Shape Changer

Trees and snowChill wind howls through the mountain peaks and tall pines, calling in the cold like a shrill old woman. Darkness fell barely an hour ago but the warmth of the day is now long gone.

You huddle against the rock wall at your back and extend your fingers toward the warm fire before you. Its heat radiates off the stone, helping to stave off the chill.

Your contact is late. You’re expecting a grizzled old man who boasts bright red hair sprinkled with a healthy serving of white. Although you’ve never met the man, Vincent’s descriptions are usually exact, his attention to detail rarely failing.

It’s unusual for a contact to be late. You shift slightly sideways to let the fire warm your leg. If someone hires your services, it means they’re desperate and desperate people don’t tend to want to insult you by making you wait.

You shift to the other side and reach for the clay mug that sits on a stone next to the fire. A groan of appreciation escapes you as you sip the strong coffee. Half an hour longer, you decide, and then you’ll leave, just long enough to finish your coffee.

Trees and Night SkyYou’re swallowing the last of the coffee dregs when the snap of someone stepping on a dead branch echoes off the rock wall. Not long after, there’s a sniffle, probably from the person’s nose being cold.

A few seconds more and the expected, grizzled man steps from the dark line of trees.

He pauses, taking in your fire, your pack that sits beside you, and the weapons along with it, and finally yourself. He fidgets with the edge of his coat.

“Join me,” you say with a gesture at the other side of your small fire.

He bobs a nervous bow and sits. Like the warmth overrides all caution, he slides his hands free of his gloves and stretches them toward the flames. An ‘ah’ of relief sighs from between his lips.

“Quite the meeting place you picked,” you comment.

“Had to keep it remote.” He glances over his shoulder as though, even this far out, he’s nervous about being watched.

Not one to waste time, you ask, “What is the item you need retrieved?”

“Not what,” he says and leans closer, “but who.”

You give a questioning look.

“Arion Westfall was kidnapped a week ago by the Eastbrooks.”

You lean back against the stone wall and eye the man. You saw Westfall at the Winter Festival two nights ago. Is he playing you for some reason?

As though he notices your reaction, he continues speaking, “So far we’ve been able to keep the kidnapping quiet. We’ve used his double, the boy we have stand in at large speeches and such, to make general appearances. But Westfall’s supposed to attend the Princess’ birthday in three days and she’ll know it’s not him. If the princess finds out, she’ll name him an incompetent and choose another champion. The Westfall’s will be ruined.”

“The families kidnap each other all the time and, through ransoms, regain their children on a regular basis. What’s different this time?” you ask.

“No ransom’s been asked. In fact, no one’s claimed responsibility.”

“Then how do you know it was the Eastbrooks?”

He looks away and fiddles with the edge of his coat again. You simply wait for an answer. You’re good at waiting.

Finally he admits, “The Eastbrook boy boasted at the Winter Festival that he’d be the new Champion soon.”

“That’s your proof?”

He nods.

“Three days? That’s my time frame?” you ask.

He nods again.

“Deal,” you say.

Relief washes from his face, into his shoulders as they droop, and then down the rest of his body.

“Payment’s been delivered already?”


Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots

“At the Morrowtown Inn,” he confirms, “Vincent was specific on the details.” During the conversation he’d relaxed, leaning closer to the small fire. Now, he backs up a step as though this last comment reminds him of exactly who he’s dealing with.

You grin and shove your mug into your pack. He takes this as the dismissal that it is and starts to back away. At the tree line he pauses.

“You can do it, right?” he asks.

Your grin grows wider, almost feral, “we shall see.”

He gulps and turns away.

You finish snuffing out the fire while you consider the options. The Eastbrook castle is familiar to you as it’s not the first time you’ve retrieved something from it, but the grizzled man didn’t have a lot for you to go on. The Eastbrook’s could be keeping Westfall in their tower because of his status or in their dungeons because they want him to disappear.

Depending on those locations, your infiltration method will be different. Do you decide to check the Tower or the Dungeon first?

A. Tower?


B. Dungeon?

Post in the comments which option you’d like to try. Next Thursday I’ll post the next part to the adventure and we’ll see where it takes us!



Blessed by Kickstarter Success!

The Adventure Kickstarter came to a close yesterday, 109% funded. The generosity and support people gave this last month warms my heart. I really didn’t know what to expect when I launched the project and the response I got seriously brings tears to my eyes, like a giant hug from everyone I’ve met and even people I haven’t met over the years. As an author, it’s all about relationship, about caring about the audience you hope to engage.

