A Video About My Debut Album

 

Hello lovely fans! I’m so excited to announce that my debut album, Fields of Destiny is now available on Amazon MP3 for purchase! In this video, I talk about that, as well as give a little background story on my album. I really hope you enjoy it!

Purchase on Amazon MP3

Stream on Soundcloud

Listen to on YouTube

A Thousand Cranes – Volume 6 – New Poetry Book Released!

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Paperback

Kindle eBook

Genre : Poetry
Paperback : 206 Pages
From the book -

Clovers in the Sun

I once saw a clover shining in the sunlight
& in the background thru headphones, heroes
were singing about how we could do it
if only we were brave enough
& could be so when the times demanded this of us
if only we could be the heroes of our own stories
when there was no one else around to be our heroes

& like a bolt of stardust
falling from the sky
it hit me; I looked into my reflection
& bravely said
“I love you”

then I repeated this to the whole world & every soul in it
& my life was new

A Thousand Cranes, Volume 6 is a collection of 100 poems to inspire you.

Fields of Destiny Now Available on Amazon MP3!

Fields of Destiny-1

My debut album, Fields of Destiny, is now available for download on Amazon MP3! You can check it out here.

The release of my first album means a lot to me, & not just because releasing an album is exciting. I now feel like I’m really & truly a “legit” musician, & that having an album out is so much more impressive than having released a few singles. I think that releasing an album shows the world that a musician is serious about their songs, & by proving to the world, but most importantly yourself that music is one of your passions & you’re pursuing that – I think that’s really powerful. It inspires you to make more music, to try and outdo all that you’ve done before, to try to be the best that you can be. But even more than that, it ignites your passion towards being a musician in a way that releasing a single or two just doesn’t do – at least for me. An album just seems so epic in comparison, & it really made my day when it was published to Amazon MP3 & became available for all my lovely listeners – that’s you! – to hear. I put a lot of work into the album & it all paid off. I am absolutely in love with my album, & I hope that you will be too. You can stream it for free on  Soundcloud and YouTube, in case you’d like to listen to it in its entirety before checking it out on Amazon.

Here’s the track listing!

1. Great Day (3:16)

2. Shooting Star (3:14)

3. The Strength of Hope (3:26)

4. You’ll Never Own Me (3:50)

5. I Tried in the Night (5:32)

6. I Know You Can Make It (4:23)

7. I’m Going Out to Be Free (8:14)

8. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright (5:03)

9. Great Day (Reprise) (1:23)

 

As always, I hope that you have an absolutely amazing day!

Ashlee-Craft copy

Everything is Going to Be Amazing – A Poem by Ashlee Craft

Here’s a poem from my upcoming poetry book, A Thousand Cranes – Volume 6.

 

Everything is Going to Be Amazing

 

I have doubted the rising sun

until I realized it would always rise again

 

I have doubted the moon who smiles upon me

until I realized I would always be loved

 

I have doubted the stars that shine so brightly

until I realized they shine for me

 

I have doubted the gift of happiness

until I realized it was there for me too

 

I have doubted the soul inside me

until I realized I was infinite

 

I have doubted that the future could be good

until I realized everything is going to be amazing now

 

© 2014 Ashlee Craft

This is a New Chapter

Books

 

This is a New Chapter

this is a new chapter in my life / things have never been this amazing before / for the first time in my life I really feel like I am getting somewhere / for the first time, I don’t have any shadowing & lingering doubts, no fearful & shrouded questions of whether or not things will be okay / now, there is no doubt in my mind I’m where I’m meant to be

I walked into the dusty room on a late afternoon when the house was silent / doves cooed in the rafters of the old attic; slowly I made my way across the floor to the old wood chest where my grandma kept her things when she was younger / the lid creaked & I opened it revealing Pandora’s box beneath the hidden dust rewritten over the years but still spelling out the same thing / she had left this box to me so long ago (she said inside the box was everything I needed to know for life) & yet I’d never had the courage to open it & see what was inside

& to my surprise my sight fell upon stacks & stacks of books, jumbled together all shapes & colors & sizes / none of the books had any titles on them, elusive mysteries – I reach out & grasp one in my hand, feeling the sun warmed cover in the attic & seeing sparkling yellow glow of dust gently floating like feathers / I open the book & I cannot believe what I see

this book is empty / there is nothing written upon the pages, no inscription / only a black & startling emptiness / I pick up the next book & see that it is empty too / every book is the same / empty / empty / empty / her life advice was nothing; she left nothing to me but blank gaping books & disappointment

I sit on the floor my heart feeling heavy / so her life advice to me has been nothing? so she knew that life meant nothing & was nothing, & that it would be the same way for me? / I let my arm drop to my side & I rest my chin on my knees for a few minutes & breathe in the stale dusty air & feel comforting sunlight kissing my skin

& it is at that moment that it all makes sense to me, & the warmth of the book spreads up my hands & somehow finds its way into my heart & mind / only then do I understand the meaning of this gift

she has not left me nothing, but rather, everything / she has not left me with the idea that life is nothing & that nothing is the only advice she can give me / she instead gave me something much greater than a whole chestful of filled books could provide, nor a thousand hours of unquenched speeches, nor a lifetime of personal experience could give me

she gave me these blank books so that I could fill them with my own story / she gave them to me because she knew that your life only belongs to you & you have to find out the meaning of it for yourself; no one can make your choices for you, no one can help you find the path; no one can be your hero but you / here I came expecting to find heroic words written on paper that would tell me who I should be, but instead, I found a blank canvas / & that is beautiful

perhaps the emptiness is most beautiful of all at the start / where there is nothing you have the ability to create anything / where there is emptiness you have the chance to blot it out with happiness & your own light; you have the chance to make it whatever you want

these books are now mine because she wanted me to find out who I was & to be unafraid to record it & prove to myself my own reality / she wanted me not to rely on the heroism of others, but instead find this strength inside my very own soul, a strength that could sustain me no matter what happened, no matter what the odds were, no matter where I was or what I did / she wanted me to be my own hero

