Katherine Stevens is creating books
0
patrons

Dear readers,
   I've been writing since before I could write. When I was barely three years old I used to dictate stories to my mother, who would write them down on construction paper. I would, of course, accompany these stories with stick-figure illustrations. They made great Christmas presents.
   I have never wondered what it was I wanted to do. I've considered different day-jobs, sure, but these all came second to my desire to tell stories. I can't remember a time where I didn't have a story going on in my head, interrupted only by the times I have to come back down to talk to the living. Having another world in your head that you have to pop in and out of is like finding the cutest coffee shop in a foreign city and then not being able to find your way back to it. These people and stories are trapped within me, and in order to share them, I write.
   I have decided to self-publish in order to be able to make the best book that I can, but in order to do that, I need help with funding. If you decide to pitch in for even $1 a month, I will return the favor with not only my undying gratitude, but by detailing my self-publishing process, letting you in on different cover designs I sort through, excerpts from the work I’m producing at the moment, and announcements and behind the scenes sneak-peaks before anyone else.
   I appreciate any and all help I can get. I hope to be able to repay you by putting books on the shelves that will transport you to new worlds and inspire you.

What do I write?
I write Young Adult fiction because I believe it combines the best of whimsical children's literature with the serious ideas and themes of adult literature. I write mainly fantasy, but also adventure and some shorter realistic fiction. 

Why do I want to self-publish?
I want to be able to produce the best books I possibly can, and in order to do that, I want to have a say in the cover art, production, marketing, and title of my book. With traditional publishing, you receive a lot of help in making decisions and in support, but there isn't a lot of help in marketing, and often times you run the risk of sacrificing creative control of your book. 

What do I need your help with?
Self-publishing has come a long way in terms of cost to the author, but there are still a lot of things that go into producing a quality book. Everything from editor's services, cover artist's charges, and marketing purchases need to be carefully invested in, in order to make a book that will reach people and grab their attention. 

What will you get in return? 
Besides my undying gratitude, you will also receive perks depending on which tier you purchase. Everything from a monthly newsletter detailing where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, to getting excerpts from my manuscripts, there's something for everyone. 

So what is this book even about? 
Darling is Once Upon a Time meets The Grisha Trilogy. Darling is an eighteen-year-old runaway living on the edge of Nightmare Forest with her best friend John and the orphan boys they take care of. When John is wounded by a Nightmare (a dog-like beast most believe to be a legend), Darling must travel deeper into Nightmare Forest than she's ever been before, in order to get the antidote from the Prince of Nightmares himself.
Along the way, she will encounter a ginger orphan with a pet dragon, cannibalistic twins, seductive sirens, and an angry troll. But all of these obstacles pale when she finally reaches her destination - the palace where the Prince of Nightmares resides. But little does she know, her troubles are only beginning once she comes face-to-face with the Prince.

I've included the first chapter of Darling below. If you feel like investing in this story, my tiers of support are listed on the right-hand side of the page!

Thank you in advance for your support. It means the world. 
Blessings,
Katherine Stevens

