I love to write Christmas stories! I try to write a new one each year. These are all the Christmas stories I've written so far:
DO TURTLES HAVE CHRISTMAS?
In which Greg the Turtle ponders what Christmas means to those among us who are not human children.
NOTHING FOR CHRISTMAS
In which two old friends meet and exchange holiday greetings (and little else), proving that friendship is the greatest gift of any season.
SHELLY HOBBES AND THE UNWRAPPED PRESENTS
In which the twelve-year-old master detective solves the baffling mystery that nearly ruined her family's Christmas Loosely based on Arthur Conan Doyle's The Blue Carbuncle.
FOR GOODNESS SAKE
In which a boy finds out what really happens to kids on the Naughty List.
SANTA WEARS RED BOXER SHORTS
In which Santa encounters a little problem on Christmas Eve and a brother and sister must help him out, learning a little known fact about Mr. Kringle in the process.
THE TRIBULATIONS OF MISS ELLA FUNT
In which a stuffed elephant takes an unexpected route to arrive under the tree in time for Christmas. Produced in cooperation with Toys For Tots.
In which the truth about Santa's operation is revealed and we see how the elves cope with the various crises which arrive in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
And, of course, the latest installment in the Owen Harris series, SECRET OF THE KRINGLES! Owen Harris is a ten-year-old paranormal investigator and, so far, he's learned the truth about witches, vampires, werewolves, ghosts and all sorts of other-worldly things. But can he and his friends solve the greatest paranormal mystery of all: Santa Claus? How does he know who's been bad or good? How does he do it all in one night? Does he even exist? The answers to these and other vitally important questions can be found in the sixth book in the Owen Harris: Paranormal Investigator series.
That's all for now. Happy holidays!
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Friday, December 1, 2017
Greg got up that morning the same as always. He looked around his room with its tall, clear walls and went to get a drink from his dish. As he shook off the last bits of sleep he looked out his walls to see what the people were doing. They were putting decorations all over the house. Big red and green things that Greg didn't understand. In particular, a lot of them seemed to show a big fat guy in red pajamas and a white beard. Molly was asking her big sister, Mabel, a lot of questions.
“Is he really gonna come tomorrow night?”
“Of course he is. You wrote him a letter, didn't you?”
“Yes, but are you sure he read it?”
“I told you, Molly. Santa visits everyone who writes him a letter.”
“But how does he do it all in one night?”
“Magic, of course. I don't know exactly how it works, but I think he can freeze time or something.”
There were a lot of words that Greg had never heard before. Santa. Christmas. Rudolph. Some King or other called Nat. It was all very confusing to Greg. Luckily, later that day, Molly reached into Greg's room and picked him up to show him something. “Look how beautiful our tree is, Greg.” Greg looked and saw a large evergreen tree inside the house covered in colored lights and other ornaments. He had to admit it was beautiful but he didn't exactly know what it was for. “And tomorrow night, Santa's going to come and leave us presents for Christmas. And I asked him to bring something for you, too. Even though I don't know what turtles want for Christmas. Well, I'd better put you back. I have to go help Mommy in the kitchen.”
It was a very confused turtle whom Molly returned to his room a moment later. Christmas? What's Christmas? And who is this Santa who's supposed to bring me something? It was very overwhelming. But that night, many of his questions were answered. His room happened to be in such a place that it faced the TV so when the girls watched a movie called “A Christmas Carol” he learned a lot about this Christmas business.
Evidently, Greg concluded, it's a holiday that happens in the winter where everyone gets together and eats and drinks and has lots of fun and gives each other presents. It sounded nice, but it still left Greg with one burning question:
Do turtles have Christmas?
The holiday, it seemed, had something to do with a little baby called...something with a “J”, he couldn't remember. But the impression that Greg got was that this “Christmas” was this baby's birthday. Did you have to know the baby to celebrate? Are turtles allowed to celebrate? It seemed to have a lot to do with presents. Was it still Christmas if you didn’t get a present? Or give one?
Greg spent much of the night pondering these questions and the next day (which Molly said was called “Christmas Eve”), the girls watched some more movies and shows which told Greg a little more about the holiday. This Santa fellow lives at the North Pole and on Christmas Eve (that's tonight! he thought with some excitement) he flies in a magic sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer and delivers gifts to all the good little boys and girls and...
His heart sank. Boys and girls. Not turtles. He was a boy turtle, sure, but he had the clear impression that this is not what they meant. Oh well, he thought, as he watched another show about a snowman with a special hat. No Christmas for me.
That night, Greg was awakened by a strange sound. A sort of “THUD” as if something had landed on the roof. Greg was frightened. If it was burglars, he was ill-equipped to do anything about it except hope and pray that turtles were not valuable on the black market. But then he heard another sound: Bells! Very small bells! He remembered from his TV research that Santa's sleigh had bells on and often landed on rooftops. Am I going to get to see Santa Claus?
He did! Santa came down the chimney and set about his work. Putting packages under the tree, eating milk and cookies, filling the stockings. Greg watched him, transfixed. The bright smile, the red suit, the white beard. He's just the way I thought he'd be, said Greg to himself. I may not get any presents, but it's enough to get to see him!
