ARCs of The House at the Edge of Time

Review the winner of the 2017 Imaginerium Award for Best Children’s Book!

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Some houses are bigger than they look!

Max has a problem: he’s the new kid in school, and nobody wants to be friends. Until Ran invites him home.

And that changes Max’s life.

Because Ran has a secret: his family has a time machine. And his uncle is lost somewhere in time.

So now they’re dodging wolves, a volcano, and a really upset woolly mammoth.

Can they rescue Ran’s uncle? Can they FIND Ran’s uncle?

And can they get the dinosaurs out of the house?

cover for The House at the Edge of Time


a bit of The Night City

Part of chapter 1 of The Night City.  Enjoy!

The night the Bloody Mother took control, all the children in the city woke at the same instant.

Most soon slid into sleep again, tucked back into bed by their parents. But others stayed awake, hearing the slap of rain against the windows, the rumble of thunder following lightning across the sky. Something was different. Something was wrong.

Some children heard a voice—mother, father—reminding them to be careful. Someone who had died, still trying to help, still warning about danger.

Janira Pangborn knelt on her bed, peering through the rain-washed window. The city lights were blurred by the wind-swept rain. Lightning-flash showed her the tossing trees across the street.

The bedroom door opened all the way; Grandpa came in, hand outstretched to shut the bedroom window.

“Well, now,” he said when he saw her.

He checked that she’d closed the window tight, then bent to straighten her sheets, the night light showing her his nice grandpa face. “Came in to make sure you hadn’t been blown right out of bed. Woke you up, did it?” He patted her back down into bed, smoothed the covers over her. “That lightning was close—bet it almost knocked the Dutchman right off his pedestal. At least his light’s out.”

Really? Janira sat back up and craned to see through the window. Yes, there was a dark spot in the city skyline where red lights usually blinked under the Dutchman’s feet at the top of City Hall.

“Well, you go back to sleep now.” Grandpa lifted the covers so she could slide in, then smoothed them over her again.

“I thought something blew up,” she said. Because that had been in her dream: the bright flash of something being destroyed.

Her grandfather froze and looked at her for a heartbeat, lightning flickering over his face. Then he smiled. “I was just thinking about having a little glass of milk,” he said. “You want one?”

Up at two a.m. on a school night? Sure!

Downstairs looked disappointingly normal, and the milk was ordinary, even though it was two o’clock in the morning, when she’d never been awake before. But the thunder sounded softer, maybe because it wasn’t directly over her head.

“Used to have storms like this when I was a boy,” her grandfather said, sitting down at the table with his own glass of milk. “When I was a little guy, I used to think the thunder was coming right through the roof at me.” He smiled. “Your great-uncle used to wake up and find me hiding under the bed.”

Under the bed? It was hard to think of Grandpa ever being small enough to fit under the bed. She took a sip of milk. “Did Daddy get scared of thunder?” she asked.

“Oh, he’d sometimes come over to your grandmother’s and my bedroom, just making sure we were all right.” He grinned and winked at her, to let her know he was joking.

Daddy scared of thunderstorms! He wasn’t scared now—he wasn’t scared of anything, because he was a soldier. Soldiers weren’t afraid of anything. She wasn’t scared, either. Not really. Not of anything like thunder. It was just that this thunderstorm—

“Do you— Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked.

He drank some milk and looked at her for a moment. “Did you hear something that worried you?”

Not heard. But she wasn’t sure how to explain, so she shook her head.

“I’ve never seen a ghost,” Grandpa said. “You’d think we would, with that cemetery right across the street. But even when I was a little guy growing up in this house, I never saw any ghosts. And I looked for them, because the thought of ghosts always made me kind of nervous.” He smiled. “Did I tell you about Jonesey’s ghost?”

“Huh uh,” Janira said. She loved Jonesey stories. He’d lived right next door when Grandpa was a little boy, and they’d been best friends. Grandpa had a lot of funny stories about their adventures.

