Saturday, November 26, 2011

Story a Week 38 - Candy Land 5

I wrote this story last week at the same time that I wrote the last one.  Actually, they were meant to be the same story, but it had gotten too long.  I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving.  My family did.


Without saying another word, the bears pushed me forward.  Orange walked in front and the yellow one behind me as they led me through the woods.  About fifteen minutes later, the led me to the edge of a clearing.  I looked into the clearing and saw a palisade built from the trunks of the Lollypop trees.  I asked, "The Cookie Patrol is in that makeshift fort?"

The two bears nodded.  Orange said, "You better go out with a white flag.  Whenever one of our bears leaves the protection of the woods, he comes back with an arrow embedded in his body."  The two bears laughed.  "Of course, that doesn't hurt us much."

I looked and saw several puncture wounds on both the bears.  I took my hanky from my pocket and held it up as I walked out of the woods.  No arrows flew in my direction, but after I came within a dozen yards of the palisade, I heard, "Who are you and what are you doing here?"

I yelled back, "Uh, my name is Ap LePie and I've come from the Candy Land Kingdom.  I need to speak to Princess Lolly."

I faintly heard the sound of voices on the top of the palisade, but I couldn't make out what they were saying.  After a moment or two, the same voice called out.  "Come to the gate."

I turned to look back at the woods, but couldn't see the bears anymore.  I walked around the wall until I found the gate.  It was open just a crack.  One the other side was Princess Lolly.  "Mr. LePie.  What do you want?"

I could tell that she remembered me.  Even so, she didn't seem happy to see me.  I replied, "We need to talk about your father and why you're here."

She made a frustrated sound and growled, "I'm here because these bears know where my father is.  I was hoping to quickly beat them as they weren't terribly organized, but there are just too many of them."

Her comments made me quite confused.  I said, "I don't know where you got your information from, Princess, but the bears are innocent.  Lord Licorice is the one responsible for making your father disappear."

She stared at me blankly for a moment.  "They can't be.  I got a ransom letter from them the same day he disappeared."

I didn't know where the letter might have come from, but I had some ideas.  I said, "Well, princess, I don't know what to say about that, but I do know quite a bit about the situation.  I have Colonel Crunch's garrison besieging Licorice Castle while he waits for your army.  The Gumdrop Giants are helping, for now, but they aren't comfortable with the situation.  I think that your royal presence might convince them that the alliance with us is worth fighting for."

She replied, "But what about the bears?  We've been fighting them for a couple of days now and I don't think that they're just going to let us go back through their woods."

I knew that she was right.  The bears were very unhappy about what had transpired the last few days.  I gave it some serious thought for a moment, and then inspiration hit.  "Well, your majesty, if you'd be willing to come with me to the edge of the woods, I think that we can work something out."

She looked at me doubtfully and said, "You're going to have to give me more than that, Mr. LePie.  I think that those bears are just as likely to shoot me unarmed as they are to look at me right now."

I glanced back over my shoulder at the woods and said, "Tell you what.  How about I bring a couple of them, unarmed mind you, to the clearing and you come out too.  We can have some peace talks out there in the open where everyone can see."

She gave the matter some thought and finally nodded.  I turned and walked to the edge of the woods and saw an orange and yellow bear waiting there for me.  "Are you the same bears that brought me here?" I asked.

They laughed at me for a couple of moments.  The orange one said, "I like you, Ap LePie.  My name is Circu S'Peanut and this is Lemo N'Drop.  We're two of the cheiftans of the Lollypop Gummy Bear Tribes.  What did your princess say?"

"I've arranged for her to meet us in the clearing to discuss terms of peace," I said.  "If you don't mind coming unarmed, of course."

They nodded and proceeded to leave their weapons on the ground and followed me out into the clearing.  Princess Lolly left the fort a moment later, also unarmed.  We met in the middle of the clearing.  When introductions were complete, I said, "Now that we're all here, I'd like to fill you all in on what's been going on around Candy Land."

