Thursday, March 27, 2014

Walking the Plank

“Stand up!” A bandit marched down the steps into the cabin. “You two are coming with me.” He dragged both of them up to the top.
“Just stay quiet. Let me handle this,” Ferdinand whispered.
John William nodded. He was too frightened to speak. The deck crawled with river pirates and bandits wearing sour, drunken scowls on their faces.
“Toss them overboard! We have no use for them, now!” The bandits cheered as they pushed John William and Ferdinand onto a thick plank of wood sticking out over the side of the boat.
“Wait!” One of the river pirates stepped forward with his chest out. “That boy is the princess’s friend. He could be worth something, Victor,” he bellowed with an extra deep voice. He certainly looked tough enough – with a chiseled face, broad frame, and big muscles. Even his slicked back, pony-tailed hair looked strong to John William. He began to feel a glimmer of hope.
“Nonsense! He is of no use to us.” The stout, vicious looking badger pressed a blade into John William’s back. “Move, boy!” He let out a malicious laugh and glared at Ferdinand. “I love to cook hoppers. They make a tasty stew.” He moved the blade over to Ferdinand’s plump belly and twisted his whiskers between his fingers. “Be careful. You don’t want to fall into this blade; it would make a terrible mess.”
 John William inched forward, watching the rushing water beneath him.
“This is the princess’s betrothed! They are to be married when they are old enough,” Ferdinand blurted. He squeezed shut his eyes as if he expected to be boiled in a fat river pirate’s stew at any moment. When nothing happened, he gave John William a nudge.
John William stared at the hopper with his mouth gaped open. “Yes, yes, she is my, um…,” he stuttered.
Ferdinand rolled his eyes. “Look at him! He’s just a pup! I’ll bet he’s never even tickled a dame’s fancy.” The deck erupted with laughter.
“You see? He will fetch us a fine price, almost as much as the princess herself!” insisted the river pirate. He bumped Victor off to the side and pulled them off the plank.
“You better be right, or you’ll be the one on this plank. You can be certain it will be my blade in your back,” Victor sneered, exposing his jagged fangs. “Careful with that defiant tone of yours – it has been a while since I have broken a man’s spirit! I’m about due for a river rat body part – something special… perhaps an insubordinate tongue for my collection.” Victor squeezed the pirate’s jaw, leaving an imprint of his long, dirty claws. “I’m not interested in feeding stowaways or ungrateful scrubs.” 
“Well then, don’t feed them!” One of the bandits shouted.
“Put them to work! They can have my job!” A river pirate sat back with his feet up and played a festive melody on his mandolin. The rest of the ship danced in celebration and sloshed their mugs of rum together.

“What a group of goofs,” Ferdinand mumbled under his breath.
Find out how things turn out with the mean and nasty Captain Vic... Bandits of Basswood is free at Barnes and Noble and iTunes for a short time...  and .99 cents. Pick one up today!

