Caterpillar’s Colors: An Easter Story

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A plain caterpillar was strolling alongcaterpillar
humming a hymn; singing a song
when she stumbled on a small town farm
where Cow and Horse stood inside a barn.

Cow uttered, “Mooooo! Who are you?
Why are you here? What do you do?”

“I’m colorful, beautiful and I can fly,”
Caterpillar said. “I am Butterfly!”

Horse neighed in anger, “That’s not who you are.
Your drab and your dull! Now go away, far!”
Alone, Caterpillar inch-crawled away.
She climbed up a tree and started to pray.

Then Caterpillar spin-spun danced all around,
wrapping in silk, which fell like a gown
until her whole body was in a cocoon
and she hung from a tree in her own little tomb.

Cow and Horse heard and came by to see
the poor Caterpillar who’d died on a tree.
“I’m sorry,” Cow mooed, “for being so mean.”
“Me, too,” Horse whinnied. “If only I’d seen.”

For three days and nights butterflythe animals cried
until the next morning when Cow and Horse spied
the grave rumble-tumble, the silk start to tear.
Caterpillar came out and flew in the air.

Her body had lengthened then sprouted out wings
and she looked like a rainbow that summer rain brings.
In sapphire blue, petal pink, emerald green.
Wearing beautiful colors none of them’d ever seen.

“I’m colorful, beautiful and I can fly,”
Caterpillar said. “I am Butterfly.”

 

Then Horse and Cow listened while Butterfly shared
how Jesus Christ died so their lives could be spared,
then rose from the dead after three nights and days
to pay for their sins and give them new ways.

Cow and Horse prayed on that sweet Easter morn
and like Caterpillar, they were reborn
as new creatures.

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Speaking at the SCBWI June Conference-Marketing & Self-Publishing

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I am beyond thrilled to share that I have been asked to co-teach (with SCBWI President, Steve Mooser!!) a class at the SCBWI June Conference in Orlando, Florida.

The class is on self-publishing best practices. As Mr. Mooser and I discuss the format and what we will highlight in the class, I will bring you more details. Click on the pic to get registered. Hope to see you there!!!

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Six Books You Can Count On To Beat Your Book Into Shape

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jaimiengle:

I met Doug Wynne through a Libartything Early Review for his first book “The Devil of Echo Lake” and I became an instant fan. If you haven’t checked out his books, you are missing out! Keep an eye on this guy…he’s gonna be a star!

Originally posted on Monsters and Miracles:

 If you take the easy path, life is difficult

If you take the difficult path, life is easy

-Japanese proverb

I’m currently working on the revisions for my third book, working faster than I ever have before in an effort to get it out this year. Usually I don’t let anyone see the first draft of a novel, but this time I’ve been handing the marked-up pages over to my wife before even typing in the changes.

She’s making her own notes on the same pages. A few days ago she said to me, “I hope I’m not being too hard on you.”

“Too hard?” I said. “There’s no such thing. And somebody has to be before the reviewers are.”

I’m a big believer in beating the hell out of a book before submitting it to the editor. Stress testing your story with a few trusted readers and running…

View original 417 more words

Some videos of me teaching…yes, I swear they are learning!!

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I love my job.

Besides writing stories and books, I teach essay and creative writing to a handful of students. In one of my groups, a high school essay class, we worked on several different types of essays. In the following videos, you will see a demonstrative essay come to life followed by an interview for a biography.

For tclifton chase jewelryhe demonstrative essay, I told the boys I would follow their essay to a T to “demonstrate” the importance of choosing the perfect word for the situation. The essay was on: How to Make a Peanut-Butter and Jelly Sandwich. I had the assistance of the hilarious and insanely talented Beth Meggs (who created my awesome Clifton Chase jewelry) as shown here.

The second video is an interview conducted by Quenton N. who plays Clifton Chase in the trailer video. While the students produced an awesome and informative essay about my life as a mother, wife, and author, we definitely had a BLAST gathering notes during the interview process. I’ll have some more of these to show soon.

So, enjoy the clips, and remember there’s no reason why learning to write essays should EVER be boring!!

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying my book.

HOT LEAD, coming through…

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Today, I’d like to talk about a business principle called “leads”.

