Xann-shapella Smith

Xann Smith in black and white
Xann-shapella Smith studied playwriting and screenwriting at Brigham Young University and has brought her plays to the stage on many occasions. Her love for storytelling has produced scripts that span many genres. In an attempt to broaden her horizons, she began writing novels in 2017. Her first book led to the Rome London trilogy: Block by Block, Sea to See and Hand in Hand. Future books from this series are on her to-do list.
The story behind her most recent book, Will-O’-the-Wisp Point, was taken from an original screenplay. Transforming a screenplay into a book allowed her to delve deeper into the characters and backstory.
Xann resides on a small farm where the tranquility of nature provides the perfect atmosphere for creating stories as far as the expanse of her imagination. Writing is one of the great loves of her life and telling a good story is a passion she’s happy to share with audiences everywhere.
Award Category Finalist
Award Submission Title
Will-O'-the-Wisp Point
Logline
After a failed attempt to end her life, a woman washes ashore in Will-O'-the-Wisp Point, forced to choose between running from her past or accepting the second chance she's been given.
My Submission
Prologue
From the ocean’s view, the Bloom Lighthouse is a welcome sight to professional mariners and weekend boaters alike. The stories the old guide could tell. It was built strategically atop a tall cliff which enables the lantern’s light to be seen for miles. It stands as a warning as well as a nostalgic nod to a bygone era. The light keeper’s house is small by today’s standards—just two rooms attached to the tower. Left to the viewers’ imagination, the tiny house would most likely be romanticized as a cozy refuge on a stormy night. This makes perfect sense as lighthouses have become a modern-day symbol of tranquility and mystique.
This particular lighthouse has been passed down through the family for generations and is currently cared for by William Bloom. When his parents named him William, they had no idea it meant “resolute protector or guardian.” They wanted a proper name that would ring with sophistication in the ivory towers of higher education and be taken seriously in the upper echelons of high finance. Much to their dismay, Will took the meaning of his name to heart. He became a paramedic, implementing the oath to ‘serve unselfishly... to help make a better world for all mankind.’
For nearly twenty years, Will has made the lighthouse his home and the small coastal town of Will-O’-the-Wisp Point his family. He can’t remember when the dividing line between community and family grew too faint for him to recognize. He’s always lived a modest life with simple wants and needs, and a belief that money was only good for the good you could do with it. His grandparents taught him that.
Till now, he’s been content to live alone on the edge of a cliff with the ocean as his closest neighbor. Recently, however, contentment has begun to lose its luster. He’s all but forgotten what it’s like to have conversation over a meal at his kitchen table, or to think out loud and have someone respond, to share his life with someone other than his dog. So Will developed a plan to pursue a romance and set the plan in motion. Then something unexpected happened.