Sunday, March 23, 2014


The fowl plowed through tree branches and bushes for miles. Finally, the misery ended and John William was pulled off the saddle. Nighttime brought a drop in temperature and chill in the air, numbing his fingers. He heard water sloshing up against a shoreline and raspy voices cursing at each other. “We must be back at the river.” He tilted his head in an attempt to listen.
“The river stretches for miles; we could be anywhere,” said Celeste. “My dad is going to kill me.” Rough hands shoved the two of them up a creaky, wooden ramp and then guided down a row of narrow steps.
The odor of musty wood and stale rum stung John William’s nose. The glare of a swinging lantern shined through his blindfold. The cabin they were in started moving and a bandit came thundering down the steps. “Okay, let’s get those blindfolds off.” The bandit ripped the blindfolds, taking clumps of hair with them.
“Ouch,” John William blurted. Straight across from him, a sack teetered on a table with the words, Captain Vic’s Supper scribbled across the front. The sack wiggled and twitched. “Did you see that?” John William stared. The sack split down the middle, and a bulgy eyeball poked out, followed by ten long fingers and a pair of lips tensed to an angry pucker. “Ferdinand? Is that you?”
“You better believe it’s me! I have a few choice words for you, young man!” The hopper vigorously waved his pointing finger about.
“Boy – am I glad to see you,” John William blurted, pretending not to hear the hopper’s agitation.
“Oh? I thought you were going to make your own way,” Ferdinand sneered. “This is a fine mess you got us in! Huh! Unbelievable, you’re in Azra’s pith for mere hours and you manage to get the princess captured by bandits. Not just any bandits, I might add – the Basswood Bandits – the worst of the worst!” Ferdinand paused to roll his eyes. “We’ll be down the river and out of sight forever before anyone notices we’re gone.”
“Wait a minute,” John William interrupted. “What are you doing here anyway? Were you following me?” He narrowed his eyes at the hopper.
“Well, of course I was. Did you think I was going to just set you free on the realm? Rules are rules; you must stand before the king! I had a feeling something like this would happen. Young whippersnapper thinks he knows it all!” Ferdinand shimmied out of the narrow hole in the sack, working his mouth as if preparing to yell some more.
“Quiet,” Celeste shouted, startling both of them in to silence. “Thank you.” She smiled.
Ferdinand did not stay quiet for long. “Celeste, your dad is going to banish me for this; I just know it!”
“Oh, no he won’t. I will just tell him the truth – that it was all my fault,” she said calmly.
John William sat quietly piecing everything together in his mind. “So, the bandits were right… you’re a princess?”
Celeste nodded, frowning. “I can certainly handle myself, though. I don’t need to be protected.”
“Fantastic, a fine impression I’ve made on the king – and I haven’t even met him yet,” John William mumbled under his breath.
Celeste stiffened her posture. “Here is the plan; one of you needs to help me free myself from this tie before the hatch opens again. I will take on my bird form and fly out of here. They won’t even know what happened. Once I tell my dad, the guards will come to save you.” Her tongue hovered over her upper lip as she strained to free her hands.
Ferdinand frowned. “That’s your plan, is it? Marvelous! You are just going to flutter off in the dark of night? You don’t even know how far away from Verhonia you are. Nonsense! You’re not doing it!”
“Why can’t you turn to a bird with your hands tied? Then you could free yourself and unfasten my ties.” John William wiggled around on the bench.
“I could break a wing or something worse. I’m not willing to risk it.” Celeste replied.
“A lot of good having your hands free will do when you are locked in a cabin surrounded by bandits and river rats!” Ferdinand huffed.
The boat jolted suddenly, throwing the three of them off their seats. Celeste’s eyes lit up. She waved her hands around. “I did it!” she shrieked.
The drunken slur of a bandit sounded off from the other side of the hatch. “I don’t want any foolery in there!” The hatch shifted and wiggled.
“Don’t worry,” Celeste whispered and smiled at John William. Within seconds, she was a beautiful red robin flying around the cabin. The hatch swung open and out she flew, nearly hitting the bandit in the face.
“Oh, great,” Ferdinand grumbled.
The bandit swung his arm. “What the – how did a bird get in here? Hey, you lazy lumps! Catch that bird; let’s boil it for dinner!” He laughed belligerently, nearly falling into the cabin. John William and Ferdinand exchanged nervous glances.

The bandit poked his head in and glanced around. “Hey! Where’s the girl?” He stumbled inside, knocking ship tools and other small objects around with his tail. John William and Ferdinand remained quiet.
 The bandit stood over John William, swaying with his hands on his hips. “Well, where is the princess, wart? Did you help her escape?”
John William cleared his throat. “I, I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Is that so?” The bandit pulled a knife from his belt with a taunting smile.
“She escaped,” Ferdinand blurted. “We tried to stop her, but she refused to listen. She went out the hatch and jumped overboard.”
“Impossible.” The bandit rubbed his fingers over his oily fur. “Wait a minute… who are you?”
“Um, I believe I am Captain Vic’s supper.” The hopper stuck out his pudgy belly.
“It’s true! I heard the splash, myself,” John William gushed, trying to take the focus off Ferdinand. The bandit examined their faces.
Plunk – it sounded just like that,” said Ferdinand with an anxious laugh.
“Plunk?” The bandit replied with a confused crinkle on his soggy, rum-soaked face.
“Yes, yes, that’s right… plunk.” Ferdinand’s voice squeaked.
The bandit stormed out of the cabin. “The princess escaped! Get up, you twits!” He ran around the boat, banging his blade on an iron pot, making as much racket as one drunk bandit possibly could. The other bandits stirred.
Ferdinand shook his head with terror in his eyes. “We’re in for it now, boy….”

