#NaNoWriMo2022: Day 9 with a Troublesome Fence and Even More Troublesome Neighbors. #Magic #ShortStories

Day 9 of National Novel Writing Month! Bee Trainer Barab Oowi is about to see how Ex-Banker Nacle Themormo handles people who get in his way.

Resolving this conflict may take a few days, just so you know. I’m also attending a big conference this week, which means several hours of each day must be dedicated to presentations. Blech. Still, for this NanoWriMo Writer, the goal is to get into writing every day, whether it’s just a few hundred words or a few thousand. Thank you for your support as I work towards this goal!

Day 9, Story 3: The Bee Trainer’s Revenge

Another bright and glorious morning.

A late morning!

Bee Trainer Barab Oowi stumbled out of bed, mind in a panic. Had something happened to her bees? They were so quiet!

Sunbeams cut through her shutters and blinded her as she fumbled for her bathrobe. Never minded slippers, never minded tea, she flew open the door to her backyard to see what’s what.

At last, she heard a buzzing. Only it was eerily subdued, as if she had smoked her entire yard to put the bees to sleep. Barab fell to her knees and crawled among the hives, searching for invading wasps, invading slugs, invading anything. No signs of struggles or predators, but every sleeve of every hive revealed sluggish bees, quiet bees, unhappy bees. “Little lovelies, are you are all right?”

One worker bee managed to fly from her place in the honeycomb to land in Barab’s hand. The little thing looked so tired! Her hind legs were colored with a pollen Barab had never seen before—a blackish kind of pollen, with a few tiny flecks of red. Surely no such pollen came from Barab Oowi’s small herb garden. The Peach Growers next door had no such pollen, either. Perhaps down the street?


Barab stood, mouth agape, at the monstrosity. In place of the rundown wooden fence between her home and Ex-Banker, there now stood the tallest, fattest lavender bushes she had ever seen. Their stems reached several feet, their flowers up to her nose. But their scent wasn’t kind and sweet at all; rather, they reminded Barab of the cleaning potions used to tidy up sick on one’s floor. And the coloring! Wrong, all wrong. Coal-black petals? Even in Pips Row, black flowers are not natural, let alone with streaks of read running through the stem and petals.

A large, sweaty hand peeked above the bushes and waved.

“Why hullo, Bee Trainer! Such a pleasant morning, wouldn’t you say?” Ex-Banker chimed through the greenery. He moved as he spoke, forcing Barab Oowi to pass every unnatural flower. The worker bee in her hand attempted to flutter out of her hand, but barely reached a bush before falling. Barab fell to the ground and caught the bee just in time while Ex-Banker droned on and on. “I simply must thank you and our neighbors for all your lovely hospitality. Such dedication to Nature, such beautiful bounties! You all really did inspire me to do my part. What do you think of this new little border I concocted? So much nicer than those rotting logs. You know what they say about good fences, ha ha!”

Now he was in view by the front walk, donned in a city-person’s absurd idea of country flannel and khakis with leather boots. Barab Oowi scrambled upward (not easy in a bathrobe) and over to meet him. “Indeed,” she said, trying to hide her gasps for breath, “I believe I’ve heard the saying.”

Ex-Banker pulled a pipe out of one of those dozen different pockets upon his vest and tapped it with a thoughtful eye on the bushes. “Yes, yes, a fine first attempt, if I say so myself.”

“F-first attempt?” Barab held the poor bee to her chest. It must have looked like she was praying, for that look of victory on Ex-Banker’s face cut her deeply.

“Why of course,” he said placidly. “I am a resident of Pips Row now, am I not?” He stepped right up to the border, just enough to block any sunlight from touching Barab Oowi’s face. “You know, I must confess I didn’t see it at first—the wealth of potential in all you people grow here. But I do now.” The spark of his match transformed his eyes into black pits as he lit his pipe. “Good day, Bee Trainer!” And he waddled into his home and out of sight.  

Ack, not the bees! Well this is one fence that needs more than a mending. What will Barab do? Let’s find out!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2022: Day 8 with a Troublesome Fence and Even More Troublesome Neighbors. #Magic #ShortStories

Day 8 of National Novel Writing Month! It’s time for the neighbors to start their fencing…in more ways than one. 🙂 This may take me a few days, though–I’m also attending a big conference this week, which means several hours of each day must be dedicated to presentations. Blech. Still, for this NanoWriMo Writer, the goal is to get into writing every day, whether it’s just a few hundred words or a few thousand. Thank you for your support as I work towards this goal!

Day 8, Story 3: The Bee Trainer’s Revenge

It was not uncommon to see the Bee Trainer Barab Oowi gift small jars of honey to the families of Honey Street. On this particular occasion, each jar contained a delicate woodland strawberry flower with some slivers of pear mingling with her golden specialty. In the twine wrapping she often included a few of her own lavender sprigs and acorns for decoration…at least, they were acorns for the jar marked Nacle Themormo. They lonely looked like acorns on all the other jars, when in reality they were little wax earplugs inside acorn caps. Barab counted on this as she braced herself to enact her plan. With her absurdly large sun hat’s peach ribbon tied flamboyantly beneath her chin, she set out down her front steps.

Ah, the sunrise was glorious that day! Yet the wind was a bit chilly, as midsummer mornings often are in those first hours. Dew still sparkled her walkway and front lawn, and even the rundown fence between her and Nacle’s plot gleamed as a woodpecker knocked a beam for its breakfast.

“Good morning, Ex-Banker!”

Nacle Themormo paused in his fiddling with the folding chair. He’d yet to wile anyone out of their breakfast, and he simply must have a good mug of coffee and cream with strawberries in order to perk up. “Morning, Bee Trainer,” he grumbled as he wondered where the blasted Strawberry Grower triplets were hiding. All boys, that lot, and easy pickings for his magic.

