Thursday, December 17, 2020



FROM: Willie, Chief Stable Elf

TO: Santa

CC: Rodney, Head Elf; Cindy, Assistant to Head Elf

Dear Santa,

Here are the files on those reindeer who are applying to be on the team this year. Lots of diversity, which I for one think is a good thing...up to a point.

Ever since Rudolph, we've been getting a lot more applicants who are--in one way or another--different, unusual, or unconventional. But, let's face it: not everyone can have something as useful as a luminous nose, and while I admire their spirit and tenacity...well, see for yourself:


Crispin is a fine specimen, physically. Very fit with tremendous stamina, both traits we look for in a deer. His only real problem is that he's legally blind at night. And, while I know we do our best to be accommodating...I mean, it's very much a night job, pulling the sleigh. I might recommend him for a training position. Something that takes place during daylight hours.


She's really very keen, and she even went to school with Comet, and he's vouched for her work ethic. But she's absolutely terrified of heights. She's pretty confident that she can overcome this fear, if it means pulling the sleigh, but we had to do the interview outside because she was afraid to climb the steps to get inside, so I have my concerns. 


In many ways, I can see where having a two-headed reindeer on the team could be a positive thing. But, this is a team and Stan and Olivia do not work well together. They spent most of the interview bickering over which one was the front and which one was the back, and whenever they turn their heads to face one another, their antlers get tangled. Hard pass. 


He pointed out that what you do requires stealth, and he's got a point. But I think you have to weight the advantages against the downsides. And, considering the fact that I literally lost him three times during the interview, I'm convinced that the cons outweigh the pros with this one.


I mean...well, it's in the name, really, isn't it? I just don't think a very-nearly-dead reindeer is going to be able to pull the sleigh without...what? Oh. Oh, I see. 

And, I've just been informed that his condition has changed. He is no longer very nearly dead...So...yeah, probably best if we just move on.


I want the record to show that I am not ableist. I would have no qualms whatever about hiring a three-legged reindeer. I could even see us hiring a two-legged reindeer, providing they were able to keep up with the requirements of the job. But I think, if we're being honest, we can all agree that one leg is just plain not enough. 

And then, of course, we have all the usual Rudolph copycats. They don't seem to understand that it takes more than a red nose to be part of the team. They seem to think all they need to get a song written about them is an oddly colored body part. So, this year, we had:


He doesn't have any kind of enhanced hearing or anything. His ears are just very, very blue.


Fairly sure she used paint.


She just...she just has brown eyes. That's not even a thing.

So, yeah. There ya go. Nice enough guys, but I just don't think there's room for them on the team. 



Saturday, November 7, 2020


Remember, remember,

The Third of November,

In the year of two-zero-two-oh.

I’m quite sure we’d regret

If we ever forget

The day Don was defeated by Joe.


It had been four long years

Full of anger and tears

Thanks to Russians and racists and crooks

Who had made their selection,

And caused the election

To be one for history books.


It just didn’t make sense

That a schmuck so immense

Could have made it to DC at all.

But we stopped asking why

When folks started to die

And our national pride took a fall.


We were mad, we were scared,

At the monsters who dared

Show their face in the broad light of day.

Now that Trump was in charge,

They were all living large.

Neo-Nazis could now have their say.


We complained, we beseeched;

Yes, we even impeached,

But his cronies defended him still.

The result was no soap.

We were all losing hope

But there is a way, if there’s a will.


When that role Biden filled,

True, we weren’t all that thrilled,

But when Sanders and Warren, et al

Failed to get the top spot,

We all shrugged, said, “Why not?”

And declared Mr. B was our pal.


In the days that preceded

The third, we all heeded

The words of our heroes and friends.

That the polls are all phooey

(Like when Truman beat Dewey)

And that we could decide how this ends.


And—oh boy!—what a night!

As we huddled in fright,

The polls closed and they started the count.

One for Don, one for Joe.

Not one soul seemed to know

Who’d end up with the proper amount.


So, we all went to bed,

Our hearts heavy with dread,

And we hoped, come the morning, we’d know.

But when next rose the sun,

Seemed the count wasn’t done.

Neither one had hit two-seven-oh.


Remember, remember,

The Fourth of November,

And watching the states which might swing.

First AZ, then MI

Fin’ly went to our guy.

Yes, eternally, hope seems to spring.


As the long day wore on,

Things looked lousy for Don.