Saturday, March 22, 2014


John William and the girl huddled behind some trees and peaked into the town’s front gate. Inside were creatures that looked like giant raccoons. Big, bushy tails stuck out of their colorful garments as they strutted around the town, wielding blades. One of them peered through the gates. John William sank into his coat. The bandit had fierce, beady eyes with a thick, black stripe of fur across his face like a thief’s mask.
 “Bandits!” Celeste whispered.
“Are you kidding?” John William asked, still feeling like he was in a wild dream. “What should we do?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe we can try to help.” She glanced at John William with raised eyebrows. “What do you think?”
“Gotcha!” A group of bandits rushed in, tackling the two of them to the ground and laughing as if they were playing a game. “Well, well, well, what do we have here?” the bandit shouted. “Look, boys, we found ourselves a genuine princess and a wart to go with her!” John William fought and squirmed, but the bandit’s grip was too tight. “I’ll take this heavy bag for you, lad.” The bandit yanked John William’s bag from his shoulder and then tied his hands together.
“Give that back!” he shouted.
“Quiet, boy.” The bandit pressed his foot on John William’s cheek, squishing his face into the ground while rummaging through his bag. “Ooh, here is my score for the day.” He grabbed the compass and slid it in his pocket. “Thank you kindly, wart!” The bandit shot him a gentleman’s wink and tipped his hat, keeping his boot on John William’s face. His heart sank.
“Get your filthy hands off of me,” Celeste shrieked.
“Screaming won’t do you any good, my lady. I’m afraid you’re just too valuable for us to let go. It’s not every day we get the pleasure of snagging a princess.” The bandits laughed boisterously and celebrated their capture. 
“Don’t worry, we won’t hurt ya any!” The Bandit grunted and gathered them up. “You’ll fetch us a pretty price, precious.” He brushed his jeweled ring-covered fingers through Celeste’s hair. “Throw them on the scamper fowl!”
John William caught a glimpse of a guinea fowl the size of a horse before he and Celeste were both blindfolded and dropped on its back.
Ayah!” The bandit slapped the scamper fowl’s backside. It let out a squeal and darted off.

John William and Celeste are in some serious trouble. Find out what the bandits have planned for their new captives. Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Girl in the Red Cloak