And then, just as Santa was about to leave, he turned his head in the direction of Greg's room. He looked at the turtle and smiled. “Well, hello there, Greg!” he said as he walked over to him. “You don't remember me, do you? Well, you wouldn't, I guess. You were so very small when I brought you here. You see, you were Molly's Christmas present last year. And she asked me to make sure you got a present this year. Don’t look so surprised,” said Santa, kindly at Greg’s reaction. “Didn’t you know? Christmas is for everyone. And you’ll get a present, too...but only if you go right to sleep! Now, now, rules are rules. If you want your present, you'll just have to wait till morning.”
Greg shut his eyes obediently and tried to fall asleep. “That's better. Now don't open them till tomorrow. And Merry Christmas, Greg.” He heard Santa place something inside his room and creep away. In another moment he heard the sleighbells, the muffled cry of Santa and then...nothing. Santa was gone. It was tempting, but Greg kept his eyes shut until he fell asleep.
“Merry Christmas!” Greg woke to the joyous cry of Molly and Mabel as they ran downstairs for their presents. Their parents followed, somewhat less enthusiastically, but still all smiles. Greg watched through the walls of his room as the girls opened their presents and showed them off for their parents. It was a wonderful scene and Greg was very happy to have seen it.
“Look,” said Molly, suddenly. “Santa left something for Greg, too.” Greg had almost forgotten. With the great effort that it took for him to move at all, Greg turned around and saw...a great big head of lettuce! And it was all for him. As Greg began to munch on the crisp green leaves he thought of what Santa had said to him before he left.
“Merry Christmas, Santa,” he thought. “And thank you for the best Christmas I ever had.”
Thursday, October 19, 2017
"It isn't Brain...because You Know Why, Rabbit; but it comes to me sometimes."
--Winnie the Pooh
Well, things come to me sometimes as well, and I've collected them in a very small book of poems I call Things That Came To Me. A few of them are poems I have shared right the heck here, and a few are ones I have not yet had the pleasure off sharing with all y'all. Included in this super affordable 44-page volume are:
Along with an epic poem, limericks, haikus, blank verse, a sonnet and a some-lot more.
You can order your copy HERE for only $4.99 (plus shipping).
Once Upon a time there were three little pigs. Their names were Manny, Moe and Mack. And one day, they all left home to make their own way in the world and they each built themselves a house.
Manny's house was made of straw.
Moe's house was made of sticks.
And, of course, Mack's house was built of...gingerbread.
That was not the original plan, of course, but the hardware store was completely out of bricks so he went to the candy store next door and got gingerbread instead (it was on sale).
Everything was fine for a few weeks, but then the Big Bad Wolf came into town. He heard about the three pigs living in three houses in the woods (because, let's face it, that's not something you see every day) and figured this was his chance for a three-course ham dinner.
The Wolf knocked on Manny's front door (it's not easy to knock on a door made of straw, by the way) and said, “Little pig, little pig, let me come in!”
“Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin!” said Manny. Which baffled the Wolf, of course, but only because he'd never spent much time around pigs. If he had, he would have known that this was a very common expression in the pig community, with a long and fascinating etymology for which we do not have time in this story.
The point is that, though the “chinny-chin-chin” bit was confusing, he understood the “not” part and said, “Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!”
The Wolf took a very deep breath and blew down the straw house. It collapsed all around Manny who ran screaming to the home of his brother, Moe.
“Little pigs, little pigs,” said the Wolf after pounding on Moe's door (much easier, as it was made of wood rather than straw), “let me come in!”
“Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins!”
Well, the whole “chinny-chin-chin” thing was started to irritate the Wolf and he said, “Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!”
And, just like Manny's straw house, Moe's stick house soon collapsed. Manny and Moe ran for Mack's house and the Wolf gave chase. Fortunately, he tripped on a pile of fallen sticks, so Manny and Moe had a good head start.
Imagine their surprise and confusion, however, upon arriving at Mack's house and seeing two small children eating it.
“Hey!” said Manny. “Who are you guys?”
“My name is Gretel,” said the girl. “And this is my brother Hansel.”
Mack, burst out the front door and saw his brothers and the two children standing there. Then he saw the holes in his wall Hansel and Gretel had eaten.
“What's going on here?” he demanded.
But by then the Wolf had appeared in the distance and there wasn't time. He ushered everyone inside and bolted the door.
“Now,” he said once they were all inside. “Will someone please explain this to me?”
So, Hansel and Gretel told Mack the Pig about how their family was very poor and had no food to eat. The two children had gone out into the woods to find some food, and had left a trail of breadcrumbs behind to find their way home. Then they found that birds had eaten their breadcrumbs, and they were hopelessly lost in the woods. That's when they came upon the gingerbread house, which was the first food they'd seen in a long time and, well, they couldn't resist and started eating it.
“We're sorry that we ate holes in our house, Mr. Pig,” said Hansel.
“Well,” said Mack, “in retrospect, gingerbread probably wasn't the best choice for a house-building material.”
“No,” said Moe,” definitely not.”
“Yeah,” added Manny, “I wasn't going to say anything, but what were you thinking? A gingerbread house? And that's coming from a guy who built his house out of hay!”
“Okay! Okay!” Mack was getting a little annoyed by all this talk.
