Category Archives: writing

Death in a Brownstone

Brownstone - OFFENWANGER - Cover A. Bergloff

What if …

… there were seven brothers living in New York, and they took in a cousin of theirs who was having trouble with her stepmother …

… you just might end up with …

Death in a Brownstone!

… which is a fairy tale adaptation of mine that just got published in Enchanted Conversation Magazine’s August issue!

Here’s a taster:

There’s always one thing in a man’s life that he shudders to think of. If it hadn’t been for Milo, this would have been mine.

Milo is the little brother of Albert Zwergmann—him and me went to grade school together—and he was a klutz from the time he was little. He’d trip over rocks, he’d trip over the end of the teeter-totter, he’d trip over other kids’ book satchels or their legs—even the ones that weren’t stuck out on purpose—and if, by a miracle, there weren’t any of those around, he’d trip over his own big feet. During his first grade, almost every other day Albert had to pick him up out of the dirt, dust him off, wipe his nose, and send him home to Mama.

Well, Mama Zwergmann ain’t around anymore, and Milo is no longer a little klutz on the playground. Matter of fact, he’s six feet two and has broader shoulders than even Rufus, who’s the biggest of all the Zwergmann brothers. But he’s still a klutz—except when he gets his hands on some precious stones. Then all of a sudden he’s the most skilled of the lot. For almost a dozen years now, he’s done all the original design work for the business, and Zwergmann’s Jewelers has become a byword for the rings, bracelets, and fancy cuff links they put on the market.

Albert’s still the one who has to pick people up out of the dirt, though. That’s how they ended up with her—Whitney, I mean. She was their cousin. One day, Albert tells me, there she was, sitting on their front room sofa, looking like something the cat dragged in…

To keep reading, head on over to Enchanted Conversation Magazine!

 

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Introducing: STAR BRIGHT!!

StarBright_CVR_XSML

You didn’t think it was ever going to happen, did you? Well, it finally did! May I introduce (drummmm rollllllll):

STAR BRIGHT!

That’s right, Book 4 in The Septimus Series is now out for your reading pleasure!

What’s it about, you wonder? Well, there’s this guy called Jamie, and…

Be careful what you wish for on a star – you just might get it!

Jamie has no idea what he wants to do with his life, but being thrown into a whole other world is NOT on the list of options. Living in a magical medieval realm looks so much easier in a video game…

Fortunately, he meets Cat, who has been in this exact predicament herself, and Daarshan, a curiously clumsy guy who helps him navigate his new surroundings. Will they find a way to send Jamie back home? And just what is that mystery surrounding Daar?

Here’s a little preview of some of the first chapter:

CHAPTER 1

“Here, try some of this,” Kaden said, rattling a small plastic pill bottle at Jamie.

“What is it?” Jamie drained the mug he was holding and plopped it on the sales counter. Coke tasted weird when you drank it from a coffee cup—or maybe it was the combination of the tequila with the dregs of the rum bottle they had dumped in that gave it that odd flavour; Jamie wasn’t really sure. The tequila was all gone now too.

[…]

The cat purred, and he leaned into Jamie’s hand so hard he pushed it right into a stack of display boxes, toppling them over.

One of them fell on its side, the lid popping off. A couple of blue stones rolled out onto the counter. Yes, two—there were definitely two. Jamie only had to make a little bit of an effort to focus his eyes to see that there were two, not four, or maybe even si-six. The cat batted at them with his paw. They were round and smooth, a deep blue with a white pattern like a star in the centre. “Those are cool,” Jamie said, [and he] divided what was left of the coke between his mug and Kaden’s tumbler.

[…]

He morosely stared into his mug; the coke had only filled it a third of the way. “Is there anything to top this up with?”

“Lemme see,” Kaden said. He was rummaging around under the counter, and now emerged somewhat unsteadily. “Score! Check it out!” He triumphantly held up a turquoise glass bottle. […]

“Ah.” Jamie nodded. … The room started to wave up and down at the edge of his vision. He tipped his head back and forth, and the effect intensified. Pretty crazy. “So, what’s in that there thing?” he said, pointing his mug at the little pill bottle sitting beside the cash register.

“Oh, yeah, that,” Kaden said, “‘s just some pills. I think those things can give you a pretty wild trip; …” He popped the top off the pill container and shook two bright red tablets out onto his hand. “So, you up for this?” He tantalisingly waved his palm under Jamie’s nose.