Leads are links to potential buyers. They can be hot, warm, or cold.hot to cold leads

A hot lead is when you cross paths with someone who is ready to buy, able to buy, and looking for exactly what you’re selling.

A warm lead is when you find someone who may be looking for what  you’re selling, but not quite ready or able to buy.

A cold lead is usually when someone has expressed interest over the product you’re offering in the past, but you don’t know if they are still in the market, able, or ready to buy.

Here’s a few scenes:

1) Malorie has a friend looking to buy a new home. She wants a condo in a certain part of town where you happen to own a condo and are looking to sell it. This is a HOT LEAD. You want to make this phone call right away and set up a showing.

2) Frank received his tax return in March and mentioned that he wanted to buy a certain electric guitar. You happen to own that guitar. You found out about this and called him in April.  He said he was still interested, but had replaced his hot water heater unexpectedly so couldn’t buy the guitar right away. Maybe later. This lead is now WARM.

3) You purchased tickets six months ago for a concert, and now you found out you have to be out of town that weekend. You remember a friend mentioning they wanted to go back when you purchased your tickets, but they couldn’t afford to. This is a COLD LEAD. You call your friend, but she’s already bought tickets from somewhere else.

So why am I telling you all this? I know most of you are thinking one word: DUH!!

sales tagsHere’s why. Writing is a SALES JOB!!! It’s no different than selling any other product. You have to jump on hot leads, simmer warm ones, and learn how to resuscitate cold ones. I’m going to focus on hot leads today and show you a few that you should jump on…Like this:

1) You pitch a story to an agent. They love it, but already have something similar. Do you:

a. Say thank you and move on.

b. Ask the agent if they know of another agency who they can refer you out to.

c. Ask the agent if they would be interested in negotiating your contract should you find a buyer.

ANSWER: Both b and c are excellent responses. Why would you ever let a conversation with a “buyer” die before you have closed the deal? You wouldn’t!! Think outside the literary box and treat this sort of rejection as a HOT LEAD.

2) A publisher (or agent) requests to see your manuscript. They personally reject it but don’t tell you why. You should:

a) Sit around wondering why and decide in the end that the publisher (or agent) doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

b) Thank them for their time and ask them if they would be willing to explain why they made this decision so you could perfect your manuscript.

c) I don’t really have another solution. Either A or B.

ANSWER: Okay, this one is obviously B. The hope here is that they actually respond with some positive criticism you can use to make your book better. This is a WARM LEAD. You know what you do next? You email them back thanking them for their generosity, and ask them if they’d be interested in seeing a revised version upon completion. This is how you turn this rejection from a WARM LEAD into a HOT LEAD.

3) You are going through  your files and you come across an agent (or publisher) you met at a conference / attended a workshop with / listened in on a podcast, who you were interested in submitting to, but weren’t done polishing your revisions (were writing for a different age group, in a different genre, had a baby, etc.). For this COLD LEAD you should:

a) Email them blindly with a query and hope for the best.

b) Email them and mention the previous connection in the email.

c) Not email them at all because it has been so long or you write for a different age group / different genre, etc.

ANSWER: The answer here is B. In fact, any time you can personalize the email with something the agent (or publisher) can use to connect with you it is a good thing. This is basic stuff. We do it every time we run into someone we barely know, like “Our kids are in the same class” or “We met at such and such bar” or “I hit your car in the parking lot and left a note”. Stuff like that. This is definitely a COLD LEAD, but can quickly be warmed up with a jolt of memory juice (“Hi, we met at the June 2011 SCBWI Conference during  your picture book course…) and can boldly turn HOT AND SPICY with simply an email or two.

I hope some of these basic sales techniques find their way into your writing toolbox. If you learned something, consider buying a copy of my book. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GIRLIEMOM BLOG: The Dynamic Duo of Book Promos

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girliemom girlsI am so happy to introduce two extraordinary women and marketing superstars: Melissa Potvin and Stephanie Mazzoni. We met last fall when I asked if they would help spread the word about Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light. And boy have they ever! In fact, they haven’t STOPPED talking about it on Twitter, Facebook, and their blog. If you are in need of help promoting your book, then check out this interview and be sure to check out their website:

ENGLE: Tell us a bit about your blog and how it came to be

POTVIN: Girliemom was born in July of 2010. It was created by Melissa Potvin a full time working mom of 3 and was born out of a desire to document her children’s special moments. Girliemom started out as a personal blog but within only a few months went ‘mainstream’ and seemed to catch the attention of many like-minded mom bloggers that shared in similar life situations. Within the first year, Girliemom expanded reach to numerous social platforms while remaining focused on generating strong content on topics: Beauty & Style, Cosmetics and Skincare, Organizing and even tackled the often debated topic of Work-Life Balance. By 2013 Girliemom became a multi author blog and most recently we have launched service offerings which allows us to help others while earning additional income.