When I set up The Adventure Kickstarter, I thought 30 days would move too quickly and, in a way, it did. However, on the other hand, 30 days was plenty for a Crowdfunding campaign. Kickstarter advises 30-60 days. I honestly can’t imagine how exhausting 60 days would be.

There’s a momentum, an enthusiasm, to it that needs to be maintained. Some days that’s easy, other days, when the Kickstarter is quiet, this requires a lot of self motivation and discipline because it feels like throwing yourself into a void.

But overall, there was a resounding response from the void. For that, I thank everyone. By now you know writing has been a dream of mine for years. Now that dream is coming true in large part because of all of you.

So, November 30th, The Adventure will be available on Amazon. I can’t say how amazing that is to me. I’ll keep you updated as things progress.

Until then, Blessings,


P.S. Hope you have a wonderful Halloween! Be safe out there.


All righty then! It’s July and time for the adventure to return to its regular schedule. This new one seems to be a mix between Alice in Wonderland and the Dresden Files. Let’s see where it takes us.


He looks like a toad, short, squat and rather large lipped with a squishy face. You don’t usually have such a reaction to people but the poor man at your door seems to embody his ugliness like he’s proud of it.

“Do I have your name right?” he whistles through his teeth.

cabin-2-1503914“Y-e-s,” you draw the word out. No one visits you, not way out here where it takes a four-wheel drive vehicle almost two hours to reach your door.

Toad man definitely came equipped. The truck sitting behind him pops as it cools. Its hood sits almost even with the top of his head.

“You are the recipient of James Levi’s estate,” he pulls out a large roll of paper from his satchel and stuffs it in your face. “Sign pages three, eleven, sixteen and twenty two.”


He just stares at you, still holding the papers.

“I don’t know a James Levi,” you say.

“He states in his will the estate must go to another hermit. Namely, you. You are the only other hermit.” The way he says this last bit makes it sound like you’re the only other hermit ever. Odd man.

Being a hermit, you don’t exactly care for confrontation. You sigh and start signing. When you’re done, he stuffs the entire stack of papers back into his bag and hands over a single page. On it you find an address.

“Enjoy,” toad man spins on his heel and climbs back into his truck, using a stepladder he pulls from the floorboard to reach the seat.

You read the address in your hand.

Yuck. That’s farther out there than your small cabin. Too far to make it to today. Tomorrow morning it is.


Even leaving before dawn, you reach James Levi’s estate well after noon. Whoever this man was, he really didn’t want any visitors. You suspected as much, so you loaded up your four-wheeler into the bed of your truck the night before.

Now you’re truck sits alone, left on the road ten miles back, because the road narrowed so much you couldn’t fit the Chevy through the trees.

You cut the engine to the four-wheeler and simply sit on it for a bit. You’re in the middle of nowhere, literally surrounded by forest and mountains with barely a trail leading to the place, and before you rises a flipping castle.

castle-1232067How in all that’s Holy did James Levi build such a beast?




Full on medieval castle.

You shake your head and dismount the four-wheeler. On your back you carry a backpack with basic supplies for the night since you’re so far out from even your own cabin.

A tiny footbridge crosses the moat and gives access to the gate.

You’re suspicious by nature, so you kneel down and check under the bridge. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. Nothing happens when you cross, your heels making soft thuds on the wooden planks, but when you reach the far side, the bridge gives a shudder.

You step onto solid ground and immediately, the bridge breaks in two and lifts into the air like a toll bridge, cutting you off from the other side.

“Hello?” you holler.

Your voice echoes and dies but no one responds.

Someone’s out there, though, you’ve got that itch against the back of your neck like a spider’s climbing your skin. You shiver and approach the gate. A small intercom graces the right side. You press the red button and it gives off a buzzzzzz.

Moments pass, then, “Go away,” crackles out of the speaker.

“Um, can’t,” you respond. “The bridge is up.”

“Dumb bridge. All right, come in.”

There’s another buzz and the gate rattles upward.

Flipping medieval castle. When it’s high enough, you duck under and step into the courtyard beyond.

“Careful of the pansies,” the speaker pops. “They’ll eat you alive.”

“What?” you ask.

The speaker doesn’t respond.

You scan the courtyard and find pansies, tulips, geraniums, and a variety of other flowers you don’t recognize scattered around the yard.

“Perhaps we should skirt the outside of the yard,” says a voice behind you.

You spin but there’s no one there. You spin in a full circle and still don’t see anyone.

“Can we please stop that, it’s making me dizzy.”

