Category Archives: inspiration
It’s the middle of the Corgi-Versary celebration, and what better way than to add some “Verse”? Here are four limericks introducing the four main characters of the series:
He was afraid of things right and left.
But he put away fear
And perked up his ear
And discovered the cause of the theft.
Whose demeanor left her quite happy.
Her favorite thing was her food,
Her bed, toys, and scarf, too—
Loving everything, she squealed, loud and yappy.
Lived in her secure, text-messaging world.
But a burglar broke in
And stifled her grin,
Leaving her teenage world all awhirl.
Like a detective, he knows where to look.
He’ll solve any crime
With just enough time
To read to Zeph from his new comic book.
Dancing With Bear, the publisher of Corgi Capers, is hosting a Valentine’s Day Giveaway! To enter, visit http://www.dancingwithbearpublishing.com. You can win dinner for two and sweets for your Sweet. (Sorry, but family of authors are not allowed to win.)
Don’t forget about the Corgi Capers giveaway and other opportunities, which are running all month:
To kick off the Corgi-Versary Celebration, I’m offering the first chapters of the novel for free–right here on my blog. I hope you enjoy! If you’d like to read more, check out the links at the end of this post.
A Princess’ Premonition
In the little Pennsylvania town of Stoney Brook, at the end of a rocky road, was a place where the crickets chirped just a little louder. A place where the summer grass smelled just a little sweeter. A place called Pickwick Farm. Pickwick Farm was home to two people, twelve chickens, two goats, three sheep, a horse, and six dogs.
Six corgis, to be exact.
On this cool August morning, one of the dogs, Owl, was already awake. He patrolled the farm faithfully by the side of his favorite Person, Farmer Pickwick.
“We’ve got to make sure the farm is in order,” Farmer Pickwick told Owl. “We’ll have some special visitors today.”
Owl barked twice and twirled around in the dewy grass.
Inside the small farmhouse, four sleeping puppies and their mother heard Owl’s excited barks. They yelped and jumped up all at once. Their warm comforter became a tangle of paws and ears.
Sparkles, their mother, stretched and turned over. “Go back to sleep, puppies,” she yawned.
The largest puppy plopped down next to her, cuddling on the comforter. “Good boy, One,” Sparkles said. One, the first to be born, was the largest and most obedient puppy.
“Three and Four,” Sparkles called. “Back to sleep!”
Four, the smallest of the puppies and the only female, was tugging on one of Three’s tall ears. She wagged her tail and bit down hard. Three yelped and skittered back to the comforter to cuddle next to his brothers. Four’s ears darted back, and she ran in frustrated circles near the stove.
“I want to play, play, play!” she yelped.
But Sparkles and the other puppies ignored Four. Before long she sulked back to the comforter to talk to her favorite brother.
“Three, Three, Three!” she cried.
“Go back to sleep,” Three said.
Three fought drooping eyelids. “Why?”
“I have a feeling about today.”
“What kind of feeling?”
“Like something special’s going to happen. And I dreamed a strange word.”
Three’s eyes popped open. “What word?” he asked, his tail wagging.
“Princess,” Four said. “What does it mean?”
Three wanted very much to discuss Four’s new word, but he had to be quiet: footsteps echoed on the stairs.
“Shhhh,” Sparkles whispered. “Here come our People.”
“I said the word was princess,” Four pouted. “What does it mean? Tell me, tell me, tell me!”
But before Three could answer, Grandma Pickwick appeared at the kitchen door. The puppies ran over to greet her, their tails wagging and their ears pressed happily back against their heads. And in the excitement, even Four forgot all about her strange new word.
~ ONE ~
A Lucky Break
Adam Hollinger was the last boy left at practice. Again. Patrick, Coach Harris’ son, sat next to him in the shade under the bleachers. The two were covered in dust from the field. A clay-red skid mark stained Patrick’s pants from his slide into third. The boys’ Lancaster Reds baseball hats were lined with sweat from the morning’s practice. While Coach Harris spoke on his cell phone, the boys read the newest edition of The Adventures of Logan Zephyr and the Stellar Squadron. This volume was titled Logan and the Sapphire Kingdom.