“We sneaked out,” Grandpa said, “late one night, after everybody else’d gone to bed. Fog coming off the river; everything kind of misty and wet and mysterious. We weren’t going to do anything; we were just walking around scaring each other in the dark. We were walking right beside that fence at the other end of the cemetery, and Jonesey said he saw something moving in the cemetery, out of the corner of his eye. Well, I looked, but I couldn’t see anything in the fog; and he looked, and he couldn’t see anything in the fog; but then I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye, too. Probably because he put it in my mind that there was something in the graveyard.”

He stopped and took a sip of milk; and Janira drank some milk, too, not actually tasting it. She was thinking about the darkness and the fog and the headstones and not being able to see something clearly. She wished he’d get to the funny part of the story.

“So,” he finally went on, “we were walking along that fence, kind of worried because nothing should be moving in that graveyard; and then we heard Officer Diller coming along. Police officers still walked a beat around here in those days, and Officer Diller was walking his beat, keeping an eye on the neighborhood. We hid when he came by, because he’d take us home and wake up our parents, and then we’d be in real trouble. We were huddled up in the bushes right beside the cemetery fence. And Officer Diller went by us, and we kind of relaxed; and just about the time the sound of his footsteps went away, Jonesey grabbed me. I never saw him so scared.”

Grandpa smiled at the memory. Janira looked at him anxiously. Was this the funny part?

“Jonesey was scared,” Grandpa said, “but he managed to pull me away from that fence, and he whispered, ‘Grabbed me. It grabbed my leg.’ And I looked, but I couldn’t see anything in the darkness and the fog, and there wasn’t anything like a stick or anything that would have been grabbing him through that fence. But, you better believe I wasn’t going to stick around where ghosts were grabbing people; and we started for home; but then we heard Officer Diller’s footsteps coming back, down the other side of the street. He was checking the shops there, making sure nobody had broken in. The fog was so thick, we couldn’t see him, and he wouldn’t have been able to see us, but I didn’t think of that, and I dragged Jonesey back to the fence. And then he made a squeaky sound and jumped and pointed down, back at the fence; and I looked down, and I could just see that something was coming through that fence, clawing at Jonesey’s leg, something I could barely see, even with the streetlight.

“I was about to run across that street, even if Officer Diller would get us in trouble, because ghosts were scarier even than my father. But then the ghost made a mrowr sound, and I thought, ‘That’s a cat.’ And it was. Mrs. Johansson’s big cat wandering through the night and the fog. It liked us and was trying to get our attention.” He chuckled. “It sure did get our attention—just not in the way we wanted.”

Okay, this was the funny part. Janira’s laughter was part relief that the story hadn’t turned into something that Grandpa thought was funny, but was actually scary. Sometimes his stories were like that.

“I don’t really think people come back from the dead, especially if it would worry children,” Grandpa said. “I think most people’s ghosts are like Mrs. Johansson’s cat. I have seen some strange things: all police officers see strange things. People totaling their cars and coming out without even a bruise. Children finding their way out of a burning building without being hurt. And there was a drive-by shooting where bullets hit cars and buildings and even sacks of groceries people were carrying, but they didn’t hit a single person.”

She loved this story. “And Gabriel Lightning,” she murmured. It was a wonderful name.

“I tell this story a lot, huh?” Grandpa said, smiling. “Yes, I was interviewing witnesses, and asked if anyone had seen or heard anything besides the bullets, and a boy said, ‘Just Tasha hollering “Gabriel Lighting, help us!” ’ Tasha was eight years old. Just her pet name for an angel, I guess.” He looked at the clock on the kitchen stove. “Oh, hey, we need to get back to bed,” he said. “You’ve got school tomorrow.” He peered at the clock again. “Today. You’ve got school today.”

Suddenly Janira was tired—so tired she could barely drag herself up the stairs to bed.

“Guess we can open the window a little,” Grandpa said.

Outside, the thunder was now just a muttering in the distance, and the rain-washed air smelled clean.

How comfortable her bed looked! Janira snuggled down and closed her eyes as Grandpa tucked her in. “’Night, Grandpa,” she murmured.

“’Morning, you mean.” His voice had a laugh in it, and she smiled.