& so I jumped up from the floor, still clasping the first empty book in my hands / I bolted down the stairs, shouting, “I am the captain of my soul!” & as I ran, blotting out the emptiness & loneliness that had plagued me for so long, casting it off me like a dusty cloak & leaving it abandoned on the roof until the rain would wash it away & it would all be in the non-existent past

I grabbed a pen & on the first page I wrote, “today, my life begins” & sitting there on the cool tile kitchen floor, I wrote out the first page of my journey, beginning with my discovery, & ending with a promise

from now on, I am going to be the hero of my story / these blank books are mine to write in / let me fill them up with glorious stories, beautiful loves, impossible miracles that happened anyways, & the everyday profundities of life / but more than that, let me fill them up with the unending promise that no matter what, I am going to be the hero of my story

 

because after all this time, I’m not afraid anymore

because after all this time, I know I really can do this

& because after all this time, a new chapter has begun

 

© 2014 Ashlee Craft

Little Bird Sample Chapter

Little Bird

 

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Little Bird

a little bird

hopping along

thru the impending

rainstorm

persevering

& finding what thrives

amongst the raindrops

The Journey Begins

setting out in the

early morning just as the

sun is beginning to rise

with a pack on your back containing everything you’ll need

to find yourself along the way

a map of your soul to show you where to go

a compass to tell you when you’re in the right place

a flashlight to guide you thru the dark forests

a set of wings to help you fly over obstacles

a raft to go on the ocean with

words of wisdom to sustain you

a book of knowledge to feed your mind

a journey to record what you see

& your own soul

you walk for a while & suddenly

it occurs to you that you don’t really know

who you are

or where you’re going

& all the road around you looks unfamiliar

& your compass is spinning

& your map blows away

suddenly you know it’s up to you to find your way

you know something has to change

but you’re worried

you’re worried that you won’t like things once they’re different

worried that things will turn out wrong

it’s okay to be worried

but you’ve got to learn to let go

because until you let go

there’s no way you’ll ever know

just how far you can

fly

Welcome

the journey just beginning / a journey to discover what you want / what your dreams are / where you belong / who you are / the journey is just beginning / the magic carpet of infinite possibilities & infinite joy & infinite beauty surrounding you everywhere / everything you need is right in front of you / everything you’ve ever needed has always been within your grasp / you are not lacking anything / you are everything

you can make your dreams come true / I believe in you / I believe in you / I know you can do it all if you just keep trying / you’ll make it

as you take a walk thru the pages & you skip around & stop to contemplate what the meaning of life really is, remember this

many have searched / & spent lifetimes pondering / thinking / dreaming / about what life is about / but in truth / you could never find the definition of life

because it’s too infinite & too wonderful & too beautiful & too free

to define / if you look for the meaning to everybody’s life / it takes you back to the beginning of the circle / back to / where you started / where it all began /

because in truth / the only truth is the truth within / the only meaning of life / is what you say it is / what you get out of life / what you want out of life / what guides you / what makes you smile / what makes your spirit soar / what makes you feel alive

that’s what life is about

& remember this – life is what you make it

make it fantastic

there is only one meaning to your life

to make it your own

Something Wonderful

always believe that something wonderful is about to happen / because it is / your life is going to be wonderful / today will be wonderful / tomorrow will be even better / your dreams will all come true / good luck will follow you everywhere / strangers will show you random acts of kindness today / you’ll see many examples of just how beautiful the world is / you’ll find something you’ve searched for a long time to find / you’ll discover a piece of yourself that was missing / every day is a new life waiting to be discovered / every day is another chance / every day is a canvas just waiting to be painted upon / make it beautiful

Learning to Find My Strength

I’m learning

learning

who I am

& learning to go confidently

to where I feel is right

I’m tired of being afraid

afraid that things won’t work out

afraid that I’ll never be good enough

afraid that I’m really a failure deep down inside

I’m tired of being confined

tired of being chained to things which no longer hold true

tired of being confined to these molds

tired of being held back by my insecurities

I’m tired of this sorrow

sorrow that I’m not going anywhere

sorrow that drags me down

sorrow that tells me that I can’t do it

I’m ready to prove all of them wrong

& show them

what it means to fly

I Feel Like You’ve Forgotten Me

there used to be something real, something tangible between us / me sitting there, all those times, all those hours months days, warmed by the glow of your kind words & communications & looking forward to seeing you / sometimes it wasn’t much – just a quick note to say you were thinking about me – but it was enough / it was enough & you were always there for me / & I thought I could always count on that – you being there

but you’re not / you’re not there any longer / by choice choosing to leave it all behind / & when I discovered what I discovered I felt like I didn’t know you any longer

& I’m glad / so glad / that I didn’t waste my time trying to forge a deeper well within the grasp of your abilities / I’m glad I didn’t seek out closer companionship / because things would still be the same

& it’s not the fact that you’re leaving that upsets me / it’s your choice & you’re free to choose what you want to / you’re free to say goodbye if you wish to do so / it’s your loss / you’re the only one who’s missing out / & I understand why you were so slow & subtle about it all – maybe I felt the same way, with my dwindling words written to you & everything / maybe I felt that it was nearing its close / you’re free to move on – & maybe it’s time / you’re not the person I used to know / maybe it’s time you moved on & went with everyone else that you know & love / because I know that for such a long time you never even told me anything about yourself / things I’m sure everyone else knew / I have no problem with moving on

but what upsets me / the only thing that upsets me is that for such a long time I had this false sense of companionship / & suddenly that’s gone / suddenly there’s no one else to depend upon / & I’m all on my own / all on my own / all on my own again / & it’s a loneliness that sometimes nothing breaks thru / you were there – or rather, my illusion of what I thought you were – & to that, I could relate to / in that I found comfort / you were that connection to the world outside / & now it’s just me / me & them / swirling around in some kind of roundabout of only us only us only us / like there’s no one else / like I’m alone / like I’m the only one