I told them my tale all the way from my office to that very moment standing there with them.  Afterwards, I said, "So, my idea is to form an alliance between the Lollypop Gummy Bear Tribes and Candy Land Kingdom to defeat Lord Licorice."

Princess Lolly nodded right away and said, "I think that sounds like a fabulous idea!  The Candy Land Kingdom agrees."

The two bears looked at each other.  Circu shook his head and said, "We certainly empathize with the situation that your kingdom is dealing with, but we don't think that we will help you.  Helping you would put many of our tribesmen into danger needlessly."

I quickly responded, "It may seem like that now, sure, but you both don't know the troubles that the Candy Land Kingdom has been internally facing the last few years.  If Lord Licorice has his way and succeeds in toppling the legitimate King and his family, he won't stop there.  The kingdom is running out of viable farmland and the Lord knows it.  Before he started his little coup, he had been urging the king to expand the frontier.  To widen the kingdom's borders.  Do you know where those borders lie today, Circu?"

Circu and Lemo looked thoughtful.  Circu said, "We don't have a formal border with the kingdom because we haven't much needed one, but the Peanut Brittle Patches would be it, pretty much."

Lemo nodded and added, "Yes, and if you push the border much this way, you're getting into the Lollypop Woods."

Circu and Lemo looked at each other again and Lemo nodded to Circu.  Circu turned to me and said, "We'll have to discuss this with the rest of the tribes, of course, but I think that we'll agree to help you.  Afterwards, though, we'll want to formalize a border and such in a treaty."

Princess Lolly agreed and the two bears went on their way.  She turned to me and said, "Thank you, Mr. LePie.  I think that you just saved the kingdom."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Story a Week 27 - Candy Land 4

Week 37!  I had this story (and the next one) finished yesterday, but I forgot to post it this morning before we left for my grandmother's birthday party.  Man, what a drive.  For those who don't know, I live in Minnesota and we had a nice freezing rain/snow shower this morning on our way up north.  Also, blizzard-like conditions on the way back.  Ugh.

Anyway, enjoy this week's story!


After leaving Lord Licorice's castle, I headed west towards the Peanut Brittle Patches.  If you've never been there, the patches are a large field of Peanut Brittle Bushes.  The place is like a maze.  Every now and then, the Cookie Patrol chops out a path that roughly follows the original path of the Candy Land Road, but the bushes grow back quite quickly and travelers can get easily lost in there.  I just hoped that I didn't fall victim to that as well.

The plus side of going through the patches was that the food was plentiful.  I hadn't eaten since leaving the Gingerplum Forest and I was quite hungry.  I picked some brittle and ate it as I tried to navigate the patches, but it was hopeless.  Each turn I made looked exactly like the one before it.  Pretty soon, I was all turned around and couldn't tell which way I was going.  To make matters worse, a fog had started to roll in; hiding the sun from me so that I couldn't even tell which way was west or east.

I found myself trying to decide if I should keep trying to navigate the patches, or wait for someone to try to find me.  The only problem with the second option was that no one was looking for me.  I stood there for a couple of moments before I heard someone humming.  I drew my revolver, and quietly headed towards the person.  After a rounding a couple of corners, I saw her.  It was the legendary Gramma Nut!  I say legendary because not many people have ever met her.  She's mostly thought to be a Candy Land Myth, but here she was in the flesh!

I stood there for a moment, not sure how to proceed when she said, "You can come out from hiding there, dearie.  I won't hurt you."

I instantly felt foolish and came out into the open.  I asked, "How did you know I was there?  You have your back to me."

She turned and gave me a big smile, "Oh dearie, this is my patch.  I know everything that goes on in them.  I know that you've been wandering around in circles for over an hour.  I thought you could use some help."

I was still a little suspicious.  I didn't know which side of the conflict that Gramma Nut would be on.  After all, she did live awfully close to Licorice Castle.  I said, "Would you help me find my way back to the road?  I need to get to the Lollypop Woods and find Princess Lolly."

Gramma Nut frowned.  She said, "That Princess and her army came through here a couple of days ago and cleared out a lot of my bushes.  It took me hours to set things right again.  I don't appreciate people tearing down my precious bushes."

