Pre-Order “Until Summer” (and read a sample)

My new book Until Summer is available now for Kindle pre-order on Amazon. You can check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08RSLGHDN

Here is the about blurb on Amazon:

They were in love but that seemed a long time ago, a different life. Abused and neglected, Meredith and her brothers spent much of their childhood in foster care. Now she’s a single mom of a teenage boy and foster mom to another, trying to juggle work, children, and dating. Abandoned by his mother, Daniel was raised by an uncle who struggled to show him love. Now he’s an addict warring against himself as he fights not to fail a son of his own. When Daniel’s son is placed as a foster child in Meredith’s home, the two are reunited but what will that mean for them and their families? Until Summer is a story of love and a longing for hope as two people battle the traumas of their pasts in search for a brighter future. 

(Note: Until Summer is a book about hope in the face of trauma. There are a few scenes in the book depicting various types of trauma. While these are not graphic or explicit, they could impact the traumatic memories of some people. Purchase accordingly.)

You can read the first few chapters for free here (PDF): https://mikebergmandotco.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/until-summer-sample-28.pdf

Your Imagination Is a Gift

Why do you write? Why do you rhyme? Why do you paint or draw? Why do you build?

Most people want to see the world a better place. We might not always see eye-to-eye on how to do that in a holistic sense, but one thing that spurs on the creatives and artists is a desire to make the world a little more beautiful. Some simply want to entertain. Some wish to inspire. Others long to provoke thought or create change. Others create for different reasons or combine reasons together.

Your imagination is a gift.

However you decide to put it to use, use it well. Let it soar. Inspire, encourage, entertain.

Create.

Image cred: Photo by Louis Maniquet on Unsplash

The Necklace (a Christmas short story)

The seventh and final in my Christmas short story / flash fiction series. Enjoy!

I hesitated as I rounded the corner and hunkered into my down jacket.

Half a block ahead, a grizzled and unkempt man sat with his back against the brick wall. He wore a stocking hat and overcoat, both of which had seen better days. Without gloves, he rubbed his hands together and blew warm breath onto his fingers.

Maybe if I had seen him sooner I could have crossed the street. I thought about turning around but he caught me with his gaze.

What’s the big deal? you might wonder. I felt bad enough whenever I walked by a beggar on a normal day, but Christmas Eve?

I shoved my hands deeper into my pockets and sighed.

“Hey, Mister?” the man said with a gravelly voice. “You got some change?”

“Sorry.” I quickened my pace.

“Merry Christmas!” he said to my back.

My heart sunk. I had a dollar in my wallet. I suppose I could have given it to him though it wasn’t much but I wasn’t turning back.

In three more blocks, I reached my destination. Bart’s Cafe on Fourth Avenue had existed longer than I had been alive and I was certain they hadn’t changed the fryer grease in those thirty-four years, either. Mom used to work there. I was three when she died. Dad helped keep her memory alive by taking me and my older brother to the diner every Christmas Eve. I hadn’t been in a decade, neither had Dad or Aaron. I wouldn’t have gone that year except I needed the solace of familiarity.

I stepped inside, pulled off my gloves and scarf, and welcomed the warmth. There were only two other patrons, a waitress in a green elf’s hat, and a cook who chomped on gum and shot the breeze with a man on a barstool.

I sat at the opposite end of the bar. The waitress approached and asked what I wanted. “Double cheeseburger with mustard and extra onions,” I replied. I thought about the homeless man I passed. “Actually, you know what, make that two. No onions on the second. And two coffees to go.”

“You want anything with that? The slaw is fresh.”

“Two orders of fries.”

“K, hon. It’ll be a few minutes.” She relayed my order to the cook.

I rubbed my face and then played with my wedding ring. It was my and Katie’s tenth Christmas together. I was afraid it would be our last. We had opened presents that morning, a tradition of our own, then she took the kids to see her parents. I hadn’t been invited on the trip. The year hadn’t been easy, especially after I lost a second job in six-month’s time. We argued almost every night, a few times in front of the kids at supper, something we had once vowed never to do. We were drifting. I had spent more nights sleeping on the couch than I had in our bed.

How could two people once so in love find themselves so far apart?

Neither of us had cheated. We didn’t hate each other. We just couldn’t get ourselves on the same page. A friend had recommended counseling. We had gone a few times but even those sessions often ended in verbal tussles.

We were worn down and tired. Josh and Hannah felt it, too.

The waitress brought me the food, two takeout containers in a plastic shopping bag. She ran my card. I added a ten-dollar tip and scrawled Merry Christmas! across the receipt.