The Wheel

it’s all up to me

it’s all up to me

where I go & what I do & who I decide to become & who I am

it’s all up to me it’s all up to me

& you’re certainly not going to stop me

or stand in my way

I don’t like your definitions

of what a life is supposed to be like

wake eat work sleep

& do it all over again

all the way until you die

but with that schedule

it’s like you die inside much sooner

or never begin to live at all

you tell me what I’m supposed to like

supposed to do

but I don’t believe you

I don’t believe you

the wheel keeps turning

& I keep changing

Sometimes I Just Don’t Know

sometimes I just don’t know

what I’m even doing

or where I’m going

but then something reminds me

why I keep trying

sometimes days aren’t good

sometimes I miss out

& end up at the bottom once again

but I know I’ll climb again the next day

climbing with the sun as it rises

& there’s so many good things in each & every day

even if things go wrong & I fall

so much happiness

even if I don’t comprehend, understand, or see any at all

sometimes I just don’t know why I try

my mind says that it’s no use & I’m wasting my time

but my heart says I’ll reach it & I’m doing fine

I always try to listen to my heart

it knows the way

sometimes I wonder why I keep moving on

but then I remember

why I began in the first place

I remember that it’s time to move out of this place

away from here

away from my sorrows

away from my fears

it’s time for me to become something big

instead of this person who hides

under the leaves at the base of the tree

it’s time that I was the person I’ve always known I was

it’s time I was free

sometimes I don’t know how I’ll do it

everything seems to be going wrong

sometimes

everything seems to be going against me

like swimming in the sea

but I’ve built wings

they’re getting stronger every day

& with these wings I have built

I’ll fly over the sea & away

away away

far away, far from here

to the land I have dreamed of

to the meadows of gold

it’s my destiny, it’s all up to me

my choices are mine alone

I think I should start following my heart

learning to trust that it knows where to go

even when I do not

I think I should learn to trust my heart

it knows the way

it knows what will make me happy

it knows what I want & it knows what I need

encourages me onwards, gives me strength to succeed

I trust in my heart because it is my map

& in following it, I cannot lack

it knows where I should be

& how to get there

I will follow my heart

I will follow it thru doors to anywhere

if I follow my heart, I cannot go wrong

& I’m just learning

that I am so strong

Dreams

dream / dream wildly & freely / dream as freely as birds fly in the sky, as the planets rotate, as stars shine / dream as freely as the flowers bloom, as the trees wave in the breeze, as the ocean waves crash upon the gentle shore / dream as freely as beams of sunlight shine, music floating thru the air, as freely as wishes floating thru the night sky & to the stars / there are no limits to dreams

dreams are beautiful / it is our dreams that show us who we truly are

do not ask yourself what the world needs / ask yourself what makes you come alive & go do it / the world needs people who have come alive & you ought to be one of them / the world needs people who live life the way they believe / the world needs people who believe / believe in themselves & believe in their dreams

the world needs you

go out there & do it

(c) 2013 Ashlee Craft

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An Interview With Myself on Writing

Hello everyone! I’ve decided to do an interview with myself – I’m going to list out some questions I think are interesting, and I am going to answer them in this post! I think it’s a great way to tell you all a little about my writing, music, and everything else that I enjoy doing. I hope you like it!

Oh, and by the way, if you have any questions YOU’D like to ask me, feel totally free to ask the question in the comments box, and I will reply as soon as I can!

***

 
(it is a dark and stormy night. in the background, there is the sound of torrential rain and thunder claps. the opening scene is of a somewhat dark room with forest green plush carpeting, dark blue paneled walls with a few paintings of still life flowers, and a brown wooden baseboard. in the center of this room is a white couch covered in stiff yet soft fabric, and across from this is a hard-backed chair. the entire room is lit from yellow-tinged lamps on the end tables of the couch. Ashlee Craft, the subject of this interview, sits on the couch with her legs crossed at the ankles. she is wearing a purple polo shirt and a pair of black pants; her shoulder-length hair is wavy and brown, and she looks comfortable yet ready for a cascade of questions. across from her is the interviewer, a mysterious looking person wearing dark glasses, a black blazer, and a pair of pinstriped pants. in between the two of them is a low coffee table, upon which sits two white teacups, one filled with coffee, the other with green tea. Ashlee nods once at the interviewer, signifying that it is time to begin)
 

Q: So, tell me how you got interested in music and writing. When did it all start?

A: Well, when I was about ten years old, I became really into films. My mom was interested in screenplay writing, and so she had all these books around about screenwriting and stuff. Me, being the reading lover that I was (my library card was ALWAYS maxed out when I was growing up, and it still is now), decided to look at the books and see what they said. My family watched a few movies every week, and it was around this time that I decided I wanted to make a movie because I was obsessed with movies, characters, and the people who played them. So, I began on my first “screenplay”, a story about talking rabbits and their eleven-year-old owner. After writing the screenplay for a bit, I realized that it would be easier to make it into a book, so I started turning it into a book instead. I finished this book, and although the story wasn’t very good, I was pleased to have written something of reasonable length. From there, I wrote several more stories, mostly about kids my age and the pets that they had. It’s funny how a lot of books I write initially were screenplays (or half-finished ones) – my first book, Strange Occurrences, started out as a screenplay I began writing when I was thirteen. Anyways, when I was fourteen, I decided that I wanted to make it into a book instead because it would be easier, and sitting on a bed in a hotel room during my move to Florida, I wrote the first pages to Strange Occurrences. I worked on the book for a long time after that. After many revisions, when I was sixteen, I finished it.