“Dear me, you sound a bit down.” Bee Trainer could feign concern with the best of them. “Perhaps you’d like a bit of honey for your morning tea?” She plucked the jar with his name on it from the basket and held it over the fence.

Nacle Themormo blinked. He waddled a bit closer to the fence, but his eyes narrowed at the little jar. “But…I didn’t ask for any honey. Why are you giving it to me?”

“I do love sharing a bit of my harvest with everyone time and again,” Barab held up her basket, the gold of the honey reflecting the sunlight right into Nacle’s face. “Let’s me know how my little wonders are doing.”

Nacle waved away the light with one hand and snatched the jar with the other. “Oh! Oh. Oh I see. Don’t see.” He held up the jar. “It’s just honey.”


“Nothing else?”

“Nothing else.”

“No bread, maybe, or pot of tea?”

Barab blinked. “Afraid not, Ex-Banker. Well, off to catch other families at their breakfast tables. Perhaps your tea is just inside, Sir? Good morning!” And with a tip of that gargantuan hat she was off to the next house, politely knocking on their door.

Nacle Themormo stood next to his chair and watched Bee Trainer buzz from house to house with her basket, always handing over a jar to some unknown person behind the door. If only a man or boy would peek out! Surely those triplets would embrace this blasted bright summer morning soon. Nacle pulled his flashy wool sweater back down over his bulbousness, and sat. Surely, someone would come. The honey jar grew sweaty in his hand as he waited.

At last, the Strawberry Grower boys! The three tumbled out their front door higgledy-piggledy, laughing over some sort of prank with mouse poo and raisins.

Nacle: Good day, Boys! (His voice reminds one once again of a yawning dog.) Strawberry Lads, hullo!

No answer. How rude! They ran down the street and out of sight, surely going where there were other delectables they should be bringing to him.

Strawberry Grower himself stepped out with his spouse, both armed with sheers, baskets, and smiles.

Nacle: Strawberry Grower, I must speak with you!

No answer. They had the audacity to walk to their backyard without a glance!

Plum Grower brought his truck out to the road and parked. He and Fruit Sellar stood by the truck bed, pointing to various spots.

Nacle heaved himself from his seat and waved, waved like he had never waved before. Fruit Sellar, Plum Grower, hullo! I must speak with you urgently!

Attention! The glint of the sun in the honey jar had caught the men’s attention. They looked at him. Then each other. Then back to him.

Nacle smiled his best banking smile with his arms open wide.  Please, gentlemen, I require your attention over here!

Fruit Seller shook his head. He shook his head! “MARKET DAY!” He shouted loud enough for the words to echo down to the end of the lane, where Bee Trainer stood with a jar in hand.

Plum Grower nodded vigorously. “GOT TO PREPARE THE TRUCK! GOOD DAY, LATE BANKER!”

Never in all Nacle Themormo’s years had he dealt with such rejection! Well, that is, except for when the Bank’s leadership was replaced with that obnoxious horse of a woman. How dare she think she could tell him what to do! Now Nacle was dealing with that same rejection all over again, watching others carry on in their lives as if his wishes didn’t matter. He was ready to throw that stupid jar of honey from Bee Trainer at the ground in disgust. That disgusting woman with her phony grin next to Clover Gardener, that cow…Nacle pulled back, ready to throw the jar as hard as he could at Bee Trainer’s house and all her noisy, annoying bees moving about her bushes.


The houses Bee Trainer had visited—those were the ones where men and boys no longer heard him. Something about this honey…a magical Working against him?

Well. Two can play at that game.

Eeeeee, what’s he going to do? I can’t wait to find out, and I’m writing this thing!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2022: Day 7 with a Troublesome Fence and Even More Troublesome Neighbors. #Magic #ShortStories

Day 7 of National Novel Writing Month! Today it’s all about the dialogue, so there is very little detail here. Still, hopefully there’s enough for you to understand how these neighbors feel about each other. 🙂

Day 7, Story 3: The Bee Trainer’s Revenge

A bulbous fellow, rather like a potato, Nacle Themormo would plant himself in a folding chair at the edge of his porch and watch everyone and everything on Honey Street. Within the first few weeks, the folks of Honey Street learned why: Nacle Themormo’s magic lay in the power of his words in the ears of other men. On his chair he’ll sit until he sees others in their yards. If they are in earshot, he’ll start his Workings like…well, here’s an interaction with the Plum Grower family.

Nacle: Good day, Plum Grower! (His voice reminds one of a yawning dog.)

Plum Grower: Good morning, Late Banker.

Plum Grower’s Daughter: Why is Banker Late, Papa?

Nacle: Oh no, child, I am retired. May I speak to your father? I must speak with you, Plum Grower.

Plum Grower’s Daughter: Papa is helping me check for bad bugs.

Plum Grower: Hush, Child. Retired Banker must speak with me. (Now his voice mimics the cadence of a yawning dog, too.)

Plum Grower’s Daughter: But Papa, we promised Mama to be done before lunch!

Nacle: Dear me, your child is quite the upstart, Plum Grower. You should send her inside so we can talk.

Plum Grower’s Daughter: I am NOT an upstart! We have work to do!

Plum Grower: Child, you are upstarting me. I should send you inside so I can talk to Late Banker.

Nacle: I am NOT late, I’m…oh bother, come over this instant, Plum Grower, with a basket of your finest plums.

And so it would go. Men of Honey Street sat dazed and confused over how they could have been sweet-talked into selling their best produce for a pittance to the Outsider Nacle Themormo. Boys of Honey Street were soon cleaning Nacle’s yard, painting his home—even serving him their own suppers!

What of the women and girls of Honey Street? Oh, you can bet they told off Nacle in no uncertain terms. One such interaction is a particular favorite of mine, caught when Clover Gardener followed her son, supper still steaming on his plate, to Nacle’s abode.

Nacle: Why good evening, Clover Gardeners! What a lovely supper you have there. It is always nice to share one’s blessings, Boy.