She sure wasn't what I expected.  I said, "Well, Gramma Nut, when I find the princess, I will tell her how you feel about the matter."

Gramma Nut waggled a finger at me and responded, "Now, sonny, if you're planning on bringing that whole army on back to destroy my Peanut Brittle Patch again, you've got to think again.  I don't want those ravagers back in my bushes!"

I thought hard for a few moments about how to handle the situation.  Finally, I shrugged and asked, "Well, Gramma Nut, how can I convince you to let us through your patches?"

She smiled sweetly at me and replied, "I never said I wouldn't let you through.  You'll just have to have me guide the army through so that I can keep an eye on them and you all make it through safely."

"So, if I bring the army back later today or tomorrow, you'll be here waiting to guide us through the patches?"

Gramma Nut smiled and I couldn't help but believe her.  "Okay, Gramma Nut.  You have a deal."

She smiled at me and indicated that I should follow her.  We walked for an hour in absolute silence.  I followed her through twists and turns and I knew that without her, I wouldn't have been able to find my way.  I might have been lost for days without her help.  The most amazing part of it all was that the fog just got thicker and thicker, but it didn't even faze her in the least.  An hour or two later, it was hard to tell without being able to see the sun; we reached the northern edge of the Peanut Brittle Patches.  I thanked Gramma Nut and followed the road to the northeast towards the Lollypop Woods.

I entered the woods and found myself wondering how to find the army.  The woods were quite large and I had never ventured this far along the Candy Land Road before.  I also didn't know much about the woods or who might live there.  I was thinking these things to myself when I suddenly found myself hanging upside down a couple of feet from the ground.  I looked down, or up rather, at my foot and saw a rope wrapped around my ankle.  I mentally kicked myself for not paying closer attention to my surroundings.  I started to formulate a plan, when I saw movement out of the corner of my eyes.  I looked over and saw two gummy bears whispering to each other and pointing at me.  I mentally shrugged and called out to them, "Hey, can you help me down?"

They walked over and I saw that they were armed with crude bows and spears.  One of them was yellow and one was orange.  The orange one said, "No, I don't think we'll do that, quite yet.  You'll have to be interrogated first."

"Interrogated?" I said.  "For what?"

The yellow one laughed and said, "As a spy for Princess Lolly, of course."

"I don't know what's going on," I said.  "I'm not a spy for anyone; I just need to talk to Princess Lolly to bring her to help fight Lord Licorice!"

The bears looked at each other for a moment.  The orange one said, "Who is Lord Licorice and why would you want to have the princess fight him?"

I sighed and said, "Lord Licorice is the one responsible for the King of Candy Land's disappearance!  We currently have his castle under siege, but we don't have enough forces to take it from him."

The orange bear nodded to the yellow one who pulled a dagger off of his belt and cut the rope.  I landed quite roughly on my shoulder and lay on my back for a while trying to breath after the fall knocked the breath out of me.  The two bears stood over me for a moment before roughly pulling me to my feet.  Orange said, "If you're serious about getting the princess out of our wood, we'll help you.  However, if you are deceiving us in any way..."  He ran a finger over his throat to make sure I got the message.

I nodded to indicate that I understood and said, "Right.  Well, I don't know what possessed the princess to bring the Cookie Patrol out of the Candy Land Kingdom, but I'll talk her down.  Where is she?"

The two bears smiled viciously at each other.  Yellow said, "You might say that we've got a little siege of our own going.  Come on."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Story a Week 36 - Candy Land 3

Hello everyone!  Sorry about the post being a day late, the family and I were out of town for the weekend.  As you probably know, we bought a new van and this weekend it was scraped by someone at the hotel we were staying at.  Ugh.  We've only had the thing for six days!

Anyway, enjoy this new installment of the Candy Land storyline!


