Cover Reveal for The Heronmaster

leaperalex2015leaperstale10My newest book is a collection of stories. The title story follows the life of a frog who must do the impossible to protect his pond. We also follow the adventure of a wolf who is forced to play detective to learn the fate of a bull moose. Two other stories round out the book bringing meteors and red balloons into character’s lives with unexpected results. Look for it Novemember 10th on Amazon and other ebook sellers. The hard copy version will be available by the end of November through Lulu.

Back Cover

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The Conspiracy of Silence

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Title         –        THE CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE

Genre      –        Mystery/thriller

ISBN        –       978-1517190316

Excerpt link: http://goo.gl/kYhj92

Book trailer link: https://goo.gl/wZ4F3g

Synopsis    

The conscience of a town steeped in sexism, vanity and hypocrisy is pricked by the brutal murder of a mysterious woman in a park in Los Angeles. But the shock is transformed into a steamy, seductive scandal when the body turns out to be that of Susan Whitaker, the flamboyant wife of the governor of California.

Soon, a dazzlingly intricate shuffle of volatile links leads the police to the delicate theory of secret lover/blackmailer, and to the indictment of Benjamin Carlton, Hollywood’s most influential black celebrity.

Then curious things begin to happen when Carlton’s ambitious girlfriend, Rita Spencer suddenly unearths the shocking secret that Susan Whitaker did not, in fact, exist. She little realizes however that her discovery of this colossal fraud is a mere curtain raiser to a chilling world of ugly skeletons dating back to the assassination of a U.S. senator in a Washington hotel sauna, skeletons connected to riveting sex scandals in high places, skeletons the FBI and political kingmakers will kill for…

                                                                                                                    Author pic

Author bio   –

Augustine Sam is a bilingual Italian journalist and an award winning poet. A member of the U.K. Chartered Institute of Journalists, he was formerly Special Desk editor at THISDAY newspapers, an authoritative Third World daily first published in collaboration with the Financial Times of London. He later became correspondent for central Europe. His poems have been published in two international anthologies: The Sounds of Silence & Measures of the Heart. One of his poems, Anguish & Passion, was the winner of the Editors’ Choice Awards in the North America Open Poetry contest, USA.

Augustine’s debut novel, Take Back the Memory, a contemporary Women’s fiction, received a Readers’ Favorite 5-star medal. His second book, Flashes of Emotion, a collection of poems, was the 2015 International Book Award Finalist. Augustine lives and works in Venice.

Social media:

Author website             –           http://goo.gl/A5jRnj

Author’s blog                –          http://goo.gl/VIRVmM

Twitter                            –          http://goo.gl/Yzan2G

Facebook                         –          http://goo.gl/W7W1Ta

Goodreads                      –           http://goo.gl/NjAxV9

Google +                          –          http://goo.gl/yruj3D

Amazon author page    –         http://goo.gl/osU1VZ

Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Stories of Love and Loss

Here is a cover release with my name on it! Xchyler Publishing presents Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Stories of Love and Loss. This collection is the result of one of their quarterly competitions. I managed to squeak a story in there some how. Don’t blink and you’ll see my name come up on the video.

These stories are paranormal, but they represent a wide variety of views of what paranormal is and how to write it. It is going to be a book well worth reading.

BEYOND-THE-WAIL-front-web

 

 

Sigil of the Wyrm Blog Tour

Xchyler Publishing has released Sigil of the Wyrm, the first book of the Into the Weirding series. It is Urban Fantasy in the best kind of way, not just introducing elves and such into the modern world, but creating its own unique universe which is a step sideways from where normal people live.

SofW_Webkit_book

Interview with A.J. Campbell

  1. What is your advice to writers?
  2. a) Read, read, read, read, read. Develop your taste. If you don’t have a feel for what makes a good book, how are you going to be able to write one?
  3. b) And write. Write all the time you’re not reading. You wouldn’t expect to sit down at a piano for the first time and play Rachmaninov just like that – so why expect your first scribblings to be your best? Writing is a skill like any other, and you have to practice if you want to get good.
  4. c) And don’t be too precious about your work. Some of the best advice I ever had was that if there is ever a paragraph or a section of your story that you are particularly attached to, cut it. It will start to warp the story around itself like a black hole or a space-time anomaly. Always remember that your prose should be serving the story, not the other way around.
  5. What’s up next for you?