Clover Gardener’s Son: Yes, it is always nice to share one’s blessings. I have blessings to share. (He’s got his plate ready for Nacle’s fat fingers, but his mother deems otherwise.)

Clover Gardener: And I have some words to share, Ex-Banker. My son is not to share any of his time, talents, or food with the likes of you.

Nacle: (not to be fussed by some buzzard of a woman) Dear me, we do have some sort of misunderstanding. Hear I thought your son was showing some neighborly kindness to a poor, old, lonely man like myself. (and his potato-ey frame does indeed look rather pathetic in that folding chair while he reaches for the boy’s plate anyway)

Clover Gardener: (not to be trifled with by a human potato, ogre, giant, or even a Goose King) There is nothing poor about the likes of you, Ex-City-Person. I saw my son bring an armful of our clover here without pay only for you to sell it to some other suspicious-looking City Person in a motor. No. You will not have my clover, my food, and especially my son. And if I must summon the Green Trenches to file a Restraining Work on you—

Nacle: MADAME! (the dog whines, not yawns). No, no no no no no. No, madame, police are never needed in friendly neighborly trifles. I see that your son’s time is, erm, as precious as your own. I will miss his company…

Clover Gardener: (glares)

Nacle: …erm, but, yes, he clearly must attend his duties at home and school first. Boy, you simply must go home with your mother.

Clover Gardener’s Son: I must go home with my mother.

Clover Gardener: (glaring even more, and closer to Nacle’s face, too) And his ears will never hear you address him again. Right? (holds pruning scissors in front of Nacle’s mouth for good measure)

Nacle: Ahem, yes, well, of course. And boy, you are never to listen to my voice again.

Clover Gardener’s Son: And I am never to listen to your voice again. (blinks) Can we go home, Mama?

Clover Gardener: Indeed we can, Son. (with sigh of contempt) Good. Day. EX. Banker.

Nacle: Erm, yes, Good day, Madame. I suppose, the plate, perhaps? A bit of supper for charity’s sake? Hellooo?

Needless to say, Nacle Themormo did not have supper that night, unlike Clover Gardener’s son (finally!). And wouldn’t you know that the tiny witnesses of this whole exchange went buzzing to the backyard and told Barab Oowi all about it as she cleaned the hives of excess wax, wax that quickly gave her an idea…

Eeee, I am really stoked to keep this story going! It may be a strange balance of exposition and dialogue, but at least the framework will be there for revision after NaNoWriMo.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2022: Day 6 with a Troublesome Fence and Even More Troublesome Neighbors. #Magic #ShortStories

Day 6 of National Novel Writing Month! Now that we’re starting a new story, I’ll need to explore a bit here, so be forewarned: this may be more setting establishment than story, per say.

Day 6, Story 3: The Bee Trainer’s Revenge

From the very start, Pips Row has been known as a farmer’s kind of town. The entry gates from the farmlands are as numerous as the spokes on the typical wagon wheel. The small but bustling Town Square has all the essentials a farmer does not grow or conjure. And every resident has their own connection to the land, be it through their work out on the farms, the forges for tools to use on the farms, or their own little gardens planted about their homes. This mandatory “down to earth” kind of life does well to ward off those without love of dirt or hard work.

Nevertheless, there will always be a bad apple or two, even in the most prosperous of seasons. You used to find one such apple down Third Southeast Way, also known as Honey Street. Quite a few folks tend fruit trees and wildflowers in this neighborhood, and you can bet your Saturday sugar-bread that they count on the bees of Barab Oowi to pollinate their plants in the warm months. Only there was one year, not too far back, when the bees were led astray, and a street of sweet crops lost to poor taste and ambition.

We’ll begin with Barab Oowi, known as Bee Trainer about the town. Small, strong, and stout, Barab rarely spoke above a hum, her gestures speaking volumes for her instead. Barab never shied from the tough jobs Nature and Neighbors brought to her door, you see. One day she’s carrying barrels of apples and oranges one day for Fruit Seller, the next hexing a wasp’s nest out of a child’s treehouse. In return, her Neighbors often shared meals and tools, and children gave her floral wreaths to wear. Parents of Honey Street were particularly thankful, for there was no better place to send a bored child to than Bee Trainer’s home. There was always a new honey blend to taste, pots to paint, candles to trim, or bees to serenade.

That is, until Nacle Themormo moved in.

How to describe Nacle…well, he was from the capital. That should tell you a lot right there. A banker, apparently, so one who never bothered with the hard work, only the profits earned by it. Fruit Seller had heard he made enough coin to retire to the country, but that didn’t make any sense, for it costs far more to live workless in the country than the city. This mystery added to the distrust of Ex-Banker Nacle, but what could any of us do? The Green Trenches don’t arrest ex-bankers, let alone lazy people.

Of which Nacle most certainly was. A bulbous fellow, rather like a potato, he would plant himself in a folding chair at the edge of his porch and watch everyone and everything on Honey Street, especially when it came to his next-door Neighbor, the Bee Trainer. Within the first few weeks, the folks of Honey Street learned why: Nacle Themormo’s magic lay in the power of his words in the ears of other men.

Hmmm. I think we’ll just stop here for now. I want to keep brewing some ideas of how Nacle and Barab are going to interact so we can see how a simple fence and a hive of bees can throw the rhythm of an entire neighborhood asunder.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2022: Day 5 with a Cop and a Troll in a Showdown to the Death! #Magic #ShortStories

Day 5 of National Novel Writing Month! It’s time for the conclusion of Private Miks Tavus’ sting operation. Will he capture the dangerous dragon-egg smuggler?

Day 5, Story 2: Never Say Your Name

A smell of piss struck Tavus’ nose as his mind reeled back to the Corporal’s talk about names. Names. Something about names people take versus the names people receive…His badge warmed in its place against his chest. This name thrown at him—it was not alone, and whatever came on that name was trying to get through. He could feel little pricks and pokes in his ears and against his mind. Were it not for his badge, it would be in him, and he’d carry that brand of Alexander until she deemed to release him. Likely at death.