After I left Mr. Mint's Royal Peppermint Forest, I headed north around an arm of the Gumdrop Mountains and up into them following Candy Land Road.  I arrived at the predetermined meeting place where Gumdrop Mountain Pass met the road a couple of hours before dawn.  The platoon was nowhere in sight, so I decided to catch a catnap while I could.  I chose a spot not far off of the road so that the sounds of the platoon marching would wake me.

The sound of a deep rumbling woke me and I was startled to find a giant standing over me!  The rumbling had been the giant laughing.  As I was trying to figure out how to not be eaten by the giant, he bent down towards me and said, "Not to worry, little one!  I am Jolly, the Official Gumdrop Mountains Greeter!"

Confused, I sat up and leaned against the tree that was behind me.  "Official Gumdrop Mountains Greeter?  I've never heard of that before."

Jolly stood up and nodded.  "Yes, I get that a lot.  Or, I would if more people took the road through the mountains rather than taking the Rainbow Bridge.  It's a rather new position.  I just signed a treaty between my people and the King of Candy Land last week.  We are to guarantee that the Gumdrop Mountain Pass and the Candy Land Road stay clear and our people will maintain good relations and trade with the King."

"Okay, Jolly," I said as I stood up.  "I think that I will have to invoke that alliance right now, then.  The King has disappeared, along with his castle, and the Kingdom is in danger."

Jolly looked taken aback.  He stuttered as he said, "Um, well, you see... W...we're not exactly the w...warrior types.  We're peaceful Gumdrop Giants.  We've never fought anyone before."

I had an idea, but it wouldn't work without the giants.  I said, "Well, Jolly, if all goes well, there won't be a need to fight.  All I need is for you and your tribe to get together and follow the platoon and myself to Lord Licorice's castle."

Jolly looked a little skeptical, but he nodded all the same.  "Follow me, then and..."

He didn't get a chance to finish as another Gumdrop Giant came running up calling his name.  When he arrived, he was out of breath and tried talking, "Jolly!  There's the pass!"

Before Jolly could answer, I said, "Do you know if the platoon from the garrison in the pass made it through?"

The other giant shook his head and said, "No, but the avalanche is blocking their path."

I turned to Jolly and said, "Do avalanches happen a lot in the pass?"

He shook his head.  "Not really, one every couple of years, I guess.  They almost never block the entire path.  We've already had one this year too, so this is strange."

I was wondering if Lord Licorice could be involved, but I didn't have any ideas on how to find out.  I said, "Let's go to the pass and clear it out."

Jolly and I headed for the pass and the other giant went to their village to get more help.  As we walked, I spent the time trying to figure out how Lord Licorice seemed to be staying one step ahead of us.  Before I could figure out the answer, we arrived at where the avalanche was blocking the path.  Jolly started grabbing large chunks of ice and snow and moving them by hand.  I waited and watched until the other giants arrived with shovels.  They even had one my size.  With the whole tribe working, it didn't take long at all to clear out the path.  Sergeant Snick Ers and the rest of the platoon were waiting on the other side.  I shook hands with Snick when the path was clear.

He said, "I was about to suggest to Colonel Crunch that we start back and go around using the Candy Land Road when we heard you all digging."

He led me over to where Colonel Crunch was giving orders.  "Congratulations on your promotion from Captain, Colonel," I said.

He thanked me and asked, "What's going on, Ap?  I see you have the giants with you."

"Yes I do.  The Gumdrop Giants have agreed to escort us to Licorice Castle.  If there's any fighting though, they haven't agreed to that.  We'll just bring them along for the intimidation factor," I said.

He nodded and said, "Let's move out, then.  Sergeant, give the order."

We marched out of the path and to the Road.  A couple of hours later, we arrived at the castle.  It was obvious that the Lord had prepared the castle for a siege.  There were Bitter Chocolate Bats and Black Licorice Crows flying above the castle; Black Jellybeanmen on the ramparts armed with bows and spears; and the drawbridge was up.

Colonel Crunch, Sergeant Ers, Jolly and I spoke while the platoon and tribe were getting arrayed on the field outside the castle.  I said, "I don't think that we have enough forces to take the castle."