The man still sat where I had passed him. He gave a curt nod, likely thinking I would walk by again. Instead, I asked if I could join.

“No one’s ever asked that.” He gestured to the sidewalk.

“Sorry, I was rude.”

He shrugged. “I’m used to it.”

I handed him a box. “I don’t have cash to give you but no one should eat alone on Christmas Eve. I hope you like cheeseburgers.”

He smiled. “I love them.”

I held out my hand. He shook it. “My name’s Kenton.”

“Gus.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

“What’s your story?” Gus asked, his mouth full of cheeseburger.

“What do you mean?”

“You said that no one should eat alone on Christmas Eve. If I hadn’t been here, you’d have been alone.”

I chuckled. He had a point. I told him my reason.

“That’s rough,” he said.

“Yeah.”

“Do you still love her?”

I rumpled my brow. “Of course.”

The man glanced at me and grinned. “Then why, Kenton, are you sitting here talking to a lonely old man?”

I slowly chewed my bite, pondering what he meant.

“Go to her,” he whispered.

I stood. He was right. I gave him the rest of my food.

“You might need this.” Gus reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny box.

“What is it?”

“Take a look.”

I opened the box and inside was a necklace with two butterflies. Katie loved butterflies. I had bought her a necklace like it when we dated. Somewhere along the way she had lost it. Neither of us could quite remember when.

“How’d you…” I glanced up. Gus was gone. The boxes were still on the concrete where we sat. I looked left, then right. He couldn’t have disappeared that quickly. My eyes returned to the locket. Whatever happened with Gus or whoever he actually was, I knew what I had to do.

It was a three-hour drive. I arrived just as the sun was setting. Many of my in-law’s neighbors tried to outdo each other with their display of lights. The little white and brick house that sat on the corner, however, had simple strings of white running along the gutters. Things didn’t have to be complicated.

That’s what I forgot.

Spend time with her. Listen. Enjoy life with her and our children.

I parked, ran to the door of that white and brick house, and rang the bell in a frenzy.

“Okay, okay, coming!” my mother-in-law hollered.

She opened the door. “Kenton?”

Katie sat on the floor playing Candyland with Josh. She glanced up. I smiled.

+++

The next week, we walked hand-in-hand down the street. Katie wanted to see what after-Christmas deals the stores and shops promoted. Across the street, I saw a familiar face. A young man stopped and handed him a bottle of water.

“I have to do something.” I started toward the street.

“Where are you going?”

“I’ll be back! Give me a moment!” I called as I jogged to the unkempt man. “Hi, Gus.”

The man stared at me with yellowing brown eyes.

“I wanted to say thank you again.”

“Do I know you?”

I gazed at the man, unsure what to think about him, his question, or what had happened. I carried a twenty-dollar bill in my wallet that time. Instead of pressing him further, asking who he was or how he knew about the necklace, I pulled out the bill and handed it to him.

He grasped it with rough, callused fingers. “Thanks.”

I gave a nod and returned to my wife.

“What was that about?” she asked.

I shrugged and took her hand. Then I pointed at the store window. “Hey, there’s that train set Joshie wanted. Looks like a good deal. Maybe we should get it for his birthday.”

©2020 Michael Bergman

Image by unsplash.com/@golfarisa

Let’s Talk Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block.

Whether you’re a professional author or sometimes storyteller, you know it. Those moments, days, weeks, or in my worst case several years where you want to write but something is stopping you.

The imagination seems to shut off. The motivation vanishes. You hate the words you see on the page/screen, trash it all, and walk away wondering if you’ll ever write again.

Fortunately, often time will get you past. Maybe you need to drink a cup or twelve of coffee. Maybe ponder nature. Maybe take a walk.

The thing I’ve found that’s helped me most is to ask my wife for ideas. She’s good at helping me brainstorm and I can take a sentence or two from her and churn out pages. I’ve even had stories win awards that way.

What about you? How do you fight the block?

Image cred: https://unsplash.com/@florianklauer

A First Christmas (a Christmas short story)

Today’s Christmas story:

“Mmmm.” My eyes slowly opened. I could smell the bacon on the stove. I glanced over the side of the bunk. Stevie’s mattress was empty and his sheets in a tangled clump. I slowly lowered myself to the floor and yipped as my bare feet touched cold hardwood before I could find my slippers.

Landon still lay in his bed, half on his back and half on his side. His arm hung off the bed and his long, greasy hair covered his face. I grabbed Stevie’s pillow and threw it at my oldest brother. Landon grunted and stirred.

“What?” he mumbled.

“Come on! It’s Christmas! Dad’s cooking bacon and there are presents to open!”

Landon rolled away from me, not sharing my enthusiasm.