I’ve already started on book 2, which will be the next in the Into the Weirding series. It’ll be drawing a lot on Arthurian legend this time, especially the Excalibur stories. I’m about as far as chapter outlines and a few first-drafts of scenes, so watch this space…!

  1. What is your favorite snack while writing?

Does coffee count as a snack? Tea?

  1. If you had three wishes, what would they be?

I’m far more practical than people think, so I’d probably go for some variation on the standard “Health, Wealth and Happiness”. I’d like to be earning enough from my writing that I’d never have to worry about money again, I’d like 20/20 vision again so I could stop faffing around with glasses and contact lenses, and I’d quite like to play the violin.

  1. Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know about you?

I’ve been listening to the 1812 Overture recently, and I think more pieces of music should be scored for artillery.

Pinterest: Fantasy casting call

https://www.pinterest.com/galacticteabag/fantasy-casting-call/

 

 

AJ-Campbell-author

Book Release Blog Tour August 29-September 5

Saturday, Aug. 29

Alex Campbell

Perpetual Chaos of a Wandering Mind

Sunday, Aug. 30

Lurking Musings

Slithers of Thought

Monday, Aug. 31

The Deep, Dark Library

Cobblestone Scribe

Tuesday, Sep. 1

Lucy Ayrton, Performance Poet

T.N. Payne, Author

Wednesday, Sep. 2

Richard A. Usher, Media Creative

Alex McGilvery’s World

Thursday, Sep. 3

Scott E. Tarbet, Author

Are You Afraid of the Dark

Friday, Sep. 4

OMega W

Danielle E. Shipley

The Author Visits

Saturday, Sep. 5

R. A. Ridley

Didi Lawson, Author

Musings, Amusings, and Bemusings

 

No blog tour would be complete without a Rafflecopter giveaway

Watch the trailer here: 

or on YouTube

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Buy the book on Amazon

For more information on Sigil of the Wyrm and Xchyler Publishing check out their web page.

Guest Blog by Simone Salmon author of Camille and the Bears of Beisa-Drafnel

One of the things that I’m working on in the next while is to bring more authors and unique stories to my author page. There is a world full of very talented and fascinating people out there. My goal is to introduce you to a few. The first is Simone Salmon with a book that looks like a very good read. I have it on my list and it will be reviewed in the not too distant future on Celticfrogreviews.com

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Drafnel-2

 

Years of deception and suppressed trauma do not prevent secrets from unraveling when
parallel worlds clash, intertwining families and exposing hidden agendas.  An unwanted romance mirrored in an alternate universe has devastating consequences for an unsuspecting young woman and a mysterious stranger.

“There is a vast literary intellect behind Camille and The Bears of Beisa – Drafnel, and it belongs to author Simone Salmon. The language is transfixing, bewitching, erupting into that realm between an epic poem of breakneck pace, and the clarity and rigor of an after-action report meant only for a general’s eyes. 

This story operates in many rich dimensions. It reads like a graphic novel, but without need of illustrations, as the events explode like fireworks in the mind’s eye. What an amazing piece of writing!”

Robert Blake Whitehill, Screenwriter, Author
The Ben Blackshaw Series,
www.RobertBlakeWhitehill.com

Here’s what the critics are saying about Drafnel:

“The structure and some of the themes of the book reminded me of the movie The Fountain, which I adored. This idea of the same person persisting in different forms across time and space, mostly through the power of deep emotional connection to other people, really connected the two pieces in my mind.”

“Salmon’s use of folktales and specific stories to build out the structure of this unfamiliar world, and to link it back to Camille’s story, was a brilliant narrative device.”

“Drafnel is Dune-like in the grandiose sweep of its worldbuilding. The sci-fi universe Salmon creates, Narvina, with its eight ruling clans and ornate power structures was intriguing. It was also refreshing to read a great space opera like this where the people in charge are people of color, and where the universe is a matriarchy.”