But if he acted like he was free, then she’d know he was a Green Trench and all of this would be for nothing.

So Tavus gritted his teeth. He let the sweat come (not like it needed help). He fumbled with his stew bowl, knocking it to the ground, but he let his eyes hold firm. “And what name do you give yourself, Ma’m?”

Her inhuman smile did not flinch. “Bell.”

Something hissed and rasped and gargled behind them. The legit Trade Couriers dragged their table and goods further along the wall with a groan. “Damn, lady, that is sick.” “I think that lady is sick.” Even the loner in the corner stood up as Turban’s servant shook in her piss-covered seat. The wind howled even louder, in pain, the ice battering the window and everyone’s ears and—

“L-l-la!” The servant’s head craned towards the ceiling as she pulled at her own jaw to open her mouth. “B-el-la!”

“Silence!” Turban waved her pipe at the servant, sending her down to the floor in a cry of pain. The Gaptooth Farmers tried to stand, but Waitress stabbed each of their hands with meat forks, pinning them to the counter while hexing their legs into wood. Her headcap fell as she nodded towards Turban, revealing a head of long grass for hair. “Out back!” she cried. “Go!”

TWO trolls. Dammit, where are the eggs?!

And Turban wasn’t moving either. Her empty hand reached for Tavus. “Not without a new vessel. Come, Alexander. A regal name, an ambitious name for an ambitious man.” The name dug into his temples, his mind.

The servant continued to writhe and gasp on the floor, gargling “Be-duh-don—”

“Quiet!” Turban flicked the pipe. The servant’s back crooked too, too far backwards, yet she lived and breathed with enough strength to hold her own mouth open. “Be-be—”

“Come, Alexander. Taste royal spoils and divine wines.”

And Tavus could taste them, faintly, so sweet and beautiful and lovely and eternal and light and kind and—

—and down he went when the other Trade Couriers plowed him over to make for the door. “Out of our way!” Only the wooden chairs were no longer chairs. Round the Couriers’ legs they twisted and groaned, leaving the pair in a heap in front of the door. Waitress stuck a fork in that wood, too, for good measure, then eyed the loner in the corner. “Give us any trouble, old man, and you’re next.” She eyed Tavus on the floor. “Him, a vessel? He’s no elemental like the other one.”

“No, but he’s strong enough to hold my cloaking spell when I return to the nests. We won’t need a blizzard then. Come,” the command sung around him and through him.His hands felt stiff, strange, his body, hardening, smelling of cedar.

Except for his chest. The glow of his badge warmed and dulled the name’s points. Its green glow peeked through his clawed coat.


Ribbons of green magic unspooled from Tavus’ badge across the diner. They pulled Tavus upright, cleared his vision. He could see Turban now, unsure where to direct her pipe, looking to his chest, to Waitress. “Guess I wasn’t the only one waiting for my partner. Bella.”

The name threw Turban back into the window, her own hold on the servant now weakened. But not broken. The name was not complete.

A shriek and shine of metal flew for Tavus and his badge’s ribbons, but he dodged and rolled in time. Waitress landed next to Turban, eyes black and wild as Turban’s grin.

But now Tavus was next to the loner, whose own green ribbons were coming forward, wrapping with Tavus’. Not that the loner seemed to notice, his focus on the broken woman heaving one last breath. “Doooooona!” Her fight was gone.

Loner nodded and rose. All battered garb remained upon the ground, the bright green trench coat in their place.

Private Miks Tavus pulled out his badge and held it aloft. “You are under arrest!” The ribbons spun and wove as they circled the trolls.

“No badge will take me alive!” Turban’s pipe let loose a stream of ash that singed the green ribbons while Waitress threw a fork at the counter. The counter itself folded and folded, revealing a ground of cold clay. Dammit, not the dirt!

“Corporal!” Tavus pointed and lunged to block the pair’s escape. His badge grew so damn hot to hold but he kept it aimed up and at them to increase the magic’s unfolding. More, more green ribbons pooled out to hold the Waitress in place just a few feet away and knock Turban’s pipe from her hand. But then she dropped her own cloak, revealing dragon eggs—plural—banded to each arm.

She laughed Death’s laugh as she grabbed one. “Never alive, Green Trenches, never alive!”

BELLADONNA!” Corporal’s voice rumbled through the diner with such force the street-facing wall cracked. A million shards of glass fell to the street, revealing three more Green Trenches outside. Turban screamed as her body locked still under the green ribbons of the law. “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST.” With a nod to Tavus, the Private pocketed his badge and carefully unstrapped the dragon eggs from the troll’s shoulders, all the while her eyes glared at him with such curses that, if she’d had any power left, he’d certainly be dead.

But he wasn’t.  They had her name, and with it, her power.

Still, he couldn’t help giving one more “Ma’m” as he took the last egg and handed it over to the second squad that magicked the snow away for a clear removal of the criminals. No one needed those trolls to step on soil before they reached the transport.

Corporal ordered the last Green Trench to tend the Couriers and Farmers while Private Miks Tavus watched the Transport take off over the rooftops for Headquarters. The wind had finally gone to bed, the moonlight turning the snow into fallen stars.

Corporal stepped up alongside him. “You’re damn lucky, Private. That elemental was hollowed down to the last bits of rib bone. Takes even less time for a troll’s magic to do that to a human.”

“How’d you know I would be here?”

Corporal tapped his badge. “Brothers of the Badge always know, especially when we seek by names freely given.”

Tavus nodded. He had never thought of his name as a gift, let alone a lifesaver, until now. “Thank you, Sir. I’ll remember. For all my Brothers of Pips Row.”

“I know.” Corporal smirked. “Get some sleep, Private. Tomorrow, we start again.”

“Yes, Sir.” Tavus smiled inside and out. Damn straight we will.