John William shot through the tree and hit the ground with a tumble. “What is this place?” he groaned, feeling his head for lumps. A dense forest of trees poked his thin frame and scratched his cheeks.
“Welcome to Azra’s Pith, boy. We are standing in the heart of Copious Forest – one of the most magnificent gems of the realm. You won’t find grander trees, richer soil, or purer river water anywhere else… in my humble opinion,” the frog uttered in a smug tone. “What is your name?”
“John William.”
“John William, my name is Ferdinand. The first thing you should know is that I am a hopper. From this moment on, the word frog will fall on deaf ears,” Ferdinand declared.
John William rubbed the haze out of his eyes. “This is all so unbelievable. I must be dreaming.”
“Well, believe it, John William. You were chosen to enter the realm. That is why you found the key,” said Ferdinand.
“Me, chosen… why?” John William pulled sharp twigs and leaves from his hair.
“Not sure. I suppose that remains to be seen. I must take you to see King Paraclete.” Ferdinand stretched his long gangly limbs and let his pudgy belly jiggle.
“Um, no thanks; I want to do some exploring first if you don’t mind.” John William crouched down to tie his laces and prepared to do some hiking.
“What – of all the – of course I mind!” Ferdinand squeaked through tight lips. John William winced as the agitated hopper’s bulgy eyes looked like they might pop off his head. “All newcomers to the realm must sit before the king! You are no exception!”
“The king will have to wait; I make my own way from now on,” said John William. “It was nice to meet you, Ferdinand. Thank you for getting me here.” He started walking in a random direction.
Ferdinand stood with his broad mouth gaped open. “Oh, really! Fine – you won’t last a day. I guarantee it, young man!” The hopper stormed off in a huff.
John William wandered through Copious forest awhile in search of something amazing like ancient ruins… or, if he was really lucky, something magical.
His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Lathering even the tiniest drop of spit was impossible. With a hollow growl, his stomach reminded him he had not eaten since the toast early that morning. The sound of rushing water lured him down to the river.
He plopped down on the river’s edge and plunged his aching feet into the water. The strong current nearly carried him off his seat. Cupping his hands, he gathered a fistful of fresh, cold water to pour into his mouth. A chill traveled up his spine as the water spilled over his tongue.
He sat back against a tree trunk and took in his surroundings. The sunset revealed itself as an orange glow bursting through the tree line, marking the end to a very long day. He filled his lungs with crisp forest air.
A short distance away, a vibrant red bird made a landing near the river. It dipped its feathers in the water. John William froze, trying his best not to scare it away. The bird let out a little chirp and morphed into a girl with a cloak the same vibrant red as her feathers and long flowing hair to match.
John William looked on in disbelief. She cautiously looked around, then headed away from the river. He fumbled around with his shoes without bothering to tie them and staggered after her. “Wait!” he shouted.
She looked back with startled, bright green eyes, then scurried off. John William chased after her. “Please, I won’t hurt you! I’m lost – I don’t know where to go!” He propped his hands on his knobby knees and gasped for air. Her gentle hand brushed his shoulder.
“Are you okay?” she asked, shifting her wild red hair out of her eyes.
“Y-y-yes, I’m okay; um… I’m new here.” He bumbled over his words. “What – I mean, what are you? Are you a bird?” he asked. She giggled through her fingers. He felt a silly grin spread across his face. “I’m John William.”
“Celeste.” She smiled back. Distant shouting and banging echoed off the trees.
“What is that?” John William panicked.
“I’m not sure. It’s coming from Still River Town – let’s go see!” Her eyes sparkled with excitement. She grabbed his arm, and they both scurried through the trees toward a small group of archaic wood buildings cluttered together. The town hugged a turn in the river where large rocks obstructed the current, making a tranquil pocket of water.
John William and the girl huddled behind some trees and peaked into the town’s front gate. Inside were creatures that looked like giant raccoons. Big, bushy tails stuck out of their colorful garments as they strutted around the town, wielding blades. One of them peered through the gates. John William sank into his coat. The bandit had fierce, beady eyes with a thick, black stripe of fur across his face like a thief’s mask.

 “Bandits!” Celeste whispered. 

Find out what happens when John William and Celeste meet the bandits. Pick up John William and the Bandits of Basswood Today! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Magic in the Forest

John William is off to explore! His intention is to stay in the forest around his uncle's house and return home in time for dinner. When a little magic crosses his path, he wondered if he would ever see his uncle again.