Outside, a car went past, its tires hissing on the wet street. On the other side of the wall, her grandfather’s bed creaked as he got into it. Out in the dark hallway, the old clock steadily ticked and tocked. Comforting sounds. Normal sounds.

But something kept Janira from sliding into sleep. Something that— She had to check.

Dragging herself out of her comfortable bed was almost painful, but she had to look, had to make sure.

She peered through the window at the rain-shiny street. The Dutchman’s statue still stood in darkness. The streetlight made the wet leaves on the oak tree in Mrs. Coiner’s front yard glitter like little stars.

Janira felt herself relax. The sidewalk was empty. There was no one there now, no figure walking up and down, misty in the darkness.

The figure that had been there before, when the dream woke her, was gone: her mother, in her Army uniform, patrolling with her rifle on her back.

Her mother’s ghost, patrolling in the darkness.

The Night City introductory discount

NightCity Until the end of January, The Night City is 99 cents!  Buy it now!  Buy it often!

The night the Bloody Mother took over, all the children in the City woke at the same instant …

Since her soldier parents went to fight in the war, Janira’s life has changed again and again. First she went to live with her grandfather in the city where her father grew up.

Then her mother was killed.

Now she sees ghosts–memories of those who lived in the City long ago.

And when she finds the piece of quartz knocked off the Dutchman’s statue on City Hall, she sees more: wolves, people from the past, magical statues.

But bad things are happening in the City.

Now Janira’s caught in a struggle between the guardians from the past who protect the City and the followers of the Bloody Mother who are trying to destroy it. The bad guys want the quartz stone that Janira found so they can control the City forever.

And they’ll do anything to get it.

Can Janira save herself and the people she cares about? Can she help the guardians? And will she ever get used to being followed by a pack of really friendly wolves?

The Night City is a middle grade adventure in a city of wonders.  It’s available from as an ebook from Kobo and Smashwords, and as an ebook and paperback from Barnes & Noble and amazon.

a bit of The House at the Edge of Time

Chapter 1 of The House at the Edge of Time. Enjoy!

“Some houses,” said Mrs. Hirsch, “just never should have been built.”

Max bit into his second cookie and looked warily at her. She was standing at the kitchen sink, glaring out the window at the big house on the hill. Max sort of like the big stone house, with its towers and swoopy roofs and occasional gargoyle, but he knew better than to say it. Mrs. Hirsh just like to argue.

“Shoulda just bulldozed it when they had the chance,” said Mrs. Hirsch. “Of course, they didn’t get the chance. If I’d of sold all my land to a developer, I’d of sold my house, too. Start over. Build a nice house like the ones we live in—all square and nice. Instead of that weird monstrosity. Weird family. Nuts—all of ’em.”

Max’s father didn’t agree that their new house was all that nice. “Shoe box,” he called it. A shoe box on a street with other shoe boxes, all alike. He liked the house on the hill, too, though, “Wow, the upkeep,” he said. “Those old mansions just eat money.”

That must have been why the Willsons had sold their land for someone to build the subdivision of square brick houses. Now the mansion perched above them, almost hidden by trees.

Mrs. Hirsch looked over at Max. “You see that boy at school?” she asked.

Uh— “Ran?” said Max. “Yeah. He keeps to himself.”

Mrs. Hirsch snorted. “Ran. What kind of parents give a child a name like that?”

Maxwell Eleazer Pangborn shifted in his chair and reached for a third cookie. He wasn’t saying a word. He could sympathize with somebody who had a name like “Ran Willson”; he’d had to defend himself over his own name. Max’s father joked that Max’s full name was really “Maxwell Eleazer Don’t Mess With Me Pangborn”, and sometimes he called Max “Don’t” for short.

“You makin’ a lot of friends at school?” asked Mrs. Hirsch.

Uh— “Sure,” Max said, but he was lying, and he was pretty sure Mrs. Hirsch knew it.

He missed his old friends, and he missed his old school. Being the new kid was hard enough, but arriving in the middle of the school year was even worse. By then everybody else knew each other and didn’t seem to want new friends. And only a couple of the other kids in his class were black, and they didn’t seem interested in him, either. So until he made a friend or two, Max was the odd one out—he and Ran.