Colonel Crunch nodded his agreement and said, "We'll array our forces in a siege around the castle, well out of range of their bows, mind you, Sergeant."

I nodded and said, "Good, I'll head up the road to the Lollypop Woods and see if I can convince Princess Lolly to come back here with the rest of the Patrol."

We all agreed on the plan and I continued on the road to the west.  Before I got too far the sound of the drawbridge of the castle coming down stopped me.  We all turned and saw Lord Licorice standing alone on the bridge with a white flag in his hand.  Colonel Crunch indicated that I should come with and he and I walked to the edge of the bridge.  Lord Licorice and I just stared at each other, contempt on our faces for a few moments.  Finally, he said, "It looks like you all have decided to pay me a little visit.  What, pray tell, has brought you here?"

I had had enough of his pretentions.  I said, "You know full well what has brought us here.  The King is missing and you know where he is.  Tell us where, or we'll level your castle with you in it."

Lord Licorice glanced over my shoulder and laughed.  "With that pitiful rabble?  You wouldn't even get to the walls."

I glanced over to Colonel Crunch and he said, "You might be right about that, Licorice, but we're going to siege you anyway."

The Lord glared at him and growled, "You do that.  It won't make any difference and it won't help you find the King.  We're done here."

Colonel Crunch shrugged and turned back towards camp.  I said, "You won't get away with this, Licorice."

He smiled evilly at me and said, "I will see you soon, Mr. LePie."

He turned his back on me and walked into his castle.  I growled and turned away in frustration.  Colonel Crunch and I returned to the army and relayed what happened to Snick and Jolly.  I told them that I had to get on my way and said my goodbyes.  I knew that I would have to go through the Peanut Brittle Patches to get to the Lollypop Woods.  I hoped that I could navigate my way through the patches without too much trouble.  They were like a maze and the Road wasn't clearly marked.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's a New Car!

2012 Honda Odyssey
Last night, my wife and I did our civic duty to improve the economy by buying a new 2012 Honda Odyssey.  We had buying experience and I wanted to share it here.  Before I delve into the story, I need to tell you that my wife is the negotiator in our family.  She's good with money, finances and figures, plus she doesn't take any shit from anyone.  I cave in negotiations at the first sign of a struggle.  Not to mention that if you add a dollar sign in front of a number it transforms somehow into an unintelligible figure for me.  I'm good with numbers, but not money.  Not a good thing.  Also, she's a really awesome negotiator.

Our experience started on Saturday while the kids were staying over at their grandma's house.  We knew that we wanted to get an Odyssey, so we headed on over to Walser Honda in Burnsville.  We walked in and were immediately greeted.  We were told that they are a best price dealership.  That means that they don't negotiate on price.  Okay, that's cool; we don't like high pressure sales pitches anyway.  So we saw a couple of Odyssey's and test drove one.  We were already sold on the idea of buying one, and we were trading in our 2004 Honda Accord.  We gave them the keys and they drove it and looked it over and came back with a very low offer.  Well, we thought that this was where the wiggle room was and my wife told them that we needed a certain amount to make this work.  They "reminded" us that they are a best price dealership and didn't negotiate.  Well, long story short, we left without buying the van.

We were a little disappointed by not having a new van, so later that day (with our kids in tow) we headed over to Inver Grove Heights Honda.  My mother-in-law bought her Civic Hybrid from there and we'd had our Accord serviced there a few times, so we thought it would go smoothly.  Ha!  It started out good enough.  The kids were behaving well and we saw a good Odyssey and the kids seemed to love it.  They literally climbed over every inch of the interior.  Next came the negotiation part.  The kids were starting to get restless, so I took them to the little kids area that they had there while my wife negotiated with the sales guy.  So, I wasn't there during the negotiations, but from what my wife tells me, the guy was forceful and conniving.  At one point, he made her initial a hand written note that she would accept a certain price so that he could bring it to his manager.  Guess what?  He came back with a price higher than that!  She called it quits then and he tried to rally with "one more attempt" to talk his manager down.  Well, guess what dude, you had your chance.

