The big cover reveal

I hope to have Ebenezer, subtitled A sequel of sorts to “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, available for your pleasure as an ebook, paperback, hardcover, or audiobook on Nov. 24. As you might imagine, preparing the ebook is the easiest part of the equation. Therefore, you might notice a number of fine retailers around the interwebs where you can already pre-order my little story to be delivered to your favorite reading devices on Black Friday.

I’m taking this Monday to show you what the front cover looks like and to share the official blurb of my first new fiction (besides the flash-fiction entry 24 flashes) in nine years:

Edmund Filliput is a successful businessman, but he is living a dreary life on a dreary Christmas Eve. Then he meets a happy stranger who keeps Christmas in his heart year-round. Over a cup of coffee and a bowl of beef stew, the stranger offers to send three friends to Edmund who will show him the meaning of Christmas. Will the “friends” convince Edmund in time to salvage this Christmas and rescue his life?

People who are grumpy at Christmastime are often chided with, “Oh, don’t be such a Scrooge.” But Mr. Scrooge was a curmudgeon no longer when Charles Dickens’ immortal story concluded. This little tale endeavors to reclaim Mr. Scrooge not as he was before that fateful Christmas Eve — a silly old humbug — but as the good and generous man he was as he lived the rest of his days.

As I have continued to tinker with Jeep Thompson and the Lost Prince of Venus, my next full-length novel, I have been playing with a number of smaller projects on the side, including this little story about how Ebenezer Scrooge spent his Christmases in the aftermath of “that” Christmas Eve. I am tickled that I was able to complete Ebenezer first and offer it to you for the 2023 Christmas season.

Watch this space for progress reports.

Love And Magic

© Naumenkoaleksandr |

Once upon a time, in a kingdom so magical it was called The Magic Kingdom — but that name was spoken only in whispers because of trademark issues — the magical king and the magical queen were having a tiff.

Now, a tiff is a little more serious than a disagreement but less serious than a row, but the thing about disagreements is they can lead to a tiff, and the thing about a tiff is they can lead to a row, so the best course is to settle things before one thing leads to another.

And so the magical daughter stepped in to say, “Mother, Father, please don’t let this tiff spoil this magical day. Surely you can find common ground or a middle solution.”

“How can such a big problem have a little solution?” asked the king, who was hard of hearing.

“You old coot, she said ‘middle’ with an M,” the queen sputtered. “And how can you say this is a big problem? It’s fiddlesticks and froo fram.”

“So you’ve been saying,” the king muttered. “You never listen to me.”

On they sputtered and muttered until they were all puttered out. Then they smiled at each other and held hands.

“That’s better!” cried the magical daughter. “I’m so glad that’s settled.”

“We haven’t settled anything,” said the king.

“But you’re holding hands,” the daughter said. “You have your love, and love settles everything.”

“You are still young, and learning,” said the queen, “and have not yet learned that sometimes love isn’t enough.”

“Oh, but you are old, and forgetful,” the daughter replied, “and what you have forgotten is that love is all you need.”

At that the king leaned over and purred something into the queen’s ear that made her giggle. She kissed him, and he kissed her, and they wrapped their arms around each other, and quickly they both forgot what the tiff was about in the first place.

“Perhaps you should get a room,” suggested the magical daughter.

And so, they did.

– – – – –

(Background vocal by Blackberry.)

Ten first lines

I’m still on the Bradbury theme from the other day, “You have to inject yourself with a little fantasy every day in order not to die of reality.” 

So I decided Sunday I would would do a journal exercise of 10 opening lines to potential short stories. Which one should I do first? (The first one will be familiar since I’ve already done two blog posts about it.)

+ + + + +

The dragon settled in our backyard one sunny afternoon just before the end of winter.

+ + + + + 

Tom Cole Piper carried his magic guitar slung over his shoulder like a rifle.

 + + + + +

If ever there was a perfect day for a grumpy gnome to cross Susan Winkel’s path, this wasn’t that day.

+ + + + +

When I say I never expected a unicorn to walk into my insurance agent’s office and take a dump, I’m as serious as the day is long — and this was the summer solstice.

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Do mermaids wear mascara? Asking for a friend.

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In the old stories a Martian base always has some generic name like Mars Alpha One. In real life it’s just home.

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The sun rose, gray and alien, and Hal Spenser had no interest in seizing any day.

+ + + + +

“Are you sleepy?”
“Very much so, and all of a sudden …”
“Yeah — I meant to do that,” waving an empty packet.
“What?! Why?! You little …”
“Yes, that’s what I am all right.”

+ + + + +

Of all the seedy bars in all the planets in half the galaxy, she walks into mine.

+ + + + +

I met the creature in the field next to my house, when I was 8 years old. I saved its life, and this is how he returned the favor.

This is what happened

© Mike_kiev |

The most powerful words in any language may be “Once upon a time” or “In the beginning …” The words arrest your attention at once: “Listen up! I have a story to tell, and it all starts here, whatever ‘it all’ may turn out to be.”