You freeze. Then, with two fingers, you pinch the strap of you pack and slide it from your shoulders.

It’s a simple thing. Green with only two outside pockets and a main zipper that follows the full front of the pack.

“Much better.”

The zipper’s closed but as these words come from your most trusted pack, it unzips and rezips without the need of the zipper car.

Take it in stride, you try to calm your racing heart.

“Skirt the outside?” you ask.

“No pansies,” zip, zip.

So do you…

A. Follow the pack’s advice?


B. Run Away Screaming?

Inheritance Option A: Follow the Pack’s Advice

The world’s gone completely topsy turvy. Maybe you’ve been alone for too long and it addled your brain but, if you’re addled anyway, you may as well have fun with it, right?

“All right,” you agree with the pack and pick it back up, throwing only one strap over a shoulder. “Watch my back,” you tease.

“Absolutely!” zip, zip. The pack doesn’t catch your tone.

pansy-1398202Upon your first step, all the flowers swivel to ‘look’ at you. The pansies in particular seem to lean forward as though they’re picking up your scent.

“No funny business,” you say to them.

They nod their heads and give off a “hehehehe” that sends chills down your spine. The other flowers knock heads with the pansies and emit a ‘shhhhh’.

“That’s just creepy,” you mutter.

“Indeed!” agrees your pack, which isn’t comforting at all as you can feel it mimicking your shudder.

By now you’ve reached the door on the right hand side of the courtyard and you slip inside before the stares of the flowers can creep you out any more.

Inside’s dark. Faint light filters through windows high up on the walls, but it’s so weak that it only glints off of the frames of the pictures on the walls. It doesn’t show you what kinds of pictures are displayed.

You step forward until you’re past the first set of glinting frames. You don’t make it another step before your pack shudders.

“Hey Boss,” it says, “they’re watching us.”

So many questions run through your head.

“How can you tell? You haven’t got eyes.” Then, before the pack answers, “Who’s watching us?”

“The flowers in the pictures.”

“Any pansies?”

daisies-1479802“No, just daisies so far.”

Sheesh! This is ridiculous, but you can’t keep wandering blindly.

“Ask them where the office is.”

“Office?” zip zip.

“Looking to see if this James Levi left a note, instructions, something.”

“Oh, okay. Hello Daisies.” The walls giggle. “Can you tell us where the office is?”

“Up the stairs and to the right,” the walls sing, “but it’s guarded day and night. Perhaps you should go up the stairs and to the left. You can cross the balcony if you’re deft.”

Or daft, you think, but don’t say it.

“Guarded by what?” you ask.

“Guarded by what?” you pack asks the walls.

“Rugs and pictures, lights and halls,” the song echoes with the daisies’ delight.

You shudder.

So, upstairs…

Aa. Right?


Ab. Left?

Inheritance Option Ab: Go Left

The idea of the very walls guarding the office freaks you out. What’ll they do, start moving?

“Think the daisies are telling the truth?” you mutter to your pack.daisies-1479802

It shrugs. “Not sure they’re smart enough to mislead you, Boss. They have this very vacant look on their faces.”

Great. Flowers have faces and they can look vacant. Learn something new all the time. But then again, how can your pack tell? It still has no eyes.

“I’ve gone crazy,” you mutter.

“Certifiably,” your pack agrees.

You refrain from answering as you reach the bottom of the stairs.

They’re narrow but at the top you can see a vaulted ceiling and what appears to be a large, open hallway lit by sunlight. Compared to where you’re standing now, that hallway looks inviting.

Perhaps too inviting.

“Left it is,” you say. At the top of the stairs you pause and look both ways. The hallway to the right boasts big windows that show the internal courtyard of the castle. The sunlight streaming through is what lit the stairs from below.

In an odd lack of symmetry, the left hand hall has no windows but is lit with the soft glow of candles.

“Seems like a trap,” zip, zip.

You agree. You just hope you’re guessing correctly on which way is the most dangerous.

Squaring your shoulders, you step into the left hand hallway. Nothing moves, nothing speaks up. You’re almost to the end of the hallway where it takes a turn to the right when your pack clears its throat.

“What?” you ask.

“The candles like you,” your pack whispers.

candlestick-1252787You glance back. Instead of the small candles you just passed, you find a single candlestick as tall as yourself. Even as you watch, another candle hops off the wall and joins the big candle, congealing into it like mud into mud.

“It likes me?” you ask.

“It wants you to ask it to join you,” your pack whispers.

“Why are you whispering?”

“It freaks me out!”