“Little pigs and two small children!” came the voice of the Wolf who had finally caught up with them and was banging on the gingerbread door. “Little pigs and two small children! Let me come in!”
“Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins!” said Manny, Moe and Mack all at the same time.
“Not by...what?” said Gretel.
“What does that mean?” asked Hansel.
“Shhh!” said Mack.
“Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!” said the Wolf and they heard him inhale deeply.
“Why bother?” called Mack.
“Why bother blowing the house down? It's made of gingerbread! Just eat your way in.”
“Mack!” said Manny.
“Are you out of your mind?” said Moe.
“Trust me,” said Mack to his brothers.
The Wolf realized that Mack was right. It would be much easier to eat his way through the house than to blow it down. So he began to eat the gingerbread house.
He ate the gingerbread walls, the candy cane trim, the peanut brittle shingles, the cupcake doorknobs, the sheet cake shutters, the gumdrop décor, until finally the Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel were standing in an empty lot surrounded by a few sticks of furniture and facing the terrifying wolf.
“Well?” said Mack, with a smile. “Aren't you going to eat us?”
“No,” said the Wolf, with a pained expression on his face. “No, I'm not. After eating all those sweets, I don't feel very well. And I certainly don't have any appetite anymore. In fact, I think I might have diabetes now. Excuse me, I'm going to go check into a hospital.” And the Wolf left the Pigs and the Kids alone.
So, apparently, Mack wasn't quite so stupid as everyone thought for building a gingerbread house. I mean, he was a bit stupid, but not as stupid as...never mind. It's a happy ending, let's not ruin it.
Hansel and Gretel's father found them and explained that the reason there had been no food in the house was that he hadn't had a chance to go grocery shopping that week. They had sort of overreacted, but it all worked out okay.
As for the Three Little Pigs, they decided that the three of them could build a better house if they worked together and, by now, the hardware store had bricks in stock once again and they were able to build a beautiful, sturdy and wolf-proof home they could all share.
Oh, and the Big Bad Wolf? Well, after he was released from the hospital he resolved to be a bit more careful with what he ate, and ultimately decided to leave the pigs alone.
So, you see, everyone lived happily ever after.
Did you enjoy this silly story? Would you like to read more fairy tale mashups? Then order you copy of Tairy Fales today. Find out what happens when Snow White meets the Three Bears, when Cinderella finds a magic lamp, when a man no bigger than a thumb falls in love with a girl with long, long hair and other ridiculous things in this adorable little book of pure silliness.
It all began, as these things so often do, with something very small. Sometimes it’s a pebble rolling down a mountain. Sometimes it’s a butterfly landing on the butt of a guy who’s sunbathing facedown. This time it was a hole in the fence. Not a big hole. Just a sort of crack at the bottom. A gap between two boards slightly bigger than the gaps between the other boards. Something most people probably wouldn’t even notice.
But it was enough for the cat to get out.
If you were to ask the humans who fed this cat in exchange for the pleasure of his company (they would describe themselves as his “owners,” but what do they know?) they would tell you that their faithful and obedient cat never left their yard. They would have been thoroughly shocked to discover that their cat was neither faithful nor particularly obedient and did, in fact, leave the yard through the hole in the fence pretty much every night.
What do cats do when they go out at night? All sorts of things. Sometimes they look for food. Sometimes they chase birds or mice. Sometimes they just prowl around looking cool, perhaps remembering a time when they were not so different from lions and tigers. But most of the time they’re looking for love.
Well, maybe not “love” in the sense that we use the word. In their case, the urge is less romantic and more…let’s say “primal.” In any case, this is supposed to be a kids’ book, so let’s just say that the cat—the one that got out through the whole in the fence and whose name history does not relate so let’s call him “Tom” to make things easier—went out at night to spend time with female cats before going home to his yard where his delusional owners were convinced he stayed every night.
One of the myriad female cats that Tom would spend his evenings with was the beloved, purebred pet of a Wealthy Woman who was just as clueless about her cat’s nighttime activities as Tom’s owners were about his. In fact, had she known that her perfect, elegant, immaculately groomed Puss (which is what we’re calling her for the purposes of our story) was involved in an assignation with a mangy beast like Tom, she would have been shocked.
But whether she wanted to believe it or not, the evidence was undeniable. After a few weeks of increased appetite, lethargy and barfing, the Wealthy Woman was forced to call the Veterinarian who came ‘round at once and declared, “Puss is going to have kittens!”
The usual number of months later, Puss did, indeed, give birth to a litter of six kittens. Five of them were the image of their mother, with barely any trace off their ne’er-do-well father in them. This pleased the Wealthy Woman as she was mainly concerned with the way things looked on the outside and cared not a whit for what things (or people) were like on the inside.
The sixth kitten however was, in this woman’s opinion, horrible to behold.
He looked almost exactly like his father, that is he was a tabby cat, orange fur with white patches. In fact, he had four white patches on each of his paws, which rather made him look like he had on shoes of some kind. But his feet weren’t the only reason the Wealthy Woman disliked him.
The kitten was disfigured…well, slightly. His left ear hadn’t quite finished growing and was short and shriveled. This is what the sixth kitten looked like:
“How horrible!” cried the Wealthy Woman.