“Why?” Adam asked.
“It’s where Logan Zephyr finds a space dog.”
“A space dog? Cool!” Adam smiled, looking at the green puppy with three tails and two antennas.
“Wouldn’t it be cool to have a space dog as a pet?” Patrick asked.
“It’d be cool to have any dog,” Adam sighed. “My parents have been promising me a dog for over a year now.”
“Why don’t you get one, then?”
“Dad doesn’t really want one. He’s always busy with his architecture business. Mom says it’s hard for him to be working for himself. He’s always either in his office or meeting with clients. Every time I mention a dog, Dad changes the subject. Besides, my parents don’t think Courtney’s responsible enough.”
Patrick laughed. “I don’t think your sister’s responsible enough, either!”
Patrick had known Adam long enough to see Courtney’s bad attitude worsen since she started middle school.
“I think my mom would like a dog, though,” Adam said. “She had one when she was a kid. If we could only convince Dad…”
“Speaking of your mom,” Patrick said. “Where do you think she is?”
Adam shrugged. “I don’t think she’s ever been on time.”
A tall shadow blocked the sunlight, and the boys looked up to see Coach Harris standing over them. He had finished his phone conversation.
“Well, boys.” He sounded disappointed. “That was Bryce’s mother. I found out why Bryce wasn’t at practice today.”
“What happened, Dad?” Patrick asked.
“Last night Bryce was skateboarding. He fell and broke his wrist. His doctor told him he won’t be able to pitch for the rest of the season.”
“He’s going to miss Autumn League?” Adam asked.
Autumn League was the post-season travel league made up of the best players in each region. The biggest honor for players Adam’s age was to be selected for the all-star team.
Coach Harris sighed.
“He was our secret weapon,” Patrick sighed. “He could strike out anyone!”
“Our games start in just a week,” Adam added. “What’ll we do?”
“The only thing we can do. We’ll find someone else on the team who can pitch.” Coach got a little sparkle in his eye. “While we’re here waiting, let’s give your arm a try, Adam.”
Adam’s ears turned bright red, something they did when he was embarrassed or nervous. “Me? Pitch?” He was an outfielder. He’d always been an outfielder.
“Sure, why not?” Coach insisted. He was halfway to the field, catcher’s mitt already on his hand.
Adam shuffled out from under the bleachers. He pulled on his red cap and gave Patrick his comic book. “I guess I’ll have to finish reading this later.”
“You can borrow it,” said Patrick. “I’d give just about anything — even my limited edition Logan Zephyr comic — to see you try to pitch!”
Want to read more?
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at Corgi Capers. If you’d like to read more, you can purchase the book at the following locations:
Note: this post was written in response to Yoda’s post.
My favorite time of year is Christmastime. It’s the end of the year, and my Person gets to stay home for like a week and a half, and I get to follow her around the house, and I get to play almost all the time. It makes me so happy, I feel like a kid at Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!
The best thing about Christmas is the tree. It’s this giant, glowing plaything my Person puts up just for me. She hangs these things at the bottom for me to play with. She calls them “Unbreakable, just for you.” I don’t know why. But when I get excited, I knock them off and push them around with my nose. Then I get to watch as my person digs them out from under the tree and hangs them back up again for me. It’s a fun game!
The other best thing about Christmastime is that my stupid brother is afraid of everything—for a change! He won’t even come near the tree. He watches me from atop the stairs, and it’s great being able to play by myself. Here’s why: one or two of the packages under the tree smell like they have bacon treats in them, and I know I can get them and open them if I just try. The problem is, if I start to nose through the packages too much, or if I start to tear off some of the shiny wrapping paper, my stupid brother howls his “tattletale howl,” and our Person comes running over to take the package away from me. But one day, I tell you, one day I’ll sneak over there and open the package when no one is looking. And then those bacon treats will all be mine!
The other best thing about Christmas is all the people and activity. While my brother prefers to hide out in his crate, I take advantage of all the fun. Here’s a picture of me and my best friend. He put me inside of a bag, and it was the most fun I had that hour!
Here’s a picture of me opening all the presents. I love when people start to rip open packages. I just nose my way right in and tear up some of the paper. There’s nothing so fun!
