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Author Archives: Dr. Roy

Nepotism

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Edit: Title changed, and typos extinguished. Thanks Jodi and Claire!

Cecilia peered over the edge of her breakfast bowl.

“Just eat it,” said her mother. “Today’s a big day.”

“Yeah, big day,” sang her little sister.

“What is it?” asked Cecilia.

“Nevermind what is it,” answered her mom. “It’ll give you energy. Eat up.”

“Ceci’s big day, gotta eat up,” sang her little sister, who was getting on Cecilia’s nerves.

Cecilia poked at the food. “It looks like mashed brains,” she said. “You know I don’t like mashed brains.”

“Look, just eat it, OK? There’s only a little mashed brains in there.” Her mother’s voice got a little louder.

“Fine,” said Cecilia. She dragged a claw through the bowl and licked off the tip. “Ew,” she said. “Too much brains.”

Meanwhile, Princess Plum was being primped and poked and pinned into a singularly impractical gown. She sighed while her handmaidens dashed about, adjusting her bustle and nudging her perfect curls into a somewhat more-perfect tumbling hairdo. They powdered her face and polished her nails and lightly scrubbed the inside of her ears. Her footmaidens daintily dabbed her insteps, and her kneemaidens buffed her regal patellae.

“I wish I had kneemaidens,” said Princess Claire, lying on her back on her sister’s bed. Her head dangled backwards off the edge, so her hair fell downwards towards the floor. She was dressed in suitable young princess-wear: fluffy soft footie pajamas, with grass stains on the knees and butt.

A trumpet sounded from the castle gate, and the assorted assistants gasped and jumped. A few darted forward to make the last adjustments as Princess Plum raised her chin and swept from the chamber. It was going to be a big day.

It was a fine, sunny morning. The air was crisp and cool, and multicolored banners fluttered at the end of tall posts surrounding the parade grounds. The autumn grass had been freshly mowed by a team of trained Royal Goats, whose droppings had been freshly swept away by the Royal Goat-sweepers, who had been gently but thoroughly hosed off by the Royal Hosemasters. The goat-sweepers stood to the side of the parade ground, holding their wet hats tightly to their chests. Nearby, in neat rows, stood the hosemasters, the cooks, the cleaners, the cook-cleaners, the armorers, the fletchers, the smiths, the arborists, and all manners of other assorted tradesmen and workers of every class. Behind them were the goats.

Across the field from the workers stood the Royal Guard, the Bowmen, the Pikemen, and the Swordsmen. Some sat upon stamping Royal Horses. All were dressed in their finest, shining armor. One man from each of these four phalanxes stood in front of his troops, dressed in even finer, more-shiny armor. It was these four men who were to face the dragon, one by one, to save Princess Plum, winning her hand (and, presumably, the rest of her) in marriage.

The Princess, alone, had been tied to a stout pole set in the ground, right in the center of the parade ground. Her hands were tied behind her back.

A murmur rose from the crowd as they turned to look over the hills. A dark shape, growing quickly larger, was gliding effortlessly towards them across the treetops. The people all drew backwards a few steps when Cecilia landed gracefully on the lawn.

Cecilia was a Royal Dragon, and though still young by dragon standards was still quite impressive. Her huge scales glinted in the sun, with an iridescent glow that appeared to be a magical color somewhere between gold and silver. She had enormous black talons and enormous black teeth, and her mouth, when she yawned and smacked her lips, was easily big enough to snap up a Royal Horse in one bite. She stretched her wings, rolled her shoulders, and looked over at the young woman tied to the pole.

Princess Plum bowed. Cecilia lowered her head towards the ground and blinked a few times, a dragon curtsey.

The pikeman, who had lost a complicated series of rock-paper-scissors throws, was supposed to go first. They found him cowering among the goats. After a cleansing hose-down to restore his armor’s shine, he was shoved out onto the parade ground to face the dragon.