Chapter One of Darling, copyright 2018 Katherine Stevens
Chapter One
If people were a little more generous, they wouldn’t get their knickers in a knot over simple things like petty thievery.
I duck and dodge through the crowd, panting, but not daring to slow down. The angry voice behind me is shouting for me to come back, calling me such unsavory names as “thief” and “brat.” The people of Gia have more than enough; the baker wouldn’t have even noticed any bread was missing if he hadn’t caught me red-handed. Gluttony is what it is, and while stealing isn’t something I usually condone, per se, but my boys are starving.
I jump over a stack of barrels and kick them over, blocking my pursuer’s path. They’re too large for him to get around easily, so he just starts on a string of insults and expletives, perhaps hoping it will knock me down. His breath certainly might.
I continue deeper into the forest, not slowing down until I’ve gotten within a hundred yards of home. I stop by a tree and lean up against it, looking over my shoulder and quieting my breath, trying to determine if I’m still being pursued by the baker. After a couple of minutes, I know I’m not, and sink to the forest floor to catch my breath, taking my bag off and stuffing the four loaves of bread into it, fastening it closed, then laying it down beside me as I rest my head against the trunk of the tree. The layers of my tattered dresses, all that I own, fan out around me; their many colors make me look like a gypsy more than anything. My dark hair falls over my shoulder and down my back, providing additional warmth. Winter is coming, and it’s going to be a brutal one.
Another pair of boots appears next to mine, and I instantly reach for my bag, scrambling to my feet, but he grabs my arm and stops me. I jerk the bread back behind my back instinctively and look up to see it’s not the baker, but a young man just slightly older than I. I jerk my arm free, “Don’t scare me like that.” I try to catch my breath once again.
“You’re the one who’s as flighty as a cat. Is that the bread you get from the ‘kind baker who takes pity on us orphans’?” He smirks, gesturing to the bag still clutched behind my back, then holds out his hand.
I take it and he helps me up, and then fall in beside him as we make our way home. He looks at his feet and then back up again, an anxious expression on his face. “What?” I ask. Though he’s only twenty-two, he’ll have wrinkles next to his sharp, green eyes soon enough.
“I’m going to get the bread from now on.”
I scoff, “Not a chance…you know I can outrun you any day. Besides, you’re not on as good of terms with the baker as I am,” I wink and shove his shoulder.
He shakes his head ruefully, “Darling, it’s not funny. You shouldn’t even be here.”
I look away, slightly exasperated, “Not this again, John.”
But he’s emphatic, “Yes, this again. You have somewhere you could go, not be hungry-”
“John, do you remember what state I was in when I got here?” His face tells me he does, “Exactly. So just drop it, please.” We arrive at the most familiar tree in the forest. “This is home,” I mutter.
The Burrow is one large room, incredibly hollowed out underground by John and the older boys. Fate found me crying by the tree that serves as the entrance on the day I ran away from home, and one of the babies of the bunch popped out from nowhere and asked if I was alright, and then more and more multiplied out of thin air. At last a tall one came out, and here we are today.
“You deserve better,” John whispers, but before I have time to reply, the munchkins start crawling out from nowhere all around and envelop us. They start pulling at me and grabbing at my arms and legs and waist, trying to touch me. I laugh out loud - this is one of my favorite things about coming home. So much love washes over me at once when I’ve been gone all day, or in this case, a week. The sun is setting as the boys escort me through the entrance of the burrow – behind some bushes that the kids strategically planted on the other side of the large tree. The trunk itself spans more than my arm’s length across, and underneath is a hole of sorts, through which we enter our home.
Our little Burrow is minuscule but homey. Candles are burning in various corners, random knickknacks and playthings scattered about, and a general mess that has accumulated since I’ve been gone. There are cutout cubbies in the earth on the far end of the burrow that sacks of straw are stuffed in as makeshift mattresses, and scraps of fabric sewn together for blankets. There’s a long table running down the middle (currently piled high with dirty and chipped, wooden dishes) and a small pot-belly stove with a foot missing, books stacked underneath to keep it standing.
All things considered, it’s quite a cozy place to call home. Normally when I’m in town I scour garbage cans and such for clothing, blankets, almost burnt candles, etc. This time I was only able to find bread…unfortunately, I could only find it in the bakery.
“Darling, why were you gone so long?”
“Darling, where did you go?”
“Darling, you can’t stay out that long again. John’s cooking nearly poisoned us!” One of the older boys, Logan, makes choking noises. John puts him in a headlock and scrubs his head with his knuckles in retribution.
“John, what on earth did you make?” I look over into the wash tub at the stack of unwashed dishes with a menacing brown substance in them.
“I just threw a few things together,” He shrugs.
“I swear one of the ingredients was raccoon poop,” one of the little ones whispers in my ear as I pick him up.
“Well, I suppose you’ll have to be in charge of dinner next time I’m gone, Greg.”
“Yes! Berries!”
“And that is why you are not in charge of meals,” John scolds, taking the little one from me, one of my curls trailing after in his small hand. John removes the curl and twirls it, but I snatch it back. He grins and then turns back to addressing Greg, “All we’d eat is berries if it were up to you.”
“I like berries,” he pouts as John sets him down.
“Alright gang," he turns to the crowd of boys, "Darling’s back, so I’m going hunting to see if there’s a Nightmare creeping about.”
“What’s a Nightmare?” One of the youngest, an inquisitive four-year-old named Henry, pipes up.
“It’s a magical beast that roams this forest and gives it its name. A new one is born every time someone has a nightmare - they feed off the evil magic from your sleeping brain. And every time you have a good dream, a Nightmare vanishes. Poof!” I blow in his face for emphasis and he laughs.
“Now, whose is it?” John asks the group. He has them believing that he kills a Nightmare every time he goes out hunting, and it helps some of the younger ones to deal with the monster under their bed. Most of them haven’t led very happy lives, so there are quite a few.
It’s a story mothers have told their children to keep them out of this forest for centuries. There are some who actually believe they exist. Though we’ve lived on the edge of Nightmare Forest for years, we’ve all yet to see one; the occasional troll or fairy, sure, but no Nightmare.
“This one is mine,” a small voice whispers from within the lot, and I turn my head to look. It’s Mark, about the same age as Greg, maybe a bit younger. John scoops him up.
“Now, can you tell me what it was like so I’ll have a better idea of what I’m up against?” he says, with the tiny, shy bit of a boy on his hip. It took us weeks to even get him to talk.
“He was big, and dark, and looked sort of like a wolf, but giant-er than our tree.” He says in his baby voice, warming up and holding out his arms wide at the last part for emphasis.
“Uh huh. Better take my bow then,” he sets Mark down, ruffles his hair, and picks up his bow. “I’ll be sure to get him, alright? I’ll be back soon as I do.” Another wink and he opens the hatch and walks up the step ladder and pulls himself through the hole, shutting the trapdoor behind him. After a moment of hesitation, I tell the boys I’ll be right back and hurry after him.
“John, wait,” I call as I cross the clearing. He turns and smiles as he walks back towards me. I shut the hatch so the little ones won’t hear, but I still walk out a few yards to meet him because I know they’ll be listening anyway. “Listen, don’t stay out for ages just because you can’t find something to bring back,” I say, crossing my arms in the cold wind.
“I can’t let Mark down Darling – he might not be able to sleep tonight if I don’t,” He grins and starts to walk off again, but I grab his shirt sleeve.
“John, I’m serious. You were gone for two weeks last time, and it’s getting colder every day. Be careful, alright?”
He looks at me a moment before pulling me into a hug. I rise to my tiptoes to rest my chin on his shoulder. I breathe in the smell of his shirt, the rough fibers tickling my nose. It doesn’t bother me; the solid constant of his arms is a luxurious comfort.
He pulls back and holds me at arm’s length, “Is something else wrong?”
“No, I’m just tired,” I smile up at him reassuringly.
“That’s not all though, is it?”
I look up at the sky as the stars begin to come out, “I just…I worry about you when you go out. I know you can handle yourself, I’ve seen you do it. But I’m terrified that one day you might not come back home.”
He looks down at my neck and plays with the necklace he made me years ago - a whittling of an acorn because I always get so excited when autumn comes around, “I wouldn’t risk it if I didn’t have to Darling –“
I cut him off by wrapping my arms around his torso and pulling him close. “If you apologize to me for working hard, or I’m going to think you’re getting lazy.” I pull back and smile up at him.
“I’ll be careful, I promise.” He gives my arms a last squeeze and picks up his bow, walking off.
“Don’t be gone for long!”
“What about Mark?” he walks backward.
“I don’t know…we’ll tell him his nightmare turned into a radish or something.”
“Now Darling,” he winks at me, “that would just be ridiculous.” He turns around and disappears into the thick of the forest.
~o~