“What?” said the Vet, who, of course, had come to deliver the kittens. “He’s not so ugly.”
“Not so ugly? Are you blind! Look at that horrible ear of his! And he looks like a mangy alley cat. He’s a freak!” And she called for one of her servants to take the kitten to the well and drown him.
“No!” said the Vet. “You mustn’t do that!”
“Well I’ll not have that thing living under my roof! Look, he’s frightening the other kittens!”
Actually they were frightened by the woman’s shouting and talk of drowning their brother, but, again, people aren’t too clever when it comes to animals.
“Then I’ll take him,” said the Vet. “I’m sure I can find someone to give him a good home.”
“If you must,” said the Wealthy Woman who, thankfully, will not be appearing in the remainder of the story.
The Vet walked back to his house with the newborn kitten in his arms. Of course, he would’ve been happy to look after the cat himself. But he was so busy taking care of other people’s pets he didn’t have time to keep one himself. But he was confident that, when he got to his own village, he’d find someone willing to adopt the kitten.
“What’s wrong with your cat?”
“Ugh! What a weird-looking thing!”
“Mommy, is that cat sick?”
Everyone he passed saw the kitten’s misshapen ear and wrote the poor little guy off as a freak. Nobody wanted to adopt a cat who was deformed (however slightly) when there were plenty of normal-looking cats in town.
The Vet was just beginning to lose hope as he passed through the marketplace to pick up some milk and bread before going home. And that’s where he met Corie.
“Ooooh! He’s so cute!”
A little girl had spotted the tabby kitten and ran straight up to the Vet.
“Yes, he is, isn’t he?” said the Vet. “Would you like to hold him?”
He handed the kitten to the girl. As she reached out for it, the Vet noticed a deep, red scar on her left hand, as though she had been burned and it had not healed properly.
A man’s voice called out and the girl stopped smiling at once. She turned around to face her father who was looking crossly at her. The Vet could tell at a glance that this was a successful businessman. He wore fine clothes, as did the two boys with him, who were clearly his sons.
That was the first time the Vet noticed what the little girl was wearing: It looked suspiciously like a boy’s suit that had been haphazardly resewn into a girl’s outfit. This struck the Vet as odd. If her father was so rich, why didn’t his daughter wear new clothes? Or, at least, girl clothes?
“What is that thing?” he growled at the kitten in his daughter’s arms as though it were something loathsome and unpleasant.
“It’s a kitten, Father,” said Corie. “He belongs to this man.”
“You can have him if you want him,” said the Vet. “I was trying to find someone to take care of him when I—”
“Absolutely not!” roared the girl’s father, eyeing the cat’s bad ear. “I know better than to buy damaged goods. Besides, I’ve already spent enough gold today.”
“On a hat for Brian and a flute for Sean,” said Corie, defiantly. “But I haven’t gotten anything. It’s not fair!”
“Life’s not fair, girl! And you’d do well to remember that and hold your tongue in the future!”
“The kitten is free,” said the Vet, quickly. He was now determined that this girl should have this kitten. At first his only concern was for the well-being of the cat. But seeing the way this girl was treated by her father, he felt certain that she needed a companion as well.
“Free?” said the girl’s father. He grumbled to himself as he thought it over. “Fine! But it had better not be any trouble!”
“It won’t be, Father, I swear.” She turned back to the Vet. “Thank you so much for…what’s his name?”
“You know, he doesn’t have one yet.”
“I get to name him?” said Corie, very excited. She took a good long look at the happy kitten in her hands. She saw his deformed ear, just like everyone else, but she thought it was kinda cute. And then she looked at his paws. “He looks like he’s wearing little boots…That’s it! Boots!”
“Hurry up, girl!” roared the girl’s father. “Or I’m leaving you behind!”
Corie thanked the Veterinarian again and ran after her father and two brothers, who were bragging about the expensive gifts their father had bought and teasing their sister for her ugly kitten.
But Corie didn’t care that her prize hadn’t cost a single coin. To her, Boots was worth more than all the gold in the world.
And, before our story is done, he would prove himself a most valuable cat, indeed!
The Vet was quite right about Corie’s father, Gregory. He was a successful and wealthy merchant. He and his children lived in a beautiful estate and had many servants to do their bidding. Gregory was very proud of his home, his money, and his two sons, Brian and Sean. But he had basically no interest whatsoever in his daughter, Corie.
Brian and Sean each had big, comfy bedrooms in the upper floors of the manor house. They had enormous, luxurious beds stuffed with goose down and dressed in satin. They also had a frankly staggering number of toys and so many clothes that they grew out of most of them before even wearing them once!
Corie, on the other hand, had a small bedroom downstairs among the servants’ quarters, a straw mat for a bed and the only “toy” she ever owned was a “doll” she had made which was, in reality, a tree branch on which she had carved a face. And for clothes, she pretty much had to make do with her brothers’ hand-me-downs and her skill with a needle and thread.
So the question you are doubtless asking at this stage is “why?” Why did Gregory love his sons and dislike his daughter so much? Well, there are three reasons. First, he wanted three boys. All his life, he had wanted three sons and had always intended to call them Brian, Sean and Cody, so he was more than a little disappointed when the third one turned out to be a girl. In fact, she nearly ended up being called “Cody” anyway. After she was born the midwife asked what name he had chosen.
