Friday, December 24, 2021

A Splendid Solstice! (A Peavely Manor short story, of sorts)

 Last year, I was invited to contribute to a holiday-themed newspaper that was distributed by PDF to members of the Patreon for the splendid Madame Askew. I wanted to write a Peavley Manor story, but I decided to take a different approach – since this was for a newspaper, I wrote it as a newspaper article. So, here’s Alice’s first Christmas / winter holiday in Darbyfield, as written up for the Emerald Dell Courier.

Our thanks for Madame Askew for her support for this, and many other, stories. Do consider backing her Patreon, if you would, at

A Splendid Solstice!

Recapping Darbyfield’s Christmas Jubilee

by Augustus Thurston

This last Saturday, Darbyfield hosted its annual Christmas and Winter Holiday Jubilee and Wassail. It was expected to be an entertaining and festive celebration, and even with some surprising twists and turns, it certainly did not disappoint.

Most of the communities of the Emerald Dell, and indeed the Crescent Sea, celebrate the Yuletide or the Winter Solstice at this splendid time of year. When Darbyfield first emerged following the Great Relocation, its populace shared their tales of an unfamiliar holiday which took place at around the same time as those, and shared many of the same traditions. Those holidays blended together, and a Christmas celebration took place in Darbyfield that winter, and every winter since.

The committee in charge of organizing this year’s Holiday Jubilee wanted to avoid a repeat of last year’s, when Professor Rigby P. Holsapple was the host. While the Father Christmas automaton that the professor showed off was an impressive creation, its built-in roasted chestnut launcher left a bit to be desired in terms of aim; many of the businesses around the town square spent the next day cleaning up broken glass. A different approach was called for.

This year, the committee was presented with an obvious choice for host. This newspaper has reported quite thoroughly on the arrival of Darbyfield of Alice Peavley, the heir to Peavley Manor, and her many adventures since. The committee asked Ms. Peavley to host the Jubilee; she readily agreed, and joined in the planning with the same energy she has brought to many other events.

Ms. Peavley was in high spirits as the Jubilee began. She was dressed splendidly, in a full-length powder blue coat trimmed with white faux fur over a kelly green winter gown. She happily mingled with the crowd, handing out small treats to the children. As always, she was accompanied by her valet, Mr. Macalley. The esteemed gnome wore a black suit and greatcoat, and on his head – at the urging of his employer – was a red Father Christmas hat, again trimmed in white.

It was a perfect day for a holiday celebration, clear and not excessively cold. The children of the Emerald Dell had many entertainments to choose from, including games, singalongs, storytime with librarian Ms. Clarinda Topping, and a petting zoo featuring animals from Mr. Vic Ray’s farm. For the adults, there were roving entertainers, delectable foodstuffs, and hot tea, cocoa, and toddies (the latter were, per Ms. Peavley, of the highest quality).

After several hours, the attendees turned their attention to the stage that had been set up by the large pine tree in the town square. It had been decorated with strand after strand of tinsel and numerous sparkly baubles, and it was topped by a beautiful five-pointed star. Ms. Peavley was called upon to flick the switch that would activate the enchantment that Mx. Aurielt, our resident wizard, had cast upon the star, casting brilliant light throughout the square. The audience froze as Ms. Peavley reached for the switch, no doubt recalling last year’s Jubilee, when Professor Holsapple’s reindeer tree-topper launched itself into the hot cocoa stand, pelting the onlookers with marshmallows. Such was not the case this year; Mx. Aurielt’s enchantment worked as promised, and the crowd cheered at the sight of the illuminated tree.

Next on the program was the lighting of the ceremonial Yule log in front of the tree. The torch had been carried from the Elfking’s palace to Darbyfield, and was handed off to that doughty constable, Alf Matterhorn, by Arbora Hillrose of the Consulate, to cheers from the crowd.