Chapter 1
The recorded sound of a female dance instructor’s voice filled the light keeper’s small living area. The teacher’s dramatic delivery of perfectly-enunciated words elevated the learning of the tango to an art form. Clumsily trying to match his feet to the cut out footprints duct taped to the floor, William Bloom, Will to his friends, was doing his best to follow her directions. It was nine o’clock at night and he was still stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner. Unbuttoning his flannel shirt, he tossed it onto the table, leaving him in a cooler undershirt. He continued to rewind the tape to the same point and start again, hoping that her frequent positive comments were a sign that success was imminent. Finally, he reached the same instruction point he had yet to surpass—a tricky step that eluded him. As usual, his feet became tangled and all seventy-two inches of him hit the floor.
“Remember, there is no one perfect tango, but many perfect moments,” recited the teacher with exact timing. Lying flat on his back, Will continued to listen to the tutor’s voice coaching him through the speaker. “That’s it!” he yelled. Resolute, he crawled to his feet and yanked the cord from the wall. “Like feet are meant to do that.”
Grabbing a hold of the eighties-style cassette player, he tucked it beneath his arm like a football and opened the door. Unable to resist the opportunity to run free, his golden retriever nearly knocked Will’s feet out from under him as he rushed into the storm. “Junior, wait!” he shouted, throwing his raincoat over his head and picking up the flashlight.
As he made his way toward the cliff, he could hear his dog barking through the storm, but his only focus was how far he could lob the cassette player over the cliff and into the ocean. Once he reached the tossing point, he swung his arm back like a discus thrower ready to launch, but Junior’s barking had become so incessant that it ruined the moment. Shining the flashlight in the downward direction of his dog’s nose, he saw something white on the rocks below. On a dead run he returned the cassette player to the house and grabbed a rope from behind the seat of his truck. As he tied the rope around the base of a boulder, he heard a sound traveling in the wind. The familiar strain resembled a voice pleading with the sea. With his knot securely tied, he began lowering himself down the muddy trail toward the rocks. Nothing could slow his descent.
Getting closer to the water, the beam from his flashlight revealed a body. He’d seen a few wash ashore in his line of work, but never this close to home. Reaching the rocks, he tied the rope around his waist for security then knelt down next to the presumed corpse. Turning the female body over and lifting her into his arms, he was taken back by her beauty even under such terrible circumstances. Her skin was cold from the frigid temperatures and covered with abrasions from the abuse she’d taken in the swirling sea. The lack of clothing made her even more susceptible to the jagged rocks near the coast.
Although she appeared dead, he placed his fingers against the front of her neck to feel for a carotid pulse. Surprised to find one, he mentally shifted from a body recovery mission to lifesaving mode. Her pulse was faint, but present. He was running out of time. Ignoring his training and the use of a back board, he wrapped his rain coat around her body then gently placed her over his shoulder. With both hands he pulled himself back up the slippery trail, losing his footing from time to time. Eventually he made it to the top of the cliff and leaned against the boulder. At thirty-five he was in the best shape of his life, but the physical exertion necessary to climb the trail took more out of him than he realized.
After steadying himself, he moved to the older model pickup truck and carefully laid her on the seat. “You’re going to be all right,” he said reassuringly. “We’re close to the clinic.” Running to the house, he put his dog inside then hurried back to the truck and started the engine. A ways from the house, he found the road blocked by a large tree taken down by the storm. There was no way around it. As a paramedic, he began prepping mentally for what he could do as he reversed backwards. He could get the chain saw and cut a path through the tree. By the time he did that, her hypothermia would probably lead to heart failure. He needed to get her warm before her condition became fatal.
Taking her in his arms, he carried her into the house. Once he reached the bedroom, he yanked the covers back on the bed and tenderly laid her down. As he removed the raincoat, the brighter light revealed abrasions and cuts across her back and limbs. In an attempt to conserve heat, her body naturally reduced blood flow to her skin, keeping the bleeding at bay. He would deal with the wounds once her life was no longer in danger. Covering her with several layers of homemade quilts, he ran into the small bathroom and turned the hot water tap on in the old tub.
Letting it run, he hurried into the kitchen and pulled two hot water bottles from beneath the sink then returned to the bathroom. The water had reached the perfect temperature so he filled both rubber bottles. Then he grabbed a couple of hand towels and returned to the bedroom. Wrapping a towel around each bottle, he placed them between her upper arms and the sides of her body. Her skin had a blueish-gray tint to it, telling of a dangerously low body temperature. Running back into the bathroom, he grabbed an electric thermometer from the medicine cabinet. When he returned to the room, he stripped everything off except his long underwear bottoms and crawled under the quilts. Wrapping himself around her, he began to quiver. “Oh! You’re so cold!”
As a distraction, he went on to professionally explain what was happening as though his patient were conscious. “I can’t get you to the clinic. There’s a tree in the road. I have to warm your body temperature or you’re not going to make it.” No longer able to talk because of the chattering of his teeth, his mind raced with proper treatment protocol for hypothermia. His patient looked to be in her mid-thirties and healthy. That would help.
Once he gained control of his own shaking, he placed the thermometer in her mouth. While he waited, he slid her wet blonde hair off her face and listened carefully to her breathing. It was shallow and slow. He found her weak pulse and counted it off. The alarm sounded on the thermometer, showing a dangerous seventy-eight degrees. Realizing her heart could stop at any minute, he held her closer, placing the side of his face against hers.
The next couple hours felt like the longest of his life. The only treatment he could offer was the heat from his own body and it seemed to be working. Her temperature improved each time he checked but at a very slow rate. With each degree of improvement her pulse grew in strength. The steady improvement gave him hope. He planned to tend to her wounds once her temperature warmed to a safer degree, but the physical exertion of the rescue had drained his own body of strength. Although he fought to stay awake, the adrenaline rush that had kept him vigilant had faded. Eventually Will drifted off to sleep beside her.