“I don’t know,” he had said. “Cody.”
“Did you say ‘Corie?’ asked the midwife. “That’s nice.”
“No! I said…yeah, fine. Whatever!”
The other reason Gregory didn’t like Corie is because he didn’t think she was really his daughter.
Gregory had dark hair and dark eyes, as did his wife and his two sons. When Corie was born she had bright red hair and green eyes. Not that kind of orange that people mean when they say “redhead.” I mean red red. Red like the sky at dusk. Red like fire. Red like blood. And the greenest green eyes in all the world. Like the leaves of trees in spring. Impossibly green. She was, undeniably, a beautiful—and most unusual—girl.
But Gregory didn’t care about any of that. When he saw her, he became furious and accused his wife of being unfaithful to him. His wife would have denied these allegations, of course, and assured him that he was, in fact, the girl’s father, except that she died almost at once after the child was born.
Which is the third reason Gregory didn’t like Corie. He blamed her for taking away his wife and robbing him forever of his dream of a third son.
So, however grudgingly, Gregory agreed to let her live in his house and eat his food and even made her call him “Father.” But he never loved her as his own. Never spent a penny on her if he could help it. Her elder brothers took their cues from their father and they too shunned her, when they weren’t picking on her or playing pranks on her.
The closest things Corie ever had to friends growing up were the household staff, who were much kinder than the people for whom they worked. They were always much too busy to play, so she sometimes joined them in working. She helped the cooks prepare meals, she helped the maids clean, she helped the charwomen mend clothes, she helped the stable hands tend to the horses. While her brothers learned nothing except how to boss people around and spend money, Corie was learning many useful skills and trades.
But, kind as they were, the servants were grownups and, let’s face it, they were being paid to be there. That’s not the kind of playmate a child needs. Which is why the kitten, Boots, meant so much to her.
She was seven years old when her father let her keep Boots. However, he swore to take no responsibility for the kitten himself, so caring for him was entirely up to Corie. Between scraps from the kitchen and the mice in the yard, feeding him was no problem. Boots’ bed came from a discarded blanket Brian had decided he didn’t want anymore. She even made him little toys out of scraps of fabric.
“Your cat is ugly!” Sean would taunt.
“Look at its ear!” Brian jeered.
“It’s a freak! You should take it to the river and throw it in!”
Corie didn’t care. She adored Boots. And he loved her just as much.
Like most kittens, Boots was curious, and Corie liked to teach him as much as she could. She read to him, and told him stories, and even tried to teach him arithmetic. Her brothers would tease her for wasting her time, but she ignored them. After all, it wasn’t so much about teaching Boots to read and write (which she, of course, knew was impossible), it was more about her having someone to talk to.
“When I was very little,” she told Boots one night, “I used to have a book about a brave hero called the Marquis of Carabas. He went on such amazing adventures. But my brothers set the book on fire and laughed at me when I burned my hand trying to get it back.”
She held up her burned hand as she said this. A single tear rolled down her cheek at the memory. This was the closest she ever came to crying anymore, as she had learned young that crying made no difference when nobody who hears you cares.
“Anyway,” she went on, “I read the book about a million times so even though I don’t have it anymore, I remember all the stories pretty well. Would you like to hear one?”
Boots mewed, which Corie interpreted as a “yes,” and she began to tell her favorite story about the Marquis of Carabas.
“When the Marquis was born,” Corie told Boots, “he was ugly and misshapen and some people said he didn’t even look human. But a fairy came to see the queen and told him that he would be very, very intelligent. And, she also gave the baby a special gift: The ability to make anyone he chose as intelligent as he was.
“And, sure enough, once he was old enough to speak, he proved that he was the cleverest person in all of Carabas. Maybe in all the world!
“A few days after the Marquis was born, another queen in another kingdom gave birth to a daughter who was very, very beautiful. The same fairy who had been at the Marquis’s birth was here at this one, and she told the queen that her daughter would get more and more beautiful as she grew up, but she would never have any brains at all. But, she also gave this girl a gift: to make anyone she chose as beautiful as she.
“Oh! I forgot a part. The thing where he can make someone as intelligent as him? That only works once. And the same thing goes for the princess, who can make someone beautiful, but only once. Okay?
“Anyway, years went by and the Marquis of Carabas got more and more ugly and more and more intelligent. And the Princess got more and more beautiful and more and more stupid. And even though she was so beautiful, everyone in her castle laughed at her and made her feel ashamed because she was so foolish. So she ran into the woods and cried and cried.
“‘Why are you crying, fair one?’ said a voice.
“The Princess looked up and saw a very ugly young man addressing her. It was the Marquis of Carabas.
“‘Everyone hates me because I’m so stupid!’ she said and started crying again.
“‘I cannot believe that everyone hates someone as beautiful as you. I have seen many people in my life and never once met one so lovely. As for me, I am known to be very intelligent, but I would give up all my cleverness and wit to be only half as lovely as you.’
“‘No, trust me, you don’t want to be stupid. When you’re beautiful, people like you for a little while, but then they realize how dumb you are and they start laughing at you.’