“Not without something to wash it down,” said Jamie. He twisted the cap off the gin bottle, splashed a generous portion into his mug, and some into Kaden’s tumbler. Only a bit of it spilled on the counter. Not much at all. Probably no more than half a cup.

“You take the red pill,” Kaden intoned, “you stay in Wonderland…”

Jamie grabbed one of the pills from Kaden’s hand and stuck it into his mouth. “C’mon, you too!” he said around the tablet on his tongue.

Kaden followed suit, then raised his glass.

“…and I’ll show you how deep the rabbit hole goes!” they chanted in unison, clinking their cups together. They dumped the drinks down their throats, stared at each other for a moment and then burst into giggles.

“But what if I wanted the blue pill?” Jamie said. His head was spinning a bit—was that from the pill?

“S-sorry,” Kaden said, “n-no can do. You c-c-could try the s-st-stones, they’re b-bl-blue.” His eyes rolled back in his head, and he crashed to the floor behind the counter.

Jamie tried to lean over the counter to check if Kaden was okay, but then thought better of it. Too much spinning.

The cat, from his perch on the side counter, gave Jamie an inscrutable look, then reached out his paw and gently tapped the two blue stones, making them roll in Jamie’s direction.

Jamie looked at them. They seemed to almost give off a bit of a pulsing light. Blink, blink, blink… Kaden might have a point.

“But they’re stones, Crookshanks,” Jamie said, “not pills! You can’t swallow stones, nope, no siree.” He put down his empty mug and picked up the stones, one in each hand. He held them in front of his eyes—yes, he could still keep them in focus, yup, uh-huh—then held them out to the cat. … “Or maybe, maybe they’re magic, and you have to say a spell to make them work? Might be worth a shot.” The cat blinked, and Jamie made a face. “Yeah, you’re right—I don’t actually know any spells.” He stared at the stones whose white stars were twinkling at him from their shiny blue depths. And then he had an idea.

“Star light, star bright,” he chanted,

“First star I see tonight,

“I wish I may, I wish I might

“Have the wish I wish tonight!”

He giggled. Wishing. You had to make a wish. So he did, and then he moved the two stones in his fingers towards each other. Closer, closer, closer—and they touched.

Everything around Jamie started to swirl—a giant counterclockwise dance of blue light and colour whirled around him. He lost track of which way he was facing, of left and right and up and down, and then he no longer knew where he was at all.

What? Swirling blue light? Where have we heard that one before? Is he going to end up in …

But no, no spoilers. If you want to find out, get yourself over to your favourite ebook vendor and grab a copy! The paperback won’t be far behind; it’s already available on the US and European Amazon stores, and Amazon.ca should come online within a few days.

And that’s Life, the Universe, and STAR BRIGHT!

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#FridayFragment, 19.07.2019

Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: verso, showing oath. Via Wkimedia Commons.

“No,” the dragon said, “it’s inadvisable. The rabble tends to get disturbed when I eat women.”

His face fell. “Are you sure? Not even a little nibble? I mean, I’m sure she’d be juicy and tender…”

The dragon licked his lips, then shook his head.

“Don’t tempt me. Also, she would probably be too sweet; not good for my blood sugar. My doctor has expressly forbidden middle-aged Mary Kay Consultants.”

“You have doctors?” he said with surprise.

“Of course,” the dragon replied.

“Sweetie!” trilled Marcia’s voice from outside the cave. “Where are you?”

Dragon and man both let out a sigh.

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#FridayFragment, 5.4.2019

Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: verso, showing oath. Via Wkimedia Commons.

“I do not believe it,” the rabbit said, twitching his nose.

“Suit yourself then,” his wife replied, smacked her back legs against the ground and vanished into the burrow with a white flash of her tail.

“Do not believe what?” the prince asked politely.

“That there is a fo – fo-fo-fo-fo-fox!” the rabbit screeched, and after turning around in a few frantic circles, he too vanished down the burrow.

“Ah well,” the prince said, philosophically stroking his long whiskers with a forepaw. “There goes another lunch. One of these days, my manners are going to be the death of me.”

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“Beast”: A Fairy Tale Flash Fiction

BEAST

The snow kept falling thicker and thicker. Whirling, blowing, biting, cutting. Clinging to his whiskers, to his eyelashes, to the hair on the side of his face. His nose and cheeks had grown numb, his fingers so cold he could no longer bend them. When he tried to raise them to his face to brush the snow out of his beard, they felt like hard claws on the end of big, clumsy, fur-covered paws; claws that had no feeling in them and could not move to his will.

