Saturday, November 10, 2018

WHEN A PIG FLEW at Storyberries



When people say “When pigs fly” what they really mean is “never” because, as we all know, pigs cannot fly. But the next time someone tells you something will only happen “when pigs fly,” you might want to inform them that this has already happened, and tell them all about Tracey.

Tracey was a pig. And like many other pigs, she had her hopes and dreams and ambitions. Her greatest dream was to fly. All her life she had watched the birds flying overhead and wondered what it must be like. She even tried flying herself. She climbed up onto a bale of hay and jumped, but that didn’t work. She tried running and jumping into the wind, but that didn’t work. Once she even persuaded a flock of geese to try lifting her up off the ground….that one didn’t really go well for anyone involved.

She was just about ready to give up, which would have made this story very short but easy to tell, when an old sheep who knew about stuff said, “If you want to fly, why not visit the Spirit of the Woods?”

“Woods? What woods?”

“Oh, you know, the thousand acre forest of dense trees just outside the farm. Over there, see?”

Tracey looked and, indeed, there was an enormous forest just outside the farm. Funny how she’d never noticed it before.

And what happened to Tracey in the woods? Did she ever get to fly? Are there or are there not any monkeys in this story? The answer to these and other questions can be found by reading the full story HERE (And, yes, there are monkeys).

LEROY MAKES A FRIEND at Storyberries


One day, while walking down a busy street, Leroy the penguin happened to see something he never expected to see here in the big city: another penguin! He had been quite used to seeing penguins when he was living in Antarctica, but now he lived in Chicago and he hadn’t seen a penguin in months.


To find out what happens to Leroy and his new "friend," visit Storyberries HERE and read the full story.

QUEEN RAGGY at Storyberries


The King died, which is sad. But when a king dies, there isn't much time to be too sad because of needing to find a new king to take his place. Normally, that's the king's son, the prince, except this particular king made a slight mistake and died before managing to have any sons. Or daughters, for that matter. Which meant that not only was the king dead, but there was nobody to take his place.

The Chancellor (sort of like the king's assistant) went to the Court Wizard and asked him what was to be done. Unfortunately, the Court Wizard, whose name was Roy, was a fraud. He could no more do magic than an elephant could take up ballet. He'd been faking it for years with simple tricks and illusions and hoping that the day would never come when anyone would need any real magic from him. Now that the day had come, Roy was in trouble.

“I'll need to consult the High Council Of Spirits,” he said. “Go away and come back tomorrow.”

The Chancellor did go away and come back tomorrow, by which time the Court Wizard had come up with something that he thought would pass muster.

“I have consulted the High Council of Spirits,” he said, “and they have delivered to me this prophecy.” So saying, he unfurled a scroll on which he had written nonsense chicken scratch which he pretended was a foreign language only he could understand and recited the following poem:

“Red of hair and blue of eyes,
Never speaks in any tone,
Always stuffed but never eats.
This is the one who must sit on the throne.
And if, a fortnight from this day,
A person like this cannot be found,
Then the person who delivered these words
Is the one who must be given the crown.”

As poems go, it was pretty terrible, but the message was clear. The next ruler of the kingdom would be someone with red hair and blue eyes who never spoke or ate but was, somehow, always “stuffed.” And if someone like that could not be found in a fortnight (that's two weeks) the Wizard himself would have to be made king...which, of course, was the Wizard's plan all along. He figured they'd never find someone like that, so he'd be crowned instead.


Will the Evil not-really-a-wizard succeed in his cunning plan? Find out HERE.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

THE HISTORY LESSON: A Shelly Hobbes Story


It was while driving home from work that Warren realized it. Something had been at the back of his mind all day and he hadn’t been able to put his finger on it until now. Quite what it was that shook loose the old memory, we may never know. But halfway between his clinic and his house, Warren remembered what day it was and it was for this reason that he made an unexpected detour. His wife was not the type who was all that interested in flowers, cards, chocolates or jewelry, which meant that Warren had to make slightly more effort than most married men when it came to spontaneous romantic gestures.

“Where have you been?” Shelly asked as she kissed her husband. “You’re usually home by six-thirty and it’s already past seven.”

“I had to stop and pick something up,” said Warren, with the smug, satisfied air of a man who is about to score major points with the woman he loves. Not having had time to wrap the article, he’d had no choice but to conceal it in the old, slightly tattered briefcase he carried with him to work. He drew it out now and handed it to his wife. “It’s nothing, really, but I couldn’t let today pass without doing something.”