ENGLE: Share a funny story that happened through your blog.

POTVIN: It was in Feb of 2013 that I received an email from a producer of NBC Nightly News. I actually thought it was spam at first, but called the number and sure enough it was NBC who was asking for an interview in follow up to an article we wrote about telecommuting. They called back the very next morning and asked if they could have a crew at the house in the next hour. Of course I said ‘YES!” I sure wish we could have filmed how frantic I was to straighten the house and get ready all while trying to prepare my brain to answer questions from News Reporter Rehema Ellis. You can see how that turned out here.

ENGLE: How can authors receive publicity through Girliemom?

POTVIN: Girliemom is dedicated to helping new and up-and-coming Authors with generating significant social media buzz throughout the mom blog community. For new Authors it is often challenging to be noticed in a very crowded market where others are trying to do the same exact thing. That’s where we come in…
• Girliemom has reach in the largest community of online retailers in the world – mothers.
• With Girliemom as your advocate, we will put your book and your brand in front of countless new facesgirliemom icon

Girliemom does more than read a book and write a review. We work tirelessly to continuously promote and we do that thru our social media network which includes Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest as well as Working Mother Magazine where Girliemom blogs regularly.

ENGLE: Are there types of books that you don’t review? Types you prefer?

MAZZONI: Books I love to review: I love to review Romance books.
Some of my more recent favorite authors are Juliette Sobanet and Sylvia Day.
I love a great romance book with great characters, murder, sex and all the fun stuff in-between.

I recently started reviewing some children’s books. I enjoy it, love it really
and we have so many mom subscribers that really appreciate the book reviews.

I prefer not to read books on history and Non-fiction Books.

ENGLE: If you were trapped on a deserted island with one book, one drink,
and one album, what would it be?

MAZZONI: Hmmmmm…….what a great question. If I was trapped on a deserted island the one book
I would want to have with me would have to be Bared to You by Sylvia Day. I fell in love
with the characters.

One drink: Toasted Coconut Martini
One album: Don’t laugh…..Barry Manilow’s greatest hits.
You might ask why….His music makes me smile and puts me in a good mood.

ENGLE: What’s the best and worst part about your job?

MAZZONI: Best Part: I absolutely love working with my sister Melissa. She drives me to do more and always be better!
I love when I am able to score a great product/and or beauty product to check out direct from a company or a marketing firm or just how I go after things that I feel would be great for the blog. I don’t give up too easily.

Worst part: Not sure I have a worst part!

POTVIN: The best part of Girliemom is helping others. We are also working mothers with jobs outside the website and understand how precious time is when juggling work, family, and home. We offer resume services as well as social media start up for new businesses. With Author Buzz we are able to take our love of reading while assisting those same authors by getting their books in front of millions of new faces and hands. It’s a win-win for all of us!

ENGLE: If you were a Muppet, who would you be and why?

MAZZONI: I would have to say I would be Miss Piggy. Miss Piggy is a Diva and I love to dress nice, wear nice shoes and love my makeup. Miss Piggy is tough and sweet. I am probably sweeter, but I can be tough when needed.

http://girliemom.com

http://girliemom.com/author-buzz/

email: stephanie@girliemom.com
twitter: @stephmazzoni
twitter: @girliemomblog
Pinterest: @stephmazzoni
Pinterest: @girliemom
Facebook: /girliemomblogger

If you found this blog helpful, consider purchasing a copy of my book.

It’s in the Details (or is it???)

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storytellerToday, I listened to a man telling a story at the park. It was one of those stories where I found myself nodding along, although all the while I was zoning out, waiting for him to close his tale so I could move on.

That got me thinking… WHY?

The problem wasn’t the topic. The story was about a dog who thought he was bigger and tougher than the rest, which pretty much sounds like a cute picture book to me. He also talked about WWII soldiers shooting pool, drinking, and smoking in the nearby pool hall conjuring images of a great period movie I’d watch with gangsters and a love interest.