Magic in the Forest

After clearing the rose garden in his uncle’s yard, John William ran deep into the forest until he was breathless and alone. He stood in a thicket of trees, feeling small. A cool breeze blew through his curls, leaving goose bumps on the back of his neck. “This was a bad idea,” he whispered. Something extraordinary caught his eye.
A bundle of lights twinkled and danced in midair. As he approached, they spiraled away at a pace slow enough for him to follow. He pushed through ferns and tree branches, trying not to lose sight of them. They twirled around and then disappeared under a rock.
“No, don’t go.” John William dropped to his knees and lifted the rock. Nestled in the dirt was a mysterious key. The few remaining twinkling lights landed on it and vanished. He pulled the key out of the dirt. It looked like wood but felt heavy and cool – like some sort of metal. The key chimed a beautiful melody in his hands.
John William gazed at his find in disbelief. It sparkled in the sunlight. Next to him, the bushes rustled and the chiming intensified. A frog leaped out of the bush, landing gracefully on his hind legs. John William gasped and dropped the key in a panic. He knelt next to the frog, chuckling. “Careful, little guy – you nearly scared me out of my shoes!”
“Scared out of your shoes? That’s just plain ridiculous!” said the frog, spitting all over John William’s shirt. “Well, I suppose I’m here for you.” With hands fisted on its hips, the pudgy green creature looked John William up and down. “Pick up the key, boy! Let’s get to the passageway.” It abruptly hopped in the other direction, wiggling ferns out of the path. Without saying a word, John William snagged the key and followed. A talking frog far exceeded his expectations for discovery in one day.
They arrived at a peculiar dead tree with an extra thick trunk. The key chimed and sparkled again. “It’s time,” said the frog. The melody grew louder. As soon as the sun contacted  the key, a beam reflected off it and hit the tree trunk. The key almost slipped through John William’s hands again. “Be careful!” The frog hissed. In an instant, the tree came to life, sprouting vibrant emerald leaves on every branch. The sunbeam created a slit in the trunk. “The key – hurry!” The frog pointed to the slit.
John William squinted one eye and shoved the key into the tree. The entire base of the trunk dissolved into the tiny specks of twinkling lights he’d seen earlier. His mouth dropped open. “Close your mouth, boy!” shouted the frog. “This is it! Are you ready to change your destiny?” It gave John William a wink, leaped into the tree, and disappeared.
“This feels like a dream.” John William gazed at the tree. “There is nothing left for me here – so what have I got to lose?” He took a deep breath and then backpedaled to get a running start. “Goodbye, mom and dad. I love you.” He glanced at the sky. A beam from the sun shot down and warmed his face. The vibrant energy of the lights drew him in. With an anxious heart and uncertain mind, John William ran as fast as he could and dove in to the tree headfirst.

There you have it - John William took a chance. How could he resist an offer from a talking frog?  He is about to discover the dangers of visiting a magical land. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Compass

Okay, we left John William heart broken after losing his parents. At twelve years old that is a lot to deal with; but he has the love and encouragement of his uncle to pull him out of his grief.

Nearly a year came and went. John William felt like an empty shell going through the motions of life. His uncle tried every day to pull him out of it. “I got you something today.” He pushed a brown leather pack with a padded shoulder strap across the dinner table. John William glanced up from his plate. His uncle cleared his throat. “Happy Birthday, young man. Twelve – that’s a big age.”
“Thanks,” John William muttered while pushing steamed carrots and potatoes around with his fork. “I’m sorry. I suppose I’m not feeling well. I think I need to lie down. May I be excused?”
“Of course.” His uncle leaned back in his chair with a defeated look on his face. John William peeled himself off the seat and dragged his feet to his room. He plopped down on his bed and stared at the ceiling just as he did every other night, not wanting to think because thinking always resulted in heartache. He grew tired of crying all the time.
His bedroom door squeaked open. “Can I come in?” asked his uncle, poking his head inside. John William nodded. His uncle sat next to him and looked around. Pictures of old ruins and maps lined the walls. A set of dirty old digging tools covered the dresser. “I love what you have done with your room.” He smirked and rubbed his neck. John William replied with a half smile.
“John William, I don’t pretend to know what you are feeling. I miss your parents, too… very much. It is awful that this has happened. There are days when I still can’t believe it.” He paused and let out a deep sigh. “I know for certain that your dad, my brother, would want you to carry on with life. He would want you to do your best and live with purpose because that is precisely what he did – and he did it for you. It would break his heart to see you wasting away.”
A tear slid down John William’s cheek, and he turned his head away.  His reflection in the dresser’s mirror gazed back at him with puffy, deep blue eyes. His uncle placed the pack he bought on the bed next to him. “Good night, John William.” He stood up, and his shoes clacked as he walked out of the room.
John William stared at the pack for a while before deciding to open it. Inside were beautiful new tools for digging and drawing maps. The handles had his initials, J.W.D., engraved on them.  At the very bottom was an old compass with a note attached:
John William,
I know there is nothing I can do to bring your parents back; but I feel it is my responsibility to bring your smile back. Today is your birthday, so please don’t waste another minute of your life feeling empty. Get out there and live, explore, do what you love. It is time to embark on a new adventure. I hope these tools help. I attached the letter to this compass because it was your father’s. I found it at the house after the accident. Use it well and keep your parents in your heart. Happy Birthday, young man.