“Why not?” asked Shelly, smiling as she looked at the book on beekeeping Warren had brought her. Her longtime idol, Sherlock Holmes, had, in his later years, given up detective work and retired to the country to study bees, so Warren knew that this book would bring a smile to his wife’s face.

“Well, you know…” Warren began. But, the blank expression on Shelly’s face led him to believe that she did not know. “It’s October 9th.”

“Yeah. And?”

“Don’t you remember what today is?”

“Let me see, October 9th…er…well, the Washington Monument was opened to the public on October 9th, 1888.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. But that’s not why you gave me this, is it?”

“No, it’s not.”

“Let’s see, October 9th…Battle of Yorktown,1781?”

“Yes, Shelly, I got you a gift to commemorate the Battle of Yorktown, as is custom among husband and wives.”

Frantically, Shelly started rattling off everything that had ever happened on October 9th. “Henry VI restored to the throne? Harvard begins admitting women? John Lennon was born? Che Guevara died?”

“It’s the day we met!”

There was silence in the room. It had been twenty-five years ago that very day that Warren had, as a small child, stepped into a room in a foster home and met a girl called Shelly. The day he met his best friend. The day he became her Dr. Watson. The day his life began.

“Oh…my god…” said Shelly, looking stunned and ashamed. “Warren, how could I…I can’t believe I would forget that.”

“Well,” began Warren, about to tell her that he had only remembered himself about an hour ago…but then he reflected on how seldom it was that he remembered something when Shelly didn’t, and decided on a slightly less noble path.

“Well,” he began again, “I won’t say I’m not a little disappointed.”

“Oh, Warren, I’m so sorry. I can never forgive myself for forgetting something so important.”

It was at this stage that Warren intended to put his arms around Shelly and magnanimously forgive her for the oversight. But before he had the chance, Shelly seemed to become distraught and ran to the bedroom. Moments later, Warren heard loud sobs coming from that direction.

This was, of course, not at all what he had wanted. He just wanted to enjoy one-upping the Master Detective for once. Hating himself, he ran into the bedroom where he expected to find Shelly prostrate on the bed, crying her eyes out.

Instead, she was sitting, quite happily at the foot of the bed, next to an object Warren had never seen before. It was a brand new briefcase with a large red bow on it. The exact one he had been wanting for months to replace his old one. He walked across the room and picked it up. He looked at it from every angle. Then he flipped it open. Just on the inside, there was a small window of clear plastic where the owner could slip a business card. There was a printed card in this window, but not one of Warren’s. It read:

Of course I remembered what today was, you dope!
Love, Shelly

Warren grinned. He looked at Shelly. She was grinning, too.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

TIMMY VS. THE MONSTER

Storyberries is a really great site full of FREE stories for kids of all ages. Classic fairy tales, poetry, and original tales to enrich and entertain little ones.

They were cool enough to publish one of my stories, Timmy Vs. The Monster.  Timmy (six years old) is very sure that there is a monster in his closet, but his mommy and daddy say there isn't. He is, therefore, forced to take matters into his own very small hands. But how is one little boy in rocket ship jammies going to defend himself against a big, scary monster?

You can find out HERE. And, after you've finished, stick around and check out some of the other stories on the site. Storyberries is a great resource for parents, kids, teachers, or anyone who loves stories as much as I do.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

How NOT To Time Travel! (Sneak Preview)

Here is a short excerpt from my next book for young readers, How NOT To Time Travel. 




