How to Entertain Unwanted Relatives over the Holidays

Holidays can be a very stressful time for kids.  Yes, there’s Christmas with its promises of presents, but there’s always this threat hanging above your head:  be good or Santa will throw your presents in a fire and stamp on them until they turn into coal, which he will then put into your stocking to torture you.  Even Thanksgiving, where likely all you’ll be called upon is to “be good” for a while then eat, is fraught with peril.  The entire holiday season has low-level background music playing:  one false step and you’re grounded, kid.

Worst of all are the Unwanted Relatives.

The two-year-old with sticky hands and a passion for ripping pages out of your comic books.

The bossy girl who is two months older than you are and who continually justifies her rudness by saying “…because I’m older than you and I know better.”

The adult who thinks you are still that sticky two-year-old and talks to you in the same squeaky tones he uses on his pet chihuahua, which proceeds to wee on your blankets (the dog, not the adult…).

The horror never ends!

And so let me present to you a list of ways to entertain these terrifying intruders, distracting them from your most precious possessions, tricking them out of excessive baby talk and other belittling behaviors, and entertaining yourself in the process:

  1. Identify your safe area.  This will be the place you will hide if events become entirely too much for you.
  2. Identify your stash.  These are precious possessions that you cannot afford to lose, have destroyed, see in the grubby hands of Cousin Dork, etc.
  3. Place your stash in a safe area, if possible.  DO NOT place anything you wish to hide under the bed.  This is the first place anyone under the age of fifteen will look (the first place anyone over the age of fifteen will look is in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, incidentally).  Try the top of your closet, behind the most boring possible books on the bookshelves, in the garage, inside of socks in your sock drawer, taped to the bottoms of shelves, or any other difficult-to-get-to location.  Do not hide anything in a place that would make a good hiding spot in a game of hide and seek, and never hide anything in the trash!
  4. Identify your most annoying targets.  Are they young or old?  Tall or short?  Full of energy or really just wanting a nap?
  5. Now that you have a profile of your targets, write down a list of five things they are likely to be interested in.  For example, young children might like candy, small dogs, running around in circles for no apparent reason whatsoever, playing hide-and-seek, and eating crayons.  Older teens might like video games, snacks, saying mean and sarcastic things, talking on their cell phones to their friends, and avoiding adults.
  6. Now the fun begins.  Take any two or more items on your list…and combine them to inflict maximum distraction on your targets.  For example, you might fasten a wrapped piece of candy onto a small dog’s collar, then turn it loose in the back yard in order to run pointlessly around in circles.  Or you might set up a video game with a pile of snacks next to it in the basement for two teenagers, who will keep themselves amused by saying sarcastic things to each other instead of to you.
  7. Take advantage of the distraction.  At this point, you do not need to hide.  It is only once the distractions have worn off that you may need to retreat to your safe area.

Emergency tips in case your original ideas are not distracting or are not distracting for long enough:

  • Get in so much trouble that you are sent to your room (alone).  You may regret this later, though.
  • Find a slightly less annoying guest that you can hide behind/hang out with–and who can protect you.  A buddy next door or a cousin you like can also work.
  • Cough or sniffle a lot, or fake throwing up.  Nobody wants to catch a cold from you.
  • Insult them in a secret code.  Hint: don’t use pig latin on anyone over six.
  • Using actual itching powder is rarely as much fun as mentioning all the baby spiders you found in your room yesterday.  When asked to describe them, say, “Small and black, like a big pile of pepper, and with lots of little legs, and they crawl on you just…like…this…” and then gently tap your fingers on the backs of their necks.
  • Burst into tears and refuse to explain why.  Note:  Only do this if you can really burst into tears; fake tears will just get you more torture.
  • Bring a whoopie cushion into the bathroom with you and squash it every time someone knocks on the door. Then say, “Just a minute” and whine softly.
  • Start helping with kitchen cleanup.  I know, I know–this is torture.  But if we’re talking about a true emergency, this can work.  If you are helping out, then you can’t be dragged off by the teenagers.  Stay in visible, well-populated areas to avoid the really serious bullies and creepazoids.
  • Scream and blame it on the excess sugar, if necessary.
  • Hide in your designated safe area.  You’ll probably be found, but sometimes you just need a breather.  Note:  Do not do this if you’re dealing with a creepazoid or bully; they’re probably hoping that you disappear somewhere quiet…so they can pick on you some more in secret.  In that case, hang out next to the adults.

Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a time of rest, relaxation, and enjoyment, and with a little forethought, you can avoid the torture of having unwanted relatives foisted off on you, just because your parents were obligated to invite them.  If your plans work out, you can even earn some additional brownie points–because believe me, the adults want them to be distracted as badly as you do.

If you enjoyed this useful article, please check out my short story “The Secret of the Cellar,” about a very clever girl who plans ahead for her annoying cousins…by setting up a haunted house in the basement.  You can find it at B&N, Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, iBooks and more.

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Cover Update: The Society of Secret Cats

Now (or soon) available at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s, and more.

What if cats were really there to guard your dreams?

Lost in the Forest of Dreams, the dashing, handsome cat Ferntail must rescue his human girl from her horrible nightmares, nightmares that come from outside her mind. Will a mysterious and beautiful cat from The Society of Secret Cats help lead them out of the forest…or further astray?

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New Kids’ Fiction: Exotics #3: The Subterranean Sanctuary

Mr. Hightower snorted.  “At any rate, it’s only you, dear Rachael, that we need, not these others. They can go.”

Returning home again after the terrible events at Xanadu House, Rachael Baptiste has learned not to trust humans…because they might be part of the Lighthouse Parents, a hostile group out to arrest and destroy the Exotics.

Her parents do nothing about argue.  Her Exotic friends pretend to be normal.  Her human friends hint that it might be better if the Exotics just disappeared.  And now the horrible Mr. Hightower wants her to spy for him…on her mom.

Rachael doesn’t know what she should do…but she knows that if she doesn’t keep an eye on Mr. Hightower and his group of Exotics, she won’t be able to stop them…

The third Exotics ebook is now available at AmazonB&NSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s, and more.  POD to follow.

Chapter 1


As soon as she read all the way to the bottom, the bright pink piece of paper hanging on the wall made Rachael feel sick to her stomach. Nobody was looking, so she ripped the paper off the wall and stuffed it inside her backpack.

She started running toward her classroom.

Her teacher, Mr. Miller, said, “Slow down!”

She slowed down so quickly her shoes squeaked on the tile floor, then walked slowly enough to make the pickiest teacher happy, slow-motion slow.

Mr. Miller laughed. “Okay, okay, not that slow!”

Rachael sped up to a normal walking speed, went around the corner, then ran all the way to class.

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Sample Chapters from Exotics #2: Xanadu House

Rachael survived her adventures on The Floating Menagerie and went back to her normal life…except that her mom is still missing. Now she’s coming down with the Exotics virus herself and is changing into a half-human, half-animal Exotic, just like her friends. As a new Exotic, Rachael can’t control the change, so she travels to a safe place for Exotics in danger—Xanadu House. The house is owned by an aunt that Rachael never knew she had, and who will protect any Exotic, no matter which side they’re on. But is Xanadu House as safe as it seems?

These chapters of Exotics #1: The Floating Menagerie will be here permanently.  You can find a full copy of the ebook online at B&NAmazonSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s and more.  The print book will be available at Amazon.com and more.

Chapter 1

“Go on!” Rachael’s dad yelled. “Get out of here!” The front door slammed.

Rachael rubbed her eyes and blinked a few times; they were all dried out.

Second grade had been a really weird school year so far. At least it was almost over.

First her mom had disappeared, and then she and her friend Raul had been kidnapped and taken to The Floating Menagerie, a strange ship in the middle of the ocean.

The ship had been run by the Shadow Dogs, a group of…well, she didn’t know what to think about them anymore. At first, she’d thought they were people who kidnapped and smuggled Exotics. (Exotics were humans who had been infected with a magical virus that turned them into magical half-animal creatures.) Some of the Shadow Dogs, like Mr. Hightower and Tapeworm, were pretty awful. But some, like Captain Monn and Dr. Menney and maybe even Ken and Sponge and Bob, were pretty nice, and they weren’t trying to smuggle Exotics at all, but protect them.

The bad Shadow Dogs had wanted to make Rachael tell them her mom’s password, because they wanted the secrets on her computer…her mom was an Exotic, a bee (the Queen Bee was her name, and she was a spy for another group of Exotics, the Animal Lovers’ Club).

Rachael finally told them the password to keep them from hurting her and Raul, but the password had been changed.

Her mom hadn’t come back. Nobody knew what happened to her.

And nobody would explain anything to her. Her dad didn’t know, and nobody else would talk to her about it.

