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Read "Noblebranch," a Novel Excerpt Contest Runner-Up!

In February, we challenged you to submit a 400-word excerpt from your NaNoWriMo novels. From over 600 fantastic entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and four Runners-Up. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did! (For more excerpts, check out this forum thread.)

"Noblebranch" by Caylee D.

Catherine hummed.

It used to amuse her: the pond glistening under trees, sitting on the hill, plucking fistfuls of weeds, the coat racks made into human men so she could dance, and yellow flowers peppered on every tabletop. It used to amuse her: that one weekend when she and Henry learned how to swim together and, gasping, stumbled in barefoot and sopping wet, their cheeks ruddy from pride just as much as exertion.

Grass tickled between her fingers. The cottage rested behind her, and she glanced back at it in a sidelong kind of way. Home.

Home used to amuse her.

She pushed herself from the ground.

When she was really little, she could run from the bottom of the pond up the hill and into the cottage at full gallop. Now, her limbs weighed her down.

Catherine pressed the heavy door open.

The cottage walls embraced memories, photographs, trinkets. Above the mantel hung a portrait of what she’d once considered family. Three-year-old Catherine sat on her father’s knee and made a stupid face. In the portrait, Papa’s hair fell into his eyes, which was so unlike all the rules he set in place that she couldn’t believe he ever wore it like that. His patched clothes, no matter how long he worked outside, always stayed immaculate, and even in the portrait, he cradled Catherine’s hand like he might lift it to his lips. Like she might end up a lady.

Catherine twisted her Claddagh ring. And despite her little smile, she couldn’t stop it from quivering.

It was her father’s eyes. They were always wrinkled and tired. They were always careful and suspicious.

How? she thought. How could it have happened to him?

She needed answers. And she came here for answers.

Jars of opened paint and ink fumed through the air. She passed mismatched chairs and abandoned instruments and gardening tools still caked with mud, passed them to do what any great detective would do.

She gathered a shovel.

She was going to see who and what had been buried on her property that long time ago. Maybe then she could find something. And breathe.

Catherine trudged outside, and the pond stirred. Off its ledge laid a flat clearing. That’s where the body was.

But when she brandished her shovel, the grave hollowed below her. The ground was empty.

And the corpse was gone.

author photo

Caylee Dean began plotting her book series when she was twelve—but if Barbie dolls could talk, they’d tell you she’s created stories for much longer. A junior in high school, Caylee recently signed for her first book, Noblebranch, to release by the end of 2021. When she’s not devoted to reading, spiritual activities, or spending time with loved ones, she’s always found on her phone, where she’s still reading, but it's always the cheesy romance novel she’s too noncommittal to write or purchase. 

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