A Good Story Never Dies

I just released my latest Middle Grade horror/comedy/adventure, Death is a Many-Splendored Thing. It is book one of The Chronicles of the Deadly Dead, and I am very excited to tell this story. Here’s the way-cool cover:

Books two and three are already 95% written. Or rather, they are 100% written, but I’ll need to do a pass to clean things up. They are already written because The Chronicles of the Deadly Dead is the book that got me my agent eight years ago. How I got that agent is a story unto itself and I may share that in a future post, but this post is about Deadly Dead, and the journey it took to publication.

My agent at the time sent out Deadly Dead and it didn’t sell, mainly because a) the lead characters were deemed too old for Middle Grade but too young for YA (I guess no one wants to read about 14-year-olds) and b) it was way too long. So Deadly Dead fell by the wayside and I wrote a little book called Dr. Fell and the rest is history (history being that Dr. Fell got published).

But Deadly Dead was always in my mind. It was my first love, and while it hadn’t delivered the goods, it reserved a special place in my heart – the left ventricle, I think, but I could be mistaken. Flash forward eight years and I embark on this whole self-publishing adventure. Right away, I know I’m starting with Lillian Lovecraft and the Harmless Horrors, but what do I follow that up with?

Which is when it hits me. What about Deadly Dead? By self-publishing, I can just ignore the whole bit about it being too long and the age of the characters being non-commercial and so forth. I can finally let my baby loose into the world! I pass it along to some friends to get their take on the book and the feedback is almost universal.

It’s too long.

So I drop my head into a pout and prepare to sulk in quiet and peace when another thought strikes me. I wrote Deadly Dead in three Acts. Each Act plays more or less like its own adventure. What if I simply took those three Acts and turned them into three seperate books? There would be some cleanup involved, yes, but it could work. It! Could! Work!!!

Does it work? That will be up to you to decide (Hint: Yes, it works). But I’m excited to release this trilogy and tell this story. And best of all, Deadly Dead was, itself, only the first book in a larger story, so I may have quite a few books in The Chronicles of the Deadly Dead.

This whole episode has taught me to never let a story go. I have files and files of stories I’ve started and stopped and restarted and restopped. Every now and again I go through them and see if anything new strikes me. Sometimes lightning strikes, sometimes it doesn’t, but I don’t delete anything. Sometimes one idea melds with another to become something even better. A good story never dies. So when you’re working on your own story and it isn’t working and you want to drop kick it into the nether world. STOP. Breathe. Save that material in a folder and move along. Because you never know when that old rusty nugget will be cleaned up and turned into literary gold.

Here endeth the lesson.

A Mid-Life Crisis

My father bought a motor home for his mid-life crisis (and more than likely drove it while naked). Back when my mother had her mid-life crisis, she bought a convertible. She did not drive it naked.

So as I approached the age when one of those mid-life things might sneak up on me, it stood to reason to wonder if I was going to buy some sort of transportation vehicle like my parents. But the truth is, I’ve never had a yearning for any sort of new car or bike or tractor trailer or blimp or anything. I still drive my 2012 Prius and haven’t even thought about replacing it. Vehicles are not my thing.

But time sneaks up on you like a slimy tentacle oozing its way through the underbrush to wrap around your ankle and pull you down into the creature’s gaping maw. While I was busy not paying any attention to getting older, my eldest child went and graduated from High School. This fall, that child will attend college. Not long after my child leaves the nest, I will suffer one of those milestone birthdays that feature an easy-to-remember (if larger than you would like) number. In short, I’m way due for my mid-life crisis.

This realization fell into my lap as I was listening to my favorite Spotify playlist. A playlist I made about three months ago and have listened to non-stop since. It is a collection of songs by the band Weezer. It contains over 50 songs and I haven’t stopped listening to them or talking about the band or watching their videos or reading about them since the beginning of the year.

So yes. Weezer is my mid-life crisis.

I’ve always liked the band, but never owned an album and couldn’t tell you what any of them were, although I would have known that some of them were just colors. But it occurred to me that I had a bunch of Weezer songs on my 90s Playlist, so I decided to collect them into a single playlist of their own. And then, when I had maybe 10 or 11 songs, I decided to listen to the albums. All 15 of them. And my playlist grew.

Weezer is a fascinating band. They have had highs and lows and lows that became highs and today are probably best known to my children’s generation as the band that covered Toto’s Africa. I fully remember when they came on the scene in 1994. I was listening to KROQ in LA, which was one of the true Alt Rock stations of its day. Their first song was, frankly, silly. You may know it as The Sweater Song. “If you want to destroy my sweater…pull this thread as I walk away… watch me unravel, I’ll soon be naked… lying on the floor, I’ve come undone.”

If you had told me in 1994 that the band behind The Sweater Song would still be viable and making new music 25 years later, I would have laughed you out of the room. Yet here we are. The latest Weezer album, their 15th studio album entitiled Van Weezer, was released earlier this year.

As I listened to their catalog, I grew to learn about The Great Weezer Controversy. They basically have two sets of fans. One group believes the band’s first two albums are amazing and they have never done anything worthwhile since, and the others point to a continuous string of hits over the past 25 years and tell the first group to stop being such snobs. I most defintely fall into the second group, as some of my favorite songs (Pork and Beans, Back to the Shack, Perfect Situation, Mexican Fender) are from later albums.