“Prepare to die!” he shouted, bravely. Or at least he meant to. It sounded more to Princess Plum like he said “Omigod it’s huge,” or something like that.

Cecilia leaned her head towards him on her long, scaley neck and bit him in half.

A kneemaiden fainted.

The hosemasters were busy that morning, cleaning up the Royal Parade Ground. The pikeman, the swordsman, and the bowman had all fallen. By the third man, Cecilia wasn’t even hungry any more. She just squashed him into the ground with one huge, clawed hand.

Royal Guard Jasper, an elite soldier who had risen though the ranks of the other divisions to be chosen as one of the castle’s finest warrior-protectors, advanced alone across the sodden field towards the dragon. He carried a heavy mace in one hand, and an huge shield in the other. His helmet was drawn across his forehead, and his armor chinked and sparkled as he approached Cecilia.

The dragon looked under her claws, trying to lick out a little bit of bone or spleen or something.

A shrill, young voice rose across the field as Princess Claire ran towards her sister. She was brandishing a wooden stick that still had a few leaves attached, and her toes had torn through the footies on her pajamas. “You get away from my sister!” she yelled, running straight at the Royal Dragon.

Jasper tried to grab her as she darted by, but slowed by his armor, he could only twist towards the girl as he toppled over.

“Sister?” thought Cecilia. The dragon looked at Princess Plum, who pursed her lips and rolled her eyes, pointing her royal chin at the little girl running towards her.

“That’s my little sister,” said Princess Plum. “She gets on my nerves sometimes.”

Cecilia looked down towards her own thick back legs, where Princess Claire was mightily whapping at her with the stick.

“Watch out!” screamed Princess Claire. “She might be invisible!”

“Invisible?” asked Cecilia.

“No, not invisible,” said Princess Claire, correcting herself. “What’s the word, for something you can see, but isn’t really there?”

“Imaginary?” replied Cecilia, who wasn’t.

“Yeah! I bet she’s not even here! Go back to where you really aren’t from ‘cause you’re not real you big dragon!” yelled Princess Claire.

Princess Plum, again, rolled her eyes.

Cecilia drew herself up to her full height, towering over the crowd. She glared at the rest of the pikemen, swordsmen, bowmen, and the Royal Guards. They scattered from their formations and ran. Jasper, wet and muddy, had managed to raise up his chest onto his elbows so he could watch.

Princess Claire glared up, defiantly.

The dragon drew up a huge hand, and extended a black, bloody claw. Then she held it in front of her eyes and said, “I can’t see you.”

Princess Claire blinked. “She’s gone! I defeated the dragon!”

Cecilia looked sideways at Princess Plum, who mouthed quietly, “Thanks.” The Royal Dragon shrugged back at her, and leaped into the air, flying away.

The King declared, “Royal Guard Jasper has defeated the dragon and has won Princess Plum’s hand in marriage!”

Jasper, who had been through a lot, thanked the king. He did marry a princess, later, but had to wait for her to grow up.

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Flow– FREE on Kindle!!

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This week, Flow is FREE on Kindle (even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can download it to the Kindle app on your iPhone/iPad/smart phone). After this week, the Kindle price goes back up to only 99 cents. There’s also a paperback edition for 8 bucks– what a bargain! Flow is also part of Amazon’s Lending Library, so it can always be borrowed for free for Amazon Prime members.

Don’t take my word for it– Kirkus, the well-regarded independent book reviewer, says:

Benaroch’s tightly plotted novel presents an expertly crafted world that avid fantasy readers should find rewarding, and its blend of suspense and humor will attract neophytes, as well.

So check it out! Even if you don’t own a Kindle, just “buy” the thing– it’ll help my numbers, propel Flow to the top ranks, and maybe catching me some new eyeballs. Come to think of it, you probably want to buy a whole mess of copies. At this price, you can’t go wrong!

Late in the Donut Store

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By Hannah Benaroch 

The soft humming of fluorescent lights was the only sound in the Dunkin’ Donuts.