Three days later, I hear him tumble into the burrow late at night before I hear the footsteps. His rapid breathing and his strangely gated step are both odd sounds, but the dull clunk of the boots are very familiar. But then the footsteps stop with a loud “thunk” and I can tell something’s wrong.
I pull back the curtain from my hole-in-the-wall bed and see John collapsed on the floor, clutching his leg and biting a strip of cloth to keep silent.
I run to his side, “What happened?” I harshly whisper, but he just shakes his head. I grab his less injured arm and help him into a chair. His body shakes and he looks like he’s about to pass out, he’s so ashy and his eyes are half closed.
“What happened??” But he doesn’t answer me – he’s barely conscious at this point. Starting to panic, I leave him to grab a small candle, light it, and bring it over. Kneeling down, I slowly begin to peel the blood-soaked pants up his leg – to reveal a large bite wound on his calf. There are clear teeth marks digging into the flesh, but no animal I know makes bite marks like this. “John, what bit you??”
As his eyes drift shut and his head slumps over, I hear him whisper, “A Nightmare.” My eyes widen as I realize he’s delusional, but more concerning – his head lolls to the side and he passes out.
“John? John?” I shake his shoulder, but he’s out cold. I look around frantically, trying to figure out what to do next.
I realize I can’t get him to a bed by myself, so I decide I’ll have to get Ralph up. I don’t want to – I don’t want him to see John in this state, the person he idolizes, but Ralph is the oldest of the boys at seventeen. He’s also skilled with healing herbs, as his family owned an apothecary.
I walk over to his bunk and put my hand over his mouth to wake him. He jerks, his hands flying up and I turn my head away so he won’t smack me, then I look back over to see his wide, confused eyes. I take my hand off his face and put a finger to my mouth for silence, then motion for him to follow me. He does, and as soon as we’re past the curtain, he sees John sprawled out on the floor, blood starting to drip onto the floor.
I put my hand on his shoulder as he stares in horror. He mutely nods, snapping out of it, and walks over with me. We manage to get him onto my bed in the wall, as it’s the closest. I try to gently take off his shirt to assess the damage, but the wound is sticking to the fabric, and he moans in pain. I get his knife out to cut the shirt away - we’ll have to worry about winter clothes later.
Once his shirt is off, and his pant legs torn above the knee, we’re able to assess the full damage, and I have the urge to vomit. He has massive wounds, bite marks mainly, covering his arm and side, but the worst is his leg. Ralph has become a healer, and turns his limbs around, wipes around the wound to get a better look, and analyzes John. Then he turns to me, “We’re going to need stronger herbs than anything we have here; this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
I nod, “What do we need?”
“I’m not sure for this kind of bite, but Mr. Allen will.”
“Alright,” I grab my bag and throw a few things in, “Keep the younger boys from seeing him like this.”
He nods, “Alright, just...be careful.”
“When am I not?” I smile before climbing out of the hole, a knot in my throat. 
Tiers
The Puffins
$1 or more per month
The Puffins group provides access to my newsletter once a month that details where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my Youtube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. 
The Pugs
$10 or more per month
The Pugs group provides access to the monthly newsletter,  where once a month you'll hear about all of the details on where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my Youtube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. With this tier you'll also be able to suggest blog post and video topics for my Youtube channel! On my Youtube channel I talk about my self publishing process, why I want to go this route, and how I'm going about it. 
The Camels
$20 or more per month
The Camels group provides access to the monthly newsletter,  where once a month you'll hear about all of the details on where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my YouTube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. You'll also be able to suggest blog post and video topics for my YouTube channel! On my YouTube channel I talk about my self publishing process, why I want to go this route, and how I'm going about it. And with this specific tier you'll also have the chance to get short excerpts from my latest drafts!
The Lemurs
$50 or more per month
The Lemurs group provides access to the monthly newsletter,  where once a month you'll hear about all of the details on where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my YouTube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. You'll also be able to suggest blog post and video topics for my YouTube channel! On my YouTube channel I talk about my self publishing process, why I want to go this route, and how I'm going about it. You'll also have the chance to get short excerpts from my latest drafts. And with this specific tier, you will be able to see all of the different options for book covers I dream up, and to give feedback on them!
The Giraffes
$100 or more per month
The Lemurs group provides access to the monthly newsletter,  where once a month you'll hear about all of the details on where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my YouTube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. You'll also be able to suggest blog post and video topics for my YouTube channel! On my YouTube channel I talk about my self publishing process, why I want to go this route, and how I'm going about it. You'll also have the chance to get short excerpts from my latest drafts. Additionally, you will be able to see all of the different options for book covers I dream up, and to give feedback on them. And with this speicific tier, you'll get the chance to beta read drafts of my novels and give critical feedback on them, so that I can edit them accordingly and make them the best drafts they can be!
The Lions
$300 or more per month
The Lions group provides access to the monthly newsletter, where once a month you'll hear about all of the details on where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my YouTube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. You'll also be able to suggest blog post and video topics for my YouTube channel! On my YouTube channel I talk about my self publishing process, why I want to go this route, and how I'm going about it. You'll also have the chance to get short excerpts from my latest drafts. Additionally, you will be able to see all of the different options for book covers I dream up, and to give feedback on them. You will also get the chance to beta read drafts of my novels and give critical feedback on them, so that I can edit them accordingly and make them the best drafts they can be. And with THIS specific tier, you will have your name printed in my published books - forever immortalized - as well as receiving my undying gratitude and affection. 
Goals
0% complete
If we reach $250 a month, I will be able to hire a professional editor to edit my debut series, Darling.
1 of 2