By now, we were frustrated with the whole process, not disappointed.  We talked it over on Sunday and decided that come Monday, we'd try one more time at Walser.  Monday came and my wife called them and asked them if they had a certain color Odyssey and they confirmed that they did.  After I came home from work, we went there (sans kids, thanks to grandma again).  We walked in and wanted to take a look at the van and the same sales guy we talked to on Saturday went to get the keys.  About ten minutes later he came back and said that they couldn't find the van.  Apparently, sometimes the computer gets updated to say that the car is on the lot even when it hasn't arrived yet.  How stupid is that?  They literally had no idea where the vehicle was or when they'd get it.  UPS can track packages and tell you within the hour that they'll arrive, but a car dealership can't tell where their $35,000 car is?  Well, after discussing the color options (which were not satisfactory), we asked if they would let us have a loaner for the weekend if the van hadn't arrived by then.  They said no.  No negotiating power at all.  What a waste of time.  We left as frustrated as before.

On the way home, my wife called the third dealership that's relatively close to our house and asked if they had the color we were looking for.  They didn't, but they told us that the Hopkins Honda had two.  We drove the ~20 miles to Hopkins.  My wife was on the phone with the sales guy so that he would have all the paperwork as ready as he could for when we got there.  We were hoping for a relatively quick process with no negotiations involved.  We had two prices for the van and trade-in and she told the guy upfront what they were and what we were expecting.

So far, we'd had two extremes.  We had Walser which wouldn't budge on anything price-wise.  We had the Inver Grove guy who was getting to the price we wanted, but only after jumping through hoop after hoop.  We got to Hopkins and found something in between.  They are also a "best price" dealership, but the guy wanted to sell us a car, so my wife did a little negotiation with him on price and we all agreed on a price and trade-in value in record time.  We had to wait on a finance person, so I unloaded the car seats and other stuff from the Accord and put them in our new Odyssey.  Once the finance guy was ready, we went in and signed everything and drove off in our new car just before the dealer closing time.

Overall, I'd say that we saw a wide range of strategies regarding negotiation.  We had Walser, on the far end of the spectrum with absolutely no negotiations.  Then we had the far other end of the spectrum with over-negotiations at Inver Grove.  Finally, we had a good mix at Hopkins Honda with limited negotiations in the middle of the spectrum.

When we bought our G6 two and a half years ago, the dealer had the same kind of strategy that they used in Hopkins.  We were in and out in a couple of hours and everyone was happy.  While we ended up with a good deal and a good van, the experiences that two of the dealerships gave us were anything but good.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Story a Week 35 - Candy Land 2

 Even with my efforts to write a story for NaNoWriMo, I've managed to take the time to write another Story a Week.  This is a continuation on the Candy Land storyline.  It's quite a bit longer, coming in at around 1,600 words.  I tried to edit it down a bit, but I didn't even get as far into the story as I would have liked with this chapter.  Oh well.  I hope that you enjoy the story!


I returned to the Candy Land Road and started heading east towards the Royal Peppermint Forest.  It wasn't long before I ran into trouble though.  After a few minutes on the road, I turned a corner and was ambushed by some Black Licorice Crows.  They must have been sent by Lord Licorice to slow me down.  They swooped down at me over and over again, but about the only damage they did to me was to take my hat.  About the only thing that accomplished was to make me mad.

I pulled out my revolver and took aim at a few of the crows.  Before I could get a shot off, a net flew up into the air from behind a bush at the side of the road.  The net caught most of the crows, including the one that had my hat, and dragged them to the ground.  I cheered when the two or three remaining crows flew off to the north.

I was still on guard, though.  Whoever had trapped those crows hadn't yet come into sight around that bush.  I kept my revolver out, but pointed it to the ground as I called out, "Thank you!  Those crows were a real nuisance."

Two gingerbread men from the Cookie Patrol strolled out from behind the bush and I breathed a sigh of relief.  I even recognized one of them as Sergeant Snick Ers.  I waved and said, "Sergeant Ers, it's good to see you!"

