PRICE: 3.99

Enter to win an ebook copy! Contest ends at midnight tonight, 1/24/14!! 

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