Deer Life

By Ron Sexsmith

Deer Life
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A wicked fairy tale of witchcraft, bullying, revenge, and a mysterious bowler hat. Includes Ron’s own whimsical illustrations.

Deryn Hedlight was not having a very good day and it was about to get much worse. He’d read stories of witches as a boy, but never believed for ... Read more


A wicked fairy tale of witchcraft, bullying, revenge, and a mysterious bowler hat. Includes Ron’s own whimsical illustrations.

Deryn Hedlight was not having a very good day and it was about to get much worse. He’d read stories of witches as a boy, but never believed for a second they were true. That is, until an unfortunate hunting accident turns his world upside down. What seemed like an honest mistake leads to an altogether unexpected transformation. But poor Deryn wasn’t the only wronged character tied up in these gloomy circumstances and sinister forces.

Deer Life tells the story of a kind-hearted boy from Hinthoven and his mother_s undying love. Mostly though, it’s all about patience, friendship, and heroism where you least expect it.

Ron Sexsmith

Ron Sexsmith is an internationally acclaimed, Juno Award–winning recording artist. He spends most of his time writing songs, touring, and making records. Deer Life was mostly written on the road, during long drives and in dressing rooms and hotel rooms. Ron lives in Perth County, Ontario.



Leaves in the whirlwind, scarecrow’s clappin’
All good children ought to be nappin’.
The cows in the tree, the bird’s on the ground
For your dream’s just a nightmare upside down.