He waved to me and indicated that I should come over to the net.  He was directing the other member of the squad to tie down the net as I approached.  He grabbed my hat from under the net and handed it to me.  He said, "Well if it isn't Ap LePie.  What are you doing wandering the Candy Land Road?"

I was wondering if the patrol had gotten word of the King's disappearance.  I wanted to be discreet, so I said, "I'm looking for the King."

Both of them stopped what they were doing and gave each other a concerned look.  Snick said, "So, you know about that, huh?"

"Yeah, Snick," I replied.  "Plumpy called me after he found out."  Something else was puzzling me though.  I asked him, "If the Cookie Patrol knows about the King's disappearance, what are you doing here?"

Snick took me by the shoulder and led me away from the crows and his subordinate.  Once we were out of earshot he said, "Look, Ap.  The kingdom appreciates everything you've done for us in the past, but I think that this one is a little over your head.  Princess Lolly has taken command of the Patrol and has lead most of the army to the Lollypop Woods to search for the King."

"The Lollypop Woods!" I yelled.  "What is she doing up there?  Doesn't she know anything?"

"Hold on, there Ap," he placed his hand on my shoulder to try to calm me down.  "What are you talking about?"

I sighed and told him about Plumpy and the Plumpa trolls.  Afterwards, I said, "You know that the crows are working for Lord Licorice too, don't you?"

Snick glanced back at the crows, then at me.  He said, "Yeah, but we just figured that he was up to his old tricks, not trying to take over the kingdom."  He looked thoughtfully at me and said, "Where are you heading, Ap?"

I thought about it for a moment.  My run-in with the crows proved that I couldn't take on Lord Licorice by myself.  I said, "Well, I had planned on going to Licorice Castle to confront the Lord, but I'm not so sure that it's a good idea to go by myself."

Snick nodded and said, "Yes, it's too dangerous for you to go alone.  Tell you what; I'm going to head up to the garrison in Gumdrop Pass.  I'll tell the commander there about the news that you've given me.  I'll meet you where the pass meets the road on the northern side."

I looked at him a little puzzled and asked, "Why don't I just go with you to the garrison?"

Snick laughed and said, "Well, Ap, that's a good question.  You need to stop by the Royal Peppermint Forest and tell Mr. Mint to step up the production of Peppermint spears, just in case we have a long drawn out war on our hands.  Who knows what kind of preparations Lord Licorice has already made."

I nodded to him and said, "That sounds like a plan.  I'll meet you on the north end of the pass where it meets the road."

He nodded to me and I continued on my way down the road.  The walk to the Royal Peppermint Forest took a couple of hours and was very uneventful.  When I got to the forest, I saw that all of the tree harvesting machinery was sitting unused.  I didn't see any lumberjacks around, so I went to Mr. Mint's foreman's cabin.  Now, before I go any further in the story, I need to mention that I'd never met Mr. Mint before.  Of course, I'd heard of him, who hasn't heard of the great lumberjack, Mr. Mint?  Even though I'd heard the stories, they really didn't prepare me for when I walked through that door and saw the contents of his cabin.

You probably know this already, but Peppermint trees can be used for pretty much anything.  As Snick had told me, they are used to make spears.  They also make good masts for ships sailing the Ice Cream Sea.  Mr. Mint likes to make wind instruments from them.  It's widely known that he has a large collection of these instruments.  When I walked through that door, I saw instruments everywhere!  I'm telling you that there were flutes on the floor, piccolos on the patio, clarinets stacked to the ceiling.  You get the picture.  In the middle of it all, there sat Mr. Mint whittling away at a piece of Peppermint tree with a knife.  He didn't even seem to notice that I'd entered.

I walked over to where he was sitting and cleared my throat.  He looked up at me and said, "Who are you?"

"My name is Ap LePie; we've never met, but..."

He interrupted me, saying, "Oh!  Ap LePie, the famous private investigator!  How nice to meet you!"  He waved his arm around the room and asked, "Have you come to purchase something?"

