Choose Concludes!

Here it is everyone. Thanks so much to everyone who donated!!!

While the Reid children could be sarcastic, they knew that, if there was a terrible beast, and there was someone who seemed to have information about that terrible beast, you should probably be polite them. Millie said, “May I ask who’s speaking?”

A woman stepped out of the shadows behind them. She wasn’t all that much taller than Millie, but she was beautiful, with light blonde hair and a brilliant smile. “A friend, Honey.”

Anders said, “We could use one of those.”

The woman patted him on the head. “I know; I just found out about this awful amulet task.”

Millie  said, “How did you find out about that?” 

The woman sighed. “I try to keep up on things and do good where I can.”

Blue asked, “Are you an angel?”

The woman laughed. “I can’t say that I am, Sugar. But I do my best, and I love to hear that kids read, so I give kids books and support libraries.”

Millie narrowed her eyes. “Wait a minute, I think that I know who you are. You’re Dolly Parton.”

“That I can say, yes.” 

“You just got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!” Anders said. He said it a little too loudly, because the hodag turned its head towards the Reid children and Dolly Parton. 

Dolly Parton said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” She reached back into the shadows and pulled out guitar. She sang a sweet song. It was soft and slow, and the hodag started to walk around in a circle. It eventually laid down and closed its eyes. The Reid children all looked at her with wonder. She just smiled and said, “When you’ve been singing as long as I have, you get pretty good at it.”

Blue said, “I really liked your song.”

Dolly Parton thanked her, then she signaled for the Reid children to stay still while she went to get something. She quietly walked past the hodag and around a corner. Anders said, “I’m pretty sure that she actually is an angel.”

Blue said, “I was gonna say that, too!” Millie smiled but didn’t say anything.

Dolly Parton came back with something shiny in each hand. The Reid children looked excited, but she put a finger to her lips. When she got back to them, she held up one amulet. “This is the one that they want. With it, they could do terrible things.” She lowered that hand and raised the other amulet. “This is the one that you should give them.” It looks like the real one, but, with this one, they won’t actually be able to do anything.”

Millie took the fake amulet. “It really does look like the other one.”

Anders asked, “What are you going to do with the real amulet?”

“I thought I might give it to Miley Cyrus. It looks like something she’d like.”

Blue’s jaw dropped for a second, then she said, “Are you serious?”

Dolly Parton laughed quietly. “I’m pulling your leg. I’m going to put the amulet someplace safe where bad people can’t find it.”

Anders said, “I wish we had something for you to autograph.”

Dolly said, “Maybe you’ll see me again someday.” Then she winked. The Reid children all smiled. “Okay now,” she said. “Do you all still have the box to get back?” Millie held it up Dolly Parton nodded. “Push the button, give them the amulet, and everything will be fine.”

The Reid children hugged Dolly Parton. She gave a very warm hug back. Blue and Anders both held onto Millie’s arms, and Millie pushed the button. They were back in that other awful place. The man in charge looked at them. “That was quick.” 

Millie shrugged. “We got your dumb amulet, why complain?” She held up the amulet. The man in charge took it. He smiled. The group of wizards stood watching. The man in charge turned around and held up the amulet. The wizards all cheered. The various creatures who were circling around stopped their circling for a moment, then they retired to their routes. 

The man in charge went to the wizards, and they all began to chant as he held the amulet high up. The chanting grew louder and louder. The dragon breathed fire. The amulet began to glow a bright purple. Blue leaned towards her siblings. “Did we give the wrong amulet?”

Millie could only shrug. But as the chanting got louder and the amulet got brighter, the wizards, the creatures, and the dragon all got…fuzzier. Or blurrier. They got something, and then they were just gone. Anders said, “No, that was the right amulet.”

There were a few seconds of silence, and then the Reid children heard the door at the top of the stairs swing open. They raced to the top and happily went back into the library. They quickly decided that they wouldn’t tell anybody about what happened. They quickly found the books that they wanted to check out, and they met back with their mom at the front desk. On their way out to the car, they saw a flier on the bulletin board. None of them remembered seeing it on their way in, but it caught their attention, and they all looked at each other and smiled. It was for a charity event that was coming up. There was a long list of performers, and, of course, one of them was their new favorite singer. Blue said, “We should bring something to get autographed.”

