Friday, July 19, 2013

Sneak Peek: Return to Skunk Corners

Instead of Flash Fiction, today I'm giving a sneak peek at the opening of the new Ninja Librarian book, due out August 15: Return to Skunk Corners.

First, though the cover isn't finished so I can't do a reveal, I just want to say it will feature this guy:

And, so do some of the stories.  After all, this is Skunk Corners, right there next to Skunk Springs on Skunk Mountain.

So the story opens:

 Skunk corners with no librarian
It didn’t come as any surprise.  When we sent the toughs from Endoline packing without any help from the Skunk Corners librarian, I knew what we’d proven.  I’d known the Ninja Librarian long enough to guess what came next.
Still, it had been a nasty shock when I woke that morning to find an envelope on my kitchen table.  Only one person could’ve snuck in and left it without me waking.  With a sinking feeling, I slit the envelope with my hunting knife, feeling the big brass key inside.  Along with the key to the library was a single line penned on a bit of stationery in the Ninja Librarian’s fussy, old-fashioned handwriting:
It’s yours now, Alice.
Mine?  I knew even less about running a library than I did about running a school.  Which, despite several years in charge of the Skunk Corners school, wasn’t much.  Anyway, I couldn’t run a library and a school, could I?  I raced to the library, meaning to stop him if I had to sit on him, but he was gone.
Just like that, I’d lost my best friend, my teacher, and my mentor, and gained another unwanted responsibility.  If Ninja Tom wanted me to grow up, he’d opted for the sink-or-swim approach.
I was giving some serious thought to sinking.
It wasn’t just me.  In the following weeks my students grew mopey, the mayor nervous, and Tess and her girls cranky.  Maybe not as cranky as me, but they’d lost a friend, too.  Like me, they didn’t have many they could spare.
In short, our town had lost its heart, just when we’d started to learn we had one.
“This is silly,” Tess tried to convince us both.  We were having drinks in her place—Two-Timin’ Tess’s Tavern—shortly before closing a couple weeks after he left.  We sipped our tea from shot glasses.  “It’s not like Tom was one of us,” she argued.  “We got on before he came.  We’ll get on without him.”
“I know,” I said.  “He was just an outsider who came and tried to tell us how to run things.”  It was a good effort, but it didn’t work.  “I was an outsider myself not so long ago. Tess.  What makes me any different from him?”  Tess shrugged.  She didn’t have any answers.
Ninja Tom had come and shown our whole town how to grow up, and that was worth a whole lot more than being born here.  Everything was different because of him, and what I was afraid of—what we all feared—was that without him we couldn’t keep it up.
“I don’t want Skunk Corners to go back to being the sort of town that drives off librarians and raises children who can’t read.  Won’t read, which you gotta admit is worse.”
“I know,” Tess said. 
“That’s why I’ve got so gloomy and cantankerous.”
I suppose I should introduce myself.  Around Skunk Corners I’m known as Big Al, though Tom called me by my given name almost from the first.  That’s one thing Tom hadn’t finished before he left.  I might’ve let him call me Alice—he once kicked me into the street on my hindquarters for backtalk, so I didn’t argue—but he couldn’t make me like the name.  And I didn’t let anyone else use it.  Now that he was gone, no one called me Alice, not even Tess, who dared most things.
Tom hadn’t managed to turn Big Al into a girl.  It should have made me happy.
Later that night, though my heart wasn’t in it, I practiced the drills Tom had taught me. That was another thing he hadn’t finished.  I was no Ninja fighter yet, though I was better set to defend myself than I’d been a year before.  I could maybe handle the sort of trouble-maker we got here well enough.  I’d already kicked one low-down side-winder out of town.  But I’d be no match for someone really mean.
And I didn’t know how to defend Skunk Corners from itself.  Fewer people came to the library now, and I didn’t seem to have Tom’s ability to captivate the children at story time.  Oh, I knew the tricks he’d used in the beginning.  But he hadn’t needed those tricks for long.  His voice could hold them once they’d been quiet long enough to hear it.  Mine held no magic at all.
So I was expecting the worst when disaster hit our town, though what I expected was nothing like what happened.

Notice: This blog is posting itself in my absence.  If you comment, I WILL respond. . . but not for a few weeks.  This does not mean I no longer love you.  It just means I've gone hiking.


  1. I like sneak peeks :D I can't wait for the next instalment!

    Hope your camping is going well. No skunks!

  2. No skunks, no bears, lots of great mountains and, alas, lots of mosquitoes.

    I have to get out of the library--they are closing!


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