It seemed sure he was headed for sorrow.

But the count in NV

Was a slow one, so we

Once again had to wait till tomorrow.


Remember, remember, the FIFTH of…

No, on second thought, don’t bother.

Pretty much nothing happened all day.

Moving on.


Now, the sixth, I will say

Was a memorable day,

Because two states that once had been red

Quickly shifted to blue;

Now the whole wide world knew

That this thing had been turned on its head.


Then, on day number seven,

Month number eleven,

(Four days later, for those taking notes)

Came the end of this mania,

Thanks to old Pennsylvania

And their twenty electoral votes.


Yes, the darkness had passed,

We saw daylight, at last,

And the Trumpers were fresh out of luck.

Cuz their bigoted hero,

Far from two-seven-zero,

Would go down as a one term lame duck!



Remember, remember,

That fateful November,

And states marked in red or in blue.

Things turned out how they ought…

But it can’t be forgot

That we still have so much work to do.

Friday, October 30, 2020


In honor of Halloween, I offer this poem. It was inspired by two of my favorite poems by Neil Gaiman and is my first attempt at composing a sestina. Each verse tells the story of a different witch or witches.

All I ever did was to give you a home.

You could have told me if you found it cold.

He said he loved you, so you let down your hair.

He had you then; your love game him his power.

I was your mother—in name if not in blood.

Tell me, little one…what was wrong with my love?

Some will say I am bereft of love

But I will be mistress in my own home.

They all will bow to my beauty and my power,

Despite your snowy skin and ebon hair.

They’ll say twas jealousy that turned my heart cold

And made me ask the Huntsman for your blood.

 They plan to wash away my sin with blood—

No other way I might regain His love.

My shivering was not from fear, but cold.

I feel the flames now; smell my burning hair.

I have faith that, in death, I will find my way home

To bow before His mercy and His power.

 My Lord, your future is within our power.

We toss into the cauldron eyes and blood,

A tongue, a toe, a lock of mottled hair.

The cauldron boils; the fire warms our home.

How many more must die to please your love?

Words give heat to the breath of deeds too cold.

 Behold my world! Perfectly white and cold.

The forest is completely in my power.

Even the Lion with his tales of hope and love

Is no match for the magic in my blood.

I ride my mighty sledge back to my home,

And feel the winter wind blow through my hair.

A little girl with a puppy and braided hair

Does not exactly make my blood run cold.

There were four of us, strong in magic and blood.

She robbed me of my sister. Of my love.

But that was chance; she has no real power.

She’s not a threat. Just a kid who wants to go home.


They think they know us; Think us vile and cold.

They run from us or cry out for our blood.

They hate us for our magic…for our power.

Thursday, September 24, 2020


I was trimming my beard the other day when I asked myself, "Why am I doing this? Why am I putting so much effort into maintaining this beard when no one can see it?" The end result of that thought process was this poem.

Looking in the mirror,

Study my reflection.

Brushing the tiny hairs,

Carefully clip and trim

The mustache and the beard.

I wish it were thicker

(And that I saw less gray),

But I think it looks good.

One last look to make sure.

Then I put on my mask

So I can go outside

Into a world that’s changed.


Our lives are different now.

This virus has taken

So much from all of us.

Kept us from each other.

Forced us to cover up

Each time we go outside.

No one has seen my face

In such a long time. But

What happens to that face,

Underneath the paper,

That still belongs to me.

The virus can’t have that.


This virus has taken

So much from all of us,

But can’t take everything.

So, yes, I trim my beard

And clean up the mustache

To remind myself that

The world hasn’t ended.

That the face I see when

I look in the mirror

Has not vanished for good

And the day will come when

We’ll all take off our masks.


And,  maybe, on that day,

I’ll meet a pretty girl

Who’ll think that my beard makes

Me look like Iron Man…

What? It could so happen!

(You don’t know!)

Saturday, August 29, 2020


A limerick is a light, comic verse form popularized by Edward Lear. No one seems to know why they are named after a county in Ireland as they seem to have no connection thereto. In any case, I happen to like them and they're super fun to make up, so here are some of my goodest limericks:

As I age, I expand in the middle,
And my bones are increasingly brittle.
There’s more work and less play,
I can’t hear what folk say,
So, if I were you, I would stay little.

That some roses are red is quite true,
But if I may be quite frank with you:
Some roses are white,
Pink or yellow. I might
Also point out that violets ain’t blue!