(the interviewer nods and makes a few notes at this point, before looking back up at Ashlee and asking the next question)

Q: How did you publish your first book?

A: I sent samples of my manuscript, as well as query letters, to several publishing houses. After I received rejections from each one, I decided to take my publishing into my own hands. I learned about Amazon Kindle and their program that allowed people to publish their books there. At first, I was opposed to the idea of self publishing because it didn’t seem as “glamorous” to me as being published with a traditional publisher, but soon I came to see that it was just as valuable. So I created a cover for my book, prepared it for publication, and on April 4th, 2011, I published Strange Occurrences.

(here, Ashlee pauses, adjusts the caramel colored glasses on her faces, and takes a sip of green tea from the cup in front of her. the expression on her face is one of eagerness. outside, the rain has slowed a little, although frequent crashes of thunder punctuate this conversation. there is also a strange air of silence in this room, as though someone is waiting for something to happen)

Q: How has your writing progressed since then?

A: Since the publication of Strange Occurrences, I have written and published a total of 37 books in a variety of genres – poetry, juvenile fiction, juvenile non-fiction, children’s books, young adult novels, non-fiction, mysteries, drama novels, suspense books, and art books. I am currently working on many, many books – I definitely like to multitask and have a revolving set of books that I work on whenever I feel like it. That keeps me from getting bored, and because I have so many ideas for books, it makes me happiest to have many options for what I want to work on. At the moment, I’m working on a motivational book, the 6th volume of my A Thousand Cranes series, Art Poems – Volume 3, and an experimental novel.

Q: What is the best thing about writing?

A: What I absolutely love about writing is how it allows me to express myself on paper. As I’ve often said before, when I write, it’s like I am documenting who I am on paper. How I am at this exact moment will be forever frozen into anything I write, and when I look back on it, I can see exactly who I was then, what I was thinking and feeling – it’s actually a lot like looking at old photographs of yourself. Another thing I adore about writing is the fact that when I publish something, I have the knowledge that other people in the world as going to read what I have written. People that I don’t know, people I may never know, and yet I am reaching out across the expanse of time and space, and I am handing them my book. They are seeing and feeling and knowing how I felt, what I want, who I am. They are strangers to me, and yet, there is this connection between us. It’s just an amazing feeling to think that people out there own my books and have read them, and I really, really hope that they are inspired by what I write. Even though it’s a cliche, if only one person was inspired because of something I wrote, then that would make it worthwhile. But writing is so much more than that. It’s my way of interacting with the big wild world. It’s my way of reaching out and inspiring people’s lives, or at the very least, brightening their day. When I write, I am giving back to the literary world, I am giving back to all the books and authors and characters that have changed my life and brought me so much inspiration, guidance, and happiness. It’s my way of thanking them.

(the interviewer smiles quickly and glances down at the coffee cup, which has not been touched yet, then sits up a little straighter, somehow seeming nervous. Ashlee smiles reassuringly, not sure why the interviewer has changed demeanor so greatly. she is also wondering if the power is going to go out – the storm is returning, and the lights flickered once during the middle of the last question. she is a great lover of drama, and the power going out briefly is certainly a source of this)

Q: What do you like least about writing?

A: Hands down, the answer to that is editing. If I could snap my fingers (here, she snaps her fingers) and have the book be completely edited just the way I want it to be, I would do that in a heartbeat. I love writing books, I love publishing them and preparing the cover and everything, but editing  - even though it is super important and the book takes shape most during this period – editing is mundane and takes forever. After reading your book several times through to make sure there isn’t any errors, it starts annoying you, and you just wish it could be finished. That’s really the only thing I don’t like very much about writing.

(there is a slightly longer pause between the end of Ashlee’s answer and the beginning of the next question. this is due to the fact that the interviewer keeps shuffling around in the hard backed chair and performing an elaborate and unnecessarily long knuckle-cracking session. finally, after more than a minute of silence, the interviewer speaks again)

Q: What advice do you have for other authors, especially self-published ones?

A: (Ashlee chuckles) I have certainly learned a lot about publishing in the past few years, and I could write a book about tips on writing books – perhaps that should be one of my next projects! – but here are the main things I’ve learned. Make sure you have a book cover – yes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but people will and do. Your cover is most likely going to be the first thing they see when they discover your book. Promote your book as much as you can. I made the mistake of writing books but never really trying to get people to see them and buy them, and so, I sold very few books. If people don’t see your books, they aren’t going to buy them. Keep writing. Write as much as you can, explore other genres that you personally enjoy reading, hone your skills. Try your best and find your own unique voice – draw inspiration from many people and don’t aspire to be like one person in particular. Learn from writers that you love, as well as writers that you don’t like. Read. Read a lot, read everything you can find. Realize why you like the books you like, and what things you don’t like in a book. But keep writing. Even if it seems like everything you write sounds lame/stupid/boring etc, keep writing. You will get better at it. And never, ever give up on yours. You can do anything you want if you keep trying.

(at this point, the interviewer is sitting there fidgeting more than ever. Ashlee looks over at the interviewer, now very curious as to what the interviewer’s problem is. the interview suddenly, after trembling for several seconds, jumps abruptly out of the uncomfortable chair. the rain is pouring outside harder than ever, and the room seems darker than before. “are you okay?” Ashlee asks, watching as the interviewer hops around, the sunglasses falling somewhat askew. all of a sudden, the interviewer stops hopping around, stands completely still for several seconds, and rapidly dissolves into a pile of words and old newspaper clippings. Ashlee is shocked, but she gets up and walks towards the pile of paper that is now on the floor where the interviewer had been standing. she notices that the words lying on the floor are all things that she has written before, and that the entire interview had all been an illusion.
 
at this point, a particularly loud crash of thunder occurs, and the power goes out.) 