The candle has no eyes or mouth. The flame at the top burns brighter as more candles amble over to join it while you consider. It is kind of nerve wracking because you can feel it watching you, somehow.

“Join me?” you ask, deciding a friend could be super useful.

The candle jumps up and down like an excited puppy. The flame at the top bobs and it splatters soft wax over the floor before hopping forward to stand beside you.

You put a step between yourself and the candle and then proceed to the turn in the hallway.

There’s no light. It’s so black you can’t see more than ten feet ahead.

“Glad I invited you,” you comment to the candle. It waddles forward to light your path and bounces on its silver frame while it waits for you to catch up.

“It’s making me dizzy,” your pack grumbles.

You ignore it.

The hall leads to a single door. On the other side you stop to adjust to the sunlight streaming in the bay windows.

The candle stops in the hallway.

“Thank you,” you say.

It bounces up and down and then places itself squarely in the doorway. Behind it vague shapes move in the dark but they don’t come forward into the light of the candlestick.

“Still creep you out?” you ask the pack.

“Not so much,” it responds.

On the far side of the room, you open the windows and peek out. There, to your right, is the balcony the daisies spoke of. The sketchy part is the stretch of about six feet between the bay window and the railing of the balcony. There’s nothing but brick wall to hang onto in between and the balcony sits above the window.

No matter how you consider it, you’re going to have to push off and grab ahold of that railing.

“Don’t fall,” zip, zip.


All you need right now is a reminder. You climb out of the window and stretch toward the balcony with the fingers of your right hand on the frame of the window.

Nerves make your fingers sweat.

balcony-1507143Focus on that railing, you tell yourself.

If you’re deft. The flower’s words run through your mind.

I’m definitely daft. You decide and push off from the window.

You left hand slaps against the metal of the railing. The sweat on your palm makes the grip slick but you latch on and grunt as your weight falls on that arm. In a moment you swing your right arm around and grasp ahold with both hands.

Now for a pull up. 

Perhaps it’s the adrenaline, but it’s the easiest pull up of your life. You slide over the railing and crash against the floor of the balcony.

“You’re squishing me!” your pack complains.

You groan and roll over to push to your feet. The office proves to be a lushly furnished affair with heavy oak shelving and desk. In the middle of the empty desk sits a letter.


Congratulations for making it this far. Most don’t make it past the pansies.  

And Welcome to the Castle of Other. While within the moat, anything may have animation. Your task is to protect it. Some will reward you richly for watching out for them. The candles and dishes in particular will thank you for your guardianship. (Ask the dishes for a nice steak, medium rare. It’s the best I’ve ever tasted.)

The rugs and certain flowers will not thank you but they will tolerate you as long as you show them discipline and courtesy. The rugs hate and fear fire. So always take a candle with you and keep the rugs clean and they’ll leave you alone. 

You are the only person I trust to watch out for this treasure. You understand solitude and discipline. If you choose to walk away, tell the Bridge and Mr. Toad to drain the moat. All of this will cease to exist. 

If you choose to stay, there are treasures beyond imagining here but they require your diligence. Tell the Candles you’re staying and they’ll show you the ropes.

Yours truly,
James Levi

You gulp.

Do you…

Ab1: Stay


Ab2: Leave

Inheritance Option Ab1: Stay 

“So if I leave, you stop talking to me,” you muse to your pack.

“Um,” it shifts on your shoulders, “true, I guess, but wouldn’t that be akin to killing me?”

“Not sure you’re truly alive,” you say.

“Oh, but I am. Would you like me to explain?”

“No,” you pick up the letter and flip it over. There’s nothing on the other side. “I need to find a candlestick to show me around.”family-letter-in-1920-1-1553589

“Oh, yippee,” zip, zip, “you’re not going to perform a pack murder.”


You open the office doors and study the bright halls lit by streaming sunlight, realizing that in all the dark halls requiring candlelight, the floors are bare. Here, there’s a long, red, green and brown rug running most of the hallway.

“Let’s find a candlestick,” you tell the pack. “Think this hallway’s safe since I’m coming from the inside?”

“No, probably not, but maybe if you walk along the side of the hallway and not on the rug, it’ll leave you be.”

You follow the pack’s advice but only a step in and the wall against your side bulges outward, hits your hip and sends you stumbling onto the rug.

You give an “argh!” of surprise and try to jump over to the other side. It doesn’t work as the wall on that side has bulged out as well.