Uncle Christopher

John William opened the compass. It still had ash on it – aside from that it was in fine working condition. He sank his head into the pillow, thinking about his uncle’s words. A restless energy surged through his body, something he had not felt in a long time.

He tossed and turned all night, making a tangled mess of his blankets. When the first ray from the sun poked through his curtains, he leaped out of bed and threw on his clothes. He stuffed his tools and compass in his pack and draped it over his shoulders. Pulling his bedroom door open, he flew out like a tornado blowing through the house.

And... so it begins! John William is off to explore. What he is about to find will change his life forever. Grab any of the John William's Adventure books today!  

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Day Everything Changed

So... BANDITS OF BASSWOOD has been polished and edited by the amazing (and extremely patient) Sher A. Hart. It also has a new look ...

I plan on posting bits and pieces to share with you all :)

The Day Everything Changed

John William ran frantically down the long curved road to his house. In the spring of 1918, he hoped this war the newspapers called World War One was coming to an end. German Fokkers and British Camels circled the clouds above like mosquitoes. He covered his head as bullets buzzed around him.

An airplane engulfed in flames spiraled out of the sky and disappeared behind the trees. Bang! A loud crash shook the ground. Dark smoke wafted into the air near his house. “Oh no,” he gasped, sprinting so fast his lungs throbbed through his chest.
 He turned down the driveway to find his worst fears were true. Fire and smoke billowed out the windows of his house. Airplane pieces and splintered wood protruded from the top where the roof once was. Intense heat scorched his face. Boom! An explosion shattered the house and propelled John William backwards. Fragments flew everywhere.
He curled up in a ball, screaming from the pain of his wrenched and torn heart. His parents were home hiding from the chaos. Nothing could have survived the explosion. He felt empty – the two people he loved most in the world were gone.
The shouting of German solders approaching silenced him. He stumbled to his feet and ran into the forest on the edge of his house. Through the trees, John William saw two German pilots surveying the area. The airplane that had crashed into his house was a German Fokker. One walked to the edge of the thick fern and hovered over John William. The pilot stared into the forest. “Hallo!” he shouted. John William bit his lip, praying the cough building in his throat would stay where it was.
“Lass uns gehen!” The other pilot shouted and waved his arm, signaling for them to leave. They appeared to be searching for signs of life – but except for John William, no one remained.
John William lay flat on his back with his eyes fixed on the sky. Tears rolled down his face. He had no idea what to do. At eleven years old, he was left with no home and no parents. A car rolled up the driveway. He squirmed over to the fern and peered through the leaves.
His uncle stepped out of the car and stood with his hand over his mouth. “John! Katherine! John William!” His voice trembled as he walked around the shattered house. John William hunkered behind the fern, watching his uncle fall apart.
He was overwhelmed and heart broken, but he had a decision to make. He could go with his uncle or somehow make his own way. He could not bring himself to go. Something in his gut told him to make his own way. He prepared to turn and run. Snap! A twig broke under the pressure of his knee.
“Who’s there?” His uncle walked over to the fern. He looked down and saw John William’s reddish brown curls poking through. “John William? What are you doing?”
“Hi, Uncle, I was just…” John William stood up and gazed at his feet.
His uncle wiped tears and ash from his face. “It doesn’t matter. Thank god you’re alive!” He carefully pulled John William out of the leaves. “Are you okay?”
“I wasn’t home.” John William’s eyes welled up again. “I should have been home.” He buried his face into his uncle’s chest.
“It’s going to be okay, young man. You’ll stay with me.” He gave his nephew a firm hug and led him to the car.
As they pulled away from the house, John William’s heart sank. Life as he knew it was over. He wondered if he would ever feel again. 

John William's story stems from heartache; but he turns things around. Lets just say... he gets more than he bargained for. His journey begins with a talking frog and a leap into a magical tree.