Mrs. Reid gave her children a puzzled look, but, by this point, she was used to strange things happening, so it was no big surprise.

Third Chunk!

Here it is. This will be the last round of donations. Thanks in advance!

The person in charge smiled, but it wasn’t a kind or even happy smile. “There’s a little something that you need to bring us. It will conclude our ritual.”

Millie raised an eyebrow. “Is it Ex Lax?” Anders and Blue giggled. The person in charge did not laugh. He raised a hand high in the air, and the dragon breathed fire for several seconds. When it stopped, smoke rose from its nostrils.

The person in charge said, “Enough. You will be going to fetch a very specific item for us, and then you will return it to us. If you do not, then we will kill you and your family.”

Blue gasped. “You’re going to kill Grandma and Grandpa?”

The person in charge squatted down. “As long as you bring me back the amulet, you and your family will be safe.”

Blue rolled her eyes. “There’s always a stupid amulet.”

The person in charge narrowed his eyes. “You’ve been in situations like this before?”

Blue said, “I just mean that there are amulets in a lot of stories. We check a lot of books out from the library, and a lot of them have amulets.”

“Libraries are great,” Anders said.

The person in charge stood and shook his head. “You need to focus. This task will be dangerous.” Maybe even more than what you see here. He gestured back at the three types of creatures circling around. 

Millie raised her hand. “May I ask a question?”

“Is it directly about getting the amulet?”

Millie thought for a second. “Yes, it is.”

The person in charge gave a quick nod. “Yes, as long as it’s directly related to getting the amulet, you may ask.”

Millie said, “If it’s so important, then why can’t you get it?”

The person in charge turned away from the Reid children. He took a few steps before speaking. When he started, his voice was low and growly. “They’ll detect me right away if I appear. If I send someone completely unrelated to me, then there’s a chance. A chance.”

The Reid children looked at each other. Without speaking, they all understood that they hated the person in charge but also had to follow his directions, at least temporarily. Millie said, “Okay, how do we do it?
The person in charge stared at the children for a few seconds. “When you get there, tread carefully. Stick to the shadows. Get the amulet, then touch this.” The person in charge held out a small box with a single button in the middle. The children looked at it for a moment until Anders took hold of it. Then, the person in charge said, “Be quick. You don’t want to leave yourself in harm’s way.”

Millie said, “And if we get it, you’ll just let us go, totally free?”

The person in charge nodded. “It was an accident that you were able to find this place. You wouldn’t be able to do it again.”

Blue asked, “What are you going to do with the amulet?”

The person in charge waved a hand. “That’s not your concern. Your only concern is to bring us the amulet.” The Reid children felt extremely sleepy for just a few seconds, and then they felt very awake. When they looked around, they recognized that they’d been transported to a new place. This place was not well lit, and it smelled musty. The children started to move around the room, shuffling slowly and trying to avoid stumbling. When they did eventually find a little alcove that might hide an amulet, they heard growling. A torch suddenly alighted, and they saw a monster. It had dark skin and several horns on its head, back and tail. It had large eyes and fangs. The children were quiet until Blue whimpered. Then, Anders said, “What is that?”

From behind them, the children heard someone say, “That’s a hodag.”

If you want the Reid children to try to run away from the voice, donate to Bloomington Public Library

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If you want the Reid children to politely ask the voice who it is, donate to Rhinelander Public Library

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If you want the Reid children to ask “What the heck is a Hodag?” donate to Milwaukee Public Library

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Choose Section II

The results of round one were easy enough to predict that I’ve been able to get the second chunk done. Here it is. Thanks so much to everyone who donated in round one! Check my social media accounts to see incentives for rounds two and three. As usual, I’m including section two as both an attachment and as text.

What the Reid children saw was actually a set of different things. The first and most obvious thing that they saw was a large dragon. Its scales were a mix of red and green, but it did not make the Reid children think about Christmas so much as it made them think about terror and doom. That was because of the smoke coming from the dragon’s nostrils as well as the occasional bursts of flame that would come from its mouth. Blue whimpered. Millie quickly put one hand on Blue’s shoulder, using the other hand to raise a single finger to her lips. Blue nodded and put one of her hands over her own mouth.