On the Thursday on which our story begins, the gym at Sydney Newman Middle School was full of students who, ordinarily, would have preferred to stay as far away from the gym as possible. Normally, the gym brought them nothing but pain, misery and torture of both the physical and psychological variety.
Also know as “P. E.”
Today, however, the gym was the site of the Annual Science Fair. Instead of portable soccer nets, orange plastic cones and large, metal bins full of basketballs, the room was full of long, folding tables on which the eager young scholars had set up their projects, waiting for the judges to come by.
The sole remaining vestige of gym class still looming over the students’ heads was Coach Hartnell who was, for reasons passing understanding, serving as one of the Fair’s judges, along with Mrs. Troughton, the science teacher, and Assistant Principal Pertwee. This intimidated the students a little, but they took solace in the fact that, in his capacity as judge, Coach Hartnell would not be able to throw dodgeballs at them or force them to run a lap.
The three judges walked down the lines of tables, inspecting the projects, asking the students for demonstrations and making small, discreet notes on their clipboards. Occasionally they would make vaguely encouraging comments like “very nice” or “good effort” regardless of whether the project had any chance of winning or not.
Then they got to Hugo’s project.
Hugo Wells—the twelve-year-old hero of our story—was a genius. And I mean that literally. Lots of people use the word “genius” to describe everyone from professional rappers to dogs who can stand on their back legs. But Hugo was an honest-to-goodness, genuine, bona fide, true blue genius of the highest order.
Oddly enough, this would be the first year Hugo ever took part in a science fair. I know, it sounds weird. You’d think someone that clever would leap at the chance to enter and win the Science Fair. But Hugo just wasn’t into it.
Like many people who are highly intelligent, Hugo found that social situations made him very uncomfortable. He didn’t want too much attention, hated to think that people were looking at him, dreaded being called on in class (despite the fact that he always knew the answer to whatever question the teacher was asking) and had absolutely no friends, preferring to spend his downtime on his own, reading or tinkering with some gadget he had invented.
Hugo’s mother understood her son’s reluctance to enter the Science Fair, but thought it might help him to get over this social anxiety, which is why she said what she said:
“If you don’t enter the Science Fair, you can’t go to the midnight launch of the last Beanstalk Chronicles book.”
Hugo loved to read all kinds of books. But his favorites were The Beanstalk Chronicles by I. M. Jacques. And the final book in the series was going on sale soon. Hugo just had to be the first one to read it!
“It’s no big deal,” Hugo’s father added. “You’ve got all kinds of inventions and whatnot in your room. Just pick one, slap a label on it and bring it in.”
So, he did…and it changed his life forever.
         “So, Hugo,” said Mr. Pertwee as he and his fellow judges approached his project, “what do you have for us?”
“A time machine,” Hugo said, matter-of-factly.
“Um…what?” said Ms. Troughton.
“A time machine,” repeated Hugo. “A machine that allows you to travel through time?”
“Yes,” said Coach Hartnell, “we’re familiar with the concept. You’re saying you’ve actually built one?”
“Of course. See?”
The judges looked at Hugo’s project.
Standing upright on the table was a sheet of cardboard, folded into thirds and covered with equations and formulae. These, Hugo hoped, would explain the theory behind the object directly in front of the cardboard, which looked very much like a shoebox with a lot of wires and tiny flashing lights attached to it.
Mainly because it was a shoebox with a lot of wires and tiny flashing lights attached to it.
“This is just a miniature prototype, of course,” said Hugo, as though the idea of a twelve-year-old kid inventing a working time machine was not ludicrous on the face of it. “The interior of the shoebox is lined with steel mesh, which acts as a Faraday cage for anything traveling inside the box. The controls are…”
“Okay,” said Mr. Pertwee. He had known that Hugo hadn’t exactly been enthusiastic about taking part, so he assumed this was some kind of sarcasm or a practical joke. “This is cute and all, Hugo, but we have real projects to evaluate. So, if you—”
“I can prove it works!” Hugo said, much more forcefully than he had meant to. Being so smart (indeed, smarter than many grownups in his life) was not easy and Hugo was used to being talked down to by people who didn’t take him seriously because of his age. But he didn’t like it.
Reaching into his backpack, Hugo removed two digital wristwatches. He showed them to the judges. “Both watches show the exact same time, down to the second. Correct?” The judges nodded. “Now. Watch.”
Hugo put one of the watches into the shoebox and laid the other on the table, outside the box. Then, using a pair of tweezers, he set the dials and buttons on the tiny control panel. Then he stood back.
Before the startled eyes of all three judges (and pretty much everyone else at the Science Fair, who had started to gather around as soon as they had heard the words “time machine”), the shoebox disappeared into thin air!
“Where did it go?” asked Coach Hartnell.
There was a long, painful silence.
“Really?” said Hugo. “No one’s going to say it? I’m going to have to say it?” He sighed. “Fine: I think you mean…when did it go?”
“Wait,” said Ms. Troughton, “you’re seriously saying…”
“Yes. I sent the watch exactly one minute into the future. It will return, in the exact same spot, precisely forty-three seconds from now.
The entire gymnasium waited with baited breath as the seconds ticked away. At the exact instant that Hugo had said it would, the shoebox and the watch returned. Hugo took the watch out of the shoebox and held it up along with the other.
“See? The one that went into the time machine is one minute slow. Because it skipped over that minute. From this watch’s perspective, that minute never happened.”
Hugo stood proudly. He had proved, definitively, that his time machine worked.
Or, so he thought.
Mr. Pertwee laughed. “Yes, very nice, Hugo,” he said in a condescending tone of voice that Hugo had come to know all too well. “A very cute magic trick.”
“M—magic trick? But, Mr. Pertwee…”
“Yes, very creative. Come on.”
The judges moved along to the next project. Hugo said “but” a few more times, but to no avail. They were already looking at Susie Johnson’s potato battery.