BR Sanders, Clatter and Clank

“The scene’s describing Catherine’s sojourn in Jamaica are the strongest section(s) of the book…”

“The writing in this section is very contemporary and accurately reflects the self-confidence of young urban women who feel they’re on the cusp of great things and fully in control of their personal destinies.”

“…a bit of writing that stays with you a long time.”

Merrill Chapman, Rule-Set

Excerpt 1

Narvina, Nu-century 2055 

Aknanka clamps down with all her might. Her teeth tear into Sephia’s wrinkled skin, digging for chunks of flesh. They only grind against bone. A fist smashes into her cheek, jerking her head sideways. Sephia yanks her hand away right before Aknanka chomps down again. Blood gushes everywhere.

“I’m not going anywhere with you!” Aknanka’s scream rages through the interior, punching a small dent into the door. It slams shut.

Any experimenting she needs to conduct today will be done right here. And without blindfolds. The metal restraints chafe Aknanka’s wrists as she wriggles around for freedom.

“Stop fighting, Dreamer. You make this harder than it has to be.”

“Bet you’ll think before trying that again, oh Wise One!” Aknanka’s aim is accurate. Bloody sputum soils the middle of Sephia’s tunic.

A med-bot enters the room and stitches the bandages over Sephia’s wound. The pale Elder clenches her fists. Her eyes blaze to match the blood staining the floor. The med-bot’s front panel flashes, absorbing the charge from Sephia’s quelled anger. Sparks bounce across the overloaded circuits. The bot spins over to the sealed porthole and then powers down.

“These gene markers will soon confirm our suspicions, Dreamer.” Sephia’s shoulders stiffen, tugging at the hood to expose her protruding frontal lobe. Her white skull magnifies in the dimness. Her lips never move.

Na-mum Camille warned Aknanka that the Elders would spare no sympathy once they discover her true kinsatah. She followed every painstaking instruction: the implants are undetectable, even from their host.

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of3lw5XxmKM

Author Bio:

Drafnel-3Simone Salmon, a Jamaican born New Yorker, is the mother of two sons and a jack Russell terrier.

Simone is still working on her exit strategy from Corporate America, but in the meantime she writes novels, poetry and expands her multisensory perceptions.

She is a spiritual truth seeker who appreciates psychic phenomena and timelessness.

Music of all kinds, warm weather, lounging on the beach, and experiencing the unknown are just a few of her most favorite things.

Excerpt 2

Jamaica, 20th Century

The food on display and the brilliant dyes of the hand-loomed textiles hanging at the market made me homesick. The marketplace crowded with vendors selling varied crafts and wares. The frenzied pitch of the hagglers echoed under the tin roofs. Voluptuous women wearing multi-colored wraps balanced huge straw baskets on cornbraided heads, while children darted through stalls with jaws stuffed of toffee candy or juggled melting snow cones with syrup-stained hands. Fruits ripening in the heat sweetened the layer of jerk pork and chicken charring over coals inside huge metal drums.

At first Miss Mattie kept me close, but as the market became more crowded her clenched fingers slackened. I searched the aisles, worried about returning home empty-handed. Failing to find any spices, I started making my way back to Miss Mattie and then noticed a young woman with a basket tucked between her knees. Loose braids stuck out from under her head scarf. Kind hazel eyes invited me forward. Curious, I bent over to check out the samples. The woman pulled me closer and stuffed a piece of cloth into my waistband.

“A gift from the Goling family, Miss. Put it in safe-keeping. This has been my honor.”

Miss Mattie swooped in at my heels in a matter of seconds. She sniffed the air several times and shoved me away from the vendor’s stall. We left thirty minutes later, my impatience to unwrap the cloth’s contents shielded.

Unpacking the supplies, I started dinner. Then, while the meal simmered, I sneaked to my room and pulled out the puffed packet. Wrapped inside were five cinnamon sticks. My smile must have been a mile wide. I decided to add them to my hideaway after Miss Mattie left for church that Sunday.

As my guardian angel instructed, I wrapped a small piece under the ribbon tied around my braid. I noticed Miss Mattie’s immediate reaction. Her harsh tone gentled and she even allowed me to eat with her at the dining table. A welcomed change, my nerves were still on guard, unsure of how long Miss Mattie’s tolerance would last. Against my better judgment, I decided to ask about Caleb and Cassandra.