Many times, when I text with a friend,
It comes out different than I intend.
Thanks to autocorrect,
I can’t always select
How my message is going to Enid.


My Auntie, who comes from Peru,
Came down with a terrible flu.
She said that a hug
Was by far the best drug,
So I hugged her. Now I have it too!

My Uncle, who lives in Tibet,
Has an ostrich he keeps for a pet.
He’s hoped for an egg,
But the bird is called “Greg”
And it hasn’t laid anything yet.

Sunday, June 14, 2020


CHAPTER ONE: The Prince In Love

This is the story of Prince Doug. You’ve probably read other stories about princes who are strong and brave and tough and  spend their time fighting dragons, waging war or rescuing damsels.
Doug was not that sort of prince.
At nineteen years old, he was cute and handsome with great hair and an adorable mole on his cheek, but he had no talent for fighting or hunting or any of those other “manly” pursuits which most princes in other stories spend their time doing. He was sensitive and artistic. He loved to paint, to write poetry, and to play his booblebox (which is kind of like an accordion, but not really).
Doug’s mother, Queen Eleanor, was proud of her son and supported him in his less than traditional princely endeavors.
His stepfather, King Rowan, on the other hand…
Eleanor’s first husband, the late King Henry, had loved his children very much and hadn’t cared in the least that they were so unlike the princes and princesses you find in fairy tales. If anything, he had loved them all the more for their uniqueness and individual-ity. When he passed away, the law of the land demanded that Eleanor remarry. She hadn’t wanted to for the very sensible reason that she was not in love with anybody, but she didn’t have any choice in the matter which is how King Rowan of Quelfmoor had become King Rowan of Langdale.
And, almost from the  moment of his arrival in Langdale Castle, Rowan had been complaining about his stepchildren.
As the eldest of Queen Eleanor’s three children, Doug was the Regent; the next in line for the throne of Langdale. His stepfather thought he should be spending his time preparing himself to become king. Not painting, composing or boobleboxing.

“A future king,” Rowan would often complain to his wife, “has certain responsibilities. He should be learning how to swordfight or shoot an arrow or do that thing with the long stick, you know, where they’re on horses and they run at each other and…”
“Jousting?” Eleanor suggested.
“Yes! That’s the word! I mean, what kind of king is he going to be? How is he going to defend this country in wartime? Play them a jaunty tune on his bobblebook?”
“Rowan, Langdale has been at peace of six centuries.”
“Nevertheless, a good king must always be prepared for war.”
“Well, I think a good king must always be prepared to make peace.”
And so the argument continued.
Doug, for his part, was fully aware that his stepfather didn’t think much of him. It was disappointing for the Prince, but he was mature enough to know that you can’t force people to like you. Better to just be yourself and hope that they come around in time.  
And, of course, to focus on the people who do like you. Which leads us to…
“Another masterpiece in the making?”
Doug was sitting in the Royal Garden with his easel painting some flowers when he was interrupted by a girl of eighteen with potting soil in her hair, dirt on her face, and mud covering almost all of the shabby clothes she had on. But her smile shone through all that as the first rays of the sun peek through the clouds at the end of a summer storm.
The Prince blushed a little and smiled back. “I don’t know if ‘masterpiece’ is the right word. But it’s coming along.”
“Can I see?” Without waiting for an answer, the girl walked around to the other side of the canvas to see Doug’s work in progress. “Oh, Doug,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”
“It’s not quite finished yet.”
“I don’t care. It’s still beautiful. And I know it will be even beautifuller when it’s done.”
“I’m glad you like it, because…well, um…”
“I was going to give it to you. For your birthday.”
“You were?” she said, excitedly.
“Yeah, but now you’ve gone and spoiled the surprise, maybe I should forget the whole—”
“No, no, no! I don’t care that it’s not a surprise. I love it. I’ll cherish it forever.”
And, just like that, Doug knew. How he knew, he couldn’t tell you. But something about that moment, about the lilt in her voice when she said how much she loved the painting, the way the afternoon sun shone on the few parts of her face that weren’t hidden by dirt, about…who knows what? But he knew what he had to say next.
“You know,” he said, choosing his words carefully, “birthday presents really should be surprises. I should probably give you something else for your birthday and give you this for some other reason. Like Christmas or St. Floggins’ Day or…as an engagement gift.”
“I don’t care when you give it to me, as long as I…wait, what did you say?”
“St. Floggins’ Day? I know socks are the traditional gift, but—”
“No, after that. Did you just say…engagement? Are you serious?”
“I am. That is…if you would want to—”
“Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Each “yes’ was punctuated by a kiss on a different part of Doug’s face.
The girl spun around to see her father, the Head Gardener, standing a few yards off, gesturing for her to come over to him.
Gertie turned back to Doug, who now had large, dirty splotches on his face where she had kissed him. “I have to go. We’ll meet tonight, okay? In the usual place?” Again, without waiting for an answer, she hurried over to her father, leaving Doug alone with his dirty face, his unfinished painting, and some very happy thoughts.