Dear readers,
   I've been writing since before I could write. When I was barely three years old I used to dictate stories to my mother, who would write them down on construction paper. I would, of course, accompany these stories with stick-figure illustrations. They made great Christmas presents.
   I have never wondered what it was I wanted to do. I've considered different day-jobs, sure, but these all came second to my desire to tell stories. I can't remember a time where I didn't have a story going on in my head, interrupted only by the times I have to come back down to talk to the living. Having another world in your head that you have to pop in and out of is like finding the cutest coffee shop in a foreign city and then not being able to find your way back to it. These people and stories are trapped within me, and in order to share them, I write.
   I have decided to self-publish in order to be able to make the best book that I can, but in order to do that, I need help with funding. If you decide to pitch in for even $1 a month, I will return the favor with not only my undying gratitude, but by detailing my self-publishing process, letting you in on different cover designs I sort through, excerpts from the work I’m producing at the moment, and announcements and behind the scenes sneak-peaks before anyone else.
   I appreciate any and all help I can get. I hope to be able to repay you by putting books on the shelves that will transport you to new worlds and inspire you.

What do I write?
I write Young Adult fiction because I believe it combines the best of whimsical children's literature with the serious ideas and themes of adult literature. I write mainly fantasy, but also adventure and some shorter realistic fiction. 

Why do I want to self-publish?
I want to be able to produce the best books I possibly can, and in order to do that, I want to have a say in the cover art, production, marketing, and title of my book. With traditional publishing, you receive a lot of help in making decisions and in support, but there isn't a lot of help in marketing, and often times you run the risk of sacrificing creative control of your book. 

What do I need your help with?
Self-publishing has come a long way in terms of cost to the author, but there are still a lot of things that go into producing a quality book. Everything from editor's services, cover artist's charges, and marketing purchases need to be carefully invested in, in order to make a book that will reach people and grab their attention. 

What will you get in return? 
Besides my undying gratitude, you will also receive perks depending on which tier you purchase. Everything from a monthly newsletter detailing where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, to getting excerpts from my manuscripts, there's something for everyone. 

So what is this book even about? 
Darling is Once Upon a Time meets The Grisha Trilogy. Darling is an eighteen-year-old runaway living on the edge of Nightmare Forest with her best friend John and the orphan boys they take care of. When John is wounded by a Nightmare (a dog-like beast most believe to be a legend), Darling must travel deeper into Nightmare Forest than she's ever been before, in order to get the antidote from the Prince of Nightmares himself.
Along the way, she will encounter a ginger orphan with a pet dragon, cannibalistic twins, seductive sirens, and an angry troll. But all of these obstacles pale when she finally reaches her destination - the palace where the Prince of Nightmares resides. But little does she know, her troubles are only beginning once she comes face-to-face with the Prince.

I've included the first chapter of Darling below. If you feel like investing in this story, my tiers of support are listed on the right-hand side of the page!

Thank you in advance for your support. It means the world. 
Blessings,
Katherine Stevens