I ran to the kitchen. Stevie was already sitting at the table poking his fork into red and green pancakes.

“Good morning, Mark,” mom said and kissed my head. Dad slid a plate of three pancakes and a side of bacon onto the table.

My eyes grew big. “Looks delicious!” They tasted as good as they looked.

Stevie and I were done eating by the time Landon stumbled in scratching his neck. He yawned, stretched, and grabbed a pancake without sitting down. “Don’t we got presents or something?” he asked, crumbs falling from his lips. He glanced at me with a grin and a wink.

Mom clapped her hands together. “Yes, now that you’re all awake! Come, come!”

We moved to the living room and my brothers and I crammed around the tree. Stevie and I scuffled and scurried, trying to figure out which ones belonged to us.

“Boys,” dad said sternly as he sat in the recliner. “Calm yourselves. Landon, why don’t you pass out the presents this year?”

Landon shrugged. “Whatever.” Stevie and I sat back as Landon sorted through the wrapped treasures and stacked piles in front of us.

“On three,” mom said. “One… two…”

She didn’t make it to three before Stevie and I tore paper and sent it flying through the air. My first present was round and heavy. With the paper gone, I stared at a giant can of cut green beans.

Landon must have noticed the tears starting to well in my eyes. He leaned close and whispered, “Hey, buddy, remember you have to pretend to like it. That way they won’t realize that we know.”

I nodded, forced a smile, and glanced at mom and dad. “Thank you. It’s just what I wanted!”

The next Christmas was better. That first one was rough. That’s life, though, when your parents’ bodies get taken over by alien brain slugs.

©2020 Michael Bergman

Image by: unsplash.com/@hi_i_am_steph

Giving and Forgiving (A Christmas Short Story)

Here’s today’s Christmas short story. I hope you enjoy!

“Watcha have?”

I glanced at the shelves behind the bartender. “You got any eggnog?”

The tall lady raised an eyebrow.

I sighed and rubbed my face. “Just a Coke, please.”

She grinned and grabbed a glass as an older, grizzled man sat beside me. “You look festive,” he said while he pointed at me and held up two fingers. The bartender returned with two Cokes.

“I don’t feel festive.”

“The name’s Tim. What’s yours?”

I didn’t feel in the mood for smalltalk, either, but I sensed that Tim wasn’t going to leave me alone. I, however, didn’t want to explain the uniqueness of my name (Aloysius Frankincense Robbins), so I just said, “Al.”

“Good to meet you, Al.”

“Same to you.” I took a sip and nearly spat as the fizz burned my throat. It was the strangest sensation I had felt. No wonder the old man banned carbonated beverages. Yet, I also kind of liked it.

“Why so dour, especially this close to Christmas?”

I glanced at the man. “You really want to know?”

“I’m told I’m a good listener.” Tim smiled.

“I quit my job,” I said with a sad chuckle. “It was stupid, too. I was good at what I did, the best even, and the benefits were great.”

“What happened?”

“Sometimes the monotony gets to me,” I answered. “I wash tights. Every day–red, green, white, sparkly, tights, tights, tights, thousands of tights. It gets old but it also gives me time to think. It’s just that me and my girlfriend had an argument and it gave me too much time to think, I guess. So, I started throwing tights all over the place, screaming how much I hated everything. I didn’t mean it but others were staring at me, including the boss, and I stormed out and told them where they could shove the tights.”

“That’s not good.”

“No.” I sighed. “I didn’t really hate my job. I was even offered a move to the toy line a few years ago but I turned it down, even though it’s supposed to be every el… er… person’s dream.”

“Would you go back, if you could?”

My eyes lit up. “Absolutely!”

The grizzled man smiled. “Well, Aloysius, why don’t you?”

I scrunched my face. “How do you know my name?”

The man began to laugh. His laugh echoed louder as he tossed back his head and placed his hands on his bulging belly. His beard grew longer and lights swirled around him. The tattered clothes he wore morphed into a red and white suit. “Ha ha ha! Ho ho ho!” His laugh became his famous bellow.

“Santa!” I exclaimed.

He winked. “We’ve missed you, Aloysius. It’s only been three days, I know, but the elves trying to replace you don’t have a clue what they’re doing. It takes a special person to handle delicate laundry. Merrywinkle has even shrunk three pairs of Mrs. Klaus’ unmentionables. I don’t think I’ll ever hear the end of that. We need you.”

“You really want me back?” I couldn’t believe it.

“Of course! Christmas is about giving and forgiving, as the Good Lord taught us. So, what do you say? Donner and Blitzen are waiting out back with the sleigh.”

I smiled. “Can I finish my Coke first?”