Janet popped her gum and checked the time on her cell phone. Graveyard shift. The only job she could get to pay her way through community college. The market was hard these days.

José had fallen asleep by the hot sandwich press. Janet considered waking him, but decided against it. The tacky floor made popping sounds when she shifted her weight, and the glow from the vending machine tinted the whole room blue.

Nobody came for coffee at three in the morning. Nobody. It was such a pointless position. Janet had complained to José about that, three months ago, her first night. And he’d just shaken his head and said that yes, it was pointless; but they were getting paid, after all. That she’d get used to doing nothing but standing still for four hours every night but Tuesdays.

Janet blew her stringy bangs out of her face. She’d had, what, two customers during her whole time here, coming for cold coffee and stale donuts?

José snored. Janet stared into space, at the poster advertising the Happy Holiday Donuts and Pumpkin Coffee, even though it was April.

And suddenly, the door swung open, crashing against the vending machine. Janet jumped and José jerked awake with a snort.

A man was standing in the doorway, looking around the tiny, sticky building with every sign of delight. He wore a heavy trenchcoat, huge boots, and a wide-brimmed hat. The man’s coffee-colored skin was stretched in a smile, and his dark eyes were wide, like a child’s.

The man saluted – saluted – Janet and José. “Hello, sir and madam! I am here to Enjoy a Sampling of your Delightful Hot Beverages!”

“Our what?” Janet managed to ask. José was still staring at the man, half-asleep and confused.

“I read that on your sign.” The man looked incredibly pleased, like a child who has done something right. “Enjoy a Sampling Of Our Delightful Hot Beverages!”

Janet nodded slowly. “So you want coffee?”

“Is this ‘coffee’ a Delightful Hot Beverage?” the man asked.

“Um, yes?” Janet rubbed the back of her neck and shifted her weight again. “Do you want a donut or something with that?”

“Why yes, I will partake of your pastries!” the man declared. Janet saw José doubled over, his face in his hands to muffle his laughter.

“So…what size coffee?” Just go away, please.

 “Your largest Delightful Hot Beverage!” the man replied happily. “And one of your pastries, please!”

Janet looked over her shoulder. The only donuts left were the plain cake ones, but she doubted he’d care. “Anything else?”

“That will be all!” exclaimed the man.

José was still snickering as he started the coffee.

Janet turned to get the donut, and dropped it in the small paper bag. She could hear the man humming to himself behind her.

“This is an enthralling planet you possess!” the man was saying. “I could stay here for a full millennia, I could!”

Janet froze, then took a deep breath. This was just some random guy, probably a teenager, pulling a prank. She should stay calm. She turned back to the man and put the donut bag on the counter. José passed her the coffee and she entered the price, keeping one eye on the man, who was now examining the napkin dispenser on the nearest Formica-topped table.

“Sir, we have your…pastry. This will be three dollars.” Janet called, trying to keep her voice from shaking.

“Why thank you, madam!” The man lurched back over to them, and for the first time, Janet noticed he moved awkwardly, his knees lurching with every step. Like he hadn’t been walking for very long.

Janet shook her head and handed him his food as he passed her four bills. Janet placed the three one-dollar bills in the cash register, then stared at the last one. “Sir…this is a hundred dollars.”

“Why yes it is!” The man seemed quite happy with her for figuring out the amount. “Adequate tipping for excellent service!”

Janet hoped the man would leave, but he sat down at the nearest table and began drinking his coffee. At least he knew how to drink.

Janet glanced at the bill, then shoved it into the pocket of her jeans. It looked real enough. Meanwhile, the man appeared to have drained his large coffee and was shoving the donut into his mouth, chewing nervously. José had returned to his nap by the sandwich press.

The man finished off his donut, brushing the crumbs off his trench coat. As he got to his feet, he slipped on the tile and fell backwards.

Janet started forward, then stopped. The man’s hat had fallen to the floor. Where hair should have covered his scalp, the skin was transparent, revealing a swirling, blue mass of smoke.