Chapter One of Darling, copyright 2018 Katherine Stevens
Chapter One
If people were a little more generous, they wouldn’t get their knickers in a knot over simple things like petty thievery.
I duck and dodge through the crowd, panting, but not daring to slow down. The angry voice behind me is shouting for me to come back, calling me such unsavory names as “thief” and “brat.” The people of Gia have more than enough; the baker wouldn’t have even noticed any bread was missing if he hadn’t caught me red-handed. Gluttony is what it is, and while stealing isn’t something I usually condone, per se, but my boys are starving.
I jump over a stack of barrels and kick them over, blocking my pursuer’s path. They’re too large for him to get around easily, so he just starts on a string of insults and expletives, perhaps hoping it will knock me down. His breath certainly might.
I continue deeper into the forest, not slowing down until I’ve gotten within a hundred yards of home. I stop by a tree and lean up against it, looking over my shoulder and quieting my breath, trying to determine if I’m still being pursued by the baker. After a couple of minutes, I know I’m not, and sink to the forest floor to catch my breath, taking my bag off and stuffing the four loaves of bread into it, fastening it closed, then laying it down beside me as I rest my head against the trunk of the tree. The layers of my tattered dresses, all that I own, fan out around me; their many colors make me look like a gypsy more than anything. My dark hair falls over my shoulder and down my back, providing additional warmth. Winter is coming, and it’s going to be a brutal one.
Another pair of boots appears next to mine, and I instantly reach for my bag, scrambling to my feet, but he grabs my arm and stops me. I jerk the bread back behind my back instinctively and look up to see it’s not the baker, but a young man just slightly older than I. I jerk my arm free, “Don’t scare me like that.” I try to catch my breath once again.
“You’re the one who’s as flighty as a cat. Is that the bread you get from the ‘kind baker who takes pity on us orphans’?” He smirks, gesturing to the bag still clutched behind my back, then holds out his hand.
I take it and he helps me up, and then fall in beside him as we make our way home. He looks at his feet and then back up again, an anxious expression on his face. “What?” I ask. Though he’s only twenty-two, he’ll have wrinkles next to his sharp, green eyes soon enough.
“I’m going to get the bread from now on.”
I scoff, “Not a chance…you know I can outrun you any day. Besides, you’re not on as good of terms with the baker as I am,” I wink and shove his shoulder.
He shakes his head ruefully, “Darling, it’s not funny. You shouldn’t even be here.”
I look away, slightly exasperated, “Not this again, John.”
But he’s emphatic, “Yes, this again. You have somewhere you could go, not be hungry-”
“John, do you remember what state I was in when I got here?” His face tells me he does, “Exactly. So just drop it, please.” We arrive at the most familiar tree in the forest. “This is home,” I mutter.
The Burrow is one large room, incredibly hollowed out underground by John and the older boys. Fate found me crying by the tree that serves as the entrance on the day I ran away from home, and one of the babies of the bunch popped out from nowhere and asked if I was alright, and then more and more multiplied out of thin air. At last a tall one came out, and here we are today.
“You deserve better,” John whispers, but before I have time to reply, the munchkins start crawling out from nowhere all around and envelop us. They start pulling at me and grabbing at my arms and legs and waist, trying to touch me. I laugh out loud - this is one of my favorite things about coming home. So much love washes over me at once when I’ve been gone all day, or in this case, a week. The sun is setting as the boys escort me through the entrance of the burrow – behind some bushes that the kids strategically planted on the other side of the large tree. The trunk itself spans more than my arm’s length across, and underneath is a hole of sorts, through which we enter our home.
Our little Burrow is minuscule but homey. Candles are burning in various corners, random knickknacks and playthings scattered about, and a general mess that has accumulated since I’ve been gone. There are cutout cubbies in the earth on the far end of the burrow that sacks of straw are stuffed in as makeshift mattresses, and scraps of fabric sewn together for blankets. There’s a long table running down the middle (currently piled high with dirty and chipped, wooden dishes) and a small pot-belly stove with a foot missing, books stacked underneath to keep it standing.
All things considered, it’s quite a cozy place to call home. Normally when I’m in town I scour garbage cans and such for clothing, blankets, almost burnt candles, etc. This time I was only able to find bread…unfortunately, I could only find it in the bakery.