©2020 Michael Bergman

Image by: unsplash.com/@polarmermaid

A Matter of Presents (Christmas Short Story)

Set up: Don’t mess with a girl’s Magic Rainbow Pony Giraffe dreams!

“Andrew! Carla! What on earth?” Dad stood in the living room, having just woken up. My sister and I sleepily stirred from our rooms. My hair was a mess, I’m sure. It always was.

Carla rubbed her eyes and carried her teddy bear. I fumbled with my glasses and almost dropped them twice. The sun wasn’t even up and I hated mornings.

It was the week before Christmas. Mom and dad had placed the first presents under the tree. They were supposed to keep us excited for the Big Day but they were also relentless temptations.

When I was five, I opened them early, even ones that weren’t mine. Dad threatened to return them to the store. Mom talked him out of it but he warned me if I ever did it again then I’d only get underwear. No kid wants underwear for Christmas let alone only underwear.

That year I was nine. I knew better than to mess with the presents but as I stumbled into the living room, Carla at my heels, my bare feet stepped on shreds of wrapping paper. My mouth hung open. I stared at dad. He crossed his arms and tapped his foot. He glared at us, as mad as I’d ever seen him.

“What did I tell you?” he roared. Carla started to cry; I wasn’t far behind.

“We didn’t do it, I swear!” I squeaked.

“Then, who did?”

“Maybe it was Bruticus!” I blamed our corgi.

Dad rolled his eyes. He was about to say something else when Carla shoved me out of the way and bolted toward the tree.

“A Magic Rainbow Pony Giraffe!” She swept the package off the floor and spun circles, her tears suddenly gone. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

Dad sighed and took the toy from her hands. “Remember what I’ve told you?”

“No!” Carla scrunched her face, crossed her arms, and stomped. “No! No! No!”

“Brent.” Mom stepped into the room carrying a cup of coffee and softly said dad’s name.

“Fine. We’ll rewrap them.” Dad scowled and pointed at me and Carla. “But if this happens again, they’re going back.”

I wish I could say that was the end of it. I wish I could say it didn’t happen again. I really thought it might have been Bruticus, though I didn’t rule out Carla. I was wrong. Mom and dad wrapped our presents and put them under the tree again. When we woke the next morning, the same thing had happened. Only that time, dad stumbled in and found me standing in the middle of the paper mess.

We begged. We pleaded. Carla cried, stomped, and shouted. I might have done the same as dad gathered all the presents in his arms. I don’t remember. Maybe. I didn’t even want to have Christmas if it was package after package of brand new undies.

I knew I hadn’t opened the presents. Carla insisted she hadn’t. Dad had locked Bruticus in the garage, so it couldn’t have been him.

Who was ruining Christmas, then? I had an idea to try.

That night after supper, I snuck into mom and dad’s room and grabbed wrapping paper and tape.

“What are you doing?” Carla asked when she found me wrapping my ball glove, some Legos, and a pair of pants. I just shook my head and told her to go away.

I did all I could to stay awake until I heard mom and dad go to bed. Then, I snuck the fake presents under the tree and hid behind the couch. I didn’t last long, though. My eyes grew heavy. I fought and fought but sleep won.

That was until I heard rustling and paper tearing. My eyes slowly opened. I rubbed them and again. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I saw. We had an Elf on the Shelf. Carla liked it but I thought it was dumb. I knew mom and dad moved it every night. At least I thought they did. The old elf we had for years had vanished so mom bought a new one.

And there it was, under the tree, ripping into the fake presents.

“Hey!” I whisper-shouted and jumped from behind the couch. “It was you!”

The elf narrowed its eyes and sneered. My baseball glove fell from its hands and it pushed its sleeves up its arms. The elf was no bigger than my foot but I suddenly wasn’t sure of myself.

It lunged. I shrieked.

“Ahhhhhhh!” Carla blew by me, snatched the elf, and before I could blink the doll was torn to pieces on the floor in a pile of stuffing. Carla had it’s head in her hands and smashed it repeatedly against the floor. “I wanted a Magic Rainbow Pony Giraffe!” she screamed each word as she pounded.

Mom and dad ran into the room.

“What on earth?” mom asked while dad said some words I shouldn’t repeat and scooped Carla into his arms.

I gawked at the dismembered elf. There was no way I could explain it. Mom and dad wouldn’t believe me. I’m still not sure I believed what I saw. In shock, I wandered to the pile of elf and bent down for it’s torso. I glanced at the tag and chuckled in disbelief.

“It’s a South Pole elf. That’s the problem.”

The elf body fell from my fingers and I lumbered away to my bedroom, shaking my head.