The problem was in the details.

The man went on so many rabbit trails offering details that I didn’t need in order to listen to his story. They may have been interesting facts. They may have been special memories. But they didn’t push his story forward, and actually caused me to want to rush to the end.

I have read stories and watched movies like this. I’ve seen it in my friends work and in my own work. Knowing which details and how many to include is a delicate balance, taking the audience from sitting on the edge of their seat in anticipation to scooting to the edge to bolt as soon as the storyteller takes their final breath.

Another friend of mine is an amazing storyteller. His topics are not that interesting, like cheeseburgers, but the details he chooses to include (sensory and active) keep me so involved that when he say, “Did I ever tell you the time…” I find that even if he already has, I tend to say, “No,” just so I can hear it again.

CHALLENGE: Go over some of your short stories or novel chapters and record yourself reading them out loud. When you play the segment back, notice where you find yourself drifting as a listener. This will help you to see where your story needs improving.

If you found this post helpful, consider buying a copy of my book.

“How I Got My Agent” interview with querytracker

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I was humbled and beyond thrilled when I received an email from Patrick McDonald from www.querytracker.net  asking if I would like to share my “success story” with other authors querying for agents.querytracker

OF COURSE!!

I love this website. For those of you who don’t know of it, querytracker is a simplified approach to agent querying. You can create lists by genres and generate pie charts of your progress, make notes on your submission status, e.g., partial request, full, rejection, etc. Plus, you can read what others are saying while they query, such as their submission type, date, and close status, to get a better idea in real time of the agents response times and what types of manuscripts they are requesting or rejecting.

I won’t post the whole interview, since I want you to head over and check out their site, but here is the beginning to get you excited about what your querytracker success story might look like:

Jaimie Engle (jaimiengle on QT) has recently signed with agent Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary. Jaimie, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Congratulations and good luck.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Certainly! The manuscript is titled DREADLANDS and is the story of a Norse boy who must lead his sister across Viking era Labrador, Canada before the next full moon releases the ferine-arctic wolves that shift into human form-from hiding, only somehow the creatures have escaped the Dreadlands and are hunting them. It’s a MG fantasy adventure.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I was seven. I won first place in the state for a poem in the second grade and knew one day I would be an author.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST…
If you found this post helpful, please consider buying  my book.

 

Book Marketing Ideas (you probably haven’t thought of)

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Marketing your book is the most time consuming portion of the author’s role. Whether you are traditionally published, with a small press, or self-published, you will soon learn that selling your book is ultimately your job. I have found that certain things are great to spread the word, but don’t necessarily bring in a ton of sales, while other things seem weird but are worth a shot. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

BOOKS ON SITE: If you are a salesperson (which you are) you should ALWAYS have books on you to sell. I carry a case in my trunk because if I count on people to go to the website and order a copy, I will be sorely disappointed. It’s not that they don’t want to, but life gets busy, funds get tight, and memories get short. Make it easy for people. Have books to sell. With that said, you should also have the capability to accept credit cards on your phone or tablet. The easiest excuse to overcome is “I wish I could but I don’t carry cash.” No problem. You take plastic. The Square is free, easy to use, and easy to get. There’s no reason not to have it.

THANK YOU CARDS: When I attend a school or museum, or visit an author panel and meet other writers, teachers, or librarians, I take the time to write and send via SNAIL MAIL a thank you card. I include my business card with a personalized note thanking them for their time, their questions, and I let them know that I am available for future speaking engagements. I am sure to include my phone number on the note, just in case they misplace my business card. Cost? A Stamp and a Card.

MOMMY BLOGS: Prior to my book release, I went through a directory of the top 500 Mommy Blogs (by doing a google search on the subject). I reviewed the brief description of each one, learning if they were PR friendly, reviewed books, and the ages of the children friendly products they reviewed. As a middle grade author and mommy, I personally emailed a few hundred of them, offering to send a copy of my book for an honest review. I made it clear that like them, I was trying to reach other moms with kid friendly products, such as my fantasy adventure book, and would they be willing to help spread the word. I had more than half of them agree to help and of those, half did giveaways on their sites. My total cost for a review was around $7.39 and a review plus giveaway cost about $14.78. But I was able to advertise all over the nation to a specific target audience, not to mention the more than 500 people who entered into the contests, that I would otherwise have never been able to reach. For less than $8.00 per website. Show me anywhere else you can advertise on that scale for that price.