Creative Fuel! New Book By Ashlee Craft Released

Creative Fuel Cover

 

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Kindle eBook

In this fun and whimsical book, you’ll find 65 ideas for unique and creativity expanding projects that will help you discover your own creative genius and expand your horizons in writing, music, art, photography, and filmmaking. A book of interpretation, there are no right or wrong answers – the results of each project will be entirely up to the artist – and that’s you!

Paperback

Kindle eBook

Fields of Destiny – Debut Pop/Folk/Rock Album Released!

Fields of Destiny-1

I am so excited to announce the release of my debut album, Fields of Destiny! After many long hours spend working on it, it’s finally finished, and I couldn’t be happier with it! It’s a combination of pop, folk, and rock, three of my favorite genres, and I wrote and recorded all of the songs here.

Here’s the track listing:

1. Great Day (3:16)

2. Shooting Star (3:14)

3. The Strength of Hope (3:26)

4. You’ll Never Own Me (3:50)

5. I Tried in the Night (5:32)

6. I Know You Can Make It (4:23)

7. I’m Going Out to Be Free (8:14)

8. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright (5:03)

9. Great Day (Reprise) (1:23)

 

Reasonably soon, my album will be available on Amazon MP3 for download, but until then, you can hear it on Soundcloud and YouTube.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy it! Have a fantastic day!

Ashlee-Craft copy

Shipwrecked by Ashlee Craft – Sample Chapter

Shipwrecked

 

Paperback

Kindle eBook

 

The day began simply, as every other morning of my life had began, but something was different today. A certain sense of adventure hung in the air, for I was about to achieve my biggest dream.

It wouldn’t be until hours later that I realized just how great of an adventure I was about to embark upon, and just how much I would learn in the process.

I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

I awoke and saw the sunlight streaming through the prism hanging near my window, casting rainbows across the avocado colored rug near my bed. I stretched and basked in the light coming through my blinds before putting my feet onto the rug and kicking my slippers out from under my bed. The smell of French toast, which my parents were cooking in the kitchen, wafted into my room, and I noticed how hungry I was.

My faithful golden retriever, Sammy, lay on the rug at the foot of my bed. He wagged his tail happily when I walked across the floor and patted him on the head before I left my room.

If I had known the fate which I would meet later that very day, my morning ritual would have been a little different.

I smiled to myself as I peered out my window. I could hardly contain my excitement, for later that day, I was going to go on a boat and travel to an island in the middle of the ocean! It would be the first time I’d ever spent a night away from home, and I could hardly wait for this freedom! Initially, my parents had been apprehensive about this idea, but I knew I could handle it. I was sixteen years old and I needed some freedom – something my parents had never really given me, being as straight-laced and uptight as they were. They finally gave in, giving me permission to travel to the island alone on a boat captained by one of their best friends, who probably played large in persuading them that I should go.

For a long time, I’d wanted to visit the nearby island chain, which was about a hundred miles from shore. I had saved my money for this trip for so long, and thankfully, my parent’s friend, Captain Holden, had offered a discount, saying that he had never been to the islands either and was looking for an excuse to go.

Why did I want to go to this island? Well, when I was twelve years old, I read Treasure Island for the first time, and immediately felt a connection with the main character, Jim Hawkins. The further I got into the book, the stronger my desire became to camp out on an island, even if it was only overnight. It just sounded so magical, so adventurous, so fun! Being on an island, practically alone, watching the stars overhead, trying to survive and keep yourself safe – I could hardly imagine anything better or more amazing than that.

But after experiencing the real thing, I would think differently.

That morning, I walked into the kitchen and greeted Mom and Dad. They were both at the table, dipping pieces of bread in an egg mixture and then cooking the bread on our griddle. A stick of butter and a bottle of maple syrup sat on the table near a glass of orange juice.

Good morning, honey! We decided to make you your favorite breakfast before your trip!” Dad said with a smile.

Make sure you eat healthy food while you’re staying on the island.” Mom told me.

Mom, I’m just going to be gone for a few days! If I did eat junk food or something, it’s not like it would really make a difference.”

The look Mom replied with said a million things, most of all, the traditional ‘I’m your mother and I care about you, so don’t get on my case about what I remind you to do’.

After eating the French toast, which was delicious, I hurried upstairs to get ready to go and to add a few more things to the duffel bag I’d packed the prior night.

Inside the worn blue duffel, I had packed a rope, two notebooks, a new pack of pens, a canteen, socks, a spare pair of clothing, a toothbrush and toothpaste, my hairbrush, bug repellent, and a few other items.

In addition to the duffel bag, I also packed a sleeping bag and tent in a separate bag. Captain Holden would be bringing the food and water for us, and Mom had made some sandwiches, so I didn’t have to worry about those two necessities.

I raced down the staircase, eager to be off on my adventure. My parents were going to drive me to the docks, which were only a few miles from our house. I had spent many happy afternoons there, watching the waves and the ships coming and going, thinking of all the wonderful places they’d traveled. I could have easily ridden my bike to the docks that day, but my parents wanted to see me off safely on my adventure and insisted on coming.

The car ride was brief, and at the time, I was thankful for this. I wanted to get to the docks as soon as possible, mostly because I was excited, but also because my parents nagged me the entire car trip about what I had to do.

Don’t swim at night. Sharks attack most commonly at night.” Dad warned.

Don’t fall down any holes in the ground! You could break a bone.” Mom said, sounding overly paranoid.

Behave for Captain Holden. Don’t be stubborn.” Dad continued.

Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want us to know about.” Mom lectured.

Believe me, the ride there was by no means pleasant, but if I had known that I would not see my parents again for quite some time, I would not have rolled my eyes at their comments and sat silently in the corner, insisting that I was already aware of everything they were telling me.