Another story of Pips Row complete! Now who should we meet next? Perhaps another who dares hold a dragon in her hands? Or perhaps a keeper of stars? Or perhaps a wizard in a dispute over fences? We’ll just have to find out!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2022: Day 4 with an Undercover Cop and a #Mystery. #Magic #ShortStories

Day 4 of National Novel Writing Month! We’re still with Private Miks Tavus on his sting operation to take down a dragon-egg smuggler. I didn’t get as far as I wanted with this one, but we are ramping up the tension, which is good.

Day 4, Story 2: Never Say Your Name

What’s the hag with the turban want?

Well, “hag” was as strong word—Tavus could see that now that the dusty lamp over his table lit her features. Sure, she had a few rivers of shadow on her face, a wart or two, but nothing out of the ordinary for an older woman…especially an older troll. Between the turban and all the sparkly garb, no one’s gonna look at her for more than a second.

IF she was the troll. Not enough evidence. Need more evidence.

With a sneer and a hitch-up of the pants, Farmboy straddled on back to his stool at the bar, but there was no more hee-hawing to be had from that pair. Fine.

“May I join you?”

Tavus motioned to the battered chair while Waitress came over with his stew. “And some fresh coffee for my guest here,” he ordered with a smirk. “Though frankly, Ma’m, I can’t imagine you want to socialize with the likes of me.”

No one else did. The loner’s posture had gone stiff. The pair of legit Trade Couriers were hissing something back and forth—hopefully not a hex. Not an uncommon thing—Couriers are damn competitive for clients. But a hex could cause Tavus’ badge to light up in deflection, and there goes this operation, right down the crapper.

The wind twirled in the snow outside leaving frozen curls upon the diner’s window, its whistle long and lonely. The Waitress tisked, wiped the counter. “Way past that wind’s bedtime. You two ought to send it home to its momma.”

If farmers love to talk about anything, it’s the weather.

“I was ready to give that wind a spanking last week. Fella blew my hay bales all over…” Off those two went, competing for the worst dealings with wind, judged by Waitress.

Tavus dared to sigh, just a little, and faced The Turban. “So what can I do for you, Ma’m?” He took care to let the broth dribble down his chin while he ate.

Turban looked back on her rock-still servant. Whatever she saw, Tavus guessed she didn’t like it. The lump of a servant hadn’t moved much in the two hours they’d been here. Sick, maybe? Turban’s jaw shifted, and her eyes flat. “Serving, or seeking?”

Typical opener for hiring a Trade Courier—good, I’m actually selling this. Tavus sucked the spoon thoughtfully before letting it clang loudly in his bowl. “Bit of both. Hoped to help a partner of mine tonight with his job, but this storm, think it held him up.”

Turban’s finger traced the swirls of ice on the window. “Seems we’re all held up tonight. Pity.”

“There is the Inn, you know,” Waitress lobbed the words over. “Pearl’s Price, just down the block. The night watchman would let you in.”

“I thank you, Waitress, but I am sure the storm will be parting soon.” She pulled out a thin pipe from the folds of her coat. “Is that why you didn’t approach my table? Your colleagues certainly weren’t shy when they first arrived, but I prefer not to employ occupied Couriers. You’re a greedy lot as it is.”

Contact, this could be my contact. “Right you are, Ma’m. We burn through money pretty fast.”

A wince—right at “burn.” She has to be the troll I’m looking for. But where are the dragon eggs? Hidden in her robes, by the servant? Dammit, I should have cased her better when she came in. No bags or cases. She’s gotta keep them someplace warm. And if she could fit a pipe that long in her clothes, she could probably stash an egg or two.

The wind howls angrily at the cold, cold night. Snow drifts start to reach up the diner window. It was going to be damn hard to maneuver out there without magic now. Even the Gaptooths were eyeing the snow anxiously. The walls of the diner pressed in, close, mingling everyone’s stink of the day. Tavus was certain he could hear the loner’s heartbeat from across the room.

“Traveling by moonlight—is that a problem?”

“Not at all.”

“Even on western roads?”

“Even then.”

“Then let us shake, Alexander, and mark your service.”

Alexander? Tavus raised an eyebrow. “Courier will do, Ma’m.”

“Nonsense. I loathe vague references.” She rose and held out her gnarled hand streaked with tobacco and ash. “You are an individual who deserves identity, even a false one. When the job is over, you are released from the name.” No human could smile the way she did then.

Something is very, very wrong. Miks better be careful, or he’s apt to lose more than his cover…

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2022: Day 3 with an Undercover Cop and a #Mystery. #Magic #ShortStories

Day 3 of National Novel Writing Month! I do so love a good police procedural, and wanted to try one of my own. Let’s see what life is like for a Private on a sting for the local law enforcement known as the Green Trenches.

Day 3, Story 2: Never Say Your Name

Half past eleven, and the troll still hadn’t showed. Private Miks Tavus rubbed his left temple and glared at the snow clinging to the diner’s window. If those plaid Gaptooth hicks at the counter hee-haw about the spotty cornstalk and diary girl one more time, I will blow my cover just to shut them up, he thought.

Which would be a pity, because Tavus had worked pretty damn hard on it. Picked up a clawed leather coat and bloodstained pants from the morgue. Used his day off to forge a new ID at the Records Office (probably shouldn’t have done that, but if he makes this collar, it won’t matter). Even gave himself a black eye and bloody lip to complete the look of a Trade Courier down on his luck. Just another loner on the roads, hunkering down in this random farming town until the snow blows over…

…when in reality he’s on his first undercover assignment for the Pips Row Green Trenches.

“And then the girrrl told the wife, ‘those ain’t his moles, lady, them’s—”

“Ack, Farmboy, you’re gonna make me gag,” the waitress groaned as she smacked one of the farmers with her notepad. Her curves looked none too comfortable in the drab grey dress most hospitality folks where in these parts, but she glided easily enough among the smoke and dimly lit tables. Only a few others sat in the diner besides Tavus and the Gaptooths: a couple legit Trade Couriers with their sacks tucked under the table, some old sequined hag with a turban and her servant, and another loner.