He tried to climb up the side of the ravine, reached for a snow-covered branch. Could not close his hands on it—where were his thumbs? He staggered on his clumsy legs, then dropped down onto all fours.

Like an animal.

A beast…

Keep reading this story on Enchanted Conversation Magazine

I wrote this last November during NaNoWriMo, when I was doing a retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red“. It was sort of a prologue to the story, the moment when the “prince” turns into a “bear” – except in my adaptation, he’s not a real bear, just a very hairy guy (and he’s not a prince either, being an ordinary 21st century Canadian). But then it occurred to me that this could work as a standalone Flash Fiction, a regular adaptation of the regular fairy tale, so I sent it to Amanda at Enchanted Conversation. And here it is.

You can decide for yourself if you want to take the transformation as an actual guy-turned-into-bear thing, or keep it metaphorical. I’m not entirely sure yet which one I prefer.

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This and That and Bears

Mornin’, all. Steve’s been reminding me that it’s been a while since you all had an update on how he’s doing, so I figured I’d better humour him.

His big news is that he just had a labelectomy. What’s that, you ask? Oh, it’s this thing that happens in Stuffed-Animal-Land, when you have your manufacturer’s labels cut off your rear end. Steve didn’t mind them so much, but they did make him self-conscious about his back view:

amovitam: Steve with labels

So we finally took the plunge and gave him the snip. He’s hanging in there.

amovitam: Steve hanging in there

In other news, he’s pleased about this year’s choice of NaNoWriMo project: an adaptation of “Snow White and Rose Red”, a fairy tale that prominently features a bear. Originally I was going to work on Septimus Book 5, but then a friend suggested that we both do an adaptation of a fairy tale – the same fairy tale – so how could I resist? I think my friend is doing a SciFi; mine is going to be a contemporary mystery/romance (I hope). Needless to say, my Snow White and Rose Red are not going to be a set of fraternal twins, one blonde and one brunette, who are so sickeningly sweet and good and domestic they should have the Diabetes Association called on them.

amovitam: NaNoWriMo notes

Oh, if you want to join us in doing a “Snow White and Rose Red” for NaNoWriMo, please do! We could have a whole SWRR club.

Otherwise, in honour of #Socktober I finally got back to the socks I had on the knitting needles for the last year or so, and even finished the first one of the pair:

img_20181028_204806096

I was watching “Snow White and Rose Red” movies while I was knitting, so it counts as research. Youtube has quite a few Sonntagsmärchen – Sunday Fairy Tales – to watch. Did I mention the blonde-and-brunette convention? Urr, yeah – and in the 1955 version, the prince is called Prinz Goldhaar (Prince Golden Hair) to boot, and looks exactly how you’d expect him to with that name. Bring on the insulin. Good thing he spends most of the story in a bear suit! It’s still a fun movie, though. The 2012 version isn’t bad, either; in that one Rose Red swings a freshly-sharpened axe (which the actress apparently has never done in real life, judging by her completely inefficient grip on the thing), and doesn’t want to get married but travel the world and have adventures.

One of things that’s fun about fairy tale movies is that barring the changing definitions of “handsome” (coughPrinceGoldhairCough), they’re timeless. Which is exactly what a fairy tale ought to be – what a fairy tale is. “Once upon a time” is now, is never, is a long time ago or just last week, or maybe tomorrow. Somewhere in the woods, there is a cottage with a mother and two sisters, and during a winter’s storm there comes a knock on the door, and in stumbles a big black bear…

Steve says I better make the bear the hero of the piece, that’s what it’s all about. I’ll have to have a talk with him; he has a one-track mind on these matters. But that’s bears for you.

Life, the Universe, Bears and Socks and Labelectomies. And fairy tales, too.

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#FridayFragment: 21.09.2018

Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: verso, showing oath. Via Wkimedia Commons.

Words. Words, words, words.

Hamlet and everything.

They just wouldn’t come today, those words. Not the right ones, anyway.

Oh, there were words alright – lots of words. Jumbling together in her head; crashing together like bumper cars at the fair; bubbling up like a screen saver and then floating around, changing colour, gently tapping against each other, jiggling around, vanishing with a swipe of the mouse.

But not the right ones, not the words she needed.

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