Seasons Greetings, friends and followers — I truly hope the season finds you happy, healthy, and sharing/basking in goodwill with all!

It’s been quiet in this space for a few months, and there’s a reason for that. As some of you already know, I’m working on something new. Honest. Not a sequel (to this), or a one-shot (like this), or even another screenplay. This labour of love is the first in a five-book fantasy series for ‘middle grade’ readers (8-12yrs) — think Narnia or Potter, but more contemporary. With (appropriate) horror. And pirates. And lots and lots of cats.

Early Concept Cover -- Art by Dane Cypel and Sara Machajewski

Early Concept Cover — Art by Dane Cypel and Sara Machajewski

It’s been an incredible journey since first conceiving the story four years ago. First came scads and scads of research.  Followed closely by a creative (and near-forensic) analysis of my personal narrative. Then, in mid-2011, it was time to put old-fashioned ink to very thin slices of tree and outline the darn thing. All five books. The characters. The story arcs. The plot beats. The conflicts. The mythology and geography of the world(s). All of it.

It took a year.  At the end, I even visited the childhood stomping grounds for some hands-on reference — my first summer walkabout in nearly two decades — and stared some old ghosts dead in the eye. I was serious about this. And I wanted…needed…to be thorough.


From the cemetery near my childhood home — the Shadowland calls you.

Then I got distracted by ‘life’. There was some travel. Some projects. Some questionable choices. And even some career flirtations. Then I got scared. And then, fat on fear, I got lazy. Procrastinated like hell. Made any and every excuse imaginable not to work.

Who am I to write a children’s novel, let alone a series?  I’m just a middle-aged hack. Christ…I can barely write emails that make sense anymore.  #washedup #dreamer #bringonthemeds

But along came November.  Specifically, NaNoWriMo.  The premise was/is simple:  50,000 words in 30 days.  Make the commitment and you’ll have yourself a book — or a damn good head-start on one — in only a month.   That’s 1667 words per day, folks.  4-5 hours on average.  6 if you’re struggling.  3 if the Muse loves you.

I found some solitude. Hired a supervisor. Said my prayers. And then savaged the blank page.

A taskmaster, to be sure...but she's cheap, and isn't afraid to flirt.

A taskmaster, to be sure…but she’s cheap, and isn’t afraid to flirt.

Today, November’s a memory. And truth be told? I’m not quite there yet. As always, ‘life’ gets in the way. Circumstances conspire. The creative blocks click like Lego, and build a wall. The doubts rattle the rusty cage in your gut, chew on your willpower, and gnaw at your morale.

But at this moment, a week out from Christmas?  I’m officially 52,150 words deep in this thing.

There are only four chapters left to hurl myself at like a molotov cocktail, and set ablaze. The finish line — for the first draft, at least — is really in sight. For perspective: the original edition of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was approx 38,000 words. The first Harry Potter? 70K. I’m looking to land somewhere north of in-between.

Why am I telling you all this?  Easy:  because I’m selfish.

I want to feel good  — not just with the accomplishment itself, but with the warm squishies that inevitably come when your crap inspires anyone to face their fears, and overcome them.  That’s it.  That’s all I want for the holidays.  Well, that, and to finish the book.  And maybe this, in a medium. And what’s your gift?  Goodness…I thought you’d never ask. 🙂

You get first draft sneak peek of the Prologue, ’cause I love you.  Though things are bound change.  It’ll be interesting to see, come next spring, just how much…

Merry, Merry, and stockings full of <3 and fortitude.  B.B.


“It’ll be on us ‘fore we have time to pray and piss,” yelled a voice from high in the rigging.

Lightning crashed in the distance, and a tide of black clouds swallowed the stars behind the ship. The Captain paced the deck.  Half his men were starving and threatening mutiny.  The other half were spilling their guts over the side, or fouling up the hold below. The sickness was spreading. The storm was closing in. And Death waited on all sides, laughing in the shadows.

“Then skip the prayer, hold your piss, and dump everything,” he said, gripping the hilt of his dagger. 

“Sir,” said the Steward, clutching his stomach and doing his best to stay standing as the boat lurched, “Are you sure you want to..?”

“Dump it all!” said the Captain, inching the blade from its salt-encrusted scabbard.  “The cannons. The bags. The liquor.  The food that’s turned.  Even the rats, if you can catch ’em. Anything that could slow us down.”

The Steward winced and gagged as the deck dipped, and clutched at the arm of the Captain’s black coat. “But the haul, sir? What we almost died for? What of the thing that’s cursed us since we left?”

“There’s more to fear than curses, boy,” hissed the Captain, slapping the Steward’s hand away. “Touch that box, and you’ll know. All of you. Now go!”

“Yes, sir,” he said, stumbling towards the bow. “You heard him…dump it all!”

The Captain turned and gripped the back rail. He watched the lightning dance, and slice through the heavens. He watched the darkness creep towards him, like oil spilled across the sky. 

I’m in a race with the Devil, he thought. But when we’re light as the whiskers on its face, we’ll see who gets there first. 

With fingers full of splinters, he twisted the ring of gold on his left hand. It slid easily across his taught, pale skin, leaving a smeared trail of brown and red.

It won’t be for nothing, my love. I promise. To the edge of the Earth, the ends of Time, and whatever stands between. We shall raise a glass again in the New World, and laugh in its face…together.  

He looked up at the stars as the storm closed in, and saw them extinguished, one by one, until just two remained. They glimmered and shone through gaps in the clouds, like two great eyes in the darkness. Burning eyes, on a demon’s face that chased him across the sea. 

With a gust of wind the eyes blinked out, shut tight in the storm. Far below, a lone man raised his arms, tilted back his head, and howled at the darkness.


To Be Continued…