But that's not the end of Hugo's adventures through time! Find out what happens next when How NOT To Time Travel is released in July 2018!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

THE PRINCESS SUSIE FAIRY TALE Or "How To Have A Baby Brother"


Once there was a very small princess called Susie. This was not, in itself, unusual, as she was only four years old and most people are pretty small when they’re four years old. Notable exceptions are giants, elephants and flobbergots, who are actually born really big and get smaller as they get older, which is another story for another day. This story is about something different, but I’ve already forgotten what that was, so let me just read back over what I’ve already written to remind myself.

Oh, right. Susie,

Susie wanted a baby brother more than she wanted cake (which is a lot!) so she asked her Mom and Dad (who, by coincidence, were a Queen and a King) if she could have one.

“Well…we’ll see.”

Believe it or not, Grown-Up Types Who Might Be Reading This Story, every kid in the universe knows what that means and so did Princess Susie. So she went to see Gus, the Wizard Who Lived In A Bush Just Outside The Castle.

“A baby brother, eh?” said Gus from behind a clump of leaves. “That’s tricky. But it can be done. If you walk into the Big Scary Forest until you find the Bunny Tree. Give the Bunnies an offering and they will give you a Magic Compass which will lead you to Tiger Cave. There you must solve the Tiger’s Riddle. If you fail to answer the riddle, you’ll be eaten up. But if you guess right, he’ll give you a seed. Take the seed home and plant it in a small pot of soil. Be super nice to the pot of soil for two days, then put it on the windowsill and you will have your baby brother.”

“Okay!” said Susie. And she turned to set off on her adventure.

“Wait!” cried Gus. “You’re a four-year-old girl! You can’t go on such a dangerous journey by yourself!”

“Oh. Okay,” said Susie, and went to see a friend of hers. Tyrone was a Milk Man, which is another way of saying he owned a cow and sold her milk to people. "Tyrone," said Princess Susie, "will you come on a dangerous journey with me?"

"Yeah, all right," said Tyrone. And off they went on their adventure: Susie, the Princess, Tyrone, the Milk Man, and Estelle, the Cow.


The Bunny Tree was located in the very center of the Big Scary Forest (which was really only Scary at night time, though it was still pretty Big, and still a Forest). It was a large, lopsided, overgrown fir tree. And it was called Bunny Tree because a warren of bunnies had made their home under its branches.

“Hi, bunnies!” said Susie when she and her companions arrived. Upon hearing this greeting, several bunnies poked their heads out from under the tree, looking at the Girl, the Man and the Cow. “I’m Princess Susie and I have an offering for you.”

Who wants to guess what offering Susie brought? Carrots? Because they're Bunnies? Well, no. It wasn't that. It was cookies. “I figured everybody else brings them carrots,” she explained, “so they might like something different for a change.” She was right. The Bunnies seemed very pleased with the cookies (especially when they paired it with some of Estelle's milk) and happily gave Princess Susie the Magic Compass.

Most compasses, as you may be aware, point North. All the time. No matter what. Which is why it gets very tedious being a compass. But this compass, this Magic Compass, didn't point North. It pointed to the Tiger Cave on the other side of the Forest. Susie, Tyrone and Estelle were about to go in when a deep, booming voice from within said "Only one may enter."

"I better go," said Tyrone. "I'm the adult here."

"No," said Susie. "It's my quest. I need to do this."

"But, Susie..."