So now she was spending a lot of time searching on the Internet for weird stories about animals, trying to find anything that might tell her more about the Exotics or where her mother was, and sometimes she forgot to blink, and it felt like her eyes were dry all the time.

She yelled, “Who was it?”

“Kids from that club of your mother’s,” her father said. “Just because you’re back doesn’t mean they can start having their meetings here again. It’s not like you’re part of their club.”

Of course Rachael wasn’t part of the Animal Lovers’ Club; the club was a fake club. It was really only for Exotics, and Rachael was just a normal second-grader.

But maybe they wanted to tell her something about her mom.

“What did they want?” she said.

Her father said a bad word and stomped out of her hearing. Rachael tiptoed into her bedroom, where she could look out the window over the front door.

She’d taken down all the pictures of princesses and put up glow-in-the-dark stars and pictures of panthers, horses, and falcons. Secretly, she hoped she’d be infected by the Exotics virus, and she was trying to decide what kind of animal she wanted to be. The stars were there because she just liked them.

To her surprise, she didn’t see anybody from the Animal Lovers’ Club out of her window. Instead, the twin Shadow Dog boys who had helped kidnap her and Raul hid behind a tree in the front yard. They weren’t doing a very good job of hiding.

They saw her face at the window at waved her to come down to them.

She opened the window and hissed, “What do you want? Are you going to break down my door and kidnap me again?”

The two boys looked at each other. One of them said, “We wanted to apologize.”

Rachael wrinkled up her face. She wanted to yell at them and call the cops to make them arrest them—but then the truth about the Exotics might be revealed, and everyone would freak out, so she couldn’t.

“I don’t forgive you.” She had to get them to shut up as soon as possible, before her dad came over to find out what was going on. “Go away.”

“Wait,” the other boy said. “It’s about your mom.”

Rachael snorted. “I know, I know, you want her password so you can break into her computer and steal all her secrets. But it’s too late. The password is changed; nobody can get in.”

The second boy shrugged. “I’m just supposed to tell you she’s safe in a castle in Hungary.”

The first boy elbowed the second boy. “You weren’t supposed to say what country.”

“Sor-reeeee,” the second one muttered. “I told you to do the talking.”

Both boys turned around and started walking away from Rachael’s house.

“Wait!” she whispered as loud as she dared.

The first boy stopped, looked up at her, and said, “Sorry, Baby Bee. That’s all we can say.” Then both boys ran down the street.

She closed the window. Baby Bee was the nickname the members of the Animal Lovers’ Club had called her…it was weird that the Shadow Dog boys knew it, too.

She tried to ask Raul about her mom the next day at school, but, as usual, he wasn’t talking to her. He wasn’t grateful that she’d rescued him on The Floating Menagerie; in fact, he still blamed her for getting them captured by the Shadow Dogs in the first place.

She found him out on the playground, playing with his friends on the jungle gym.

“Go away,” he said.

“I have to ask you something.”

“I don’t want to be your boyfriend. Now go away.”

Raul’s friends laughed, and Rachael felt her face get hot. “I don’t want to be your girlfriend,” she yelled. “You’re so stupid.” She ran across the playground and behind a wall to hide.

Nobody followed her; her so-called friends, swinging and sliding and picking dandelions out of the grass, had been ignoring her lately. She wiped her face on her shirt and waited for the teacher to call them in.

During class, she was doodling bees and castles and the word “hungry” on the back of her assignment when Raul grabbed the paper out from under her pen.

“Hey!”

Raul glared at her and walked back to his desk.

Rachael raised her hand to get the teacher’s attention, then noticed that Raul was holding a finger up to his lips.

“Yes, Rachael?” the teacher said.

She quickly thought of an excuse for raising her hand. “May I use the bathroom?”

Her teacher sighed and said, “Yes, Rachael. Next time, please use the toilet before you come back to class from recess.”

“I will, Miss Sorensen.”

Rachael went into the bathroom. When she came back, her homework was back on her desk, with the word “Visegrad” under the word “hungry.”

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Cover Update: Exotics #1: The Floating Menagerie

Now available at B&NAmazon, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s and more.

I’m sorry to keep changing these covers on you guys…but I have to find a way to make kind of matching covers for all five books.  Don’t worry, this should be the last one.  I’m updating book #2 in two weeks and book #3 will come out soon after that…!

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Sample Chapters from Exotics #1: The Floating Menagerie

Nobody knows what really happened when Rachael Baptiste’s mom disappeared a week ago. So when Rachael’s second-grade classmate Raul tries to break into her mom’s computer only to be chased away by giant talking dogs, she follows him into the night and discovers that Raul—and her mom—have caught a magical sickness that lets them turn into magical animals, or Exotics.