“‘You say you’re unintelligent and I won’t be so impolite as to argue with you. But it seems to me that there is nothing so intelligent as admitting that you are ignorant.’
“This was the first time in her life anyone had ever called the Princess intelligent. She was so moved by the Marquis’ kindness that she threw her arms around him and kissed him. And he kissed her back. And when they separated, the Princess almost shrieked!
“The Marquis was no longer misshapen and ugly. He had become beautiful. As beautiful as the Princess! And the kiss had also made the Princess more intelligent. As intelligent as the Marquis! They were married and lived happily ever after. Isn’t that a great story, Boots?”
Boots showed his appreciation for the story by licking Corie’s burned hand ever-so-gently, almost as if he were trying to soothe the ancient injury.
Corie sighed. “I hope I can live happily ever after, some day. Well, good night, Boots.”
And the two best friends cuddled up and went to sleep.
And did they? Live happily ever after, I mean? Did Corie and Boots manage a happy ending despite the nasty people they lived with? Well, to find that out, you'll have to order your copy of Boots. I can tell you that there is an enchantress, an ogre, a magic cookie, a poetic mouse and a little trickery in store for our heroes before they can make their dreams come true in this new adaptation of Charles Perrault's classic story of Puss In Boots.
Way up North, in the Northiest Northernmost Northland (well, maybe not quite that North, but still pretty North as Northness goes) there lived a terrible Warrior King who traveled the land conquering every village and township he came across. He would just show up one day, announce he was in command, use up all the town’s resources, then move on, taking only the biggest and strongest with him to his next conquest. He was called Krieger Konig and this is the story of how he was defeated and how the world was changed not by force, violence or cruelty, but by love and courage and by the true strength of a clever girl called Gabria.
Gabria’s father, Kuzo, was Chieftain of the small village of Dorf, just on the outskirts of what was then known as the Fairying Forest, for reasons which we will go into in greater detail later in the story. He was the biggest, strongest and toughest man Dorf had ever seen so, naturally, he was chosen to be their leader. Under his rule, Dorf grew from a small collection of tents by a river to a…slightly larger collection of tents by a river.
Yes, the people of Dorf lived a very simple, earthy sort of existence. The river provided water and fish, the forest provided wood and small game and anything else they didn’t have, they simply did without. The children didn’t have much time to play, which was just as well as they didn’t have much to play with. Life was hard, and fun was very rare. Survival was the most important thing; it was a daily struggle for the people of Dorf and the number one responsibility of their leader, Kuzo.
Being the biggest and strongest (and therefore the best, according to the wisdom of the day), Kuzo demanded for his wife the most beautiful girl in the village, and he got her. Her name was Alainna and the first thing that attracted Kuzo to her was that she was so friggin’ gorgeous you actually felt a little woozy when you looked at her and had to sit down for a minute until the initial shock wore off and you were convinced that you weren’t hallucinating and that someone that beautiful could actually exist in real life and then you felt okay.
The second thing that attracted Kuzo to Alainna was that she didn’t immediately agree to marry him.
All the other girls in the village were throwing themselves at him (figuratively, not literally…actually sometimes it was literal, which was kind of weird), desperate to be the queen to someone so powerful and strong. But Alainna made him work for it. Made him go on dates with her and take an interest in her life and things like that. In this way, Alainna came to understand that Kuzo had a sensitive side which he kept hidden from the world. Likewise, Kuzo saw in Alainna a strength not that different from his own. So that when they finally were married, it was really for love rather than social standing.
Alas, their happiness was to be short-lived.
Soon after they were married, Alainna was heavy with child. Kuzo was overjoyed at the thought of having a son to carry on his legacy and rule the village when he was gone. Despite Alainna’s constant reminders that the child could just as easily be a girl as a boy, Kuzo got the idea in his head that he was going to have a son and nothing would dissuade him from that certainty. Even after the kid was born, he kept asking the midwife to check again.
But there was no mistaking it. The Chieftain had gained a daughter…and lost a wife. Poor Alainna died in the act of childbirth and would never know her little girl.
So, in one fell swoop, Kuzo had lost the woman he loved and had been saddled with a daughter, rather than the son he craved. And from that day on, life in the village of Dorf was forever changed. Their great, strong leader, locked himself away in his house coming out only when forced to by the duties of his office, which he executed with more anger and savagery than he ever had before. The smallest of infractions were met with the severest punishments possible. The grief and disappointment he had suffered snuffed out that tiny spark of kindness that Alainna had brought out and Kuzo had become a beast of a man, giving in completely to sorrow and despair.
And what of the child? The sweet, innocent baby girl who was now the only family Kuzo had? He simply turned away from her. Shut her out completely. The midwife tried to get him to at least hold the child after she was born, but he just growled, “Get that gabria out of my sight!”
“Gabria,” in the ancient language of this part of the world means, “Unwanted.” And it was the only name Kuzo ever gave his daughter.
She might have died had it not been for the kindness of the midwife, a slightly odd old woman known to the people of Dorf as Gramma Gamra. Though she was adamant that the girl should grow up in the home of her father, she came every day to look after the child and tend to her needs.