A flurry of chaos erupted after the handoff, caused by the sudden appearance of Beauregard, the official bloodhound of the Darbyfield Constabulary; reports say that he was chasing one of Mr. Ray’s goats, who had slipped through a half-closed gate. Constable Matterhorn had to dodge to escape being trampled by goat and hound, which led to him juggling the torch, which led to his winter coat being set ablaze. Thankfully, the day was saved by fast action from Mr. Macalley, who removed his Father Christmas hat and used it to beat out the flame, with no damage to the Constable’s person and further cheering from the crowd. The hat was not as fortunate, and Mr. Macalley used that as an excuse to tuck it away and slip a plain black cap upon his head, much to Ms. Peavley’s visible disappointment.

Beauregard was soon gathered in, the Yule log was properly lit, and the musical portion of the program began. Holiday music has always been a highlight of the Jubilee, and this year was no exception. The chorus from Darbyfield University was in fine form, Mr. Ridley Talbot fiddled holiday jigs that led some in the crowd to dance, and Ms. Maya Fizkin of Withers’ Farm surprised and moved many with a stirring rendition of “On This Long Winter’s Eve”.

A touch of peculiarness was added to the proceedings by Mr. Eldric Bludergard and his valet, Mr. Stibbins. The duo teamed to sing an original composition by Mr. Bludergard, “Ollie, The Lonely Christmas Orange”. Their performance, which was earnest if not entirely professional, was capped by them conducting a dance called “The Peppy Pip Polka”. They described their act as a “zesty toe-tapping entertainment!”; at least one person in the audience opted to describe it as “mercifully brief” instead.

Following Bludergard and Stibbins the itinerant pooka, Mr. Reginald J. Cheshire, came on stage to tell jokes and stories of the season. His tales were met with favor from everyone in the audience except for a pair of farmers, Mr. Jonah Harrisburg and Mr. Shilo Ogden, who interrupted Mr. Cheshire with some catcalls and “witty” asides. Their chortles were interrupted when an unexpected blanket of snow landed upon their heads. The farmers blamed each other for the chilly bounty, and had to be dragged apart and away before they could start another snowball fight similar to the one that disrupted the Jubilee the year before last. Mr. Cheshire continued his storytelling, with a wink to the crowd.

The Jubilee concluded with Ms. Peavley leading the musicians and the audience in a hearty version of “Sweet Solstice Time”. She then wished all the happiest of holidays, and we can think of no better way to conclude this account than to do the same. To all our readers – a Blessed Yule, a Pleasant Winter Solstice, a Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!

© 2021 Robert Dahlen. All rights reserved, except those permitted by your local jurisdiciton.

Thanks for reading. I’m honestly not sure when I’ll be posting here again, but I’m glad I get to share this with you. I hope you enjoyed it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Peavley Manor (Or, Introducing Macalley) - out today!

Peavley Manor (Or, Introducing Macalley) is out today! Huzzah! Order your copy, pour yourself a cuppa, grab a scone, and enjoy your reading!

You can get the ebook at Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble! Outside the US, search your ebook retailer for “Peavley Manor”! If it doesn't turn up right away, give it another day or so.

The paperback is currently available through Amazon. I've ordered some copies for myself, and should be getting them in 1-2 weeks; I'll be offering some for sale through the mail at that point.

Thank you for all your support! I worked hard on Peavley Manor (Or, Introducing Macalley), and I'm glad it's out for the world to see and read! I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Barry Hughart

Today, it was announced that fantasy novelist Barry Hughart died on August 1. He only published three books, but the first one, Bridge Of Birds, won the World Fantasy Award.

His novels were set in “an ancient China that never was.” The main characters were the naive farm boy Number Ten Ox and Master Li, “a sage with a slight flaw in [his] character.” They traversed China, unraveling ancient mysteries and often leaving chaos in their wake.

Bridge Of Birds was a wonderful book, blending Chinese myth and folklore with moments of comedy, tragedy, suspense, horror and beauty. It’s not a perfect book, and I can see some problematic elements in it now, but it was my favorite novel ever at one time, and it may still be.

Barry Hughart’s writing was a big influence on mine when I started writing novels, possibly one of the biggest. The fourth Monkey Queen book, A Tiding Of Magpies, tried to pull the same trick Hughart did with reworking the Qi Xi/Tanabata legend, and I suspect you could feel his style in my words and ideas. I dedicated the book to him. I tried to track him down, so I could thank him and send him a copy of the book, but his last publisher had lost touch with him. I suspect that he valued his privacy...but I deeply regret not having a chance to tell him how much I appreciated his work.