“Miss Mattie, do you think I can visit with my sister and brother sometime soon?”

Growling, Miss Mattie cocked her head and then swung around to face the door. Her eyes rolled back into their sockets. Her head snapped back as she sniffed the air.

“Why are you sitting at this table?”

I warned you, Grandmother. Leave the table now!

Miss Mattie’s neck protruded as her limbs extended. Fingers mutated into claws and hind legs ripped through her lower extremities. Wiry tufts of hair sprouted all over her body. Her face contorted and elongated as saliva slimed down enlarged jowls. My hand stifled the scream roaring through my head.

Get up and walk away slowly. Do not turn your back on it. Now!

Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drafnel

Twitter: @miraclemindcoac

Blog: Origisims

Website: www.ssalmonauthor.com

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/simsalmon/

Preorder Links:

Amazon: http://getbook.at/ssalmon-drafnel
Bookgoodies: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B013TAU6AG

Cover Reveal for: The Bookminder

I am fortunate enough to have been pulled into the ‘X Team’ which is the fond term Xchyler has for the authors and contributors of their books. In the hopes of broadening my blog beyond the occasional post about what I’m writing I agreed to take part in several of their exciting cover reveals over the next couple of months. Xchyler is a publishing house currently focused on paranormal, fantasy and steampunk with some fantastic books to check out. Xchyler Publishing.

Here is the cover and blurb for The Bookminder by M.K. Wiseman

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To learn more about the author check out these links:

Website – www.mkwisemanauthor.com

Goodreads – www.goodreads.com/MKWiseman

Twitter – @FaublesFables

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FaublesFables

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/faublesfables/

January 31 Day Photo Challenge

Day One

Goose and Crow by Rick Bedwash
Goose and Crow by Rick Bedwash

Day Two

Cabin by my grandmother Mulholland
Cabin by my grandmother Mulholland

Day Three

Great Spirit carving by Steve Powless
Great Spirit carving by Steve Powless

Day Four

At the Bottom of the Sea,  Marsha Wade-Charlebois
At the Bottom of the Sea, Marsha Wade-Charlebois

Day Five

Night Song on Spirity Cove by filliea
Night Song on Spirity Cove by filliea

Day Six

Miniature of leaves by Elizabeth VanderBrock
Miniature of leaves by Elizabeth VanderBrock

Day Seven

Island Sunrise Quilt, design by Judy Neimeyer. Colours and quilt top  by Alexandra Beasse, quilting by Kathy Schwartz
Island Sunrise Quilt, design by Judy Neimeyer. Colours and quilt top by Alexandra Beasse, quilting by Kathy Schwartz

Day Eight

8-Feathered-Dog
Feathered Dog, unknown carver

Day Nine

Polar Bear by Lessia Anna
Polar Bear by Lessia Anna

Day Ten

Birches unknown artist
Birches unknown artist

Day Eleven

Bluegill Carving by Rick Upthegrove
Bluegill Carving by Rick Upthegrove

Day Twelve

Cougar by J. Chester
Cougar by J. Chester

Day Thirteen

Raku Vase
Raku Vase

Day Fourteen

The Unenchanted Princess by Christina Castro Santiago
The Unenchanted Princess by Christina Castro Santiago

Day Fifteen

Moored boat by Alex McGilvery
Moored boat by Alex McGilvery

 

Day 16

Eagle by Vance Bomberry
Eagle by Vance Bomberry

Day Seventeen

Puffin #5 unknown artist
Puffin #5 unknown artist

Day Eighteen

Grandma unknown artist
Grandma unknown artist

Day Nineteen

Frog and Raven Ring, unknown artist
Frog and Raven Ring, unknown artist

Day Twenty

Welsh Glass Vase, unknown artist
Welsh Glass Vase, unknown artist

Day Twenty One

Stained Glass by Brigitte Wolf
Stained Glass by Brigitte Wolf

Day Twenty-two

Frog Tea Pot unknown artist
Frog Tea Pot unknown artist

Day Twenty-three

23-Austrian-Frog

Day Twenty-four

25th Anniversary Wood Scroll Work by Glen Mickelsen
25th Anniversary Wood Scroll Work by Glen Mickelsen