Chapter 2
Dawn came as a jolt to Will’s system. Staring at the woman lying next to him, he quickly recalled the frantic rescue. With his arms still wrapped around her, he could tell her body temperature had warmed. Gently touching his finger to her neck, he timed her pulse as he listened to her breathing. Happy to find everything normal, he breathed a sigh of relief. He’d feared the worst but somehow she had survived.
Crawling out of bed, Will threw on a sweatshirt and pulled yesterday’s jeans over his long john bottoms. As he crept toward the door, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. His messy brown hair was pointing in every direction. Nothing ten fingers couldn’t fix as he combed them through his hair. Picking up his leather work boots, he quietly walked toward the wood stove.
The house was chilly, a sign that sometime in the early morning hours, the last ember had gone out. He built a fire using kindling and some dry wood that he brought in the day before. With the draft wide open, the blaze took off immediately. Taking a moment to warm his hands, he glanced at the mysterious woman as she rolled over in bed—another good sign. For Will, there was nothing more rewarding than saving a life or helping those in need. It was the gift that kept on giving, usually in the form of baked goods.
Walking into the kitchen, he picked up the land line phone and called his friend Jack, an officer in the local branch of the Coast Guard. It was his duty to report the woman who washed ashore. He was certain someone would be searching for her. Leaving a message on his voicemail, he hung up the phone and stared out the window. He still wanted to get his patient to the clinic to be checked over by a doctor but the downed tree stood in his way. The tree was a towering white pine with plenty of limbs attached. Grabbing a homemade muffin from a ‘thank you’ plate, he poured some milk into a small Thermos, added several heaping tablespoons of malted powder and placed it on the counter near the door.
His dog was already waiting to shoot through the door as Will gave him a quick pat on the head and whispered, “Are you ready, Junior?” The dog answered by wagging his tail faster. “Let’s go.” Will opened the door and watched him run as he reached for a denim jacket. The weather was running mid-fifties during the day and cooling into the thirties at night, so layering a padded vest over a light jacket would suffice. After putting on his baseball cap and tucking a pair of work gloves into his back pocket, he grabbed his muffin, gave his thermos a shake and left the house.
A morning after a good storm was one of Will’s favorite things to experience. The air was crisp and clean and the birds were chirping through the trees. It was just how he liked it on a late-autumn morning. After placing his breakfast on the seat of his truck, he faced the top of the lighthouse. The light had done its job just as it had for decades. Saluting the beacon, he turned and walked toward the shed near the house.
Tossing his chainsaw, tool bag, bar oil, gas jug and splitting maul in the back of the truck, he drove to the downed tree and fired up his saw. Before he could get close to the large trunk, he had to limb the tree. Not an easy job with a tree as large and full as the one before him, but he began making considerable progress. Once the limbs were cut away, he packed them to an open area and piled them on top of each other for a future bon fire.
An official Coast Guard truck rolled up on the other side of the tree. Jack Segal, a salty, sea dog nearing retirement, stepped out of the truck and walked toward the downed tree. Placing his foot on top of the log and his forearm across his bent knee, he waited for his young friend to return for more limbs. Dropping by the lighthouse on his way to and from work was a favorite pastime of Jack’s. Although Will was a grown man, he felt a responsibility to keep an eye on him.
Happy to see Jack, Will waved on his way toward him. He was a trusted friend and in many ways, a second dad. Wanting to take a break, he straddled the log next to Jack and pulled off his vest. He’d warmed up plenty with all the work. “What brings you by so early?”
“Just left work. Thought I’d check on your mermaid.”
“She seems to be sleeping comfortably. I plan to take her to the clinic as soon as I get the road cleared.”
Jack whistled loudly, calling to the dog. “Come here, Jack Junior.” Once his namesake arrived, he indulged man’s best friend with a vigorous frisk. “That was quite a storm last night. We were measuring six-foot seas. It’s a miracle she survived.”
“I’m as surprised as you are,” agreed Will.
“I thought you were taking this old tree down last month.”
“I got busy.
“Thelma’s washing machine? Hank’s water heater? Harriet’s garage door? Or another sink? Most likely Ruby’s. You’re trained to save human beings, not appliances.”
“I’m still trying to get to the sink.”
“And I’m still trying to get to bed,” said Jack as he lobbed a stick as far as he could, giving Junior something to chase. “Too many parties of ‘giving thanks’ on the high seas last night.”
“You’re a trained officer in the Coast Guard, not a babysitter,” responded Will, giving back the same advice he had just received.
“Fair enough,” Jack replied with a chuckle as he walked back to the truck.
“Any word on who she is?”
“No one’s reported anyone missing,” replied Jack.
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“There was a lot of traffic on the water last night. A lot of highfalutin’ celebrating. She probably got tipsy and fell overboard.”
“How do you not report that?”
“They probably don’t even know she’s missing. Or worse yet, they don’t care,” said Jack as he crawled in behind the wheel. “We could post her picture on the news.”
“Let’s keep it quiet until we talk to her.”
“Your call. Well, kid, I better get. The wife was not happy I missed Thanksgiving dinner. Do you want me to bring you up a plate?”
“I’m good. I made the rounds in town yesterday. A lot of good eating and leftover turkey for sandwiches.”
“You know she’d have my head if I didn’t ask.”
“Thanks for stopping by, Jack.”
“I’ll let you know if I hear anything. Say ‘hi’ to that father of yours when you head home for the wedding. Remind him he still owes me that pair of boots.”
“I always do. Enjoy the leftovers.”
“Oh, I plan to. It’s always tastier the next day,” he hollered out the window as he backed around and drove down the road.
Turning back, Will was surprised to see the mystery woman walk out of the house wrapped in a quilt. He watched curiously as she walked toward the cliff and knelt at the edge. Her long blonde hair floating back and forth with the breeze. Unsure of her state of mind, he decided to check on her before returning to the log. As he neared the cliff, she appeared to be in a trance of sorts, staring out at the ocean. “How are you feeling this morning?” Receiving no response, he tried again. “Is everything all right?” Still no response. “You’re really lucky you know. You took a beating against the rocks. It could have been a lot worse,” he said, squatting next to her. “My name is Will. William Bloom. I’m the one who found you. Actually, it was my dog, Junior. Jack Junior.”
Candace continued to stare into the ocean.
“I couldn’t get you to the clinic last night because of the tree blocking the road. I’m working on clearing a path, then I’ll take you in to see the doctor.” Pausing for a response, Will waited for a few seconds. “Were there others with you? Is there someone I can contact?”
Hearing the sound of the telephone ring through the open door of the lighthouse, Will stood up and ran toward the house. Reaching inside, he grabbed the telephone receiver and pulled it out of the house so he could talk while keeping an eye on his guest. “Hello. I don’t know if I’m going to make it today, Ruby. How did you hear about her? Yes, she’s alive. I’ll try to stop by tomorrow." He hung up the phone and shut the door. The woman on the cliff had sent a clear message that she didn’t want to talk, so he walked back to the fallen tree, started the chainsaw and continued to cut the log into pieces.

