Stella Byrd is a fun plot-driven fantasy novel inspired by the works of Roald Dahl, Lloyd Alexander, and Michael Ende, among others. It will delight children and adults alike. "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" by Joan Aiken and "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum have also been influential.
My friend and writing mentor Wallis Wilde Menozzi ("Mother Tongue", "Toscanelli's Ray", etc.) has given me some incredibly valuable tips for editing this novel as it progresses.
Here's Chapter One... feel free to read it out loud!
Stella Byrd and the Silver Shadow
by Alexandre Jones
"Just saying it could even make it happen." Kate Bush, Cloudbusting
Chapter One: Untold Things
Stella Byrd grew up with her father, a kind and very jovial widower named Bill. The two of them lived in a charming little house on a hilltop where they had a garden and cultivated five different kinds of berries. That is, until about a month ago, when Bill Byrd pulled a knife from his pocket and waved it around in the middle of a bank. Now eleven-year old Stella was stuck with her weird aunt Joan, who lived in the city of Perona and never let her play, while her father found himself serving a seventy-seven year jail sentence. Yeah, the police had caught him while he was standing there in front of the teller—who had calmly pressed the secret “Emergency Button” under her desk—still fumbling with his surprisingly dull Swiss Army Knife.
Let’s see, there’s the cheese knife, the saw blade, the corkscrew, the tweezers, the toothpick, the…
Drop the knife, mister, you’re under arrest!
Bill Byrd was currently forty-four years old. Stella, a straight-A student at Steel Corner Middle School, had done the math over and over again in her head. Forty-four plus seventy-seven equaled: her Dad was never getting out of jail.
So why did he do it? Why had Bill Byrd abruptly flashed his pocket knife in the middle of the Creditpool Fund Bank?
It was a mystery. Or anyway, if there was an explanation, nobody had told Stella.
This is something you learn as you grow up—you learn just how much you don’t actually know. It’s an important fact that must be faced. Ever heard the phrase “a drop in the ocean?” The drop is what you know. The rest of the ocean is what you’ve got to learn. And whereas the ocean is full of a kajillion gallons of water and an endless variety of fish and aquatic mammals and glow-in-the-dark jellyfish and carnivorous sea cucumbers, your actual life is chock-full of invisible and unknown things that you’d never realize unless somebody told you straight to your face. Stuff you could only find out by a strange twist of fate. Mysteries. Sudden surprising developments. The many things which are not what they seem to be. Realms of wonder and whimsy. Most people have no idea about all of that stuff. They only know that they’re hungry and that there’s a zit on their nose.
Long story short, Stella knew that she didn’t know anything. And she was bound and determined to find out as much as she could.
Not only was Stella’s father in prison.
But her mother was long gone, too.
And now, her Aunt Joan—her mother’s eccentric and criminally absent-minded elder sister—had taken Stella in to her home.
Oh yeah, there was another little mystery in Stella’s life, to top it all off. You see, her shadow had begun speaking to her. Yes, speaking, as in: the English language. But it spoke only to Stella and only when… Well, we’ll get to all of that soon enough.
Poor Stella didn’t know the why or wherefore of any of it. (Why and wherefore are actually synonyms, so the phrase “the why or wherefore” is technically redundant. But it sounds cool, so you should try it on your friends.)
She only knew that things were swiftly changing all around her.
Stella could feel that she was changing. She could literally feel it. In her bones. She was growing, getting longer and thinner by the day.
Her sixth-grade teachers at Steel Corner School said that she was “in the middle of a growth spurt” which sounded like the symptom of some kind of exotic disease. But she knew what they meant. It was unavoidable. Back when she was a little girl she’d had plump rosy cheeks and a cute little button nose. Now, when she looked in the mirror, she saw that her cheeks were flat and her nose had a point at the end. Her arms and legs looked like the limbs of a young tree that stretched and stretched, trying reach out from the forbidding shadows of a murky forest to catch a little sunlight.
Stella’s body was changing, and her life was changing, too. Her life had changed… too much.
All in all, Stella knew that if she wanted to find out the why and wherefore of the untold things which had planted themselves in her life, she’d have to look long and hard into shadowy places.