And that was a problem, because Ran got picked on. Max wasn’t—yet. The others didn’t know him yet and weren’t sure about him. So he was careful not to call attention to himself; he didn’t want to be a target.

Ran was a different story, because the other students knew him and because there was just a lot about him to make fun of. He was not, as Max’s father put it, socially ept. There was his weird name and his shabby clothes. And he never seemed to comb his hair, which stuck out in little wisps and tufts that got worse when he scrunched his hair with both hands, which he did a lot. And Ran never played with the other kids at recess or answered questions in class—when he even bothered to come to school. The other kids seemed to think that Ran was stupid, though he was always reading—usually interesting-looking books about science or the past.

But the main thing people made fun of was Ran’s family. “Weird,” “crazy,” and “loony”—that’s what the other kids said. Max wasn’t sure why. Ran lived with his uncle instead of his parents, but that couldn’t be it. After all, everybody’s family was a little different. Max’s family was just him and his father because Max’s mother had died when he was a baby. That didn’t make somebody’s family weird.

“Crazy people, all of ’em,” said Mrs. Hirsch. Then, “You got homework?”

“I did it already.” Sort of.

“Well, go out and play, then, why don’t you. It’ll be dark before your father gets home; you should get some fresh air.”

Max grinned. Mrs. Hirsch was big on fresh air. Every day after school he dropped off his books in his own empty house and came next door to her place so she could keep an eye on him; and she sent him outside to get some fresh air.

“I think I’ll go to the library,” he said. He grabbed his helmet and jammed his fuzzy green earmuffs into his coat pocket in case he had to walk; and then he paused on his way out the door with his hand on the knob, waiting for her to say it.

“Well, don’t get run over,” Mrs. Hirsch said, wiping the kitchen table.

She said it every time he went out; it was funny and it meant—Max’s father told him—that she cared about him.

The library was a short bicycle ride away, not far from the entrance to Wyrwood Estates—the fancy name for the subdivision where Max lived. No one else was out on this gray January day, and Max felt like the only person in the world.

He stopped for a moment where the Willsons’ patched and pot-holed driveway met the subdivision’s smooth, new road. From here the mansion looked even more like a castle—one of the ones in the monster movies his father sometimes wrote articles about.

Max knew his movies; by age eleven he’d seen hundreds, over and over and over. Max’s father had studied film in college, so Max had grown up seeing, it seemed, every movie there was, while his father wrote papers about them. Now his father taught classes about movies in the local college, so they still held movie marathons; it was just that now his father grouched over student papers in between exclaiming over fields of view and images of the Other—whatever that meant.

The library was a great place that always cheered Max up, especially on cold and gray days like today. It wasn’t very big—just one large room—but the librarians knew what their patrons wanted. Unfortunately, people were already on the computers, but luckily there was a big new book on dinosaurs that Max was just in the mood for. Dinosaurs especially cheered him up.

Except someone else had the book.

Max saw with a sinking heart that there was only one other person in the kids’ section of the library, and that person was Ran. And he was reading the new book—the one with the color pictures that made it so easy to block out the world of the twenty-first century and imagine a larger world full of huge, wonderful lambeosaurs and apatosauruses. Ran had it flat on the table and was twisting his hair with his fingers as he read, so intent that his nose was about six inches from the book.

Nuts. For a minute, Max thought about going home, but there was nothing to do at Mrs. Hirsch’s house. So he poked around in the kids’ section, sneaking glances at Ran to see if he showed signs of giving up the book.

No such luck. Not, that is, until Max had settled down with an archaeology magazine with pictures of Neanderthals. Suddenly he realized that Ran was coming his way, carrying the book.

Oh, nonononono.

It didn’t work. Ran stopped at Max’s elbow and stood there for a minute, breathing noisily, before he thrust the book under Max’s nose.

“If you had a dinosaur like this,” Ran said, “what would you feed it?”

When it came to paleo-anything, Max’s brain was on automatic.

“Orodromeus,” the caption read. “Campanian period of the Cretaceous.”