 A group of evil Exotics, the Shadow Dogs, kidnap Rachael and Raul to a mysterious ship and try to force them to tell them her mother’s secrets…but Rachael’s not talking. Instead, she’s trying to find a way to escape the ship and rescue the Exotic kids trapped on board, waiting to be sold as pets…or are they?

These chapters of Exotics #1: The Floating Menagerie will be here permanently.  You can find a full copy of the ebook online at B&NAmazon, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s and more.  The print book will be available at Amazon.com and more.

 

Chapter One

Rachael, who had just brushed her teeth and changed into green spotted pajamas and fuzzy pink slippers, was almost ready to kill the final wave of zombies on her video game when the doorbell rang.

From the kitchen where he was washing dishes after supper, her dad yelled, “Rachael! Will you check the door?”

“I’m on the last wave, dad!” she yelled back.

“Just push the pause button.”

“Please?”

“It’s your turn!”

That was true. Rachael pushed pause on the game, annoyed because it was never the same when you had to push pause all the time. Meanwhile, the person at the front door had started pushing the doorbell button over and over again and pounding on the door.

Rachael peeked out of the glass beside the door. Even though it was dark out and he should have been getting ready for bed, Raul was outside their door. He looked mad and scared at the same time.

“Open the door!” he yelled.

Rachael liked Raul, but he wouldn’t talk to her at school. They were both in Mrs. Sorensen’s second-grade class. Sometimes they played tag at recess, and she’d let him catch her. He was part of a club, the Animal Lovers’ Club, that met with Rachael’s mom at their house once a week (Tuesdays). Sometimes he would talk to her after the meeting, but mostly not.

Rachael unlocked the door. Raul rushed in, slammed the door behind him, and locked it.

“Your mom—” he said, too out of breath to say anything else.

“Nobody’s found her yet,” Rachael said. Rachael’s mom had disappeared a week ago, but Rachael was an ordinary girl who couldn’t do anything about it. So she tried not to think about it too much.

“Your mom’s computer. Hurry.”

Rachael said, “Why?”

“Just come on.” Raul led her upstairs to her mom’s office.

“What’s the matter?”

Raul still had his uniform on from school, and it was dirty, with bits of leaves stuck to his back. “Nothing,” he said.

Somebody banged into the front door like they had run right into it. Raul said a bad word and ran up the stairs really fast, leaving Rachael behind.

“Rachael,” her dad called. “Would you get that? Please?”

“Don’t open the door,” Raul said. He went inside the office.

The front door thudded again, and Rachael heard a cracking sound as the wood started to break.

Rachael,” her dad whined.

She ignored her dad and followed Raul into her mom’s office; she really didn’t want to open the door.

Raul was sitting at the computer desk, jiggling the mouse and saying more bad words. Rachael knew her mom’s password (she’d looked over her shoulder), but she wasn’t sure that she should give it to Raul.

Then the front door broke open and slammed against the wall. Rachael started to scream, but clapped her hands over her mouth to stop herself.

Raul jumped out of the chair. “I have to get out of here.”

“I’m coming, too,” Rachael said.

Raul almost growled at her. “Stay here. Hide in the closet, and they’ll leave you alone.”

“I said I’m coming too.”

Something barked loudly from downstairs like a really, really big dog.

Rachael’s dad said, “What is going on, Rachael? Are you messing around again?” Then he said, “Who broke the door? What are these dogs doing in here? Out! Out!”

Rachael opened the window into the back yard, where their gigantic dog, Ox, was barking and growling. “Go down the trellis,” she said. “Dad made it really strong in case of storms. Then jump onto the shed. There’s a big trash can on the other side.”

Rachael pulled out the window screen, and Raul slid out the window. She started to follow him.

“Go back,” he yelled.

Rachael stuck her slippers in the trellis, reached up, and slid the window shut the rest of the way, as quietly as she could. “Shh,” she said. “They’ll hear you.”

 

Chapter 2

 Raul banged down onto the shed, then jumped down to the trash can, knocking it over. Rachael followed him, quiet as a snake, then pointed toward the back gate. The gate led to a gap between Rachael’s back yard and their neighbor’s back yard. The gap, which was full of weeds and trees and stuff, ran all the way to the end of the block.

They tiptoed through the garden. The streetlights were so bright they almost covered up the stars.