Here’s a picture of me sitting on my best friend’s legs. That way, if he tries to open up any other packages, I’ll be ready and waiting.
And here’s a picture of my fraidy-dog brother. The People tried to give him a package of cookies wrapped in tissue paper, but he was too scared to rip it open. You can just see the fear in his eyes. A few seconds after the picture was taken, he high-tailed it back up into the kitchen to hide out in his crate. He doesn’t know what he’s missing!
Here’s my favorite picture. My People put two fluffy beds under the tree. They said it was “to encourage Yoda not to be afraid.” But what do they know? Yoda was just as scared as ever. Know what that means? Both beds are mine!
Happy Christmas to you, and I hope your Christmas as exciting as mine, mine, mine! And now, I hear something jingling out there—I’m off!
Editor’s Note: Leia is the capricious, perpetual puppy that inspires the character Sapphie in the Corgi Capers mystery series. Her antics always make for an interesting plot!
Halloween and the Imagination
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, and as a kid I never understood why. But this year, perusing a Halloween store and then driving around a rural area and observing all the Halloween decorations, I think I understand.
Halloween lets the imagination free—like a ghost escaping the grave for its yearly romp around the world.
Winter is too sleepy and dreary to allow the imagination full reign. It’s dulled by cold nights and dark mornings.
In springtime, the imagination is too fulfilled with relief that winter is gone. Spring cleaning and yard work take precedence.
During summertime, the mind is too happy enjoying summer. Whose imagination has time to reign when there are pools and beaches, barbeques and vacations?
No, during those first parts of the year, the mind is busy saving up experiences. It’s during the fall that the mind can finally spend them. The heat of summer cools, and the air takes on that crisp quality, with the sweet scent of decaying leaves always lurking. The trees turn the world into a surreal, magical place. And at Halloween, there are no rules. Yes, Christmas is imaginative, but as Jack Skellington proved, there are rules that cannot be broken. Christmas is all about warmth and happiness. As countless English teachers and professors have pointed out to me, happiness doesn’t make for good literature. It doesn’t push any boundaries.
Halloween has no rules. Halloween stories can be happy. They can also be sad, melancholy, nostalgic, macabre, twisted, and imaginative. Literally, the imagination is the only limit, and that’s what I love so much about this time of year.
In my newest book, Corgi Capers: The Sorceress of Stoney Brook, Adam Hollinger lets his imagination run away with him—to the point that he is convinced his new neighbors are a pair of witches. Using his detective skills, he must (reluctantly) face his fears to determine whether they are, in fact, witches. It’s still got baseball and bullying and—of course—lots of corgis to help with the detective work. But this second book in the series is all about imagination at the most imaginative time of the year.
As part of this blog hop, you have a choice of one of the following books: Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive (the first in the series); Corgi Capers 2: The Sorceress of Stoney Brook (Halloween-themed); or For Whom My Heart Beats Eternal (a trio of time-travel stories for ages 16 and up—romance, post-apocalyptic, and sci-fi-fantasy). You can check out the descriptions here.
Enter using the Rafflecopter below:
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I’m happy to announce the publication of Corgi Capers Book 2: The Sorceress of Stoney Brook. This Halloween-themed mystery for young detectives is out just in time for Halloween!
Corgi Capers: The Sorceress of Stoney Brook
Book Two in the Corgi Capers series, Corgi Capers: The Sorceress of Stoney Brook embroils Adam and Patrick in the scariest caper yet. The old Frostburg house has new tenants, and to Adam and Patrick, they look like witches. Belle and Cassie dress elaborately, speak strangely, and seem to know way too much about the Hollingers. Adam and Patrick read about how Logan Zephyr, their favorite comic book hero, defeated an evil sorceress and wonder if they, too, are facing real witches. When Belle asks Adam to rake leaves for her close to Halloween, Adam decides it’s a great excuse to investigate the house—or is it the perfect way for the witches to cast a spell on Adam and his best friend?
