Fiction Fest: June McCrary Jacobs’ ‘A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom’ opens October excerpt series

Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom_2x3In the publishing business, October marks the beginning of the Christmas season, which is why our holiday titles, such as June McCrary Jacobs’ “A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom,” hit the market so early.

“A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom” was the winner of the Cedar Fort 2013 Holiday Writing Contest, an annual contest that awards the winning entry with a publishing contract. Look for the 2014 announcement soon.

About the book: When her student, six-year-old Mary Noel, survives a car accident over Thanksgiving break, Amber and her new friend, Paul, are determined to cheer her up during the holidays. But Mary Noel’s most painful injury is the loss of her dog. The more withdrawn Mary Noel becomes, the more Amber and Paul need a miracle—a miracle that requires the entire community’s help.

“A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom” will be released on Oct. 8, 2013, but is available for pre-order right now from BooksAndThings.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesAndNoble.com.

EXCERPT:

Amber Kellen, first grade teacher at the Apple Blossom Country School in Apple Blossom, Vermont, receives some unexpected and tragic news from her principal one morning before the children have arrived.

Humming her favorite patriotic tune as she worked, Amber Kellen was startled when the sharp click of the heels of her principal, Dorothy Griffin, echoed loudly on the linoleum floor of her classroom. Amber stopped pinning the brightly hued autumn landscapes painted by her six-year-old students on the front bulletin board in her classroom and turned to greet Mrs. Griffin. The affable and capable leader of the staff and students of Apple Blossom Country School wore a tense expression that caused her normally relaxed face to appear pale and drawn.

The young first-grade teacher gasped as the realization that something must be seriously amiss gripped her heart. As the principal approached, Mrs. Griffin knit her eyebrows together and shook her head sadly. Amber had noticed that the school administrator always spoke formally no matter what the situation. It was likely as a result of her university degree in Shakespearean literature.

“Amber, I regret having to greet you with such horrific news this Monday morning. Especially since we’re returning from our Thanksgiving weekend break.”

“What’s happened?” Amber heard a slight tremor in her voice.

“One of your students was critically injured in a tragic accident yesterday afternoon.”

Her open palm flying to cover her heart, Amber squeaked, “Who? What happened?”

“Mary Noel Simmons was hit by a car on the road in front of her house.”

“Oh, no,” Amber shivered involuntarily.

“As you can imagine, the driver of the vehicle is absolutely distraught over what occurred. The police investigation found that the driver hit the little girl and her dog through no fault of his own. It was plain and simply a freak accident.” The middle-aged administrator paused briefly. “Apparently the dog’s leash got tangled around the bicycle’s handlebars. When the dog took off across the road to chase a cat, Mary Noel got dragged out into the street too. The pair darted out from behind a big travel trailer that was parked in front of a neighbor’s property. What a shock for everyone involved.”

“Oh, this is terrible! I’m almost afraid to ask—how is Mary Noel?”

“Her parents say it could have been a lot worse. As it is, Mary Noel has a compound fracture in her left leg and a broken wrist that will require several surgeries. She has a lot of cuts and bruises along with a mild concussion. Fortunately, Mary Noel avoided a severe concussion or more serious permanent complications because she was wearing her helmet.” Mrs. Griffin fidgeted with her hands and sighed deeply.

Amber prepared herself for the worst because it was obvious that the administrator had more bad news to share. “According to Mary Noel’s mother, Barbara Simmons, those aren’t the worst injuries, I’m afraid.” Silence filled the classroom as both women processed the profound ramifications of the accident.

“Please tell me everything,” Amber said. “I’d rather hear it from you now than let my imagination run wild.” She physically braced herself against her sturdy, wooden teacher’s desk for support.

“As you wish. Mary Noel was traumatized by the sight of her little dog, Cocoa, dying in the accident. By all accounts, the two were inseparable. Since Mary Noel didn’t lose consciousness, she saw and heard everything. Even though the dog died almost instantly, there was a copious amount of blood and—well, you get the picture.”

Amber detected some tender emotions surfacing in her principal’s usual stalwart manner. Mrs. Griffin’s voice was shaky as she continued, “Mary Noel has completely withdrawn into herself since the accident. That little girl hasn’t muttered a single word, not even to her mom, dad, or grandparents. Barbara Simmons told me the doctor’s opinion is that it’s not Mary Noel’s injuries that have caused the youngster to withdraw. No, the physician firmly believes it was seeing her best friend, Cocoa, killed that has shocked this little girl into silence.”