“Darling, why were you gone so long?”
“Darling, where did you go?”
“Darling, you can’t stay out that long again. John’s cooking nearly poisoned us!” One of the older boys, Logan, makes choking noises. John puts him in a headlock and scrubs his head with his knuckles in retribution.
“John, what on earth did you make?” I look over into the wash tub at the stack of unwashed dishes with a menacing brown substance in them.
“I just threw a few things together,” He shrugs.
“I swear one of the ingredients was raccoon poop,” one of the little ones whispers in my ear as I pick him up.
“Well, I suppose you’ll have to be in charge of dinner next time I’m gone, Greg.”
“Yes! Berries!”
“And that is why you are not in charge of meals,” John scolds, taking the little one from me, one of my curls trailing after in his small hand. John removes the curl and twirls it, but I snatch it back. He grins and then turns back to addressing Greg, “All we’d eat is berries if it were up to you.”
“I like berries,” he pouts as John sets him down.
“Alright gang," he turns to the crowd of boys, "Darling’s back, so I’m going hunting to see if there’s a Nightmare creeping about.”
“What’s a Nightmare?” One of the youngest, an inquisitive four-year-old named Henry, pipes up.
“It’s a magical beast that roams this forest and gives it its name. A new one is born every time someone has a nightmare - they feed off the evil magic from your sleeping brain. And every time you have a good dream, a Nightmare vanishes. Poof!” I blow in his face for emphasis and he laughs.
“Now, whose is it?” John asks the group. He has them believing that he kills a Nightmare every time he goes out hunting, and it helps some of the younger ones to deal with the monster under their bed. Most of them haven’t led very happy lives, so there are quite a few.
It’s a story mothers have told their children to keep them out of this forest for centuries. There are some who actually believe they exist. Though we’ve lived on the edge of Nightmare Forest for years, we’ve all yet to see one; the occasional troll or fairy, sure, but no Nightmare.
“This one is mine,” a small voice whispers from within the lot, and I turn my head to look. It’s Mark, about the same age as Greg, maybe a bit younger. John scoops him up.
“Now, can you tell me what it was like so I’ll have a better idea of what I’m up against?” he says, with the tiny, shy bit of a boy on his hip. It took us weeks to even get him to talk.
“He was big, and dark, and looked sort of like a wolf, but giant-er than our tree.” He says in his baby voice, warming up and holding out his arms wide at the last part for emphasis.
“Uh huh. Better take my bow then,” he sets Mark down, ruffles his hair, and picks up his bow. “I’ll be sure to get him, alright? I’ll be back soon as I do.” Another wink and he opens the hatch and walks up the step ladder and pulls himself through the hole, shutting the trapdoor behind him. After a moment of hesitation, I tell the boys I’ll be right back and hurry after him.
“John, wait,” I call as I cross the clearing. He turns and smiles as he walks back towards me. I shut the hatch so the little ones won’t hear, but I still walk out a few yards to meet him because I know they’ll be listening anyway. “Listen, don’t stay out for ages just because you can’t find something to bring back,” I say, crossing my arms in the cold wind.
“I can’t let Mark down Darling – he might not be able to sleep tonight if I don’t,” He grins and starts to walk off again, but I grab his shirt sleeve.
“John, I’m serious. You were gone for two weeks last time, and it’s getting colder every day. Be careful, alright?”
He looks at me a moment before pulling me into a hug. I rise to my tiptoes to rest my chin on his shoulder. I breathe in the smell of his shirt, the rough fibers tickling my nose. It doesn’t bother me; the solid constant of his arms is a luxurious comfort.
He pulls back and holds me at arm’s length, “Is something else wrong?”
“No, I’m just tired,” I smile up at him reassuringly.
“That’s not all though, is it?”
I look up at the sky as the stars begin to come out, “I just…I worry about you when you go out. I know you can handle yourself, I’ve seen you do it. But I’m terrified that one day you might not come back home.”
He looks down at my neck and plays with the necklace he made me years ago - a whittling of an acorn because I always get so excited when autumn comes around, “I wouldn’t risk it if I didn’t have to Darling –“
I cut him off by wrapping my arms around his torso and pulling him close. “If you apologize to me for working hard, or I’m going to think you’re getting lazy.” I pull back and smile up at him.
“I’ll be careful, I promise.” He gives my arms a last squeeze and picks up his bow, walking off.
“Don’t be gone for long!”
“What about Mark?” he walks backward.
“I don’t know…we’ll tell him his nightmare turned into a radish or something.”
“Now Darling,” he winks at me, “that would just be ridiculous.” He turns around and disappears into the thick of the forest.
~o~