Understand, it was not that Kuzo treated her cruelly. It was not hatred that haunted Gabria’s existence, but indifference. He refused to acknowledge her, even when they ate supper at the same table. Even when she sat by him at official functions. Once, in a desperate attempt to get her father to notice her, she had found a porcupine and set it on her father’s favorite chair. To his credit, he maintained his charade that Gabria did not exist even while actively removing quills from his…well, the porcupine was sitting on his chair at the time and he wasn’t looking and…never mind, you get the idea.
If nothing else, one has to admire his commitment.
So, for the first nineteen years of her life, the only human being who ever showed Gabria any affection or even kindness was Gramma Gamra. Of course, there were other people in the village who liked Gabria and would have loved to be friends with her. But they were still frightened of their fierce and formidable Chieftain. If Kuzo insisted he had no daughter, the people of Dorf felt it was in their best interest to agree with him.
Which just left Gramma Gamra. That was the name by which she was known, though she didn’t seem to be biologically related to anyone in town. In fact, no one could remember a time when she wasn’t there. It was as if the village was built around her and she had just always been there and always would. It was also widely believed that she had never been any younger and would never get any older. She was just a constant fixture. Like the river or the trees or that unpleasant smell around her house, whatever that was.
Gabria adored her! She was one of the few people in the village who was even remotely interesting. Everyone else was boring and quiet and lived in fear and was just struggling to survive. Gramma Gamra was fun. Nobody else in Dorf was fun. Having grown up without a mother, the kind of attention she got from Gramma Gamra meant the world to Gabria.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Gramma Gamra,” said Gabria almost every time the old woman paid her a visit. A gentle pawing at her ankle would remind her of the presence of the porcupine. After the prank had failed to get a reaction out of Kuzo, Gabria had decided to keep the porcupine as a pet. She called him “Autsch” (actually, her father had unwittingly named the porcupine just as he had his own daughter) and after a few painful weeks, learned the proper way to pet and even cuddle him so as not to get hurt. “Or you, Autsch,” she added to the only non-human friend she had in the world.
“Do not judge your father too harshly, my child,” said Gamra.
“Why not? He’s gone out of his way to ignore me all my life. Sometimes I think I should just run away.”
“No, you can’t do that, dear! The woods are dangerous. And even if you get through the woods, there are the treacherous mountains. And even if you cross the mountains, what awaits you on the other side is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Besides, if you left Dorf…you might just break my heart.”
“Then I’ll stay. For you, Gramma Gamra.”
“Thank you, my child.” And they would talk about something else.
Gramma Gamra never did talk about what was on the other side of the mountains. But Gabria didn’t ask. What, she figured, could possibly be worse than this place?
Little does Gabria know that things are about to get much, much worse for her and her entire village very soon. Soon, she'll flee the only home she's ever known, make friends with the worst hunter in history, negotiate a peace treaty with some horrible monsters, meet a dragon and eventually...but I shouldn't give away too much. Order your copy of The Epic of Gabria today!
What are you afraid of? Darkness? That’s pretty common. Not knowing what’s around you in the dark at night. Snakes? Spiders? Yes, they can be very scary, especially if you don’t know much about them. Ghosts? Vampires? Monsters under the bed?
There are other things you might be afraid of, of course. Everyone is afraid of something. You yourself—yes, you, the person reading this book right now—have probably felt fear once or twice in your life. Remember that feeling? Your heart pumping, sweat running down your face…did you shiver? Did you shake? Did you feel like screaming or crying or running away?
Well, guess what? It’s okay if you did.
Like I said, everyone is afraid of something. But for some reason we tend to think less of people for being afraid of a different thing than we’re afraid of. A person who fears snakes might call you a coward for fearing spiders. And that’s really not fair. I have no idea what you’re afraid of, but I’m here to tell you that whatever it is, it’s okay. Fear is normal. Fear is healthy. Fear stops us from walking into traffic or climbing into the tiger habitat at the zoo or running into a burning building.
What if there was a puppy in the middle of the road about to get run over?
What if someone else had fallen into the tiger habitat and couldn’t get out?
What if a little kid was trapped in that burning building?
When you see a firefighter running into a burning building to make sure there’s nobody inside, do you think they don’t feel afraid? Of course they do! They’re running headlong into a burning building! What makes them brave is the fact that they’re doing what they have to do even though they’re afraid.
Fear is normal. Overcoming fear is brave. Overcoming it to help someone else is called heroism.
But, take my word for it. Only an idiot is never afraid of anything.
Which brings me to our hero: Shivers.
Shivers was not his real name, of course. His real name was…you know, I forget. Nobody ever called him by his real name. Everyone just called him “Shivers.” Isn’t that right, Shivers?
“Yup! It surely is!”
And why do they call you that?
“Um…I don’t know.”
Well, I’ll tell you.
Have you ever seen a big guy who people call “Tiny?” Or maybe a really fat guy who everyone calls “Slim?” Remember “Little” John from Robin Hood? These are what we call “ironic” nicknames, because they’re the opposite of what’s true.
“So, they call me Shivers because…I don’t shiver?”
That’s right. You don’t shiver. You don’t tremble, shake, shudder, get goose pimples or in any way display the emotion of fear.
Because you’re an idiot.
“That’s not very nice!”
What’s two plus two?
“Um…its, um…okay, point taken.”