GIVEAWAYS: Besides the traditional giveaways on Goodreads and my website, I offered giveaways on other bloggers sites, as detailed in the previous section. In addition, I brought books with me whenever I attended author panels or conferences to give directly to the speakers and authors, or I emailed them an ebook copy afterward. I asked if they would review the book once they completed it and thanked them in advance. These are people that I don’t feel would necessarily go out and buy a copy of my book, but each have their own circle of fans and followers. If they were to review my book, their followers may decide to check it out as well. Cost? Free- $4.80.

PLATFORMS: I have been so bold as to mail books to celebrities I think could be interested in reading it. I have sent my book to Glenn Beck, Jon Acuff, Matthew J. Kirby, Dr. Laura, Focus on the Family, Z88.3 FM Producers, and Chuck Sambuchino. Have any of them reviewed my book? Not yet. But I can guarantee you they won’t if they don’t get a copy in the mail. Cost? $7.39

If you found any of these ideas helpful, consider buying a copy of my book.

SHORT STORY: Cereal Killer, the Leprechaun Murder

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This is a fabricated story that in no way reflects the truth of the images it represents. I do not believe any of these products are bad, and I actually happily buy all of them. If you are offended, you are taking this way to serious. Enjoy the story and HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!!

CEREAL KILLER, the Leprechaun Murder

The body of world-famous Lucky the Leprechaun was discovered today floating facedown in a large pool of Lucky Charms and 2% milk.

“It’s a tragedy,” said long-time friend Sugar Smack Bear. “And on Saint Patty’s Day!”

Lucky is survived by green clovers, blue diamonds, and purple horseshoes.

My name is Robbie Brown and I am a product icon detective in the homicide division. This story is not for the lactose intolerant, but it’s one that must be told.

As I scoped the scene, I noticed Lucky’s little green coat was askew, as if he put it on in a hurry. “Get him out of that milk. He’s getting soggy.”

The Keebler Elves worked the crane controls while Papa Elf guided the scooper to Lucky’s lifeless body. He was lifted, lowered, and left on the grass behind his beautiful bay home. I knelt beside him, right away finding the first thing out of place. “Where’s his Lucky Charms?”

“No clue.” That was my partner, Lucas Eagle, who knelt down beside me. “What do you think happened to them, Robbie?”

I didn’t answer. Something wasn’t clicking. That jacket looked soft. Too soft. Like it had been cleaned right before the leprechaun was dumped.

“Who would wear their jacket to take a swim?” Lucas asked.

“He wasn’t taking a swim. We’re dealing with a Cereal Killer.”

“How can you tell?”

“They left a clue.” I pointed to the amber-colored goo beneath Lucky’s left lapel.

Lucas touched it. “What is it?”

“Syrup. This was a mob hit, and I bet it will lead us back to Aunt Jemafia.”

Aunt Jemafia is the leader of the mob. Known for her brutal use of syrup torture in the 90s, she spread out and employed other products to do her sticky bidding. In 2002, she hired the Nesquik Bunny to lace the chocolate Quik at the governor’s ball, though we could never link her to the crime. A brief partnership with Little Debbie led to the cupcake queen’s disappearance for several months, after her saucy affair with Chef Boyardee was discovered. The mob leader was never at a loss for icon henchmen, what with the economy being at an all time-low and breakfast cereal over four-dollars a box, most icons were looking for some extra cash to pay the bills.

Later that day, I sat eating a bowl of Honey-Os while watching the TV. I never buy the brand name stuff. Can’t stand those flat-box, beady eyes staring at me while I eat. Not to mention the surveillance technology built into every box ever since Tony the Tiger was busted for slipping steroids into Frosted Flakes. As I slurped my milk, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to those Lucky Charms. I’d have to hit the streets for answers.

The Dairy Queen Bar was the hot spot for product icons. Everyone from the Cottonelle Bears to the Boo-Berry Monster hung out there. First on my list of suspects was the Cookie Crook. His gig had gone south, replaced by Chip the Dog, who was fired for peeing on the cereal, and then Chip the Wolf, because the FDA deemed the thief image too negative for a kid’s cereal. He sat at the bar, a good forty-pounds heavier, with a shot of milk, a plate of fig newtons, and a half gallon of whole milk left behind by the bartender.