I shook my head and said, "Uh, no thank you Mr. Mint.  I've been sent here by Sergeant Ers.  He'd like you to start producing Peppermint Spears for the Cookie Patrol."

Mr. Mint scratched his head.  "I don't think that I can do that for you, Mr. LePie."

I was stunned; all I could say was, "Why not?"

He looked really confused.  I could see some sort of internal battle taking place in his head.  After a moment, one of the sides seemed to win the battle and he just shrugged and mumbled, "Dunno."

Frustrated, I turned and kicked a pile of piccolos that was nearby.  The small instruments went flying everywhere.  I was about to turn back to try and talk some sense into Mr. Mint when I saw something shiny buried in the piccolos.  Puzzled, I bent down and threw a couple piccolos to the side to uncover the thing.  It ended up being some sort of crystal ball.  I picked it up and felt an immense sense of apathy course through my body.  I dropped the ball and immediately felt more like myself.  Suddenly, Mr. Mint's refusal to help made sense.  Someone had left this crystal ball in his office that produced a feeling of apathy towards the world.  Mr. Mint coped by creating the things that he loved and ignoring the outside world.

I quickly picked up the ball and chucked it against the nearest wall as hard as I could.  The thing cracked, but didn't break.  Behind me, Mr. Mint let out a yelp.  I looked over to him and he was holding his head in both of his hands.  Angrily, I walked over to where the ball had landed and picked it up and smashed it against the ground.  This time it shattered into a million pieces.  Mr. Mint groaned and slumped forward.

I moved over to him and shook him awake.  I said, "Are you alright, Mr. Mint?"

He groaned again and looked up at me.  "You're Ap LePie, aren't you?  What are you doing here?"

He obviously didn't remember anything.  I told him my story and then about how I found him.  He looked about the room and said, "I guess that I've been busy doing all the wrong things."  He looked up at me with a fierce smile on his face.  "Mr. LePie, I'll get my workforce back to work and we'll start cranking out Peppermint spears before you know it!"

I smiled and slapped him on the back.  I turned to go, but Mr. Mint said, "Wait, Ap.  I think that I've got something that might help you on your way."

I turned and saw him go to his desk.  He rummaged through a drawer and pulled out a small, dark flute.  "Last year some of my workers found a Chocolate Peppermint tree deep in the forest.  Chocolate Peppermint trees are extremely rare and they turn into wonderful flutes that produce beautiful music."

He walked over to me and extended the flute out to me.  I looked and it was indeed a beautiful instrument.  "I don't think that I can take that, Mr. Mint."

He smiled and replied, "Please, take it.  Something tells me that you will need it before your journey is done."

I nodded at him and took the flute and carefully put it in the inner breast pocket of my coat.  "Thank you, Mr. Mint," I said.  I left his cabin and returned to the road.  My walk to the Gumdrop Mountain Pass would take most of the night and wouldn't be easy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


So, it's November already.  Man, this year has gone by really fast.  Well, it being November means that it's NaNoWriMo again.  You're probably asking what NaNoWriMo is?  Well, you should visit their site.  I really like the idea of trying to blast out a novel in 30 days.  It's a goal, much like my Story a Week thing that I do.  I'm going to try NaNoWriMo this year for the first time.  I don't know yet if I'll be able to write 50,000 words in 30 days (that's 1,667 words per day, for those keeping track).  It's hard enough to crank out ~1000 word stories every week.

I'm going to try though.  I have a story in mind.  Let me tell you about it.  A couple people know about my currently unfinished novel that I'm writing.  I've put the prologue on my blog.  I'm going to write the sequel for NaNoWriMo.  You might be thinking that writing the sequel before the first novel is finished is just plain wrong, but I assure you that the story for the sequel isn't really dependent on the completion of the first part.  In fact, I'll probably just make the first novel a prequel if I finish the second novel.

So, wish me luck.  I think I'll post an update in a couple of weeks.  Oh, and I'm not sure that I'll be able to write Story a Weeks, but I'm going to try to continue to do that.  It might help to keep the creative juices flowing to change it up every now and then.

EDIT:  You can track my progress here.