CHAPTER TWO: The Queen’s Second Husband

The Kingdom of Langdale was lush, green and prosperous. The earth was fertile, the landscape abounded in natural splendor and real, honest-to-gosh magic was alive and well throughout the land.
By rather stark contrast, the neighboring province of Quelfmoor was squalid, barren and kinda useless. It had no natural beauty, no rare minerals, and the whole place had a very unpleasant smell.
As a matter of fact, when the people of Langdale accidentally stepped in…you know, the stuff animals leave behind in the road? Well, when they stepped in one, they often said, “Dang it! I stepped in a quelfmoor!”
So, when the period of mourning for King Henry ended and Queen Eleanor selected Rowan as her second husband, the people of both kingdoms were more than a little surprised. After all, Eleanor—being beautiful, wealthy and powerful—had plenty of suitors to choose from.
So, why did she pick Rowan? Was he the handsomest suitor? The bravest? The most charming? The most romantic? The tallest? The most virtuous? The best at Go Fish?
She picked him because of jam.
The only remotely redeeming thing about Quelfmoor were the quelfberries. These lumpy, sticky, gray berries were inedible when eaten plain, but could be made into a delicious jam. A jam that Queen Eleanor absolutely adored.
So, the marriage was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Rowan got to be in charge of a way better country, and Eleanor got all the quelfberry jam she could eat.
Not the best reason to get married, but not the worst, either.
When Rowan moved into Langdale Castle, he brought a few prized possessions, one loyal servant named Crevor (about whom more later) and his son, Prince Edmond. Edmond was about the same age as Doug, but that’s pretty much all the two princes had in common.

Edmond was, in Rowan’s mind, everything that a prince should be. He was also everything Doug was not. He had no aptitude for arts and/or crafts but was a great fighter, sportsman and strategist.
Yet, despite their many glaring differences, Doug and Edmond had become fast friends.
“Great shot, Edmond!”
After saying goodbye to Gertrude, Doug had washed his face then sought out his stepbrother to share with him the good news. He found Edmond at the shooting range, arriving just in time to see Edmond fire three arrows at once and hit three different targets.
“Thanks, Doug,” said Edmond. “Care to try it?” He held out his bow for Doug to take it.
“Er…I’d better not. If I tried to fire an arrow at one of those targets, I’d probably miss and kill someone.”
“That’s why you have to practice. If you keep trying, you’ll get better. I promise.”
“Thanks, Edmond, but I have to tell you something really important.”
“What is it?”
“Well…I’m engaged!”
Edmond’s eyes went wide with surprise. “You asked Gertie?”
“I did. Just now, in the flower garden.”
“And she said yes?”
“Well, yeah, I wouldn’t be engaged if she hadn’t said yes.”
“Right, of course. Doug, this is wonderful!”
“Thanks. But, listen, don’t tell anyone, all right? I’m saving the big announcement for dinner tonight. But I just couldn’t go another minute without telling someone.”
“My lips are sealed, Brother.”
Edmond embraced Doug, who went back inside to write about his engagement in his journal. Edmond returned to his target practice.

CHAPTER THREE: Ash and Sir Sophie

While we’re waiting for dinner and Doug’s big announcement, let’s take a moment to meet his younger siblings,  shall we?
His ten-year-old brother, Ash, had never spoken. Not one word in his entire life. He could hear perfectly well, he understood when people spoke to him, he could read and write…he had just never gotten around to saying anything. It was as if he just…didn’t feel the need to talk.
Ash did not have any friends (apart from his brother and sister, that is). Most boys his age liked to play outside, run around and make a lot of noise. Ash preferred sitting his room and reading. He liked peace and quiet.
One day, while looking for a new book to read (by the time he was eight he had gone through every single book in the Castle Library), Ash had found a very old book bound in black leather in the bedroom of his governess, Imelda. He had blown through almost a hundred pages before she came in and saw him.
“What are you doing?” said Imelda, nervously. “You shouldn’t be in here. What’s that book?”
She snatched the book away and read the title:

Magic For Beginners

“This is what you’ve been reading?”
Ash nodded.
“And…what did you think?”
Ash smiled.
“You’d like to learn more about magic?”
Ash nodded.
“Well…I think that can be arranged.”