These were the only lines she could recall of a schoolyard songoverheard in passing. Its melody, though, kept them both ingood company as it floated on the breeze to the rhythm of theirfootsteps on gravel.
They’d only been walking a few hours when they saw the lightof an inn just up ahead. Their shadows were practically there. Eleanoir and her dog, Jupiter, had found the last town to be a tadunfriendly, even more so than the town before and the town beforethat — although at first glance, it would be hard to imagine howanyone could take a dislike to either one of them. Eleanoir, forexample, was strangely beautiful. (Well, in a frozen lake sort ofway, I suppose. ) And in keeping with this metaphor, there wasnever any way of knowing the cold thoughts that swam beneaththe surface of her eyes, but then she liked it that way.
As for Jupiter? He was a hybrid, to say the least. Part wolf, parthusky, with eyes like frosted windows through which a vague senseof helplessness and other humanlike emotions struggled to see outof. Though at a glance he appeared as loyal as the day or his tailwere long. And as far as anyone could tell, this coldly attractivewoman was quite possibly his best and only friend. For whenyou’re a dog, one friend is oft times all you get. …
Upon reaching the entrance to the inn, a rustic sign that was atfirst impossible to read came into focus at last. THE WILLOW TREE,it hailed proudly, albeit faintly. The faded etching of a tree, in fact,could still be made out behind the green letters (though whoeverthe artist was had apparently never seen a willow tree before). “Well, Jupiter, I hope this place is to your liking,” said Eleanoiras the moon rested on her shoulder. Naturally, Jupiter’s tail waggedin canine approval.
Once inside, there hung the unmistakable odour of armpits andshame. A few patrons were scattered about the room in various stagesof drunkenness while an impressive fire roaredin the corner. Not a soul looked up,however, except for the innkeeper,who went by the unfortunate nameof Crad Grimsby. As Grimsby (arather beery-looking man, stout butwith kind enough features) camefloating over immediately to greetour weary travellers. Even crouchingdown (with great difficulty) togive Jupiter a pat on the head, creatinga flurry of dog whimpering thatsounded almost remorseful, or so hethought. “You’re a fine boy, aren’t ya! Yes, you are!” Crad spoke beforestruggling (with even greater difficulty) to get back on his feet.
“S’pose you’ll be needing a room tonight, ma’am?” he askedonce at eye level with Eleanoir. T’was then he noticed the strangepurple tint to her eyes, which made all the colour run from his face. He’ d seen these sort of eyes before. As a child back in Hixenbaugh. Eleanoir had seen his expression before, too.
It was not lost on her. “Mr. Grimsby?” she slyly inquired. “Isthere something wrong? You look pale. ”
“No, ma’am,” replied the innkeeper while attempting to collect himself,with decidedly mixed results. “Mistook you for somebody else isall,” he said, smiling back nervously. “A sad symptom of age, I’m afraid. ”
“Really? Well, that’s odd,” said Eleanoir. “Although I’ve been toldI do look an awful lot like my mother. You know, once upon atime. Maybe you’ve seen her somewhere before? In Hixenbaugh,perhaps?” she continued as two fingers tiptoed on the edge of herchin. “That is where you’re from, is it not?”
At this curious line of questioning, Grimsby’s smile faded tomake way for a new look of discomfort, which had spread acrosshis pie-shaped countenance like strawberry jam.
“Well, no matter,” said Eleanoir with a dismissive laugh. “A roomwould be lovely. And if possible, could you bring us two bowls of …”— and glanced skeptically toward the kitchen — “… whatever’s inthat pot over there, and some wine if you have any?”
“Yes, of course,” replied the innkeeper with a newly ruffled energythat darkened his otherwise light demeanour. “Coming right up!”But turning to fetch these items, he stopped short, as if forgettingsomething of great import, and turned once more to face her.
“I’m sorry, where are my manners? Would you and your furryfriend here care to take a seat by the fireside?” came his half-heartedinvitation with arms outstretched, as though he’ d conjured up thefire with sorcery.
Eleanoir simply shrugged as Jupiter sniffed a curious crumb on thefloor. “I guess it has gotten quite chilly out there, hasn’t it?” she added.
“Yes, ma’am, winter’s heading straight for us, I suspect,”Grimsby prattled on while scrunching up his naturallyscrunched-up face before scurrying back toward the kitchen. And so, in taking the innkeeper’s advice, Eleanoir and Jupitermoved over to the fire, where a drunkard now lay passed outand in doing so was taking up two whole seats! Jupiter growledat the unsavoury man, though if for reason of appearance, smell,or both remains a dog’s mystery to this very day. But no soonerhad I finished writing the above sentence when Grimsby camerushing back as promised with wine and two bowls of somethingresembling fish soup. But after delicately setting the traydown on a low table near the hearth, he set about indelicatelykicking the poor man back to life. “Wake up, Tom, I’ve warnedyou! It’s not a flophouse we’re running here! If you can’t stayvertical, then go and be horizontal someplace else. ”
All of this he barked (and rather unconvincingly, I might add)while glancing toward Eleanoir at intervals, in the hopes of impressingher with these very dubious “take-charge abilities. ” Even so, atthe conclusion of this crude display, our man Tom rose and thenmumbled a slurred apology to everyone he’ d ever wronged, beforestaggering off to the other side of the room (where he proceededto pass out!). Soon Eleanoir and dog were warming their bonesand enjoying the cozy atmosphere (and dare I say charm?) of TheWillow Tree. Even the soup wasn’t half bad. “So, where ya headingto, ma’am? If you don’t mind me asking, of course,” inquiredGrimsby from a safe distance behind the bar.
Eleanoir smiled a slightly forced smile and replied, “We’renot exactly sure, are we, Jupiter?” For he was just now gazingup at his master with that same pitiful panting face of oblivionshared by dogs everywhere. “How far to the next town?”she then asked, though purely for politeness’s sake (she alreadyknew the answer).
“Hmmm, now let me think,” said Grimsby. His thoughts indeedwent rummaging around his brain before arriving at the wordHinthoven after much eyebrow activity. (Though it wasn’t in anyneed of such consideration either, for he’ d lived in these parts allhis life. ) “If I’m not mistaken,” he feigned in earnest, “it’s just onthe other side of these woods. With an early start, you can make itby suppertime,” before adding with a sort of ominous emphasis, “Iwould not recommend going through there at night!”
After which his dark eyes could be seen rolling off in the directionof the forest as he shook his finger to further impress on Eleanoir thegravity of whatever he was implying. “Well, it’s awfully kind of youto be so … concerned,” she said, now mindlessly patting Jupiter’shead and staring deep into the fire. “We wouldn’t dream of it. ”


  • Loan Stars Top Pick 2017, Commended
  • Dewey Divas and the Dudes Fall 2017 Pick 2017, Commended


Sexsmith’s novel has much the same effect as his music, conveying uncertainty with fearlessness and heart.

Whimsical, absurd, and entertaining indeed!

Written in jaunty prose that Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern and Audrey Niffenegger fans will admire.

Full of mischief, magic, heroes, villains and the kind of lyricism you would expect to find from Sexsmith’s writing.

A tale that will entertain, amuse, and, yes, even educate. No small accomplishment for a writer.

A brilliant fairy tale that begs to be read.

Simple, magical and entrancing

Deer Life is a charming tale with a lot of heart.

It’s a bit Disney and a bit Dickens, and in the end, love conquers all.

There’s a sort of musical quality to Ron’s writing.

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