"No! I'm a princess and I order you to stay out here with Estelle. And, Estelle, I order you to stay out here with Tyrone." So saying, Susie entered the cave, her head held bravely aloft. Once she was inside, the entrance to the cave sealed behind her so that neither Tyrone nor Estelle could go in. Soon, Susie was alone with the Tiger of Tiger Cave.

"Hi, Tiger!" she said.

"If you answer my riddle,” said the Tiger, “I will grant you whatever you desire. If, however, you fail to answer, I will eat you up. Do you accept the terms of this deal?”

“Um…okay!”

“Very well. Here is the riddle:
In the winter it’s cold, In the summer it’s hot.
But it’s not what I have, but what I have not.
No legs and no arms, but fingers and toes,
Too cold when the sun shines, too hot when it snows.
I make not a sound, but they all hear my words.
And I fly like a cheetah and run like the birds.
What am I?

Princess Susie thought and thought and thought as hard as she very well could. But she did not know the answer to the riddle (And neither do I, so please don’t ask me).

“Then, I’m very sorry,” said the Tiger with a grin that indicated he was not all that sorry, “but I’m going to have to eat you alive now.”

“Before you do, can I ask you a question?”

“I suppose.”

“Can I have a hug?”

“A what?”      

“One last hug before I die. I’ve never hugged a tiger before.”

“Come to think of it, no one has ever hugged me before. People tend not to hug tigers. They either try to kill us or they run from us. But never hug. Okay, why not?” And Princess Susie gave the Tiger the Biggest, Nicest Hug That A Tiger Ever Got. “Hey! This is pretty good! I like this way better than making people answer riddles and eating them if they get it wrong. Thank you, little princes. You know what? I’m going to give you what you want anyway.”

“And not eat me?”

“Right. And not eat you. So what’ll it be?”

“My friend Gus, who lives in a bush, told me you had a seed that I could use to grow a baby brother.”

“Oh, yes, I have that somewhere. Let me see…where did I put that? Oh, here we go. There you are. Farewell!”

“Bye, Tiger!”


Tyrone and Estelle walked Susie back to her castle. On the way, she told her friends what had happened between her and the tiger. They both agreed that it was pretty amazing.

"That's pretty amazing," said Tyrone.

"Moo," said Estelle.

After saying "buh-bye" to the Milk Man and the Cow, Susie went to see the Royal Gardener, Ruth.

“Can I have a put with some soil in it, please?”

The Royal Gardener, Ruth, gave her such a pot, and Susie planted the seed inside. She then spent the next two days being very nice to the pot. Playing games with it, telling it stories, talking to it. She named it “Bernard.” Her Mother and Father thought it a little odd that their daughter was playing with a pot full of soil, but they let it go. It’s not actually necessary for parents to understand everything their kids do, as long as they’re safe and happy while doing them.

After two days of unremitting niceness. Susie put the pot on her windowsill, gave it a good night kiss and said, “Nighty-night, Bernard,” then went to bed herself. She awoke the next morning, expecting to see an infant sitting on the windowsill, but there was none. The pot sat there just as it had the night before. Princess Susie was very upset, even more so when she dug around in the soil and found that the seed was gone! She thought a bird must have come in the night and eaten her baby brother!

So it was a Very Sad And Despondent Susie who came downstairs to breakfast that morning.

“Don’t be so sad, dear,” said her Father. “We have some wonderful news!”

“Yes, Sophie,” said her Mother. “You see…I am with child! You’re going to have your baby brother after all.”

“Or sister,” said her Father. “We don’t know for sure if—”

“Then it worked!” said Susie. And she told her Mother and Father about the adventure she had been on and that not only would the baby be a boy, but it would be a boy named Bernard. Her parents, of course, thought it was just pretend, or a dream she’d had, or something like that, because parents tend not to know about magic and instead use big words like “imagination” to try and explain things they don’t understand. 

But none of that mattered, really. What did matter is that, the usual number of months later, the Queen gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. And since Susie had been referring to the unborn baby as Bernard all this time, it seemed logical to name the child Bernard. The Kingdom rejoiced at the birth of Prince Bernard, the Bunnies started a Milk And Cookies Club for the other animals in the Big, Scary Forest, the Tiger gave up being mean and scary forever and just went around being nice to people so they would hug him, Tyrone won a contest and took a trip to Zimbabwe, Estelle met a handsome bull and settled down, Gus moved out of the bush and into a house and everyone pretty much went ahead and lived happily ever after.

THE END