Three days later, I hear him tumble into the burrow late at night before I hear the footsteps. His rapid breathing and his strangely gated step are both odd sounds, but the dull clunk of the boots are very familiar. But then the footsteps stop with a loud “thunk” and I can tell something’s wrong.
I pull back the curtain from my hole-in-the-wall bed and see John collapsed on the floor, clutching his leg and biting a strip of cloth to keep silent.
I run to his side, “What happened?” I harshly whisper, but he just shakes his head. I grab his less injured arm and help him into a chair. His body shakes and he looks like he’s about to pass out, he’s so ashy and his eyes are half closed.
“What happened??” But he doesn’t answer me – he’s barely conscious at this point. Starting to panic, I leave him to grab a small candle, light it, and bring it over. Kneeling down, I slowly begin to peel the blood-soaked pants up his leg – to reveal a large bite wound on his calf. There are clear teeth marks digging into the flesh, but no animal I know makes bite marks like this. “John, what bit you??”
As his eyes drift shut and his head slumps over, I hear him whisper, “A Nightmare.” My eyes widen as I realize he’s delusional, but more concerning – his head lolls to the side and he passes out.
“John? John?” I shake his shoulder, but he’s out cold. I look around frantically, trying to figure out what to do next.
I realize I can’t get him to a bed by myself, so I decide I’ll have to get Ralph up. I don’t want to – I don’t want him to see John in this state, the person he idolizes, but Ralph is the oldest of the boys at seventeen. He’s also skilled with healing herbs, as his family owned an apothecary.
I walk over to his bunk and put my hand over his mouth to wake him. He jerks, his hands flying up and I turn my head away so he won’t smack me, then I look back over to see his wide, confused eyes. I take my hand off his face and put a finger to my mouth for silence, then motion for him to follow me. He does, and as soon as we’re past the curtain, he sees John sprawled out on the floor, blood starting to drip onto the floor.
I put my hand on his shoulder as he stares in horror. He mutely nods, snapping out of it, and walks over with me. We manage to get him onto my bed in the wall, as it’s the closest. I try to gently take off his shirt to assess the damage, but the wound is sticking to the fabric, and he moans in pain. I get his knife out to cut the shirt away - we’ll have to worry about winter clothes later.
Once his shirt is off, and his pant legs torn above the knee, we’re able to assess the full damage, and I have the urge to vomit. He has massive wounds, bite marks mainly, covering his arm and side, but the worst is his leg. Ralph has become a healer, and turns his limbs around, wipes around the wound to get a better look, and analyzes John. Then he turns to me, “We’re going to need stronger herbs than anything we have here; this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
I nod, “What do we need?”
“I’m not sure for this kind of bite, but Mr. Allen will.”
“Alright,” I grab my bag and throw a few things in, “Keep the younger boys from seeing him like this.”
He nods, “Alright, just...be careful.”
“When am I not?” I smile before climbing out of the hole, a knot in my throat. 