Targeting middle-grade readers (ages 7 – 12), the novel switches perspectives between the corgis and their people, offering humor and insight entertaining to adults and children alike. While trying to solve the mystery of his new neighbors, Adam confronts other challenges as well: it’s the Autumn League playoffs, and the team is counting on Adam to pitch his heart out; Adam’s sister is hanging out with a high-school bully, and the two have nefarious plans for Adam; and Marnie, a girl at school, has been fighting the other girls over who gets to take Adam to the Harvest Dance—to Adam’s chagrin.
The title is a nod to my parents, who both graduated from the State University of New York at Stonybrook. Stoney Brook is the fictional town in Pennsylvania where my series takes place.
Where to buy:
Or, you can check out my store for an autographed copy!
A corgi barked from the kitchen window as Coach Harris’s pick-up truck pulled into the driveway. Adam Hollinger stepped out of the truck and waved up at the kitchen window.
“Hi Zeph,” he shouted. Adam slung a school bag over one shoulder and a baseball bag over the other. “Bye, Patrick,” Adam yelled as the truck pulled away.
Patrick Harris was the coach’s son and Adam’s best friend. Their All-Star baseball team, the Lancaster Reds, practiced hard every day after school. They were determined to win the Autumn League State Championship.
Adam turned to see the cool October sun disappearing behind the hill of Mr. Frostburg’s house. Or rather, the house in which Mr. Frostburg used to live. Ever since Adam and his corgi, Zeph, caught Mr. Frostburg burglarizing neighborhood homes, no one had seen Mr. Frostburg. He’d been arrested, and Mr. Hollinger said it might be a long time before anyone saw the likes of him.
For the past month, a large ‘For Rent’ sign stood near the end of the driveway, and the house remained vacant. Adam always got the creeps when he looked at that empty house, but this time was even scarier than usual. On the front porch that used to belong to Mr. Frostburg, stood a robed and hooded figure. When the wind blew, the robe lifted and swirled so that the figure seemed to hover like a ghost. The wind flicked the robe, and a strand of long, blonde hair came loose from the hood, blowing like a kite tail in the wind. Then the hood blew back over the figure, shrouding it in shadow. Adam closed his eyes and counted to three. When he opened them again, the figure was gone.
Adam raced the setting rays of the sun into his house, where Zeph barreled down the stairs to greet him. Zeph’s happy howl made Adam forget—at least for now—the strange figure on the hill.
“Where’s Sapphie?” Adam asked Zeph. “Not in trouble again, I hope.”
Zeph wagged his stubby tail and ran up the stairs, beckoning Adam to follow.
Upstairs, Adam and Zeph stopped in front of Courtney’s bedroom door. Courtney, Adam’s older sister, was a seventh-grader now. Ever since school started, she spent most of her time in her room with the door closed.
Zeph barked and scratched on Courtney’s door.
At the bottom of the door, a tiny nose poked out. It was Sapphie’s. She sniffed and cried and clawed at the door until Courtney let her out. Sapphie jumped high in the air, springing into Adam’s arms. Zeph barked jealously as Sapphie licked Adam’s ear.
“Mom’s gonna be so mad,” Courtney said.
“Why?” asked Adam.
“When she sees what you look like, she’ll be mad—with the new neighbor coming over.”
“What new neighbor? And what do you mean, what I look like?”
“Ever heard of a mirror?”
Courtney flung her door wide open and pointed to a full-length mirror on the wall. Adam looked beyond the magazine clippings of celebrities that decorated the mirror and examined his reflection.
His sweatpants were dusty from running drills. Coach spent most of practice making the team work on base running and sliding. Adam’s face was scuffed with white chalk from the pitcher’s mound and his red hair—now covered in dust—stuck straight up, as if he’d rubbed it with a balloon.
“Don’t you know anything? There’s a new neighbor moving into Mister Frostburg’s old house.” Courtney said. “Mom invited her over for dinner, and we’re supposed to look nice and be polite.”
Adam glanced at his sister. Courtney’s face looked like she had covered it in makeup and tried to rub it off when she heard Adam coming. Adam started to question her about it but then changed his mind.
“Have you seen the new neighbor yet?” Adam asked. “I was coming home from practice, I looked over, and I saw a really weird…”
But before Adam could finish, Mrs. Hollinger came up the stairs carrying Adam’s school bag. Her eyes widened when she saw Adam.