Ox licked Rachael’s hand, then walked to stand under the office window, woofing to himself very quietly. Inside the house, Rachael’s dad yelled, and something crashed and broke.

Rachael reached the gate and opened it, and she and Raul left just as the upstairs window slammed open.

Rachael expected Ox to bark, but he went perfectly quiet and stood in the shadow of the shed.

Something stuck its head out the window. “I smell him,” it growled. There was something weird about its head.

Raul grabbed her arm. “If you’re going to come, then hurry up.”

Rachael followed Raul through the weeds I juas something thumped in the back yard. Suddenly, Rachael heard a big, angry bark from Ox as he attacked whatever had jumped out of the window. Raul pulled her arm even harder, so hard that she had a hard time following him and not tripping in the weeds.

Rachael heard another thump, and the sound of dogs fighting got even louder. Rachael’s dad screamed her name, but she and Raul kept running until they reached the sidewalk.

Raul started to head right, but Rachael grabbed his arm and jerked him back the other way. “We can cut across the dead end,” she whispered. She whispered because the crickets and leaves sounded too loud, like they were spying on them.

Raul ran with her up the street. Running uphill is always the worst, she thought. I always feel like I’m running through glue.

Ox yipped with pain then whimpered, and the back gate broke with a crash. A police siren started howling, far away. The wind blew harder for a second, making the leaves rustle all the way down the street, and Rachael ran even faster, passing Raul.

She was almost at the dead end when the animals reached the other end the street. They howled so loud that it drowned out the police siren, and Rachael couldn’t help but look, even though she knew it was a bad idea to slow down.

There were two black dogs—not quite as big as Ox, who was part Mastiff—at the bottom of the hill. A white truck with the words “Animal Control” stopped by the two black dogs. One of the dogs wagged its tail when it saw the truck.

Then Raul grabbed her again. “Which way? You stay here. Just tell me which way.”

Rachael pointed between two white houses. “Go that way. It comes out behind the school.”

Raul shoved through the bushes in front of one of the houses, making a lot of noise.

The two dogs started running up the street. It took them a lot less time than it had taken her and Raul. The dogs raced like two motorcycles speeding under the streetlights, they were zooming up the street so fast.

Rachael had been almost ready to give up the adventure—her dad would be scared out of his mind; he’d think she’d been kidnapped, just like her mom—but the way those dogs ran up the hill made her panic, so she ran after Raul.

She was a lot quieter, though.

 

Chapter 3

 Raul hissed at her from behind a tree. “Go home!”

They ducked under branches, climbed low fences, and got prickly plants stuck in their socks. It sounded like the two dogs were right behind them.

“No!” Rachael whispered. “They’ll eat me. What’s going on? Do you know where my mom is?”

“Shut up,” Raul said.

One of the dogs growled—but not from behind them, from in front of them.

“Oh, no,” Rachael whispered.

“Shut up!”

The other dog was behind them; Rachael could tell, because he growled, too.

“We’re going to have to turn left,” Raul said.

“Don’t,” Rachael whispered. “We’ll just come out on the football field. They’ll catch us for sure.”

“They’ll catch me,” Raul said. “You go home.”

“No.”

Raul sighed. “Close your eyes for a second.”

“Okay,” she said, but she didn’t.

It was even darker under the trees, and they were in the middle of a bunch of bushes, so she couldn’t see much. But she did see Raul bend over. He grunted, shook off his clothes, and changed into something else.

“You looked,” he growled.

“Wow. You’re a werewolf. But it’s not a full moon.”

“I’m not a werewolf,” Raul said. His voice sounded growly, but more like a puppy trying to sound tough than a scary monster noise. “Grab on.”

Rachael sat on Raul’s back, grabbed the fur on the back of his shoulders, and leaned forward. Raul started running so fast that she almost slid off. She grabbed on tighter and squeezed her legs together around Raul’s belly.

Raul turned to the right, running toward the playground behind the school and right past the big dog, which yipped in surprise. Raul ducked between the swings, under the monkey bars, over the teeter totters, and out the other side of the playground.

Even though Raul was carrying Rachael, the other dogs were falling behind, because they were too big to jump through the playground equipment. Raul, who was much more graceful as a wolf than as a kid, turned around the corner, almost spilling Rachael onto the sidewalk. She was feeling a little sick to her stomach, to tell the truth.

Raul ran onto the school’s front lawn, toward more houses. The two big dogs started to catch up to them.