“Evening, Mr. Crook,” I said.

“Scram, Copper. I ain’t taking the rap.”

“I haven’t accused you of anything.” I sat beside him. “Sure sound mighty guilty.”

“You’re looking to blame someone for the Cereal Killer’s work.”

“What do you know?”

 “I don’t know nothing.” He downed his shot and poured another. “And even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you anything.”

I stared him down, waiting for him to crumble.

He faced me. “I don’t know why you’re bothering me. I’ve been clean for three years. Ain’t stole a single chocolate chip cookie from no one. Stopped eating them completely. Made a new life for myself.”

“And you should be proud of that. But I’m sure you still hear things, having a reputation of working for Aunt Jemafia on more than one occasion.”

“Scram.” He shoos me aside. “Beat it. Unless you’ve got a warrant.”

I hadn’t one, so I stood and whispered in his good ear. “A leprechaun’s dead, and that means anyone could be next. Even retired icons like yourself. Cereal Killers don’t care if you’ve deserted your box or not.”

As I turned to leave, he grabbed my wrist, stopping me in my tracks. “You didn’t hear this from me,” he whispered, “but that silly rabbit has worked the streets for the mob for years. They pay him in Trix. It’s the only way he can eat his own cereal.”

“Pretty twisted. Heard he’s only had it back in ’76 and once in the 80s.”

“It is twisted, and enough to drive an icon to do things they wouldn’t normally do, if you buy what I’m selling.” He released me. “But you didn’t hear it from me.”

I reached into my pocket and laid two chocolate chip cookies on the bar. “Thanks for your time.” On the way out, I Facetimed Lucas. “And idea where to find the Trix Rabbit?”

“He’s been picked up a few times for shoplifting and harassing the kids down near the river. Lost his home back in the 90s after the market crashed.”

“Grab a few boxes of Trix and meet me near Riverfront Playground. I’ve got a call to make.”

Little Debbie lived in a small treetop trailer park on the outskirts of town. She’d shagged up with an ex-Keebler elf turned diabetic who ate too much product and could no longer perform his duties. The two lived off his disability checks and the dwindling cash reserves she had left from selling her cupcake conglomerate. Cobwebs cluttered the corners of the door frame. I knocked gingerly.

“Hold you horses,” came a hoarse voice from behind the wood door. It opened on rusty hinges. Little Debbie wore a flannel nightshirt to her knees and fuzzy slippers, her short hair wound tight in curlers. “Can I help you?” A cigarette teetered between her lips as she spoke, and she removed it only to cough.

“I’m Officer Brown.” I flashed my badge. “I’m looking for information on the Cereal Killer. You heard of him?”

She shrugged. “I watch the news.”

“Do you know the whereabouts of the Trix Rabbit?”

“I’m sorry, Officer, but am I being accused of something? Cause I’m a very busy woman.”

“The theory is this was a mob hit. You know of Aunt Jemafia, don’t you?”

She blew out a dark chocolate-hued cloud of smoke. “Come inside.”

We sat in the center room attached on one side to a small kitchenette. A slim hallway led to a bedroom and bath at the other end. A bald-headed elf sat in a wheelchair facing the TV. One of his legs had been amputated at the knee.

“Bernie,” Little Debbie said louder than necessary. “We have company.”

The elf swiveled around. I showed my badge. He ignored me after that.

“Cup of Joe?” Little Debbie asked, holding out the pot. I nodded, and she poured for each of us. We silently stirred in our cream and sugar. I smelled the coffee that lingered among the cigarettes Little Debbie chain smoked, but the scent of flowers layered subtly beneath it all. I wondered why.

“Not so long ago, Aunt Jemafia and I were the best of friends,” Little Debbie began. “We were like sisters. But her syrup got to her head and she ruined my reputation. I was forced to sell my business, my house, everything I owned. Gone.” She dragged off her newly lit cigarette. “After that, no one would work with me. No one would even talk to me, except Bernie, which isn’t saying much.”

“What about Chef Boyardee?”