As for Christmas, it turned out not to be that bad. I still got a new package of underwear and honestly I kind of needed them, but mom hadn’t let dad return the rest of the presents. They waited until Christmas morning to pull them out of their closet.

As Carla sat on the floor happily playing with her Magic Rainbow Pony Giraffe and dad went for a second cup of coffee, I snuggled with mom.

She kissed my head. “Did you have a good Christmas, bud?”

“Yeah,” I said and then glanced up. “Let’s just never do Elf on the Shelf again.”

©2020 Michael Bergman

/end story

Hope you enjoyed!

The Fourth Wise Man (a Christmas flash fiction)

Ever here the story of the fourth wise man? I thought not…

The four men sat, warming themselves at the fire. Melchior eyed the others. “This is a fine work we do, honoring the stately King of kings.”

Gaspar nodded in agreement. “This is why I have brought gold.”

“And I frankincense,” Balthasar added. “From the finest spices in all the East!”

“Remind us, King Duncan, what is it that you brought?” Gaspar said to the fourth man.

Duncan grinned with the happiest of grins. “Clothespins!”

“Clothespins?”

“Yes, the child may be King, but he is still a baby. There will be plenty of diapers and laundry.”

The other kings laughed while Duncan continued to grin.

Sadly, though, as practical a gift as Duncan’s may have been, the common nature of it left the fourth king lost to most of history and forgotten in the words of the song.

©2020 Michael Bergman

/End Story

Hope you enjoyed! 🙂

Image cred: https://unsplash.com/@rthiemann

A Christmas Flash Fiction

Image https://unsplash.com/photos/h3wtp_1cW4g

The set up: Santa arrives home after a long night delivering presents.

“I’m getting too old for this, Mary,” the portly man said as he pulled off his boots.

The kindly woman smiled and continued to knit as her husband collapsed into his favorite chair. “Nonsense, you don’t act a day over five-hundred!”

“My bones say otherwise.”

“It’s always been a long, hard day for you, Kristofer, even when you were young.”

“I know, I know. But even creatures of magic don’t live forever. I’m afraid I’m hastening my end with the extra work year after year.” The old man sighed. “Maybe I should use the machine. It doubled the elf population in ten minutes and productivity went through the roof!”

The old woman raised her brows, still knitting, “Yes, but when you tried it on the reindeer, three Rudolphs and two Blitzens exploded.”

“That’s true. Timmins thinks he fixed the problem, though.”

“Still, Kristofer, you don’t know what it might do, especially with your magic.”

“Hmm. Fine, I’ll ask Timmins to do more research but don’t you think the world would be better off with more Santa Clauses?”

Mary reached and patted her husband’s knee. “I’m happy with the one I’ve got.”

A mug of hot cocoa sat on the end table. Kristofer smiled and laughed his famous belly laugh as he lifted the cup to his lips. “Thank you, dear. You’re always so good to me.”

“Oh, the other Mary made that. She’s working on your laundry as we speak.”

/End Story

Hope you enjoyed! 🙂

The Secret Baker (introducing my kid’s book)

In our three years of being foster parents, my wife and I have had several children in the 8-10 year old age range. My wife suggested, with those experiences, to write a book aimed at kids that age. She even had an idea: Write a story about a boy who is good at video games and discovers that he likes to bake and is good at it. He tries to keep it a secret but his friends catch him looking up recipes at school.

Part of her motivation in that idea was you can find books out there about girls baking but it’s a little more difficult to find a book about a boy who bakes. In our home, both my wife and I love to bake and some of our foster kids, including boys, have gotten in on the baking as well.

Thus, The Secret Baker was born. The story does not go quite the way she envisioned, though it does involve a boy who learns he’s good at baking and tries to hide it from his friends. Without giving away all that happens, in the end, the story is about embracing what you’re good at and what you love, and getting past the fear of what other people think.

Second to this, The Secret Baker also touches on topics such as foster care and bullying.

I wrote the book for upper-elementary kids. You can check out a free PDF sample of Chapter One here: Mom and the Bakers.

The book is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats: The Secret Baker.

Here is the book’s description from Amazon:

Ten-year-old Callum doesn’t think he’s good at much. That’s about to change…

Meet Callum Martindale. He’s the son of the high school baseball coach in a family known for athletic ability. If you ask him, though, Callum will tell you that he’s “as athletic as a sloth.” Besides playing video games and doing mazes, Callum isn’t sure what he’s good at. That is until one day when he’s stays at home sick and binge watches a baking competition with his mom. Callum then discovers a love and ability for something he’d least expect…

The Secret Baker © 2020, Michael Bergman