Raul ran across a couple of empty lots and turned onto a narrow side street. The houses on this side of the school were packed together, with tall fences everywhere, so Raul couldn’t hide.

The white Animal Control van pulled into the street, blocking the way out. Behind them, the two dogs were almost close enough to knock her and Raul onto the ground.

Suddenly, Raul stopped, and the two dogs ran past him, unable to stop as fast as he had. Raul was panting so hard it sounded like he couldn’t breathe, and Rachael realized that carrying her had exhausted him. She should have let him go without her—he was going to get caught because of her. The two big dogs stopped and ran back toward Raul, guarding him.

Rachael rolled off his back and onto the street. Her whole body hurt from hanging on so hard. “I’m sorry, Raul,” she said. “I only followed you because I thought you might know what happened to my mom. I didn’t mean to get you caught.”

A man got out of the truck. He was wearing a blue-and-white shirt with what looked like a picture of a black dog on the pocket.

“Here, boy,” the man said, whistling at Raul. “Miss? You should stay back. That animal is dangerous. He might have rabies. Do you know what rabies is?” He pulled a long gun out of the van. “Don’t worry. This is a tranquilizer gun. It won’t hurt him; it’ll just put him to sleep.”

Rachael looked at Raul. Now that she could see him, he looked just like a really big wolf, only kind of skinny. The streetlights made his gray fur shine orange.

The man aimed the gun at Raul.

 

Chapter 4

 “Don’t shoot!” Rachael shouted.

The man ignored her and kept aiming the tranquilizer gun at Raul.

Raul whimpered.

Rachael made up her mind to do something to help Raul, because it was mostly her fault that he hadn’t been able to escape.

Rachael ran straight toward the man. “Help!” she yelled. She ran right in front of the man, waving her arms, then followed him when he tried to step to the side, staying between him and Raul. “Help me, mister! I was almost eaten by that wolf. He picked me up and dragged me all the way here!”

“I’ll help you, miss,” the man said, “if you’ll just get out of the way.”

“I don’t know what happened to my friend Raul,” Rachael said. “One minute he was there, the next minute, he had run away!” She yelled the last two words really loud, hoping Raul would get the hint. “Yeah, he must have run away!”

“Get out of the way!” the man shouted. He snapped his fingers twice.

Rachael heard something moving behind her. She looked around and saw the two dogs starting to circle her.

Rachael screamed. Where was everybody? Couldn’t anybody hear her?

A few lights went on in the houses nearby. The man said a bad word and waved his hand toward her while he aimed the gun at Raul.

Rachael screamed again and ran toward the man. “Help me, help me,” she sobbed. She didn’t have to try too hard to sound scared. “Now there are three big dogs attacking me.”

She heard the click of claws on the street behind her, then Raul was knocking her out of the way, charging the man, jumping onto his chest, and knocking him to the ground.

The two big dogs grabbed Raul with their teeth and tried to pull him off the man, who was moaning. Raul tried to bite the dogs, but they were both bigger than he was and knocked him to the side.

Rachael didn’t dare jump into that dogpile.

Then Rachael heard more barking as the sound of sirens got a lot louder and closer.

Suddenly, Ox rushed into the dogs and dragged one of them off Raul, shaking the bigger dog back and forth with his jaws.

“Ox!” Rachael yelled.

Raul and the other dog rolled off the man and attacked. Now that Raul wasn’t outnumbered, he was beating the bigger dog.

The man sat up and reached for his tranquilizer gun again.

Rachael heard a bark of pain and saw Ox cowering in front of the other dog. It looked like he was hurt, one paw held off the ground. The other dog was walking slowly toward Ox and growling.

Rachael was getting really, really mad. Ox was hurt, Raul was in trouble, her mom had disappeared a week ago and nobody knew where she was, and nobody would tell her why any of this was happening.

Rachael ran at the man, grabbing the long part of his gun. “Your dog is attacking my dog! Make him stop! Make him stop!”

The man tried to push her away, but she grabbed his gun and twisted it around like she’d learned in karate class. He was a lot stronger than she was, but Rachael could tell she was hurting him. She twisted harder. Her heart was beating so hard that she thought she was going to die—then the man finally dropped the gun, yelling and grabbing his hand.

Rachael felt something sting her leg. It hurt a lot—then stopped hurting. She looked down and saw something sticking out of her leg, probably one of the tranquilizer darts from the gun, full of sleepy medicine.

Shoot, she thought.