You see, before getting the job as Royal Governess, Imelda had been a witch. But witchery didn’t pay very well and the health  benefits weren’t great, so she became a governess instead.
Now, however, she could be both. And that’s how she came to take on Ash as an apprentice.
Ash, being very clever and dedicated, progressed quickly through his studies. Queen Eleanor, obviously, was very proud of her son’s magical skills. And, just as obviously, King Rowan just complained about it.
See, most of the people who practiced magic back then were women, like Imelda. There were a few dudes who did magic, but they weren’t princes. It was not considered appropriate for a person of Royal Blood to use magic, let alone a boy.
“Bad enough he’s mute,” Rowan would whine. “He has to be a boy witch on top of it?”
“First,” replied Eleanor, “the word for ‘boy witch’ is ‘warlock. Second, Ash is not mute.”
“He can’t talk, can he? That’s what mute means!”
“We don’t know that he can’t talk. Maybe he just doesn’t want to talk.”
“Oh, you mean he’s faking?”
“I didn’t say that. I just think…maybe he doesn’t have anything to say. Yet.”
“Well, if you ask me…”
“Nobody asked you.”
“…he’s almost as weird as your daughter.”
Ah, yes. Eleanor’s only daughter, Sophie.
Now, most girls would love to be princesses. Not Sophie. At the ripe old age of six, Sophie had already decided what she wanted to be when she grew up:
Sophie wanted to be a knight.
“Knights are way better than princesses!” explained Sophie (or Sir Sophie, as she preferred to be called). “They get to wear helmets, and fight with swords and ride noble steeds and say ‘charge!’ Princesses don’t get to do any of that stuff! All princesses get to do is look pretty and wear uncomfy clothes until they’re old enough to marry some dumb boy.”
So, from then on, Sir Sophie decided that she would be a knight. She had a sword (made of wood) which she always carried around, a helmet (a cardboard box with  eyeholes cut in it) which she always wore over her head, and she rode around the castle on her noble steed, Buster (who was a pig) yelling “Charge!
Just to be clear, Sophie was the one who yelled “charge.” Not Buster. Buster was not a talking pig. Just a regular type pig.
Anyway, you can guess how enthusiastic Rowan was about Sophie’s ambition.
“No prince wants to marry a girl who rides a pig and pretends to be a knight!”
“Okay,” said Eleanor, who was getting more than a little sick of her husband criticizing her children, “in the first place, Sophie is six, so I think we can put off worrying about her getting married for a while. Secondly, pretending to be a knight is teaching her honor, bravery, integrity and self-confidence. All of which are traits I want to encourage. Also, I think she looks super cute in her helmet.”
“At least you’ll admit that it’s a little…oh, you know…not very clean? Unhealthy?”
“Exactly! The way she rides that pig everywhere? Can’t be sanitary.”
“Actually, that pig is probably one of the cleanest animals in the kingdom.”
“How’s that?”
“Captain Randy of the Royal Guard told her that knights keep their noble steeds clean, so she gives him a bath every night.”
“Does she really? Fine, but it’s still weird!”
Ah, yes. That dreaded word. Weird! Anything that is different from what is expected, from what things are “supposed” to be, anything that is even slightly outside the agreed upon societal norms is given that label: Weird.
Doug would rather paint a picture than shoot an arrow? Weird!
Ash doesn’t talk and studies magic? Weird!
Sir Sophie rides a pig and wields a wooden sword? Weird!
Eleanor loves all three of them and wouldn’t change them even if she could? Weird!
And you know what? Rowan’s right. The whole family are weird. Very weird. Super weird. Where he makes his mistake, where practically everyone makes their mistake, is in thinking that weird is a bad thing to be.
Hopefully, by the end of this story, he’ll see how wrong he is.

To find out what the heck happens next, order your copy of Doug and the Quite Unlikely Adventure of the Great and Fabled Princess Ring of Auroriella today!