Two hours later, Will was still unable to get her to talk, so he made a couple sandwiches and carried the lunch to the edge of the cliff. Sitting down next to her, he left enough space between them to put her plate and bottle of water on the ground. “I made you some lunch. Turkey sandwich,” he said, diving into his as he waited for her to react. He was hungry from a morning of physical labor, so he had to pace himself to keep from devouring his meal too quickly. “I love sandwiches. You get everything you need in every bite: bread, cheese, veggies, meat. All the major food groups. I could live on ‘em. Actually, I do live on ‘em,” he concluded between bites. Tossing his dog a piece of the crust, Junior happily gobbled it down and waited patiently for another. “Your body needs that nutrition and water. Especially the water.” Shoving half of the last bite into his mouth, he tossed the final piece to Junior and gave him the paper plate to clean up the crumbs. “If you’re smart you’ll eat,” he said, intended as motivation.
Without warning, Candace threw her arm out from under the quilt, picked up the plate and hucked it over the cliff.
Junior raced to the edge of the cliff and stared over the edge, longing for the sandwich quickly being consumed by the water below. Turning back, he found his master just as shocked as he was.
“I didn’t ask for your help and I don’t need a doctor,” said Candace resolutely. Fighting back the tears, she wrapped the quilt over her shoulder and continued to stare out at the ocean. “Just leave me alone,” she softly pleaded.
“Come on, Junior. Let’s do as the lady asks.” Confused by what he considered to be irrational behavior, he picked up his paper plate and his water bottle and rose to his feet. On his way to the tree, he mentally searched his training and experience for an answer that would explain her reaction.

Comments

adellryan Mon, 08/24/2020 - 15:28

Xann, what a unique name! Beautiful Your submission shows a lot of emotion, and I love that. Well done! Congratulations on becoming a Page Turner eBook Award finalist. Best of wishes on your writing journey. ~ Adell Ryan

lanawilkinsonh… Sat, 08/29/2020 - 21:32

This woman is so driven and devoted to her craft, I am not surprised to see she’s a semi-finalist. Her characters come to life through her well told stories, and they become someone you feel like you really know. I’m looking forward to her next creative endeavor and her selection as a top finalist!

arlasasser Sat, 08/29/2020 - 22:44

Congrats Xann,  I have known since college that you would get your work out there!  I'm not surprised at you being a finalist, nor would I be surprised if you won.  Either way this is another step in your goals.  By the way Xann directed one of her own one-act plays at the Panida Theatre at the beginning of August.  It was great to have been in the audience.  Great job!  Arla