The second thing that the Reid children saw was a group of people in robes. Strangely, they did not seem at all concerned about the large dragon right in front of them. Instead, they were arguing about something, but the Reid children couldn’t hear what. Their postures and hand gestures made the fact that they were arguing clear, as those postures and hand gestures were familiar to the Reid children from their vast experience of arguing with each other. 

The third thing was the last thing that the Reid children noticed. While this group was less striking than the dragon, the Reid children would have done well to notice them earlier. It was a set of unusual creatures prowling around the dragon and the robed arguers. There were seven in total. Two of them were furry with short but sharp horns. They walked a bit like toddlers, not totally steady on their feet, but with enthusiasm. Three of the creatures were scaly, and they scuttled around on four legs. They were a little like large lizards, but their faces weren’t lizard like. They were more like children’s drawings of clowns. That is, drawings done by kids who were terrified of clowns. The last two creatures had many, many legs. When they moved, it looked like they rolled more than walked, because their motion was so smooth. They had multiple mouths on the tops of their bodies. If they had eyes, the eyes were not visible. 

Anders leaned towards Blue and whispered, “We’ll try to keep you safe now, but, later, Millie and I are going to take turns punching you in the arm.”

Millie flicked Anders’s cheek and shook her head. Blue hugged Millie tightly.

Two of the creatures (a furry one and a many-legged one) got close to each other. The many-legged one reared up and made a hissing noise, and the furry one squatted down and made a kind of screech. The other animals stopped their movement and began to watch. “Maybe they’ll all kill each other?” Anders said.

Before it got that far, multiple streaks of lightning came from the floor near the robed arguers. They all stopped arguing and watched as another robed figure emerged from the floor. After he was fully out of the floor and standing, he clapped his hands. The animals stopped fighting. The new robed figure began to yell at the others. They seemed to understand that he deserved to be in charge. All of the other robed figures looked down at the floor and began to pick up some items that were on the floor. Next, the new figure snapped his fingers, and the strange animals began to circle the area again. Finally, the figure looked to the bottom of the staircase and pointed towards the Reid children. Anders said a single curse word, and Millie told him, “I’m telling Mom.”

They knew that they couldn’t run back up the stairs. They’d be stuck against a closed door and would likely get shredded or eaten or something like that. “Let’s run to the right,” Millie said. She didn’t actually have a good reason for this, but she sounded convincing, so they all moved that way. They ran as fast as they could, and, at first, it looked like the Reid children would be able to easily outrun the strange creatures. But the figure in charge yelled something in an unfamiliar language and waved his hand. The floor the Reid children were running on seemed to develop an incline, and it became very hard to run. The first of the strange creatures to catch up to them were the many-legged ones. They flanked the Reid children, and they began to hiss like the one had before. The dragon roared loudly, though it seemed like this was more to terrify the kids than it was an actual threat. The many legged-creatures clearly had to be dealt with first.

The Reid children had never had any formal training in combat, but Blue and Anders had been siblings their whole lives, and Millie couldn’t really remember a time when she didn’t have a younger sibling, so there was a lot of informal experience to draw from. Blue started by stomping on as many of one of the creature’s feet as she could. Its hissing turned into a kind of high-pitched howl, and it curled into a ball. Millie and Anders began punching wildly at the other creature. That creature began curling around Millie. Instead of screaming, Millie grabbed two legs in each arm and then fell backwards, pulling hard on them. Anders saw what she was doing and hopped over the creature to the other side, punching one of the mouth’s lips as he went. Anders did the same thing that Millie was doing in the other direction. The creature let go of Millie and started thrashing about.

But, just as the Reid children seemed to gain the upper hand, the other creatures caught up. The scaly ones moved quickly, whipping their tails back and forth as they went. This had a positive effect in that it made the furry creatures stay behind them, though they snapped their jaws at the tails. The scaly creatures quickly surrounded Blue, and she sat down on the ground and started to cry. The furry creatures went to the other many-legged creature, one took on Anders and two on Millie. They had the children overpowered when there was a loud whistle.

The figure in charge slowly walked over to the children. They were terrified as he made his way to them. Still, the creatures hissed or howled, but they didn’t actually touch the children. When the man in charge finally reached them, he said, “Well, well, well. Let me guess:  you were just trying to check out some books from the library, then you were looking for a bathroom, then suddenly you ended up here. Is that right?”