Let’s take an example from Shivers’ real life to illustrate what I’m talking about here:
When he was very young, a lion came out of the woods to attack his father’s flock of sheep. His two elder brothers, both of whom had brains, ran away out of fear of the ferocious lion. Shivers, however, walked straight up to the lion and said, “Kitty?”
To make a long (and rather unpleasant) story short, the lion lunged at Shivers and sunk his teeth into the boy’s left leg. He survived the attack, but he never quite walked right after that.
His father shouted at him; scolded him for not being more sensible. But his mother was kind and gentle and far more understanding than her husband. All she cared about was that her youngest son was a nice, sweet boy. She didn’t care that he was so dumb he didn’t even know to run away from a savage lion.
But, aside from his mother, practically everyone in their village thought Shivers was a freak for not being afraid, which is why they teased him with the name “Shivers,” since he was the only person they knew who never shivered about anything.
“Gee, I wish I could shiver!”
Well, just wait. That’s what this story is about. It’s the story of the boy who left home to learn how to shiver.
“Really? What’s the boy’s name?”
It’s…it’s you, Shivers. It’s about you.
Oh well. On with the story.
Shivers lived in the kingdom of Borriston, many, many years ago. His father was a shepherd, and he was teaching his two elder sons, Peter and Nicholas, to follow in his footsteps.
“Is he teaching me to follow in his footsteps, too?”
No, Shivers. After the bit with the lion, he decided it was better to keep you away from the flock. So your mother started teaching you sewing. That was her job, you see. She was a seamstress.
“This is a useful skill,” she would tell him as they worked together. “You’ll be surprised how often it comes in handy.”
“I guess, but…”
“Well, it’s not very manly, is it? I mean, all the other men in the village are shepherds or blacksmiths or butchers or…what do they call those guys who make horseshoes and stuff?”
“Those are blacksmiths, dear.”
“They are? I thought blacksmiths made cakes!”
“No, those would be bakers, my love.”
“This is getting confusing. Maybe I’d better write this down.”
“You don’t know how to write, sweetheart.”
“Oh, that’s right. Gee, Poppa’s right. I am a useless idiot.”
“No you’re not! Listen to me, darling, and listen well: You are not useless! You’re different. That may mean your life will be a little harder than most, but it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m very sure. Now, please put down those white linens.”
“Because you pricked yourself with the needle about fifteen seconds ago and you’re bleeding all over them.”
So Peter and Nicholas grew up to be very good shepherds and, by the time they were grown, they were basically in charge of the sheep.
As for Shivers, he and his mother took in sewing, washing, ironing and the like from the other people in the village. Which is how he met Ellen.
Shivers was outside the front door of his house, trying to get Baabaa free…oh, did I forget to tell you about Baabaa? Sorry about that.
Baabaa was Shivers’ pet and, as you can probably guess, she was a sheep. She was, literally, the black sheep of her family which is why Peter and Nicholas didn’t mind Shivers taking her and keeping her as a pet. Unfortunately, Baabaa turned out to be about as stupid as Shivers which is why she had her head caught in the hole in the fence for the third time this week.
“Can I help you?” asked Shivers, still tugging on Baabaa’s back legs and not looking up at whoever had spoken.
“Yes, is this where Martha the Seamstress lives?”
“It sure is. Did you have some work for us?”
“Us? You’re a seamstress?”
“Yes. Well, no, not really. Cuz I’m a boy, so I’m not a seamstress. I’m a seam…a seam…a seamster? Does that sound like a word?”
“Well, anyway. Yes, I help my mother with the sewing and mending and such.”
“Then why are you pulling on that sheep?”
Shivers explained briefly about Baabaa’s unfortunate tendency to get her head caught in the hole in the fence and Ellen volunteered to help. Both of them pulling as hard as they could, they managed to get her free.
“Thank you. By the way, I’m Shivers. Who are…” This is the point when Shivers finally looked up at the person with whom he had been speaking all this time. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. “Wow! You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen!”
“Oh! Thank you. My name is Ellen,” she said, cradling Baabaa gentle in her arms. My family just arrived in Borriston.”
“Oh, that explains why I haven’t seen you before. And why you’re talking to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look, you’re new in town, so I guess it’s only fair to warn you. People don’t like me very much.”
“Cuz I’m stupid.”
“I’m sure you’re not stupid.”
“Do you know why Baabaa keeps putting her head in that hole in the fence?”
“Because she saw me do it.”
“Oh. Well, anyone can make a mistake—”
“Oh…I see…well…well, there’s more to life than being smart, you know.”
“Well, there’s being kind. Like looking after a little black sheep who…has just gotten her head stuck in the fence again. You should really just patch that hole.”
This had never occurred to Shivers before now. “Patch the hole! That would solve everything!”
“Wow, you really are stupid aren’t you?”
“But you’re very nice.”
And that’s how Shivers made his first ever friend who wasn’t also a sheep.
Would you like to know more about Shivers and his adventure to learn about fear? Of course you would! Why wouldn't you? Which is why you should go right ahead and order your copy of Shivers today. Loosely based on an obscure Brothers Grimm tale, this is the perfect story for Halloween. It's also a great way to show your kids that it's okay to be scared, as long as you are in control of your fear and not the other way around.