From the moment snarky, twelve-year-old Berri Gladstone ogles a pair of retro goddess sandals in her dad’s junk shop, she’s determined to make them hers, even if it means accidentally unearthing the undead dragon spirit of a vengeful ancient king.
With the help of her brilliant but shady best friend, Mel McShine, two clued-up house ghosts, and her eccentric, shape-shifting Mystery School tutors, Berri soon discovers she’s descended from an infamously cursed family, aka The Terribles. And now that her wicked ancestor’s interdimensional dragon spirit is on the loose, Berri must use her newfound stone-wielding powers to stop him. But she’s running out of time. If the dragon spirit fully resurrects on Halloween, he could destroy Berri’s—and everyone else’s—world forever.
THE ANCIENTS AND THE TERRIBLES is a 47,000 word, myth-inspired middle grade fantasy about an anti-heroic shoenista. It’s Wednesday Addams meets Stranger Thingswith the quirkiness of The Mortification of Fovea Munson. I am a middle school English teacher, a 2019 WriteMentor mentee, and a SCBWI member. I’ve written for and about kids online and in regional newspapers. On weekends, you’ll find me hunting for classic shoes—especially enchanted ones—in vintage shops and at flea markets.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I kept my plan simple—kill time before dinner, stay out of trouble, watch what I say, and avoid the mom-in-the-house. But the stakes were high if I failed. That’s why I slogged my way to Dad’s junk shop with my twerpy brother, Mason. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be caught dead there. Being stuck inside it was torture. It was a virtual vomitorium. And it reeked of old people smell.
“Bad news, Berri,” Mason said. “Deep-in-the-bones rotten news.” He was gawking out the shopfront window.
Never one to be emotionally available when it came to family members and all their troubles, I yawned and didn’t bother to stop painting my fingernails. Plus, it was that irritating, late-afternoon-time-of-the-day when my blood sugar was low. All I wanted was a nap. Or a cannoli.
“Hejust pulled up to the curb.” Mason let out a giant breath. “I get woozy and sick in my gut when he comes in.”
“When who comes in?”
“Whoddya think?” Creepy Mr. Crumlish—the guy that smells like armpit and sardines.”
I did a casual, over-the-shoulder glance. Dad’s tacky cardboard Halloween skeletons were taped to the window. The torrential rain had colored everything a washed-out gray. But I spotted him. Old man Crumlish himself, scampering down the cobblestone walkway to the junk shop. Shoulder-length silver hair. Steely-blue eyes. Spindly legs. Every week or so, he’d pull up in his rusty pick-up. He’d lug his unwanted items, including odd little bundles wrapped in brown paper and twine, into the shop. Then he’d trade his stuff for homegrown potatoes from my dad’s less-than-stellar vegetable garden. Who knew potatoes were such a hot item?
“We could turn off the lights and pretend we’re closed,” I offered. “It’s not like he brings us any real business.” I grinned. “Or we could mow him down with our antique scythes.”
My dad’s eyes bounced up from his sweeping. “C’mon, kids. Lighten up on the guy. Long ago, he single-handedly defeated the Troops of Tine in the Second Battle of the Isle of Rock. Fergus Crumlish is a warrior god.”
I was unimpressed. “The troops of wh-at?”
Here’s the thing. I had no personal interest in history. I couldn’t figure out the point. What was done was done. Forcing kids to care about has-beens from another time and place was emotional overkill.
As a result of my outlook, I was on the verge of flunking seventh grade history, aka Ancient Civ. And, as fate would have it, my dad happened to be a big history buff. Whenever he wallowed in nostalgia (which was a regular occurrence), he tried to spice things up. He’d weave in fantastical stuff—ancient Roman gods, epic battles, crystal amulets, cursed burial urns, talismans, mythical beasts, or dragons. Dad’s brain farts were a result of junk dealing. Blame it on the dust.
“Listen. When Mr. Crumlish comes in, don’t be rude,” Dad said. “He’s a valuedcustomer.”
“Kill me now.” I moaned. “Please.”