She snorted. “That creep? He swore by his meatballs that he loved me and would leave that frozen-hearted Marie Callendar. But after I lost my swiss cake rolls, he left me. Said he couldn’t be with someone without a future.”

“Wanted his cake and wanted to eat it too, huh?”

“That’s right. Anyway, none of this would have happened if that Mrs. Butterworth wannabe hadn’t opened her big fat lid and blabbed to the whole world about me and Chef.”

“Do you think she’s got something to do with the Cereal Killer?”

“Could be. She’s got a gambling problem; owes dough all over town, mostly to Betty Crocker and Orville Redenbacher.”

“Interesting.” I jotted names in my notebook. “Any idea if the Rabbit plays in?”

“He’s a junkie. Will do anything for Trix.”

“Even commit murder?”

“Especially. All you need to know is his weakness.”

I’d heard all I needed. I stood and said, “Thanks for your information.”

“Anything to get Aunt Jemafia busted.”

“I’ll let myself out.” As I walked to the door, I wondered if Little Debbie was involved. She had motive, but until I could prove it I had nothing. I headed toward the playground, hoping Lucas had brought a lot of breakfast cereal.

Riverfront Playground stayed open from dawn to dusk. Typical equipment and wooden benches created a commonplace ambiance no different from any park anywhere in the country. Lucas sat on the swings, a black duffle bag on the sand beside him.

“Thanks for meeting me.”

“What’s this all about, Robbie?”

“I’m not certain yet.”

“You think the rabbit did it?”

“I think the rabbit was put up to it.” I cupped my hands to my mouth. “Silly Rabbit? ILPD. We just want to talk.”

Nothing stirred. I faced Lucas. “You got the Trix?”

Lucas unzipped the duffle bag. Lemon-lime and orange zest and raspberry filled the air. “I give him one minute.”

The door to the playground tree-house swung opened. A white creature with long ears dragged across the wood chips.

“Is that him?” Lucas asked.

“It must be. But he’s got to be at least thirty pounds lighter.”

The Rabbit approached, the streetlamps cast creepy shadows across his sunken cheeks and blood shot eyes. “You got Trix?” he muttered.

Lucas quickly zipped the bag closed. “That depends on your answers.”

The Rabbit tried to run, but Lucas and I were on top of him like the graham crackers on a smores. “Let go of me!” the Rabbit screamed.

“Why’d you kill Lucky?” I asked.

“I didn’t kill no one.”

“You’re lying!” Lucas said.

“No…no, please…let me go!”

“You talk, or we’ll feed you to the Goldfishes.”

“PLEASE! Anything but that. I don’t know nothing!”

Lucas and I carried the Rabbit to the dock and hung him upside down over the river. His ears dragged on the surface. Instantly, the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish jumped in the air and clamped their barracuda teeth around the Rabbit’s stringy ears. He yowled in pain.

“Who killed Lucky? Was it you? Did Aunt Jemafia put you up to it?”

“No. It wasn’t me. He was dead when I got there. Just get me away from the Goldfish.”

Lucas and I brought the Rabbit back to the park and sat him on a bench to catch his breath. “Who sent you?”

“Aunt Jemafia told me to meet her there.”

“Why?”

The Rabbit shrugged. “Didn’t say.”

Lucas unzipped the duffle bag. The Rabbit’s eyes glazed over. I shoved a handful of Trix into my mouth, and so did Lucas.

“She said she needed me to steal Lucky’s pot of gold to pay off her gambling debts.”

“To who? Betty and Orville?”

“I don’t know.”

Lucas and I ate more cereal. I chewed with my mouth opened.

“The Pillsbury Dough Boy.”

“That puff? He’s got plenty of dough,” Lucas said.

“Yeah, but he loaned a crescent rollful to Aunt Jemafia so she could buy out the Little Debbie snack company under a false name.

I shook my head. “This doesn’t make any sense. Why would Aunt Jemafia incriminate herself? Why would she tell so much to a junkie like you, and then bail out?”

“No idea, man. Go talk to her. Maybe she’s shizo and has a double personality or something. Could you just give me the Trix already?”

Lucas zipped the duffle bag and swung it over his shoulder. The Rabbit stared at us as we walked away. “So that’s it? What about my Trix? You promised me you’d give me some if I talked.”

I smirked. “Silly, Rabbit. Trix are for kids.”