Suddenly, all she could see was the man’s face, which looked scared for some reason. Rachael tried to stay standing up, but she couldn’t. She was falling asleep, whether she liked it or not.



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Giveaway for Reviews: Guinea Pig Apocalypse

Would you like a free copy?  

The print version of Guinea Pig Apocalypse is up.  Yay!  You can order it online at Amazon or B&N, and probably a bajillion other online bookstores.

However, I could use some reviews.  I have a giveaway going on at LibraryThing right now; you can scroll down or do a search for “guinea” to find it (there are a lot of different giveaways–if you want free books, it’s a great reason to sign up for LT, because they do this every month).  For a limited time, I will also pass out ebook copies to anyone who drops me a line to request one, barring anything weird, like someone with a signature line that reads “violates copyright for fun and profit.”

 

Guinea Pig Apocalypse

by De Kenyon

What? It’s summer and you have kids who are bored? Who knew?!? Why not hand them a copy of this story to keep them amused? It’s a cute story, especially for those of use who are Guinea pig fans, but there’s no shortage of action (or poop). Parents with a sense of humor required, but I’m especially looking for reviews by kids aged 9-12. (If they’re younger, you may want to skim the book first.)

Galileo’s mad-scientist parents have done it again: invented something that got completely out of control. This time, it’s a matter replicator in their basement. And a squirrel army out to get rid of the humans. And lots…and LOTS of Guinea pigs out of sewage. Yuck!

Now it’s up to Galileo and his friend, the giant Guinea pig Max, to stop the pigs from being mind-controlled by the squirrels and taking over the world!

You can get the ebook of Guinea Pig Apocalypse at these online retailers, and more: AmazonKoboSmashwordsB&N, and Apple.

 

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New Kids’ Fiction: Guinea Pig Apocalypse

You can get Guinea Pig Apocalypse at these online retailers, with more to come: AmazonKoboSmashwords.  B&N had issues when I went to post the story so it’s running late, should be up tomorrow.  Amazon’s alllllmost there.  I can feel it.

Pleeeeaase keep in mind that this is middle-grade fiction, ages 9-13 or so, and read this before giving to kids younger than that.  Some Guinea pigs die, and the word “poop” is used a goodly amount.

Guinea Pig Apocalypse, by De Kenyon

Guinea Pig Apocalypse

by De Kenyon

Galileo’s mad-scientist parents have done it again: invented something that got completely out of control.  This time, it’s a matter replicator in their basement.  And a squirrel army out to get rid of the humans.  And lots…and LOTS of Guinea pigs out of sewage.  Yuck!

Now it’s up to Galileo and his friend, the giant Guinea pig Max, to stop the pigs from being mind-controlled by the squirrels and taking over the world!

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New Story: The Mighty Mountain of Theornin

 

The Mighty Mountain of Theornin, by De Kenyon

The Mighty Mountain of Theornin

by De Kenyon

Astra knows what she’s good at: thieving, tricking, and hitting people with rocks. Especially the mayor’s bullying son, after he makes fun of her. She also knows what she’s not good at: being a girl. Not the kind of girl that lives in the tiny mountain village of Theornin, anyway.

So logically that means making Wizard Jorphen change her into a boy.

But the mayor’s already pushing Wizard Jorphen around to do something else: stopping a mountain from growing under the village and pushing everyone out. Except the only way to stop a mountain from growing might kill Astra’s only friend.

(For kids 8-12.)

“Now, what I want you to do is spell them off. Or just keep them from getting bigger.” Astra held her breath. Didn’t matter how good a plan was, if some adult didn’t approve of it.

Sure enough, Wizard Jorphen said, “No.”

She slammed her fist on the heavy, black-wood table, which made the dishes rattle but didn’t move the table one bit. He was looking up at her all steady and serious. His dirty, dark blue robe sparkled with stars; as she looked, she thought she saw one twinkle and slide over the skinny bone at the top of his shoulder. He had big blue eyes and yellow hair and a fake beard that was coming loose again.

“Then make me a boy so I can grow up to be a man, and they can all quit bothering me. I don’t want to learn how to cook or clean up after people. I don’t want to go out in the fields and dig and hoe and pull weeds and get the sun in my eyes and the bugs in my throat. I want to go to Newmarket and steal for a living. Why don’t anybody believe me when I say I’ll send money back?”

“No,” he said.