The Reid children all began talking at once. They were all loud, they spoke practically without taking a breath, and none of them were saying the same thing. This went on for a few seconds before the man raised a hand and yelled, “Enough”. The dragon blew fire in the air and looked down and the children. The children quieted down. The person in charge spoke again. “I’ll give you one chance to get out of this, but you have to do a favor for me.”

The children looked at each other. They didn’t nod, but they all knew that they had little choice. “What’s the favor?” Millie asked.

If you want it to be helping to cast a spell, donate to Bloomington Public Library

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If you want it to be retrieving a magical item, donate to Milwaukee Public Library

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If you want it to be fighting a rival wizard, donate to Rhinelander Public Library 

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First Chunk!

I’m officially releasing the first phase of the choose-your-own-adventure fundraiser. I’m attaching it as a .pdf and also cutting and pasting it below so that you can read it in whatever way you choose. I’m also including the link to my Facebook page so that, of course, you can donate to vote. Thanks everyone!

The Reid children were used to strange things. That shouldn’t be surprising, given their unusual names. Millie had been named after one of their grandmothers, and she had been teased for having an old lady name until Stranger Things came out. After that, a decent number of people thought her name was cool, though still unusual for a girl her age. Nobody could remember exactly where Anders got his name from, and it was odd in a different way than Millie’s was, so people scratched their heads about it. But the Reid children’s parents would just shrug when someone asked about it, so the Reid children didn’t think much of it either. Dealing with his name was all part of being used to weirdness. Blue, the youngest, got her name from her habit of coloring on herself when she was a toddler. For some reason, she would only color with blue marker. She mainly colored on her arms and legs, though every now and then she’d color on her face. That got some “Smurf!” comments from her classmates when she got into grade school, and she stopped coloring on herself shortly after that, but the name stuck. 

And all of that weirdness was just their names. Once you took their family trips into account, you got all sorts of other oddities. Sometimes they were good, like the farmer’s market trip where they found a delicious fruit that they didn’t recognize and that they never found again. The stand had been run by a family with accents that the Reids couldn’t fully place, so the Reid’s weren’t quite able to make out what they’d bought. Strangely, the stand hadn’t shown up again at later markets. Sometimes the surprises were bad, like the road trip where they found nearly a thousand cicadas in their hotel room. The ones in the toilet were particularly disturbing, but let’s not get into that. Most often, the surprises were just weird, like when they drove past the parade of people cosplaying as Spiderman with no context or explanation, and, when they got to their hotel and asked about it, nobody said that they even knew that a parade had gone through town, though they did see one person dressed as Doctor Octopus walk by when they were in the pool. Weird, but they were used to that. 

This is all worth mentioning because of what happened at the library. Some other family might have been freaked out or disappointed when the family’s youngest member (Blue, in this case) ran off in the library and found a large door that none of the children had seen before. The ivy growing out of the keyhole was definitely weird for a door that was inside a library. And the iron ring on the door didn’t really look like it belonged in the library. For many folks, those two details would have set off any number of red flags. With the Reid family, though, nobody batted an eye when Blue not only ran off but also opened the door. Well, Millie didn’t bat an eye, but she did roll both eyes and sigh loudly, because she had to stop flipping through the DVD’s and chase after her sister. Millie and Anders were bickering back and forth as they chased after Blue, though they didn’t bicker loudly, because they didn’t want to disturb the other library patrons.

Blue went through the door and ran for the first half of the staircase, but then she stopped abruptly. Blue sat down, and Anders and Millie tripped over her. This led to yelling from all three of the Reid children. Anders, for instance, said, “What are you doing? I could have broken my neck!” The only thing that stopped the yelling was the sound of the door clanging shut from the top of the staircase.

They all looked back at the door. Then, Blue turned towards the other two and said, “Why are you following me so closely?” On the surface, this might have seemed like a perfectly reasonable question. The problem was that Blue was dealing with siblings, and that meant that being reasonable wasn’t a good choice. Anders said, “Why were you running so fast down the stairs?” but Millie said, “Why did you stop just all of the sudden?”
The questions were reasonable, but they made it hard for Blue to have a quick answer. If she said, “The stairs were longer than I thought,” then Anders could point out that she shouldn’t have started running down them in the first place. If she said, “I just ran out of steam all of the sudden,” then Millie could’ve said, “You really couldn’t tell that you were getting tired early enough to slow down a little?”