Day Twenty-five

Iron Bird, by Nick McGilvery
Iron Bird, by Nick McGilvery

Day Twenty-six

26-Cedar-Owl
Cedar Owl by Robin Studer

Day Twenty-Seven

Flin Flon Water Tower by Chad Plamondon
Flin Flon Water Tower by Chad Plamondon

Day Twenty-eight

Caribou Tufting Owl
Caribou Tufting Owl

Day Twenty-nine

The Unenchanted Princess Box, by Suedre
The Unenchanted Princess Box, by Suedre

Day Thirty

Inuit Hunter, unknown artist
Inuit Hunter, unknown artist

Day Thirty-one

Beaded Frog by Kelli June
Beaded Frog by Kelli June

Expectation and the Flight of Time

The idea of a blog is to update it consistently enough to make the blog useful. I’ve never been very good at that and so I find myself posting photos from another 30 Day Photo Challenge. Before I give the site over to pictures again I wanted to update a little about what I’ve been doing since September. I brought out Sarcasm is my Superpower and survived another NaNoWriMo. I write a sequel to a book that I hope to bring out in the next year. In the meantime I’m continuing with my novellas publishing a collection of horror stories at the end of January or early February.

I’ve been putting a lot of my energy into my editing work and having a blast working with a diverse collection of writers. There are some terrific books that are in the process of being released.

Here is a story that plays with expectations, both the reader’s and the character’s. Enjoy.


The End of Snow White

Snoring filled the cottage. Even with her hands tight against her ears Snow White couldn’t block out the cacophony of wheezes and snorts. Chubby was worst; not because he was loudest, but because he would stop breathing for a while and, counting the seconds, she would wait until he grunted and started breathing once more.

Snow White didn’t know how her grandmother had managed with seven. Maybe they hadn’t snored. Maybe pigs had flown too. The only thing that had changed about the little men was their names. Snow White got up and went downstairs to clean. She might be called Snow White after her grandmother and but she didn’t feel much like Snow White, more like Dingy Grey.

The truth was the little men were slobs. She used a stick to pick up the laundry. They insisted on throwing down their clothes where ever they happened to be standing when the notion took them to change from one horrifically dirty outfit to another. The sight of naked little men stomping through the cottage was seared into Snow White’s mind. Nothing she said would change their behaviour. As they pointed out each time she complained, it was their cottage.

“Hey Snow,” a raspy voice floated down the stairs, “You want some help getting to sleep?”

“You forget, Sleazy,” Snow White said without turning around, “I’ve seen what you’ve got, and it doesn’t give a girl any confidence. There’s a good reason people call you ‘little men’.”

There was a harrumph and the banging of boots as whichever little man it was returned to his bed. None of them were really called Sleazy, but it was the name she used whenever one of them made advances. She had learned not to turn around. She could never keep from laughing and it made them even more cantankerous than usual.

The last bit of clothing went into the huge pot she used for laundry and with a bit of soap it would do until morning. Snow White put on a cloak and went out into the night to breathe. She walked away from the cottage so none of the little men could see her. She was tired of their eyes always following her. It was cold, but the air was fresh. She amused herself by catching some of the snow that fell from the trees and comparing it with her skin. Definitely more grey than white, she thought.

“It’s dangerous for a young girl to be out in the night like this.” Snow White shrugged and turned to where the huntsman was stepping out of the shadows.

“It’s dangerous to be me,” she said, “it doesn’t matter the place or time.”

“Someone might come upon you and ravish you.”

“Right,” Snow White flipped him a hand sign that her dear departed father would have told her no self-respecting princess should know never mind employ. Sorry, Pops, she thought, I’ve got no respect left, for myself or anyone else.

The huntsman frowned and gripped her shoulder.

“I have the power of life and death over you, Princess,” he said.

“Sure,” Snow White said, “You could go running to your Queen and tell her that you accidentally didn’t really kill me, and sort of accidentally brought her a deer heart instead.”

The huntsman growled and gripped her tighter, he put a hand on the collar of her dress and Snow White stopped him.