We arrived at the docks and Dad pulled into a parking space between a bright red speedboat on a trailer and a convertible. I remember thinking how gaudy the red boat was as I grabbed my duffel bag from the back seat. I handed the sleeping bag and tent over the front seat, where Dad picked them up and carried them from the car.

I was wearing an old pair of tennis shoes, jean shorts, and a bright yellow t-shirt. It was a bright, humid July morning, and the Florida sun beat down hard upon my back. I was glad that I’d brought as much sunscreen as I did, although thankfully, my skin doesn’t burn easily.

My mousy brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail, the most practical style for it to be in for this adventure. I figured that if my hair was put up, it wouldn’t get in my face and bother me while I was hunting for shells or climbing trees or pretending I was Jim Hawkins.

I walked down the docks far ahead of my parents, a little embarrassed that they were here with me. After all, I was sixteen, and I didn’t see any reason for them to treat me like a baby by having to come everywhere with me. I wanted to show them that I was independent and could do things on my own.

We neared Captain Holden’s ship, an older boat named The Hula. The Hula had just gotten a new coat of paint, making her shimmer brightly in the sun and reflect the glittering waves of the water upon her hull, making it look as though the metal of the boat was alive, like a wild animal in motion.

Captain Holden, a middle aged man with slightly graying blond hair and bright blue eyes that shone like sunlight, smiled brightly when he saw me approaching.

Well, hello there, Tami! It’s a fine day for sailing, isn’t it?”

I was grinning from ear to ear, so excited to finally be going on the adventure I had dreamed of for so long.

Definitely!” I exclaimed.

I hurried towards the edge of the dock and grabbed the railing of the boat, pulling myself onto the boat and over the crevice between the boat and the dock. From here, I climbed over the railing and onto the deck. As I walked across the top deck of the ship, I squinted my eyes against the glare of the sun, and, remembering that I’d brought my sunglasses, I put them on. I could feel the gentle rocking motion of the boat beneath my feet.

A minute or two later, my parents caught up with me and smiled at Captain Holden, who was testing a few controls on his ship in preparation for our trip.

The Hula was fairly small boat and contained a several small cabins below deck, kitchen, and a bathroom. On top the deck was a covered area where Captain Holden captained the boat, and outside of this area were some white vinyl seats Several life jackets stood out starkly against the crisp clean white of the boat.

Captain Holden strode over towards the edge of the boat and put down the ramp so that we could enter the boat. His forehead was covered in sweat and his skin was browned by the sun, a hue which contrasted his white captain’s outfit.

My parents stepped onto the boat.

Thanks again for deciding to take Tami on this trip.” Dad said.

Captain Holden smiled and replied,

I’ve been waiting to see the island for such a long time myself, and when Tami mentioned that she wanted to go and explore it, I couldn’t help but accept.” He looked over at me. “You bring your camera, Tami?”

Yes! I put it in a plastic bag to protect it from water.” I announced happily.

Captain Holden, Mom, and Dad all smiled at me.

I was absolutely elated. I was about to go on the biggest adventure of my life.

On the top deck was a long, coiled rope, which was attached to the anchor. I entered the wheelhouse and saw the large steering wheel and a variety of controls. I immediately thought that captaining a boat must be a difficult job, because you probably had to pay attention to all of these dials and things all at the same time.

I walked back out into the sunlight and saw my parents talking to Captain Holden. Almost as soon as I reached them, Captain Holden looked at his watch and said,

Well, it’s nearly time for us to be off. Tami, say your goodbyes to your parents now.” Looking at Mom and Dad, he added, “And remember, be here at the same time in two days to pick Tami up. I have more clients scheduled for that day, and if you’re not early enough, your daughter will have to walk home.”

Mom and Dad nodded, seeming saddened by my departure. I smiled at them reassuringly. I wasn’t at all afraid of spending a few nights away from them, despite the fact that I had never spent the night away from them once, not even for a sleepover when I was growing up.

I was happy to finally be embracing freedom.

On my adventure, I planned on exploring the island, pretending I was a castaway, and taking pictures and make notes about everything. When school started back up again, I would write my summer report about this trip.

Little did I know I’d have so much to tell.

My parents stood there in the sun, smiling at me as we embraced and said our goodbyes.

I love you, sweetie!” Dad said, his voice filled with emotion.

Have a great time and be careful!” Mom said, sounding a little like she was holding back tears. “I love you.”

I love you guys too. Now, have a good time! I don’t want you sitting around the house being all boring and stuff, crying about the fact that I’m on an adventure. I’ll have a great time, I can assure you! And be sure to play with Sammy, or he’ll get lonely.”

My parents and I hugged once again, and they walked down the ramp and back onto the dock. Captain Holden untied the boat from the dock. Then he walked into the wheelhouse and started the boat’s motor. We slowly began to pull away from the dock, leaving my parents smiling and crying and waving at me.

We love you!” They shouted.

I love you guys too!” I shouted back over the roaring of the engines.

The boat slowly got farther and farther away from the shore, and in no time at all, we were cruising at an average speed.

The wind whipped my hair around, and I was thankful for my sunglasses, or else the wind would have stung my eyes as well. It was a little harder to breathe with all the air rushing into my nostrils, so I turned to the side a little a looked over the edge of the boat, grinning from ear to ear.

I was finally free! After sixteen years of being confined by my parents, of only dreaming of adventure, of having to listen to everything they told me, I was finally on my own, and I was sure I was going to have a marvelous time.

The ocean was a crisp, clear, sparkling blue, and the sky was nearly cloudless. The sun beat down warm against my skin, but the breeze was contrastingly cooler.

I glanced back at Captain Holden, who smiled at me from the wheelhouse.

At this point, I thought back on when I first conceived this dream of mine.

At twelve, being an avid reader, I had heard of the book Treasure Island and decided to give it a try. It was a classic, and I loved adventure stories, so I was sure that I would enjoy it.