“You’ve got to get cleaned up,” she scolded. “Miss Arabella will be here soon, and I want you looking your best.”
“Who’s Miss Arabella?” Adam asked.
But Mrs. Hollinger didn’t answer. She was too busy pushing him into the bathroom, shoving a stack of towels and washcloths into his hands. Mrs. Hollinger closed the bathroom door on him before he had a chance to protest.
Where to buy:
Or, you can check out my store for an autographed copy!
This one’s for the kids. There’s nothing furrier than a corgi growing its winter coat, and that’s what’s happening right about now in the Hollinger household. The cold October chill is bringing creeps of its own as fifth-grader Adam Hollinger juggles All-Star Baseball with mystery. Not only are the two new neighbors the creepiest people he’s ever seen, but his seventh-grade sister has a new group of friends that bring goosebumps to his skin.
In this Halloween-themed mystery novel for young detectives, Adam must discover whether the two new neighbors really ARE witches. Almost as important, he must crack the case to find out what his sister and her new friends have planned for Halloween. According to her, it’s the best prank yet. And all the while, the corgis are there to help.
Oh, and an interesting fact about the Fey. Did you know that legend says fairies used to ride corgis while running their mischievous errands? It’s why corgis have a “fairy saddle,” that white stripe around their collars. Legend has it that the special coloring was left from where the fairies would sit. If Sapphie the Corgi is any indication, the fairies just might still have a hand in daily corgi life!
For this giveaway, you can enter for a chance to win a copy of Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive (book one). If you live in the US, you can choose either a Kindle or PDF version or a paperback. If you live internationally, you can win a Kindle or PDF version. Enter using the Raffle Copter form below:
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Halloween—the Halloween I remember from my childhood—is my favorite holiday. There’s something refreshing about the crispness in the air, the crunch of autumn leaves, the sweet scent of decaying leaves mingling with smoky air from fireplaces, suggesting that just inside awaits a warm sanctuary from the creepy chill of the outdoors.
Carving Jack-O-Lanterns and creating costumes always allowed my creative side to flourish. Since I can remember, my mother had been instilling in my creativity by example: she hand-made my Halloween costumes so that they’d always be special. I was in awe at her sewing skills—the fact that a pile of fabric could be turned into a perfectly-fitting outfit in a matter of weeks amazed me (and probably inspired me to—years later—sew my own wedding dress).
But as fun as the time of year is, there’s always a slight danger. One danger I experienced happened while trick-or-treating one year. A large group of us were circulating the neighborhood, an older, darkened development with no streetlights and lots of twisting roads. Things were going well—we had just braved the house of my third-grade math teacher (she looked like a real witch again this year!) and were headed next door when—
A white van screeched to a halt in front of the driveway. The door opened. “Get in!” a crazy voice called.
My mind raced with all those after-school-special videos we saw in school. This was a stranger. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t get into their cars. But a part of me—perhaps the writer was alive even then—felt too intrigued to leave the situation so soon. Behind me, the rest of the kids were running back toward the porch. Even a boy was screaming like a banshee. But I crept behind a tree—a safe enough distance: if someone wanted me, they’d have to come out of the van and chase me down. But there from behind my perch, I could watch the situation. I was hoping to view the perpetrator. Was he as ugly as he was in my mind? My subconscious worked to create all kinds of back-stories to his life, and I imagined he might look similar to Freddy Krueger, all gnarled and creepy.
Then I thought about a detective story I’d written a year earlier. The people in that story—a group of neighbors who decided to overcome police incompetence by catching a burglar on their own—would not have spent their time staring at the perp. No, they would be looking at the license plate, memorizing it to tell the cops later. I squinted and stared, but it was no use. It would still be four years before I realized I needed glasses, but I chalked it up to the darkness. I could not see the license plate.
By this time, the other kids had knocked on the door, and a surprised and concerned neighbor walked us down the street to the nearest of our homes. There, all our parents were called, along with the police. I was less shaken than I should have been—I was more intrigued by it all. To this day I don’t know whether the white van really meant to kidnap us, or whether it was just having some ill-conceived Halloween “fun.”