“It eats plants,” he said. “No grass in the Cretaceous, so I’d feed it tree leaves and ferns and stuff.”

Max glanced around the library, hoping nobody was noticing that he was talking to goofy Ran. Then he looked at Ran, who seemed relieved somehow, as if he had known the answer all along and was glad to have finally found someone else who knew it. “Right,” Ran said thoughtfully.

Max blinked at him. “Right?” he asked.

“Yeah. Oro—what?”

“Orodromeus. Little guys. They travel in herds.” Or maybe flocks, because they had kind of feathers—


That word again. “Right?

Ran grinned at him, and it occurred to Max that this was the first time he’d seen Ran smile.

“You know a lot about dinosaurs,” Ran said.

Uh— “Yeah.”

“You must really like ’em.”

Uh— “Yeah.”

Ran’s grin got wider. “I got something to show you,” he said.

Max hesitated. Being seen with Ran would ruin any chances he had of ever making friends with the cool kids at school.

Ran noticed him hesitating; his grin vanished and something in his expression snapped shut. He stepped back as if to leave.

On the other hand, even a friend like Ran was better than no friend at all. And Max was bored. And—dinosaurs. Why was Ran talking about dinosaurs like they were real? He just had to know what was happening.

“Sure,” said Max. “I gotta be home before dark, though.”

He was casual as he put on his coat, as if he had not hesitated, as if Ran were an old friend instead of a suddenly silent shadow following him out of the library.

“It’s—it’s up at my house,” Ran said abruptly, tucking the ends of his striped scarf inside his coat and jamming his bike helmet on over his neon-red winter hat.

Really? Cool!” Finally Max would get to see inside the big, weird mansion on the hill.

Max’s reaction must have been just right, because Ran’s grin was back as he unchained and mounted the rustiest bicycle Max had ever seen. It also was the noisiest, squeaking and rattling all the way up the hill.

Up they went, past the shoe box houses, up the winding driveway beneath the trees, to the mansion looming bigger and bigger and bigger.

They came to an enormous porch, where Ran chained their bicycles to a pillar.

“Front door,” he said; and, wow: it was the best front door Max had ever seen.

Around the door were carvings of gods and goddesses. Over the door was carved an old man with a scythe and an hourglass: Father Time. Below him words were cut deep: “ABANDON ALL TIME, YE WHO ENTER HERE.” Really: the weirdest and coolest front door ever. Max’s father would love it.

The inside was just as mind-boggling: under Max’s feet was a vast mosaic of planets and stars and whirling galaxies. Darker patches on the wallpaper showed where huge tapestries or paintings had hung.

“Come on!” Ran called, running ahead.

Max went on, through an enormous stone hall with nothing but a table twenty feet long, through a room with frescoes of people jumping over bulls, to a wall made of panes of glass which Max realized was the entrance to some sort of enormous greenhouse.

Here Ran waited, grinning at him.

Inside the greenhouse was a tangle of palms and huge ferns around a big stone fountain. Max peered through the glass into a tropical world that looked weird under the January sky.

Something moved in the greenery; something shook the green fronds. Max’s breath stopped.

Something else lived in that green world. There were dinosaurs, lots of them.

Want to read the rest?  The House at the Edge of Time is available at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, and Amazon.

The House at the Edge of Time

cover for The House at the Edge of Time

Some houses are bigger than they look!

Max has a problem: he’s the new kid in school, and nobody wants to be friends. Until Ran invites him home.

And that changes Max’s life.

Because Ran has a secret: his family has a time machine. And his uncle is lost somewhere in time.

So now they’re dodging wolves, a volcano, and a really upset woolly mammoth.

Can they rescue Ran’s uncle? Can they FIND Ran’s uncle?

And can they get the dinosaurs out of the house?

The House at the Edge of Time is available at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, and Amazon.

A bit of a hello

I write fiction, mostly for middle-grade readers.  I self-publish them, as ebooks and print on demand paperbacks.  I write slowly, but I write carefully.  And people who read my fiction seem to enjoy it.

I also research early American periodicals for children (almost 400 of them).  I’ll try not to mention them here (though they are really cool).