That one…something off about him. He sat in the far corner with his back to the wall. He never took his bushy scarf or hat off, even to slurp his broth. Squat and wide, like many trolls, and he could be keeping his hat on to hide the giveaway plants that grow atop troll heads instead of hair.

But why hide it? Pips Row sees its share of trolls and elves and goblins and were-folk like any other town. Maybe less, because of the Gaptooth hicks, but still.

Trolls aren’t for trapping themselves, either. If they can get at the dirt, they will escape you no matter what power your badge wields. And that was the last thing Private Miks Tavus wanted. If he was to catch the Dragon-Egg Smuggler, he needed his suspect to reveal the route before another piece of the downtown caught fire.

If he only knew what his suspect looked like.

“Waiting for someone?”

Miks Tavus’ eyes shifted from the window to the waitress. Not a young thing, but still looked good in those heeled boots of hers. One strand of her green hair peeked out from her white snood.

“You been sitting here a solid two hours drinking Merl knows how much coffee. How about a little beef stew? Farmboy over there brought the meat in fresh this morning.”

Dammit, I’m obvious. “Sure.” Tavus leaned back, scratched his chest. “Snow’ll freeze me up fast enough once I’m back on the road…” Double-dammit, don’t look at her chest for a nametag. “…Waitress.”

Names. People protected them in Pips Row like they were gold. For some reason, the moment any kid around here got their apprenticeship, you stopped using their names and went by profession instead. Old Corporal down at Headquarters once said it had to do with a sorceress gathering names up, doing some sort of Tampering with them years back.

Just one more thing Miks Tavus had to learn for himself after being assigned to this weird intersection of the country.

Waitress gave him the once-over and saw the blood on his pants. Good. “Not easy out there.”


“Where ya headed?”


The hee-hawing stopped. Both Gaptooth Farmboys peered over at Tavus from the counter. “Them’s the wilds, Courier. Geese territory.”

Just stare at your coffee, Miks. Don’t give’em the fightin’ eye. “Yup.”

Tavus could hear the groan of the bench as one Farmboy straddled over. The smell of manure and magic churned Tavus’ stomach, but he remained still, even when Farmboy leaned over to growl in his ear: “You rile up another Gaggle, I swear to Merl I’ll get my hounds and—”

“Good Farmer, if you please.”

What’s the hag with the turban want?

What DOES she want? Will we find the troll or the smuggler?

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2022: Day 2 with the Goose King. #Magic #ShortStories

Day 2 of National Novel Writing Month! Let’s see what happens with Scraps and the dreaded Goose King.

Day 2, Story 1: The Boy Who Conquered Goose Island

Scraps’ little fists shook as he glared at me. “No. It’s not the same. I’m gonna get that stupid Gaggle!” And off he stomped, right through a ball game and into the school. He spoke not a word the rest of the day as he tore apart his number crunchers and dust bunny hunters and pea soup freezers. In fact, the only creation he did not destroy was one decoy duck walker, the only one that quacked. He kept staring at its insides, comparing pieces, tossing pieces, adding new things. He grabbed string, rulers, scissors, pencils, and lots of metal bits from all over the classroom, dumped them on his table, and proceeded to push the entire table out the classroom door. “Where are the holiday flags?” He hollered at the lot of us all staring through the windows.

What can I say? We wanted to know what he was doing, so I sent some students to the storage cupboard for all the flags while I sent another group to sing the Ballad of Pip Whistletooth to the Headmaster in preparation for the Founder’s Festival next month. By the time we came out with our arms full of flags, Scraps was tying roads and hammering pegs and who knows what else in bizarre angles all over the school yard.

“Will these do?” I asked as his classmates held up the rolls.

Scraps grinned. “They’re perfect!” His inner magic was practically glowing out of his fingers and curls as he flew about his contraption, tying and measuring and hammering. Then he ran out behind the kitchens and returned with a cart of crates and broken engine parts. Only when he asked for the school’s old Volumizer did I fully comprehend the boy’s goal.

You see it yourself, down there on Goose Island.

By midday the Headmaster had heard enough of Pip Whistletooth and the Hags of Shadowkeep, and out he waddled to see what we’d been up to. The man was so shocked, he dropped his peach juice.

There, towering at least ten feet into the air, was a Scrap Goose. Rods and sticks and broken breams, string and nails and old tin plates created a rough skeletal frame covered with every holiday flag for the school and Pips Row Square. Upon the feet and along the beak of old boxes were lines of metal chips sharp enough for…well, they looked sharp enough for anything. Behind the half-shaped head of Veg crates was a little seat, and on that little seat sat Scraps. He waved, then disappeared behind the head. A hum and a whir, and the lower jaw of the beak dropped. There was the Volumizer.


More whirs and conks and little clouds of steam, and the legs, tall as me but as reedy as Scraps, shuddered and and shifted.


How Scraps drove that monstrosity, I’ll never know. His inner magic is all I can reason—all the Headmaster could reason, too. No artisan had ever constructed such a machine in such a time in such a way, never in all of Pips Row history (and trust me when I saw I know a bit of history, having met old Pip myself). All we could do was follow that concoction of garbage, knots and holiday cheer along with all the other kids who whooped and shouted with glee. When we reached this spot—yes, this very spot!—a Gaggle flew out in formation, ready to rob us for all we’re worth.

“HOOOOOONK!” Scraps gave the highest, shriekiest honk to ever honk, sending the Gaggle into balled mess of feathers into that tree. That is how it got knocked up. Nothing to do with the goblins on ash boroughs, at least this time.

On Scraps marched to the bottom of the hill, right up to the river bank.

We dared to follow. We dared to see the Goose King.