These are the final words from Bridge Of Birds (spoiler free). I wanted to end this by sharing them with you:

“I shall clap my hands together and bow to the corners of the world.

“May your villages remain ignorant of tax collectors, and may your sons be many and ugly and strong and willing workers,  and may your daughters be few and beautiful and excellent providers of love gifts from eminent families that live very far away, and may your lives be blessed by the beauty that has touched mine.


Farewell, Barry Hughart, and thank you.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Peavley Manor Novelettes: An Update

I thought I'd take a break from incessantly promoting my upcoming  novel Peavley Manor (Or, Introducing Macalley) (Coming August 27! Preorder today at Amazon and other sites!) to make this announcement:

The individual Peavley Manor novelettes (Book Fair Frenzy, The Thorn Harbour Road Rally, The Missing Mallard, and The Rebellious Rooster) will be removed from sale at all ebook sites this Sunday, August 18.

Tales Of Peavley Manor (Or, Macalley Gets It Together), which collects these four stories in one ebook (and in paperback), will still be available, and should be for years to come.

I'm doing this to avoid confusion among readers. Instead of having to figure out which of six titles they need to buy then giving up and going out for a cuppa, now they'll know that they have to just get two books, the novel and the collection of novelettes.

If you still want to buy the individual novelettes, you have until Saturday to do so. However, if you haven't bought any of those, I'd urge you to buy the Tales Of Peavley Manor (Or, Macalley Gets It Together) collection instead. Due to Amazon's pricing and royalty structure, it'll be cheaper for you, AND it makes me more money than buying the single volumes! Wins all around!

Do let me know if you have any questions. Thank you, as always, for your time and your support!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Peavley Manor (Or, Introducing Macalley) - coming August 27!

Hello. It's been a while, hasn't it? I owe everyone an explanation at some point for going quiet here, but I'm back with good news: After over a year and a half of work, the first Peavley Manor novel is finally on its way! Peavley Manor (Or, Introducing Macalley) is coming August 27, and you can preorder the ebook now on Amazon! It should be up soon on iTunes, Kobo and other stores, and there will be a paperback edition as well.

Read Chapters One and Two after the cut!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Catchup: September 23, 2018

Time for a quick Sunday catchup! First: If you somehow missed the news, I had two releases earlier this month. The new edition of Skyblade's Gambit is out, and is now available worldwide, on Amazon and elsewhere! (Search for the book title or my name at your favorite e-book retailer!) Take to the skies!

And the fourth Peavley Manor novelette, "The Rebellious Rooster (Or, Macalley Gets Cocky)", is out! Alice's plan to assist a friend backfires in hilarious ways! Get it on Amazon and other sites!

More after the cut...including a hint at what's next!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Skyblade's Gambit - new edition out today!

Time to take to the skies...again! The new edition of Skyblade’s Gambit is now available! Get it on Amazon! This version has been expanded and rewritten, and is the definitive edition. (Due to last-minute production issues, Skyblade’s Gambit will only be available immediately on Amazon. It should be up on other platforms, including Kobo and iTunes, by the end of the month.) (Also, Skyblade's Gambit is not suitable for most younger readers.)

Captain Annabel Skyblade commands the Peregrine, the most feared pirate airship to sail the skies of Aldarre, plundering the rich and powerful. The rulers of the great sky realms have had enough of her, and Victorie Brassfeld, Cerindel's top Navy intelligence agent, has a plan to capture the pirate, using a lure too strong to resist—a valuable, beautiful sapphire amulet. But the amulet hides a great secret, and when it is stolen by sinister forces, Annabel and Victorie must join together to retrieve it. And as they face danger and adventure, they also have to face their feelings for each other, feelings they have never had before, when they discover... Hearts can be stolen too.

You can read a sample of the new edition of Skyblade’s Gambit on Amazon, including an expanded scene with Annabel in action. After the cut, you can read an excerpt from a new scene, featuring Victorie on the job. Enjoy!