Janet opened her mouth to scream, but she suddenly couldn’t move. Everything was frozen, except for the man.

“Oh, dear. This is unfortunate, isn’t it?” The man’s voice had lost its buoyant ignorance and cheerfulness. “We had hoped to be here and back without needing to do any altering. I will certainly have to answer to the boss about this. Ah well.”

Janet struggled against the invisible bonds holding her, but every muscle was frozen.

The man shook his bizarre head as he picked up the hat and replaced it. “We never can alter the cerebral region. A tragedy, seeing as our disguises are otherwise perfect.” He adjusted the brim. “I promise you, humans, that this won’t hurt a bit.”

He waved his hand, and the world filled with blue smoke.

***

Janet’s eyes jerked open. She was lying on the ground behind the counter, and José was squatting over her, slapping her face. “You okay?”

Janet groaned. “Ugh. What happened?”

“Dunno. You just kind of…fell over. Too much time on your feet.”

Janet frowned as she sat up. “I don’t remember that.”

José shrugged.

Janet rubbed the back of her head as she got to her feet. She had swallowed her gum. Her hair was sticky from the floor, ugh. What time was it?

Janet dug her hand into her pocket, looking for her cell phone, but her hand met rough paper. She pulled it out. A hundred-dollar bill.

Where could that have possibly come from? Janet stared at the bill for another moment before tucking it back in her pocket and taking position at the cash register.

Another boring night.

Flow: The Kirkus Review

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Flow has been reviewed by Kirkus Reviews!  Pasted below. Very cool!

Benaroch, Roy
FLOW
CreateSpace (182 pp.)
January 19, 2012

A city ruled by a large number of powerful magical guilds is nearly tornapart from within due to the actions of a corrupt mayor in Benaroch’s (A Guide to Getting the Best Health Care for Your Child, 2007, etc.) debut work of fiction.
Not simply the title, “Flow” is also the word the characters in Benaroch’s story use to define magic itself. Not unlike the concept of “The Force” in Star Wars, Flow refers to invisible strings of power that ripple throughout the world and bind it together. Representatives of the magical academies test all young children for the ability to interact with and manipulate Flow. Those who test positive are taken from their parents to be trained in sorcery, which is known as “woodcraft.” After years of arduous training, those who don’t flunk out must choose a Guild that best complements their particular strengths. Meanwhile, the mayor is trying to secretly consolidate power into her own hands by setting the Guilds against one another. Her plan is threatened by the unprecedented emergence of a number of people who discover that they can work magic on their own, outside of the Guilds. Benaroch’s fantasy is rich with imaginative detail and strong prose, and a number of creative characteristics (such as
magical, anthropomorphized boxes known as “kitties,” and the mayor’s imposing security force, the Tinies) distinguish this novel from other similar tales. The author makes liberal use of satire and dark comedy, as the absurdities of this fictional society humorously comment on our own world’s impenetrable bureaucracies. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t nearly as well developed as the world they inhabit. The villain’s
motivations remain murky at best. Benaroch does, however, manage to capture the alienation the magical characters experience quite beautifully, instilling the narrative with a thoughtful and much-needed human touch.
Benaroch’s tightly plotted novel presents an expertly crafted world that avid fantasy readers should find rewarding, and its blend of suspense and humor will attract neophytes, as well.

Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744
indie@kirkusreviews.com

Jack and the sandwich

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(a very short story. thanx to Claire for inspiring)

Jack, a practical boy, lifted the edge of the top slice of bread and looked underneath.

“You don’t like your sandwich?” asked his mother.

“No, it’s OK,” answered Jack. “But I’m not sure about the moaning.”

His mother answered, though she wasn’t really listening. She had been reading about raising boys, and helping to make them more independent. “If you don’t like it,” she said, her back to him, “you can make yourself something else.”

Jack didn’t answer. He lower the top piece of bread back down, and moved his ear closer.

The sandwich had fallen silent.