Here, I must show you. See here, the marks of their battle on the shoreline! Oh, that Goose King was a nasty creature. He was four foot tall with wings that could even encompass the headmaster, and there’s no doubt in my mind that beak of us could pull off a child’s face. His eyes were red through and through, and his feathers bore streaks green and black. He darted his head which way and that and launched from the island, hissing like an angry troll. But Scraps aimed the Volumizer at him and honked his shrill honk, sending the Goose King hurtling to the shore. The school children cowered behind the Headmaster and myself as we gathered acorns for the duel.

But Scraps was ready. “You took my sugar bread!” he cried. “You’re mean!” And he extended the mock-goose’s wings. Holidays blocked out the sun and cast such a frightening shadow over the Goose King I thought a dragon was sizing us up.

The Goose King hissed to his guards, but the lot of them remained huddled on the island shore with all those poor captured goslings.

“You’re so mean the other geese don’t like you!” Scraps stomped the monstrosity closer to the Goose King. “Go away or else!”

But the Goose King was crafty—oh, he was crafty! He stopped hissing and started slowly backing towards the shore. The children cheered, and Scraps lifted his hands in victory.

“Wait, Scraps!” I yelled. But too late—the Goose King feinted and dove right for Scraps’ giant goose legs! The broken garbage broke again, and the legs buckled.

But the outstretched wings of holiday banners caught the wind, and Scraps’ goose was lifted up. He was flying offshore—and towards Goose Island!

The Goose King laughed as only a goose can laugh, and launched himself yet again towards Scraps to collapse the monstrosity’s body.

But the wind was on Scraps’ side that day, and tickled the flags of the giant belly to make Scraps on that goose neck tip down and forward—and the giant beak of metal teeth caught the Goose King in the process, sending both crashing into Goose Island’s shore. Leaves, pebbles, feathers, bones—all was everywhere and anywhere. But no little boy.

“Scraps!” the children called out while the Headmaster and I used the acorns in a Working to build a bridge between the shores. The guards kept their distance as I ran across the bridge, its roots wavering over the river with little promise for holding me as I called Scraps’ name. He was not answering, and I just…oh, those moments were the worst in my life. “Scraps!”

At last, I got on shore, where a few goslings peeped at me to follow them. Past a few shrubs stood a giant, hollow tree, and there Scraps stood, back to me, shoulders drooped. All the sugar-bread in there was molding and splattered with dung. No surprise to an adult, but to a child…

“They wrecked Papa’s good shopping sack and pooped on my sugar-bread.” Little tears splashed onto the leaves about his feet.

One of the goslings at my feet ran into the hovel, plucked a clean bread off, and brought it to Scraps’ feet.

Scraps shook his head. “Thanks anyway. You can have it.” And he turned to me. “I know, I know. I’ll clean up.”

But the gosling shook its head. Many more goslings were beneath Scraps’ giant goose by now, staring up in admiration. The guards even preened the leaves off its banner feathers.

That is why you see it still, wings outstretched to protect the innocent of Goose Island. I can still see a bit of the Founder’s Day orange under all the mud from the last storm, but those banners, that scrap…it has a whole new life over there. The mottled mess that was the metal beak and Goose King have long since been dismantled by the Gaggle, who would rather steal sugar-bread for themselves, if they can get away with it. But is the Goose King really dead, or did he escape down Chresto’s Tears? Well, that we may never know.

As a reward for Services to Pips Row, Scraps was given a Medal of Creativity and a lifetime supply of sugar-bread. At long last, Pips Row saw what I could see, what the children could see: that every Scrap, no matter how small or inconsequential, had potential beyond imagination.

Tomorrow we’ll see who else resides on the streets of Pips Row. A starkeeper, perhaps? A witch? A troll? Or perhaps something else entirely…

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2022: Getting Back into the #WritingLife. #Magic #ShortStories

Well, it’s certainly been a spell, my fellow creatives!

Partly this was due to health–a nasty sinus infection knocked out my voice and energy for much of October. But the other part came from a serious reflection inspired by dear creative kindred Pam Lazos, who asked me if I needed a break from blogging and podcasting. Turns out I did. My new position in the university, while exciting, also means doing more with research and scholarship, and that initial realization sucked the joy out of any writing for a spell.

But while trick-or-treating with my kiddos yesterday, I realized that I cannot let academic life drown out my writing life. I must find a way for both to co-exist.

So here we are with my first try. No more analysis for the time being. And the podcasting will, I think, return in December. For now, the writing here will be fictional, fantastical, and most of all, fun.

Rather than the pressure of a novella or novel, though, I’m going with the short fiction route. I already wrote one story for this peculiar place some time ago, and now it’s time for us to return to this land of homegrown magic, where sorcery is as everyday as the harvest.

We will begin with a boy, as many stories do…

Day 1, Story 1: The Boy Who Conquered Goose Island

If one were to ever bother traveling west of Pips Row—and few of the city-sort ever do—one would see nothing but farms and forests. How very dull to a city-sort’s eye! To the country eye, one may see a bit more in the promising harvests: grains to promise safe relations with the goblins, vegetables to promise stable transport and roads, fruits to promise means of celebration and good weather. Magic grows in every seed and every root, as any down-to-earth soul knows.

But even country folk don’t travel too far west if they can help it, for they’ve not worked out the best magic to promise safe relations with the birds.

Geese, in particular.

You may smile now, thinking all those fingers and brain cells make you somehow smarter than a goose. That is only because you’ve never met a goose from our part of the world.

Here we stand at the western edge of Pips Row. A quiet place, nowadays, now that our resident sorceress has been silenced! This road is named Chresto’s Way, and it leads to the river Chresto’s Tears. You can see it there, beyond the orchard of Fruit Seller and hives of Honey Weaver. It’s the thinnest of silver ribbons from here, but I promise you, the river stretches and shrinks in all sorts of peculiar ways as it flows through this countryside down to the Marplen Sea. Whoever Chresto was, their path ended with that water long before Pips Row was founded, and it is water that shows no kindness.