Blue thought for a few seconds, then she said, “Well, I just felt creeped out all of the sudden, and I felt like I had to stop.”

It wasn’t a complete lie. Blue really did feel a little cold all of the sudden. Millie and Anders looked around a little. They both felt like there was something creepy about the hallway or staircase or whatever, and it had gotten colder. Eventually, Millie said, “Well, there’s no point in arguing any more. Let’s all go back to the top of the stairs.”

Anders agreed, but when they turned around to go back up, not only did they see that the door was shut, but they heard a scraping and click that could only have been the lock. This led to a little more bickering, with each child accusing the other two of being responsible for the door closing. Eventually, Millie held up her hands and yelled, “That’s enough! Arguing isn’t going to help us. Let’s go down a little more, and, if we don’t see anything, then we’ll turn back and try pounding on the door.”

Anders said, “Don’t you have your cell phone?”

Millie sighed loudly. “Well I would have my cell phone, but it got taken away from me when somebody tattled about me skipping practice to have coffee with Jason Dworkin.”

Anders winced. “Sorry. I was just trying to take the heat off of me when I got caught sneaking the chocolates that were supposed to go to school.” The other two Reid children paused for a moment, because the long saga between the Reid family and the PTO that asked for chocolate had so many strange and interesting turns that it was hard to quickly pick a side in the conflict.

After a few moments of intense consideration, Blue shook her head. “I hope that there’s nothing serious down there, because if I’m stuck with you two ding dongs, I’m not going to get too much help.”

Millie and Anders rolled their eyes, but they knew better than to argue at that point. The Reid children started heading further down the stairs. It didn’t take long for them to see another door. This door was mostly wood with wrought-iron features. It looked very much like the door that had led them down the original stairs. There were some metal decorations, and the handle section of the door had a ring with a gargoyle just above the ring. It was not at all inviting, as doors should theoretically be. 

 Millie was the first to reach it. She touched it. “It’s cold.” The three children stood silently for a bit. Eventually, Blue said, “Oh for Pete’s sake”. She moved past her two siblings and took hold of the iron ring on the door. She pulled it slowly open. There was a little light coming from inside. The Reid children looked at each other, then they slowly went through the door. They all gasped quietly at what they saw.

What do did the Reid children see?

If you want it to be a lab with scientists running an experiment, donate to the Rhinelander Library Foundation

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If you want it to be something magical, donate to the Bloomington Public Library

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If you want it to be aliens, donate to the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation

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Fundraiser coming!

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be reviving my choose-your-own adventure fundraiser. This time around, I’m raising money for libraries in Rhinelander WI, Bloomington IL, and Milwaukee WI. These all have strong personal ties for me, but, let’s be honest: libraries are awesome! When I was a kid, I loved checking out books from the library, and my family won a large (4-foot?) ET sculpture which still sits in my parents’ house today. When I was doing my grad work in Milwaukee, my kid was obsessed with Tangled, and the Milwaukee Public Library by the courthouse had a very tall lighthouse for kids to play in, and my kid played in it for hours. We also got to see Joe Raposo (he wrote songs for Sesame Street) perform there, which was exciting and heartwarming. Once we got into Bloomington-Normal, my family didn’t have a lot of money, and the public libraries had so many programs and so much for kids to do that they absolutely enriched our lives. I cannot possibly thank them enough.

They continue to do fantastic work, of course, and that’s why I’m doing this project. Starting National Library Week, I’ll post to this website the first section of a choose-your-own-adventure story. I’ll also have fundraisers for these three libraries up on Facebook. You can “choose” the next section of the story by donating to one of the three libraries. I hope that I can do some good for them. Thanks in advance for reading!

Free Fungible Tokens

Here are two tokens that are totally fungible. I’ve funged them myself several times, so if you enjoy funging, please funge them several times. Also, I’m including links to my books. Happy funging!

This is good for funging
This is even more fungible than the first one!
This is a book that’s pretty awesome.
This is pretty awesome as well.
I guess I wrote this book. Who knew?!?