Well, I did more than enjoy it. I loved it so much that all I wanted to do was to live and breathe it. For a while, it was all I thought about, all I dreamed about. Everything I did during the day was somehow preparation for a similar adventure that I vowed I would go on. I started swimming in the neighborhood pool almost daily, in case while I was on an adventure, I had to swim a long distance. I climbed trees, in case it was a skill I would need to be an expert at sometime on an adventure. I ran laps in the neighborhood to build up my strength and stamina. I read every book in the library about treasure, pirates, adventures, survival, camping, sailing, and basically every other subject that would be useful for someone on an adventure. I watched as many adventure films as possible – Indiana Jones, Robinson Crusoe, Pirates of the Caribbean – you name it, and I watched it, eagerly taking tips from my heroes about what to do, and more importantly, what not to do.

Anyways, by the time I’d finished reading Treasure Island, I had made a vow to myself that I would do something similar. I mean, obviously, I didn’t want to go through the whole pirate war thing and all like Jim Hawkins had to do in Treasure Island. But still, the freedom of being on an island, the freedom of being who you were and doing exactly as you pleased looked especially wonderful to someone like me. I pictured long days spent basking in the sun on the beach, climbing trees, swimming in the ocean, finding food on the island, and hopefully, finding buried treasure.

I told my parents about my idea soon after I finished the book, and they passed it off as a mere childhood fantasy. But I was sure of what I wanted, despite the fact that my parents thought I was just a little too inspired by a book I had read.

I was more than inspired; I was obsessed.

Staying on an island, even if it was only overnight, became my primary dream. As four years passed, my interest in this idea remained was just as strong, if not stronger, than it was the day I’d conceived it.

When my 16th birthday came along, my parents asked me what I wanted.

I want to spend a night on an island.” I replied, which was the same response I had given them every year since I was twelve.

There was a difference that year though. Now that I was sixteen, they had to acknowledge that I was growing up. After all, I was now old enough to drive a car by myself, which meant more freedom for me. But my parents didn’t like the idea of me driving, as they thought that I was still too young to drive and therefore, had refused to teach me how to drive until I was the ripe age of seventeen. I was angry at them for this, thinking they were holding me back and were trying to keep freedom from me. It seemed as though they wanted to keep me close because they were afraid of letting me spread my wings, make my own decisions, and go out in the world.

When I announced to them that I still wanted to spend a night on an island, I was met with disapproving looks. Because I knew how strongly they opposed the idea of me driving, I added,

Either that, or you teach me how to drive.”

It wasn’t as much a wish as it was a threat. It was, in my opinion, a surefire way to convince them to let me get what I truly wanted. If they thought spending the night on an island was dangerous, it was nothing in comparison to what they thought of me driving.

My parents talked about my idea for a long, long time, and I waited outside their bedroom door, listening as hard as I could to hear what they were saying, but their words were muffled and I only heard some of it.

Responsible…not sure….dangerous…adventure…I was her age…she can’t…”

But when they left their room (and by this time, I had gone back to my room, not wanting them to know that I’d been eavesdropping), they told me they had come to the conclusion that I could spend one night on an island, to which I’d be taken to by our longtime family friend, Captain Holden.

I was so excited that I immediately started packing, although it was nearly two months before I was actually scheduled to go on the trip.

A few weeks prior to my departure date, Mom and I had gone to Target and bought me a nice one-piece bathing suit, which was shiny and blue like the ocean.

Now, the boat tore through the water, and I was filled with a childlike sense of wonder that all of this was finally happening. With every minute that passed out there in the big blue ocean, the happiness inside of me only increased, as did the full realism that I was on my way to achieving my dream. I had made it happen, and this pleased me more than I could describe.

The ocean zoomed past us so quickly that it felt like we were flying, which was one of the most exhilarating sensations I’d ever experienced.

We cruised like this for some time, crashing through the waves and heading towards the island, and the entire time, I stood near the side of the ship. My happiness was so overwhelming that I could do little but stand there and soak it all in.

Captain Holden and I would spend that night on the boat and reach the island the day after. Then we’d stay on the island overnight, leave the next day, and return home the day after that. I looked forward to sleeping in my sleeping bag under the stars, basking in the sacredness of the moonlight and inhaling the sweet island breezes.

For three days, I’d be living my dream.

How are you enjoying your trip?” Captain Holden asked me when he stopped the boat around lunchtime.

Today is the best day of my life!” I exclaimed, smiling at him.

The rest of the day passed fairly uneventfully. I saw a pod of dolphins jumping from the waves, and although it wasn’t the first time I’d seen dolphins in the wild, it was incredibly thrilling.

As the day neared its end, the sky began to glow orange and yellow, and the sun sank down upon the horizon like a pat of butter melting on mashed potatoes.

Captain Holden slowed the boat to a complete stop and went down into the kitchen, which is called a galley on the boat, to get out the sandwiches my parents had made us.

I sat cross legged on the deck, looking at the stars that were just beginning to appear in the darkening sky. The boat rocked gently, and peace filled every bit of me. Is this what true perfection was? I wondered this as I sat there, breathing deeply, fully immersed in the moment.

A minute later, Captain Holden returned to the deck with the sandwiches. I removed my canteen from my duffel and sat down near the edge of the boat to eat my toasted cheese sandwich. The sandwich was cold by this time, which was actually nice because I had spent all day in the heat.

Your parents are good chefs.” Captain Holden said, taking a bite of his toasted cheese sandwich.

I shrugged and took a bite of mine.

I guess so.” The reluctance in voice was blatant.

You seem a little angry every time I mention them.” He observed.

I looked out at the ocean and nodded.

I am.”

Why?”