She hit the table again, but this time the whole house shook around them, and she had to grab the table to stay steady. They’d been having a lot of earthquakes lately, the first ever in the history of Theornin village. The old clay jar at the end of the Wizard Jorphen’s bookshelf started to tip off the side of the shelf, right over his head. She jumped up so her foot was on the table and hit the pot away from his head. The jar smashed against the stone wall, busted-up clay flying everywhere.
Astra stood on the table and braced the row of books before they could slide off. “I told you not to sit there. Now can we take the books down?”

Wizard Jorphen ignored her and crouched down on the floor next to where the jar had smashed. Astra started taking books off the shelf and dropping them on the one clear spot on the table, in a stack. He was just lucky his dirty dishes hadn’t slid off the table, was all. He was running out of dishes. At least she’d put all the jars in the cellar were on the floor, so they should be all right. She should of just said she wasn’t going to work for him anymore, last time she’d paid off all the favors he’d done her. He was so stubborn. He could find someone else to do chores for him. And be his friend.

“You could have just caught it.” He picked up a few of the larger pieces. “Now I’ll have to make time to fix it.”

“Why? There wasn’t anything in it, and it was ugly as a snake.”

He sighed. “I was going to put something in it. Someday.”

“Well, at least leave these books on the table ‘till the earthquakes are over, all right?”

He twisted around, a stack of jar pieces in one hand that he set on the table. He blinked and swayed on his dirty knees.

“Your eyes are real red,” she said. “Are you sick?”

“Just tired. The earthquakes aren’t going to stop, Astra. A mountain is growing under our village.”

She blinked. A mountain? Mountains grew? “When’ll it be over?”

“Never. Theornin will either have to move or slide down the mountain.”

Buy now at Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo, and more to come.

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New story: The Boy Who Would Not Fall Asleep

This story’s exclusive to Amazon for now.  Click here to check it out; it’s free for now if you have Amazon Prime.

The Boy Who Would Not Sleep

by De Kenyon

In the woods, Nickolas’s father tells him stories to pass the time as they cut down trees…but one story, he won’t tell. Not until Nickolas grows old enough to hear it. Finally, the time comes: the men in Nickolas’s family were always good at cutting things, but in older times, they were too good, and did monstrous things, eventually angering a local dragon.

The dragon cursed the men of their family to fall into a deep sleep that lasts from fall to spring, like a bear’s. And in their dreams, they must serve the dragon.

More than that, Nickolas’s father will not say.

Now, Nickolas is eating enough for many men…and getting sleepier with every step. The townswomen think it’s funny, but Nickolas has made up his mind: he will not sleep.

No matter what the cost.

(Ages 11-13.)

When Nickolas was a young boy following his father into the woods in order to carry his water while his father cut trees, his father would tell all kinds of stories of dragons and knights and fighting, and Nickolas enjoyed those stories very much. However, there was one story that his father would not tell him.

Nickolas would beg for a new story, and his father would say that he only had one story that he hadn’t told him yet. “But Nickolas, I am saving this story for you, and when it is time I will tell you.”

Nickolas grew older and older, and his father showed him how to use the ax to strip off branches, to cut away bark.

But he would not let him cut down a tree, not by himself. “There will be time,” his father said. “After you hear the story.”
“Soon?” Nickolas asked.

At first, his father had laughed and said, “Not so soon,” and told him the old stories again.

But then it changed to “soon,” and then “very soon now,” until finally his father said, “Now it is time to hear the last story, Nickolas, during the noon meal.”

They worked all morning, until finally it was time to eat. Every mouthful felt like it was going to choke Nickolas, for he could barely swallow.

“Once upon a time,” his father said, because that was the way he started his stories, “our family was cursed by a dragon.”

“A dragon!” Nickolas said. “I don’t believe it.”

“You better watch out for what you believe and what you don’t believe, young man,” said his father, who smiled until the tips of his teeth showed. “It will only get you in trouble. If I tell you our family was cursed by a dragon, then that’s what happened.”

“Yes, Father,” Nickolas said.

“Our family was cursed by a dragon for being…more than a little rambunctious. Wild. You see, when our family was young, we had no patience, no love of family, nothing but a desire to cut trees, to cut and cut and cut. Our family was so mad about cutting trees that we cut down the whole forest.”

Nickolas was surrounded by trees, trees so tall and thick that it seemed like the sun set hours early and rose hours late, it was so shaded and dim. Yet he knew better than to argue with his father that day.

“This was many, many hundreds of years ago,” his father added. “And the trees have all grown back.”

“Obviously,” said Nickolas, which earned him a pinch on the ear from his father. “Ow!”

Read more here.

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