It all began when …

We never realized until later how important the moment would be — how important that moment was — because “it all” was different before it happened, and it definitely all was different from that moment forward …

Once upon a time — you know, that time when Quirinius was the big boss — you know, that time when something unusual appeared on the horizon — you know, that time when people saw a wagon propelled by a machine, not an animal, for the first time. Oh yeah, THAT time …

… and away we go, back to the beginning when it all started, or forward to the beginning when it all is going to start.

Now, may we start?

Willow finds a home

Once upon a time, in the Land of Wisconsin, in the County of Door, a good noble dog we’ll call Goldie gave birth to six puppies. There was Willie and Walter, and WoWo and Wilma, and Wooster and Willow, and they were the sweetest golden puppies you ever did see.

They played and they played, and they ran and they ran, and they lived on a farm where Belgians had worked the land for more than a hundred years.

They started as puppies and grew to be pups on the way to becoming good dogs. Soon it was time to find forever homes and families for them and say goodbye to Goldie. First WoWo went away, and then Walter found a home, and Wooster went west, and Willie went east, and finally one day it was just Wilma and Willow, and a good little girl picked up Wilma and squealed, “She’s so sweet! Let’s take her home.”

“Don’t worry, Willow,” Wilma called out to her sister. “Someone will come for you any day now.”

“I know,” Willow said, but she wasn’t so sure. And the days went by and Willow stayed with Goldie but she missed her little brothers and sisters and felt all alone.

And then one day a tall guy and a short sweet lady came to the farm to look for a pup. The farmer met them at the barn door.

“Well, we have just one 6-week-old pup left and a pile of 4-week-old puppies, you can have your pick,” said the farmer.

“OK, let’s see the older one first,” said the short sweet lady. “We just lost our Onyah, and there’s a hole in our hearts for a puppy to fill just as soon as we can.”

“We even picked out a name for her,” said the tall guy, reaching into the box and picking up the lonely little girl with both hands.

She looked up into his eyes, and he held her gentle as can be, and she snuggled right in and decided right then and there that he was very nice.

And then he asked something that made her all goosebumpy.

“Are you Willow?” he said. “We picked out a name, and we came here to take Willow home.”

How did he know? Oh, how did he know! “Yes, I am Willow,” she would have said, except his gentle hands were putting her to sleep. She curled up in his hands and rested her head on his chest, and she knew she was home. She was home!

“Here,” the tall guy said to the short sweet lady, “I’m pretty sure this is Willow,” and handed her over.

“Oh, aren’t you the cutest puppy ever!” said the short sweet lady with a big smile. “You’re such a pretty girl, sure you are.” And Willow melted in her hands, too.

“Want to look at the 4-week-olds now?” asked the farmer.

“No!” cried the tall guy.

“No!” cried the short sweet lady.

“This is Willow,” said the tall guy.

“Yes, this is Willow,” said the short sweet lady.

How did they know? How did they know! Willow didn’t care, she was just happy she was going home with them.

And she put her paw on the tall guy’s chest and sank back in with a soft yawn, and somehow she knew she was going to live happily ever after.

Cliff’s Notes Novel

The journey was epic, but the Woodywacs finally made it from one place to another.

The reason for the journey is lost to the ages. Were they leaving their ancestral home to find a new homeland, or were they returning home? No one knows. They just know that the epic journey was made and the Woodywacs have called Woodywacacia home for the ensuing centuries.

Would they ever leave Woodywacacia again? The Woodywacs would tell you there was no need — the land is fertile and generous, so only a catastrophe could make them move.

Enter Katastrofee, goddess of malice. She swooped in one day and burned the crops and earthquaked half the village to rubble.

But the Woodywacs gathered round and drove her away, if not forever, then for the foreseeable future, and they lived happily ever after although ever vigilant for the return of Katastrofee.

It’s a secret project, OOoooooooHhhhhh

The other day I wrote about how I wish I could start a habit of writing fiction every day, and I tossed in an aside to the effect of “That gives me another idea, but I’m going to hold that in abeyance until the idea is more fully formed.” Today I am still not going to say what the idea is, but it is indeed forming a little more fully.

I have recently rediscovered that when I announce I’m going to do something, something quirky triggers in my mind and refuses to follow through with the announcement. It’s annoying and frustrating — it only happens when it’s a personal project, not a day-job commitment — but it’s real enough that if I follow through with this idea, the product will become known when it appears on the scene, and I will not be announcing it beyond aggravating hints like this one.

This seems to be the only way I can succeed at my creative projects. I can announce that I will write and release a novel next spring about a dinosaur rising from beneath the sea — remember? That was in 2015 and you still haven’t seen that novel. But last year I did not announce I had committed to writing a blog post every day until close to a month had passed and I was announcing something that was now obvious. My last four new books — How to Play a Blue Guitar, Gladness is Infectious, 24 flashes and Full — basically just appeared without advance fanfare. That seems to be how I complete projects: by not talking about them until they’re done.

And so my cool idea, if I go through with it, is just going to appear one of these days. Under my current thinking, you should check around New Year’s to see if anything interesting has begun with my name attached. Maybe I’ll make an announcement a week or two ahead of time if it’s clear I have enough momentum that the quirk in my brain couldn’t stop the project even if I wanted it to.

But most likely you’ll see something on Jan. 1 — or I’ll post a link to it from here — and you can say, “Oh, that must be that idea he had in November come to fruition.” And the rest will be history, or not.