Well, my entire life, they’ve never let me have any independence. I mean, I’m not mad at them, just annoyed. Anyways, my whole life, they’ve always told me what to do, and I’ve always had to do it. Anything that I wanted to do had to be scrutinized by them. If I befriended someone, they wanted to meet them immediately. Several times, they told me I couldn’t be friends with a certain person because they feared they’d be a bad influence.”

They were probably right in their judgment.”

Yeah right! They just want to control every aspect of my life. They don’t let me chose anything for myself. If I see something I want at the store, even if it’s just a shirt, usually they try to convince me to get something different. I’m lucky I can even ride my bike anywhere. And that’s one of the reasons I’m so happy to be on this cruise – for the first time in my life, they’re not right behind me, telling me what’s wrong and right. For the first time in my life, I actually get to make my own choices.”

Captain Holden nodded his head.

I remember what it was like to be sixteen.” He said. “Everyone in the world seems to be against you, especially your own parents. You want to get out in the world, change things, have a good time, and make your own choices. You want to decide for yourself what’s right and wrong, and live your life the way you want to. But everyone seems like they’re trying to stop you. Everyone’s just getting in your way, stopping you from doing the things you need to do. Nobody seems to understand how you feel, and you can’t explain it even if you wanted to. You just want your life to begin; you want to discover who you are. And it’s a struggle to find your way. But I want to tell you the two greatest things that I wished I’d known at your age. First, often times, your parents are right, even if you don’t think so at the time. Sometimes they’re not, but a lot of times, they are right. All of us adults were sixteen once; all of us know what it’s like. The only reason your parents act like they do is because they love you.”

I rolled my eyes, not wanting to hear someone preach to me about what I should think about my parents and making excuses for why they were so paranoid.

Second, you know a lot more than you think you do. A wise person once said that ‘life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself’. Trust in yourself, believe in your abilities, and everything will be okay. You can always find your way if you look in the right places and do what you know you need to do. You’ve got to follow your heart. Because when you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything.”

His last words really struck a chord with me, and I finished my sandwich in silence, mulling over them. For the first time in my life, an adult had told me that I needed to believe in myself and do the things I needed to do – not the things they wanted me to do, but the things I wanted and needed to do.

And this – this adventure – was something I needed to do. I realized that I needed to go on this adventure just to stretch my wings; I needed to get away from what I’d known and make my own decisions for once. I needed to be free. But most of all, I needed to go on this adventure for me, just to prove to myself just what I was capable of. I needed to get away from my parents so I could discover who I was and define myself for myself, not define myself by who my parents thought I should be.

I had made something amazing happen, I had made my dream come true. I’d had the power within me to make this happen. Although my parents hadn’t supported it at first, I finally convinced them that I was right and they should let me do it.

Here I was, living my dream, and that was a good bit of proof to me that what Captain Holden said was true. I could make amazing things happen when I believed in myself.

The sky was now completely dark, and we sat there in silence looking at the stars for a while. The ocean waves lapped gently against the hull of the ship.

Little did we know that at this time, a tiny crack in the hull caused by floating debris was beginning to leak. There was, at this point, around an inch of water in the engine room.

Captain Holden stretched and stood up.

Well, we should probably be going to bed now. We’ve got to get an early start tomorrow.”

At this point, Captain Holden and I said goodnight, and he went downstairs to go to his bed. As Captain Holden frequently took charter customers on overnight cruises, there were several other cabins below deck besides his, but I had elected to sleep out under the stars rather than in a cabin.

I stood up and went down into the spare cabin where Captain Holden had put my sleeping bag and pillow. While I was below deck, I also refilled my canteen.

I brought these items up onto the deck and undid the strap on my sleeping bag, unrolling it onto the deck. I put my pillow at the top of my sleeping bag and put my canteen in my duffel, which was to my left.

Still wearing the clothes I’d worn that day, l laid down on the cool nylon of the sleeping bag and got inside of it, leaving it unzipped, as it was still around seventy degrees out. The sky seemed to be a beautiful, endless abyss, just like the ocean was. The stars twinkled above me, reminding me of fish swimming in the sea, and it was the perfect vision of peace. I just felt so happy inside that I couldn’t describe it.

Exhausted from the excitement from the day, I closed my eyes and fell asleep almost immediately.

It seemed like only minutes later, but was really around an hour later, when I heard a shout and bolted upright in bed.

Captain Holden burst from the cabin of the ship and onto the deck.

Tami, the ship is sinking! The hull is filling with water, and we’re going down fast!”

Fear coursed through me, and immediately, I was fully awake.

I jumped up, grabbing the handle of my duffel bag and slinging it over my shoulder.

Here, put this life jacket on. Quickly!” He shouted, panic filling his usually calm voice.

I put the life jacket on in a rush, my brain barely comprehending exactly what was happening. Everything that was happening was so abrupt and shocking that it all seemed like a dream.

Suddenly, the force of his words truly hit me.

We were sinking. We were far from shore, and in a matter of minutes, this boat would be completely submerged.

A chill ran down my spine, and I began to panic. I tried to breathe deeply, tried to remember what a person is supposed to do in the case of a shipwreck, but my mind was a mess, and I couldn’t seem to think straight. Fear was engulfing me too deeply to do any rational thinking.

Captain Holden rushed around the boat, hurrying towards the wheelhouse to radio for help, but he was too late.

The boat’s hull had filled with so much water that it simply couldn’t stay afloat any longer. I was near the edge of the boat and Captain Holden was in the wheelhouse when the boat lurched violently to the side.

Jump! Jump down! Jump clear of it!” Captain Holden screamed. Even from where I stood, I could see the look of utter terror in his eyes.

Blindly following his instructions, I jumped over the side of the boat, still clutching my duffel bag.

I hit the water harder than I thought I would, and this knocked the wind out of me and stung my skin. All I could hear was the sound of my heart pounding in my ears and the bubbles rushing through the waves around me. All I could feel was the ocean surrounding me like a suffocating abyss.

 

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