“Don’t you dare rip my dress.” She pushed him away, “This is the last bit of comfortable clothing I have left.”

“But…” The huntsman pouted.

“Oh, alright,” Snow White said, and let her dress fall to the snow, “Just pretend my cloak is my dress. But can we please at least go somewhere dry? There’s a cave this way.” She picked up the dress and led the Huntsman deeper into the woods.

In the morning Snow White watched the little men stagger off toward the mine that gave them just enough iron ore to eek out a living. Adding her full sized appetite to the mix really stretched their resources. That was why she pretended that she didn’t know that they doubled back to watch her take her bath and wash her clothes. For people who made so much noise the rest of the time, they were remarkably quiet.

As punishment for the come-on the night before, Snow White cut short her washing and wrapped up in a towel that felt like burlap. She boiled some water and tossed in some mint for flavour. She sat in the kitchen and waited for her clothes to dry enough to get dressed. It was a once a week ritual that no one talked about. One of these days they would make the connection between the midnight propositions and the length of her bath. She snorted, probably not. Little they were, but they were still men.

Snow White sipped her mint tea and considered her life. The huntsman was mildly amusing, but his obsession with her was going to cause trouble. It was the same with all of them. They all thought that they were beyond the sight of the Queen. The end was always the same. At least her father had just thrown them in the dungeons. The Queen apparently was infuriated by the ease with which Snow White ensnared the boys and men around her. The men in Snow White’s life tended to die. It was depressing.

The Queen wanted Snow White dead, and Snow White didn’t really blame her. But she wasn’t going to lie down and die for anyone. She wasn’t enjoying her life much, but she wasn’t ready to give it up just yet.

“Are you sure you’ll be alright?” Chubby looked up at Snow White. “I’ll stay here and take care of you while the others go to town.”

“Sure,” said Handy, “and we all know what you’ll be about while we’re gone.” He glowered at the other four little men. “We all go. She’ll be just fine.” He looked up at her through his eyebrows. Snow White nodded and that was that. The little men clambered up on the wagon, and their one wretched mule pulled them away down the trail away from the cottage. Snow White watched long enough to be sure that they were gone. She could count on their jealously to keep them all together to town and back.

Snow White heated the water and luxuriated in the first long, private bath in months. She almost wished the huntsman would come by.

Snow White washed all the linens and scrubbed what she could of the cottage. She hated cleaning, but she hated dirt worse. The days passed and she found herself missing the company. They were pigs and perverts and whatever else, but they surrounded her with life. Snow White wasn’t very good company for herself.

The huntsman never showed and when the little men came home she learned why.

“The Queen had him him tied to a stake and then choked him with his own organ.”

“How could she choke him with his heart?” she said.

“It wasn’t his heart,” Handy said, “It was a different organ.”

“Right,” Snow White said, “so what did you buy for food?”

“The usual,” Chubby said. Snow White rolled her eyes. “If we bought anything different the Queen would suspect something.

“Why would she care about a few grubby miners?”

“She cared about the huntsman sure enough,” Pinky said.

Snow White shrugged.

“You don’t seem too upset that a man who saved your life is dead.” Handy said.

“Every man in my life ends up dead,” Snow White said, “It’s like a curse.” She laughed as the little men all backed away from her. “Dinner isn’t going to cook itself.” She walked into the cottage. “I’ll call you when it’s ready,” she said over her shoulder.

The little men kept their distance for a day or two, but habit and inclination were too strong and soon they were ogling her again and strutting naked through the cottage. Their raspy voices called from the top of the stairs at night. Snow White went from feeling dingy grey to feeling very dark indeed.

Their snores still kept her awake; but something was different tonight. The sound didn’t have its full richness. A small man climbed into her bed and grabbed at her flesh.

“Don’t pretend you don’t like it,” the little man said, “You went off quick enough with your precious huntsman.” Snow White made a noise of disgust and pushed the little man away. She pulled her legs up to her chest. “So now you go all shy and virtuous,” the man sneered and tried to push her legs aside. Snow White kicked out and launched the little man out of the bed. He bounced across the floor and down the stairs.

The snores of the other little men didn’t change. Snow White didn’t feel like going and dealing with whoever was at the bottom of the stairs. With any luck he would just go back to bed and try to forget his humiliation.