Recent posts by Katherine Stevens

Tiers
The Puffins
$1 or more per month
The Puffins group provides access to my newsletter once a month that details where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my Youtube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. 
The Pugs
$10 or more per month
The Pugs group provides access to the monthly newsletter,  where once a month you'll hear about all of the details on where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my Youtube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. With this tier you'll also be able to suggest blog post and video topics for my Youtube channel! On my Youtube channel I talk about my self publishing process, why I want to go this route, and how I'm going about it. 
The Camels
$20 or more per month
The Camels group provides access to the monthly newsletter,  where once a month you'll hear about all of the details on where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my YouTube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. You'll also be able to suggest blog post and video topics for my YouTube channel! On my YouTube channel I talk about my self publishing process, why I want to go this route, and how I'm going about it. And with this specific tier you'll also have the chance to get short excerpts from my latest drafts!
The Lemurs
$50 or more per month
The Lemurs group provides access to the monthly newsletter,  where once a month you'll hear about all of the details on where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my YouTube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. You'll also be able to suggest blog post and video topics for my YouTube channel! On my YouTube channel I talk about my self publishing process, why I want to go this route, and how I'm going about it. You'll also have the chance to get short excerpts from my latest drafts. And with this specific tier, you will be able to see all of the different options for book covers I dream up, and to give feedback on them!
The Giraffes
$100 or more per month
The Lemurs group provides access to the monthly newsletter,  where once a month you'll hear about all of the details on where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my YouTube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. You'll also be able to suggest blog post and video topics for my YouTube channel! On my YouTube channel I talk about my self publishing process, why I want to go this route, and how I'm going about it. You'll also have the chance to get short excerpts from my latest drafts. Additionally, you will be able to see all of the different options for book covers I dream up, and to give feedback on them. And with this speicific tier, you'll get the chance to beta read drafts of my novels and give critical feedback on them, so that I can edit them accordingly and make them the best drafts they can be!
The Lions
$300 or more per month
The Lions group provides access to the monthly newsletter, where once a month you'll hear about all of the details on where I'm at in the writing and publishing process, links to my YouTube videos, and announcements on my next publication date. You'll be told before the rest of the general public about the next great thing to come out of my Word account. You'll also be able to suggest blog post and video topics for my YouTube channel! On my YouTube channel I talk about my self publishing process, why I want to go this route, and how I'm going about it. You'll also have the chance to get short excerpts from my latest drafts. Additionally, you will be able to see all of the different options for book covers I dream up, and to give feedback on them. You will also get the chance to beta read drafts of my novels and give critical feedback on them, so that I can edit them accordingly and make them the best drafts they can be. And with THIS specific tier, you will have your name printed in my published books - forever immortalized - as well as receiving my undying gratitude and affection.