Nonetheless, it’s a memory that’s stayed with me, and it’s one I’ve incorporated into the newest book in the Corgi Capers series, The Sorceress of Stoney Brook. In the tale, Adam is getting ready for All-Star Baseball playoffs, but he can’t escape October’s chills. A pair of new neighbors moves in, and Adam is convinced they’re witches. But his parents love them, as does Courtney, so he’s got no one to talk to about his concern except his best friend and his corgis. Worse, Courtney has found some new friends of her own, and they constantly threaten Adam, boasting of a great prank they’re going to play on him come Halloween. Are the new neighbors really witches? Will Adam ever gain the upper hand over his mischievous sister Courtney? You’ll have to read it to find out!
Coming Soon from Dancing With Bear Children’s Line!
Detective Adam Hollinger here. I’ve been busy getting back to school. Most kids don’t like going back to school–I must be the only kid who does. Anyway, I’ve been gone long hours–Autumn League is really picking up, and I have baseball practice almost every day after school now. Coach is using me to pitch more and more. Dad even says I might get a scholarship for pitching one day, but he has to remember that I’m only in fifth grade!
Anyhow, the corgis are still getting used to me being gone so long. Courtney comes home right after school, so I have to trust her to take care of Zeph and Sapphie. I’m not sure she’s doing such a good job, and here’s why:
Zeph’s been more scared than usual. I think it’s because Sapphie’s been crazier than normal. Sapphie’s an energetic little dog. She was the runt of the litter, and she makes up for her size with her energy. She needs lots of attention, and she just doesn’t get enough while I’m at school. Courtney really needs to play with her more, but she’s always obsessed with her cell phone and some new friends she has.
I came home from school today and found this:
It’s the metal covering to the air-conditioning duct in the kitchen floor. It was lifted clear out of its place. After I snapped the picture, I put it back. It weights a good two or three pounds–solid metal. And to lift it out of its place, it has to be raised three or four inches in the air. I don’t know how Sapphie moved it, but I know it was her. Zeph wouldn’t do a thing like that. Even if he wanted to, he’d be too scared. And besides, that silly-looking pink toy? It’s one of Sapphie’s favorites. There’s one more thing. Zeph’s snugly rocketship bed was wet when I came home. That’s right: someone had peed on it! And I doubt Zeph would pee on his own bed. Besides, Sapphie’s the one being difficult with the housebreaking.
So I was wondering if you could help me out. What do you think happened in the picture above? How did that heavy metal grate get moved? Why was Sapphie’s favorite toy left nearby, and who peed on Zeph’s bed (and why?)? I’ve put on my detective hat and started to think about it, but I could use your help. Let me know what you think. I’m just glad Sapphie and Zeph have grown big enough so they can’t fit in the vent shaft. Can you imagine? Sapphie crawling through the ventilation system of our house? How would we ever get her out?
Well, time to finish my homework so I can get to sleep. I was pitching all afternoon and need my rest. Be sure to check back soon. You’ll be able to read about my newest adventure in just a few short weeks. It’s called Corgi Capers: Spinelli the Sorceress. It’s a Halloween-themed tale.
While you’re waiting, take another look at the picture, and let me know if you can figure out what happened!
…or at least her Lady-in-Waiting.
Some months ago, I sent the Queen of England a copy of Corgi Capers to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. I figured: the Queen loves corgis, and the book makes reference to certain elements of British history. The story takes place in Pennsylvania and includes references to the War of the Roses (with Lancaster and York Counties in PA being named after their counterparts in England). In fact, Adam’s baseball team is called the Reds, with the red rose inside of a baseball as their logo. I wasn’t sure about British etiquette, and I didn’t know whether she’d personally receive or respond to my gift, but a few of my friends and family members encouraged me to send it. This summer I received a letter from the Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting:
Whether or not the Queen actually read my message to her, I was touched by the message and thought it would be interesting to share.
If you haven’t read Corgi Capers yet, you can find it on Amazon.com (and can even borrow it for free if you’re an Amazon Prime member with a Kindle) or at www.dancingwithbearpublishing.com.