And we left the poor fool pounding his head in the sand, screaming, and yanking at his own ears. I felt bad, but I knew in the long run we were doing him a favor. At least that’s what I told myself.

I sent Lucas back to the station to check on forensics. Hopefully, the lab was able to turn something up. I headed to Aunt Jemafia’s flat pancake in the downtown district. I rang the bell and she greeted me, as if she knew I was coming. The scent of waffles fell out of the house.

“Detective Brown, what brings you here? Breakfast for dinner?”

She’d put on a few pats of butter since I last saw her. “I’m looking for information about the Cereal Killer and your possible connection.”

She laughed. “I figured you’d show up at my door eventually. Who was it? That strung out Rabbit? Or that Sarah Lee tart Little Debbie?”

“Both. They say you owe money all over town, and that most of it belongs to the dough boy who lent it so you could take out your competition.”

“Little Debbie has never been my competition.”

“Then why’d you buy her out under a fake name?”

“You can’t believe everything you here.”

“I don’t care either way. I’m just looking for justice.”

“Well, I was here all day yesterday and I can get Dig’em Frog and Frankenberry to validate.”

“I don’t believe it was you.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because I think someone is framing you, and I haven’t decided if you’re in or on it or not.”

Her face etched with lines of rage. “Well unless you have a warrant you need to get off my property.” She slammed the door in my face. But as she did, the same scent of flowers I smelled at Little Debbie’s place seeped out.

Why in the world would they both have the same smell? My phone rang. It was Lucas. “Tell me something good.”

“The residue on the Leprechaun’s jacket was definitely syrup, but not Aunt Jemafia’s. But that’s not all.”

“What else?”

“Traces of ethyl acetate, ethanol, and benzyl alcohol were found around the syrup. What does it mean?”

Chemicals? Foreign syrup? I thought hard, reminded of the flowery scent at both ladies’ houses. Suddenly, I gasp. “I know who did it.”

Lucas and I met back at Little Debbie’s house. She opened the door. A ring of smoke surrounded her head like a honey-nut Cheerio.

“What now? You come here to tell me you arrested that Silly Rabbit?”

“Actually, we came to search the place.” I flash my search warrant.

Little Debbie’s face goes velvet red and she screeches. “What in the world? You think I had the Leprechaun drowned? You think I stole his Lucky Charms.”

I smiled widely. Bingo. “I never mentioned they were missing.”

The cupcake queen went quiet as Lucas and I pushed past her to search the trailer. I went straight to her laundry room and opened the dryer. Lucky’s charms spilled out onto the floor. Lucas handcuffed Little Debbie and read her rights while the elf stared at the television screen as if nothing was happening.

As we lowered her into the squad car, Little Debbie said, “How’d you know it was me?”

“The fabric softener. I smelled it at your place and at Aunt Jemafia’s. I figured maybe it was the Snuggle Bear who’d been hired by the mob, but turns out he has a summer home in Venice where he’s at right now. That left the puzzle of why both houses smelled like flowers, but then I got it. You laundry-ed money for the mob. Washed and dried Lucky’s pot of gold for Aunt Jemafia, but you got caught in the act. The Leprechaun showed up while you were doing the deed so you off-ed him. The question is why.”

Little Debbie stared up, tears streaming down her pink cheeks. “She said she’d give me my company back. I can’t keep living like this, in a piece of crap trailer park with a useless diabetic elf who can’t get a job and has a terrible drinking problem. I just wanted my life back.”

“So you took Lucky’s life? Don’t you know you can’t have your cake and eat it too?”

“I just wanted a new start.”

“You’ll get a new start, sharing a jail cell with Aunt Jemafia. Maybe the two of you can clean up your acts. Mr. Clean heads up the parole board, so you’d better make sure you wash behind your ears when your time comes.”

As the patrolman drove Little Debbie away, I grabbed a laundry bag and filled it with Lucky’s charms. The streets were safe again for product icons with the Cereal Killers headed to prison. Just another day’s work for a guy like me…Officer Robbie Brown, though most people don’t know my real name is Dr. Hypnosis. Think I’ll stroll down to the river and see how that Silly Rabbit is doing. After all, he’s the one that really did that Leprechaun in. I needed those Lucky Charms, and being as good a hypnotist as I am, I was able to make them all believe they were the ones who did it.