When the men got up in the morning, they found Handy lying at the bottom of the stairs with his neck broken. They looked at him, then Snow White who was standing at the top of the stairs.

“Well, damn,” Chubby said, “How are we going to survive with just four of us running the mine?” They all turned and looked at Snow White.

“No,” she said, “no way. I’m no miner.”

“You’re going to earn your keep one way or another,” Chubby said. “You choose.”

“If I bang my head,” she said, “I’m going to burn your supper.”

Pinky went up the stairs and fetched Handy’s work bag. He handed her the dead man’s helmet and pick axe. The four little men picked up their comrade and slung him on the wagon. Snow White followed them to the mine.

They tossed the body into a dead end tunnel and piled some rocks to block it. One of them spat on the rocks then they led Snow White deeper into the mine. She saw a glint in the rock from one of their lamps. She turned her own lamp on the rock.

“Is this gold?” she said.

“Yup,” Chubby said, “Leave it alone.”

“Why?”

“What would happen if someone learned we had gold up here? They’d come and kill us and take our mine, that’s what would happen. Gold is trouble. Stick to the iron ore.”

Snow White shook her head, but the little men didn’t look so ridiculous with their hammers and axes. They led her deep into the mountain. She banged her head several times and muttered curses that bounced off the little men. They were in their element now. The cottage was only where they lived. The mine was where they were alive.

She hated it. Even with the helmet her head ached. Soon, her shoulders and back ached too. The little men cracked the rock with hard, rhythmic strokes. Snow White’s hands vibrated from hitting the rock and she barely scratched the surface.

“OK,” Chubby said after an eternity, “Go and make us supper.”

The walk back to the cottage was long and excruciating. It was worse than the night that she had followed the huntsman into the woods knowing that she would have to seduce him to save her life. She couldn’t face the idea of seducing the little men. The very idea made her ill.

Even the snoring didn’t keep her awake that night or for the rest of the week. She slept exhausted until morning. The men glared at each other jealously. Snow White knew it was only a matter of time before they came up with a solution that would make them happy and complete her fall from being Snow White.

It didn’t take as long as she had hoped.

“I got the short straw,” Pinky said and leered at her.

“Short straw,” said Snow White, “how appropriate.” His leer slipped a little, but only a little. The work day passed as slowly as all the others. Snow White walked back to the cottage as quickly as she could. She could pack up and move on. She didn’t know where, but she would find a place.

The berries were lit by a beam of golden sunlight. The huntsman had pointed them out once.

“Eat one of those and you’ll never wake up,” he’d said.

Snow White looked at them. Here was her solution. She thought of sleeping and never waking up. After picking every berry there she hurried back to the cottage. She crushed the berries and added them to the rough stew that was all they ate. It smelled as vile as it always did. Her cooking was only marginally better than the little men’s.

The little men arrived home. They came to the table with their filthy hands and filthier grins. They were all looking forward to this night. The stew vanished from their plates and Snow White dished out seconds. Finally Pinky sighed and let out a huge belch.

“Well boys,” he said, “I’m for bed.” He winked at them and leered at Snow White. “Don’t keep me waiting.”

“I’ll just clean up some,” Snow White said.

“Don’t keep me waiting,” Pinky said again and let his hand rest on her shoulder possessively. Snow White nodded.

She heard them stomping around upstairs. She took as long as she could clearing up.

“Get up here, girl,” the raspy voice of a little man came down the stairs. Snow White took a deep breath and slowly climbed the stairs. The four men were staring at her.

“Well,” Pinky said as he stood naked and eager, “it’s time.” Then he fell flat on his face and started snoring. The others fell back on their beds and began snoring too.

Snow White stood there and listened to the snores. She listened until one by one the snores stopped.

In the morning she took the wagon and the old mule. She left the bodies in the beds. It took her all day to load the loose gold at the mine into the wagon.

“Let’s go,” she said to the mule. “One last trip and you can retire.” She drove the mule away from the mine and the cottage and the last of the Kingdom that knew her as Princess Snow White.

She looked at her arms that were black with rock dust, maybe some day she would feel clean again.