The rug shudders and moves, offsetting your balance even more and you hit the floor. In a move so fast you have trouble recalling exactly how it happened, the rug curls around you and rolls up into a neat burrito. You go thud, thud, thud down the entire hallway until you’re so wrapped up that your arms are tight against your sides and it’s hard to breath.

persian-rug-1232276Then there’s a deep, ringing laugh of glee from the thing.

“Well, this is lovely,” zip, zip high up on your shoulders. In the tussle, the pack shifted to sit almost even with the back of your head. It wriggles and the rug laughs like it’s being tickled.

“Can you get free?” you ask.

“Working on it,” zip, zip.

In moments, the pack flops to the floor beside your head. The rug tries to slap an end onto it but your pack scrunches and slides farther down the hall.

“Sorry good chap,” it tells the rug, “But you’re all caught up with someone else.” Then to you, “Be back in a jiff with one of those bright fellows.”

Since when did your pack have an English accent? You can’t say but you watch as it shuffles its way down the hall. It’s one of the oddest things you’ve ever seen.

Like the rug’s frustrated at losing part of its prey, it tightens even more around you.

“Hey,” you complain.

It squeezes and you shift your face right and left, trying to add wiggle room. It doesn’t work but you notice something when you turn left.

The edge of the rug by your shoulder is fraying. This gives you an idea.

“Let me go,” you tell the rug, “or I’ll unravel you.”

It laughs again, that deep, almost belly laugh of delight.


You grab a few fibers with your teeth and pull. This is going to take forever but it’s not like you have anything else to do. You keep pulling until you get a good, solid strand that actually starts to pull more of the edge loose.

There’s a shudder and an odd gasp of what sounds like weeping.

“Let me go or I’ll continue,” you tell the rug.

It loosens and then, just as quickly as it captured you, the rug unravels and sends you sailing into the office door.

When you look up, you see a person-sized candlestick standing at the far end of the hallway. Your pack sits on the floor beside it, candles-1199910almost like it’s standing up.

“Well done, Boss,” it zips.


Hoping to start on good terms, you repair the carpet from the small sewing kit in your pack.

Then the candle shows you the castle, you get a steak and see the treasures of the place.

You end up moving that one carpet in particular because even with a candle, it always trips you on the way to the office.

Other than that, you end up great friends with all the flowers because you enjoy gardening. The pansies do try to burry your feet. They seem to think you need to be planted, but they never try to eat you. Your pack on the other hand, they love to try to eat. It turns into a game figuring out where the pack gets buried. It complains incessantly but it stays your trusty pack.

The End

Congratulations on surviving the Castle! The adventure will be back on 26th. Until then, have a wonderful week.




It’s time for a new adventure!

To recap if you missed the previous few weeks, I helped last semester with my nieces’ and nephew’s Creative Writing class. So now, each one of them has a full adventure story to share! Their imaginations humble me.

This week it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Haylee:

In her own words:

Hello! My name is Haylee. I am seven years old, and in second grade. I’m small, but fierce! My favorite book is The Puppy Place, Goldie.

This is the first story I’ve ever finished writing, I hope you enjoy it!

And now on to the start of her adventure.


You are sailing in the pacific ocean when there is a storm and you crash on an island. It is just you and your parents on the boat.
You get knocked over when you crash.

Getting up, you realize the mast is covering the hatch. The hatch is the only way into the bottom of the boat where your parents are.

You climb over broken bits of the ship to get to the hatch and bang on it to see if your parents are alive. “Help!” You hear them yell.  

You shout back, “I will try to find a way to get you out.”

Searching for a wedge, you suddenly feel hands grabbing your arms. You turn your head and see ten bandits!

Do you:

A: Scream and fight?


B: Go with them quietly?

Shipwrecked Option A: Fight


You are angry that your parents are stuck and you won’t let them out of your sight so you can’t go quietly with these bandits. You took eight years of karate. Spinning around, you roundhouse kick and knock them all off their feet. This surprises them so much that half of them are stunned and the other half of them are knocked out! So you grab a rope as fast as you can and tie them up. Next do you:

Aa. Talk to them?


Ab. Send them sailing on pieces of the wreckage?

Shipwrecked Option Aa: Talk to Themtrapdoor-handle-1472740

You need to know more about the island so you take their masks off, and you talk to the bandits. When you take their masks off, you realize that they are your long lost friends, so you untie them and give hugs and remember that they had been sailing too and never came home. They help you open the hatch and your parents are thirsty. You stay on the island because you all feel happy there.

The End

Yay! Well done on finding a happy ending. Thank you, Haylee, for sharing.

Next week I’ll introduce you all to Caleb and you’ll get to explore his adventure. Until then, have a wonderful week =)