Which makes it no surprise, then, that the Goose King settled there.

Never heard of the Goose King? What a strange soul you are. Surely you’ve heard of Scraps and Goose Island, at least.


That settles it. Grab yourself an apple—not for eating, but for protection. I’ve a few corn ears and a week-old biscuit, but we best include a sack of cheese sticks and cocoa muffins, just in case.

Mind your feet, this road’s not used enough to warrant paving. It’s mud and dung all the way, I’m afraid. Let’s see, where to begin…

In my days as a tutor for Pips’ Pupilry, I helped many children find the special seeds with which their inner magic bonded. Some had a way with oranges, some with carrots, some with rhubarb, and so on. Once every moon or so, a child’s inner magic would not bond with a seed, but with an ore, and that’s how Pips Row has its own unique collection of artisans.

Once, and only once, did I meet a child who bonded with neither seed nor ore. His name was Mycroft.

But everyone called him Scraps.

The boy did not come from a family of any, well, worth, you see. The father delivered parcels while the mother polished the words of the Council before they were sent off to the Capitol Businesses for evaluation. Being neither farmers nor artisans nor business, their place in the town was of a lowly sort, so Scraps was not treated like other children in Pips’ Pupilry. His clothing was secondhand and stitched, and his toys cast-offs from the Scrap Bins of alleyways.

Yet of all the children I have tutored—and may I note that number is high, indeed—no child was ever as happy as Scraps. His smile could shade the sun whenever he made a new discovery. “Look, Professor Hastlot!” He ran to me almost every day before school with something in his hand. One day I was sure it was the maw of a beaver, but this day it was a broken pitcher mold. “You’ve been near Silver Smith’s again.”

Scraps held the broken mold up to my face. A little fellow of wiry frame and curly brown hair, his long fingers somehow dodged every sharp point on that rubbish. “It’s the perfect piece.” Everything was “the perfect piece” for Scraps.

“Perfect for what?”

“You’ll see!” And at his corner table, away from all the soil pots and miniature forges, Scraps would send the classroom into awes and giggles every day with whirlybird messengers, decoy duck walkers, dust bunny hunters, pea soup freezers, and even whole number crunchers. (A particular favorite on Arithmetic Assessment days.)

It was clear to any child and tutor like myself that Scraps’ inner magic had bonded with, well, scrap. But because it was neither seed nor ore, the Headmaster preparing to expel the boy. Imagine, being expelled merely for shining at being yourself!

That, my friend, is where the Goose King comes in.

We’re a bit closer now to Chresto’s Tears—let’s stop by this knocked tree so you can see it down this sloping hill. Such a dark, mysterious blue! I’m certain something lives in those depths. But it’s the island I want you to see especially. It’s not particularly big—a few school buses long, I’d wager. All trees and wild brush, nothing tenable for a farmer. No clear ground for good trips or mining. But there in the center you can see it, yes? A giant among all that brush with its wings outstretched, its muddy, colorful feathers eternally fluttering in the wind.

The Goose King ruled that island with an iron beak. Guards circled the island constantly. The infamous Gaggle would fly out and return with whole loaves of sugar-bread soley for him to devour. Any stray goose caught by the guards would be forced to give up their goslings to the King. Those who defied the Goose King were left outside the Butcher’s back porch. The Goose King would sit atop the tallest dead tree, as wide and tall as an old sow, and honk the terrible honk of tyranny.

On the day in question, Scraps did not come running up to me in the school yard. His hands were empty, and his eyes were downcast.

“Whatever is the matter?” I cried. “Did the Scrap Truck beat you to the construction site?” Those were Scraps’ very kind of bins, particularly because the Green Trenches tend to arrest adult trespassers for digging through them.

“No.” He wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Yesterday Papa went to buy me the last sugar-bread for a treat because my corner-cleaner-upper helped Mama so much, but the stupid Gaggle mobbed him and took the bread and he had no money for any more!”

A knot formed in my throat. Sugar bread may be another child’s everyday snack, but for Scraps, that would be a special treat, indeed. “Then I will go with you to the baker’s during Play Period to get some,” I said, holding up a coin as a promise.

Scraps’ little fists shook as he glared at me. “No. It’s not the same. I’m gonna get that stupid Gaggle!”

Whew! Okay, time to take care of children. But I can’t wait to return here tomorrow to see what Scraps does next!

Perhaps this year, National Novel Writing Month may be the light you need to find your way back to the Writing Life. If you’re involved this year, I’d love to hear about it! It’s only Day 1, but I’m determined to be here on Day 30 and beyond. x

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

You’ve Got Five Pages, #TheFamilyChao by Lan Samantha Chang, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Hello, amazing fellow creatives! Here’s to more fun perusing the library’s new releases to see what strikes our fancy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve retitled Story Cuppings to better fit the premise of the podcast.

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.


Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang

We see the return of the prologue in The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how much she packs into that page of text.

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

She establishes the setting of the Chinese restaurant that prospers in Wisconsin; however, the townsfolk are “indifferent” to the family’s actual struggles and relationships. Even readers are kept carefully in the dark by Chang, who makes the cooking of parents Leo and Winnie the focus of her prose, full of sensual details that get your mouth watering. Yet little phrases like breadcrumbs do drop between the lines, and we realize that much is happening behind the kitchen doors that the Family Chao does not want us to see.

The first chapter introduces readers to the family Chao’s youngest son James, a pre-med student who seems almost proud of not holding onto his Mandarin or family traditions. Yet meeting an old man at the train station pleading for help in Mandarin sparks something in James…just in time to see the old man die. At the end of five pages, the man has collapsed while boarding the train. James is unable to revive him. This opening with death isn’t melodramatic, nor is it coarse; rather, it’s a compelling choice on Chang’s part to bring the Old World into New World James’ life as he, a college student, is on his way home to his own “Old World.”

As always, I love hearing what’s on the shelves of your own libraries. Libraries Rock!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!