Jack had come to believe ham was a square, pinkish, flat sort of thing. He hadn’t ever heard it make noise before. Sure, he had put up with questionable ham in the past. But this ham was going One Step Too Far.

He picked up a fork and poked the sandwich, downwards, right through the bread. It made muted “erp” sort of noise, as if it were trying to keep quiet.

“Are you trying to say something?” asked Jack of his ham sandwich.

The sandwich didn’t reply. The fork, still sticking upwards like a flagpole from its middle, quivered a bit.

Jack looked around the room. His mother, washing dishes, stood at the sink. His little sister sat in a high chair, batting peas and olives back and forth. Jack’s mother had read that olives were good for babies. Jack’s little sister seemed to agree. She was fascinated by the odd, wobbly way the oblong olives rolled. Plus, the peas could be squished into satisfying green blobs.

Jack saw nothing else to eat.

Reluctantly, he picked up the sandwich, bringing it up towards his mouth. It screamed a quiet sort of scream and seemed to scoot backwards in his hands.

Jack put the sandwich down.

“Mom, can I have some olives?” Jack asked.

His mother brought over the jar, and then walked back towards the sink. In her mind, she was overjoyed that Jack wanted to try something new. But she had read that if she encouraged him, it might make him less likely to try new things. So she pretended not to care.

Jack unscrewed the lid, and fished a fat, glistening black olive from the salty water. He held it for a moment near his ham sandwich, which seemed to move forward just a bit and sniff.

Jack lifted the top piece of bread just a bit at the corner and quickly threw the olive underneath before dropping the bread back down.

There was a quiet gulping sound.

Jack looked under the bread, and then lifted the sandwich up to look underneath. Then he  got up out of his chair and looked under the table. He sat back down and fished out the rest of the olives, one by one, tossing each one under the top piece of bread until the jar was empty.

Jack’s sister watched.

“Did you have enough to eat?” asked Jack’s mother.

“Yes,” said Jack.

“Squeee!” said Jack’s sister.

“Mmmmmm” said the ham sandwich.

“I’m glad you liked it,” said Jack’s mother.

(c) 2012 Roy Benaroch

Introducing BenaReview

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Let’s say you’re looking for a book. Not just any book, but a good book. One that you’d want to read. How oh how could you find one?

You could read Flow. But let’s say you’ve already read it, twice, and bought copies for all of your friends. What next?

You could read reviews from one of many dependable review sites, like Goodreads, or skim through Amazon reviews. But that sure sounds like a lot of work. You want to read a book, not a book’s worth of reviews!

Now, you’ve got a better option: BenaReview! Follow me @BenaReview, and I’ll post very short reviews of books that are genuinely good. You’ll know in six words whether it’s worth reading. What a deal! Every review is guaranteed accurate and dependable! Never waste your time on a not-good book again!

Disclaimer

Every review is not guaranteed to be accurate or dependable. It’s pretty much just what I think, OK? So if you disagree, let’s just agree to disagree except to agree that you’re wrong.

 

Sorry, no more PDFs

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The masses have spoken! The good news is that Flow will shortly be available from the Kindle Lending Library, which should lead to better exposure, more readers, and, eventually, that Nobel Prize in literature I’ve been coveting. (BTW, did you know Nobel Prize winners get to ceremoniously rub the King of Sweden’s head? A lot of people don’t know that.)

The bad news is that by making this deal with Amazon, I can’t offer free PDFs of chapters here any more. So they’re all gone, zipped, into the ether. Sorry, but that’s the wheels of progress. One can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs, adding them to a pan of butter with some aged Gruyere, spinach, maybe a few mushrooms… sorry, lost my train of thought. Anyway: I’m going to eat an omelet, and you’re not going to get to read Flow, at least not for free, at least for the time being.

But: you can always buy Flow! Which really would help the moribund American economy! Your 99 cents (Kindle) or 12 clams (hey, paper’s expensive) will help keep our beloved omelet industry busy and industrious! And who wouldn’t support that?