The more I listened, the more I read, the more I became a fan. Because these guys are dorks. Wonderful, successful dorks. If I had been a rock star, I would have been Weezer, and so would have most of my friends. Their songs are just so identifyable. They aren’t the best-written songs in the world, yet their lyrics go to places so familiar and honest. I connect with them whether they are singing about playing D&D as a kid or about listening to Mrs. Dalloway, 1984, and Lord of the Rings on Audible.

The story of Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer and songwriter, is fascinating. Basically, he gets instant fame and fortune with album #1 (“Blue”), then freaks out and goes to Harvard. While there, he realizes that he’d rather go be a rock star, so he writes the 2nd album (“Pinkerton”). It flops and everybody hates it. He takes the appearent failure hard and walks away for a while. Meanwhile, more and more people listen to Pinkerton and decide that maybe their first reaction was wrong. Maybe this isn’t terrible. Maybe it’s OK. Maybe it’s better than OK. Maybe it’s one of the best albums of the 1990s.

The story of Pinkerton is a story of expectations and timing. When you have a hit, everyone wants more of the same. Pinkerton is not “Blue” all over again. It is personal and edgy and emo and was made about 10 years before everybody else made albums that were personal, edgy, and emo. Rivers was truly ahead of his time.

After that, their career becomes a series of albums that are always compared to “Blue” and Pinkerton. Meanwhile, the band just keeps making new music, trying things out, experimenting, and coming up with new sounds. Their latest, Van Weezer, is a tribute to 80s Heavy Metal. Before that, they put out OK Human (which, yes, is a reference to the Radiohead album OK Computer) which was written during the pandemic and is about solitude and technology and, oh yeah, includes orchestral backing on some of the songs.

Basically, if you think you know Weezer, you don’t.

My favorite Weezer line comes from Pork and Beans, which is, perhaps, the perfect Weezer song. It’s a tale of the band getting older and not caring what anyone says or thinks about it. They’re going to play what they play, and not try to change to please people. The video, a celebration of Internet memes from 2008, won a Grammy. My line comes half-way through the chorus, after listing all the things they’re not going to do to please their critics.

“I’m fine and dandy with the me inside.”

That’s become my mantra. Because as I hit this mid-life crisis thing, I find myself comparing my life to those of my peers. Quite a few of them have become very successful, whereas I am currently driving a truck for FedEx. So it has been easy for me to get down on myself. But then I listen to that song. And I nod in agreement. I AM fine and dandy with the me inside.

The truly unfortunate thing about suddenly becomeing a Weezer fan cooinscides with another recent habit I’ve picked up–buying vinyl record albums. Weezer record albums are few and far between. This is mainly because nobody made vinyl record albums in the 90’s, so all the Alt-Rock bands from that period are hard to find on vinyl. I have found two Weezer albums on vinyl (“Red” and “Pacific Daydream”) and I treasure them both.

I gotta admit, for a mid-life crisis, I think I’m getting off easy. Yes, I think my kids are getting a bit tired of hearing the same songs when they are in my car. And I am aware that a lot of Weezer music is… less than mature (The Girl Got Hot, I’m Your Daddy… basically anything on the Raditude album). But it rocks. And it brings a smile to my face.

If nothing else, it’s way less expensive than buying a convertible or a motor home.

Something Harmless This Way Comes…

I am very excited to announce the upcoming publication of my next work of MG/YA Horror/Comedy/Adventure, Lillian Lovecraft and the Harmless Horrors.

This is a new series that features a exasperated teenager who gets stuck with an incredibly annoying horrific entity from beyond space and time named Frank. While Frank is more aggrevating than dangerous, he is the harbinger of worse things to come as an ultimate power of darkness sets its single eyeball on devouring our entire realm.

Book One: Abominations From the Abyss, features an annual book sale and pie eating contest, a monster that vomits up smelly eggs, and the world’s best miniature golf course to be modeled on the Spanish Inquisition. It’s coming this September in print and eBook and on Kindle. I’ll post when I have a pre-order link available. Look forward to more news on Lillian Lovecraft and her friends in the near future!

In the meantime, a reading recommendation. I recently had the good fortune to read The Artifact Hunters by Janet Fox and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The Artifact Hunters
Creepy, cool, and crispy!

This little jewel recounts the story of some very special children who reside at Rookskill Castle in England during World War II. There is magic, there is evil, there are mysteries and faries and evil trees and a really, really creepy mad scientist-style monster. This book is the sequel to Fox’s book, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, which I have not read. Truth be told, I was not in any way lost. Had I read her first book (and now I have to go hunt it down and read it), I would have known some of the characters beforehand and had an idea of some of the history of Rookskill Castle. That being said, I had no problem following this book, as it not so much a direct sequel as it is another story featuring some, but not all, of the same characters. In fact, the main character is new to the series, so we learn about Rookskill as he does, which is always a plus.

Find yourself a copy, sit down and enjoy.

And look for more information on Lillian Lovecraft soon!

When Shakespeare Gets Lazy

This coming Friday, December 11, at 7PM, I will be in a Zoom production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. It’s going to be a very interesting performance. Shakespeare over Zoom. Wild. Here’s the link.


This post is not about the performance. It is about the play itself, as written.

I think Shakespeare got lazy.

According to my director, who is something of a Shakespearean scholar, As You Like It was one of his most commercially succesful plays. It is a mad-cap comedy with cross-dressing, violence, and a couple of the more famous soliloquies oiutside of Hamlet. This is where “All the world’s a stage…” comes from, for one thing.

The simple story revolves around Orlando, who is the third son of a rich landowner, but whose oldest brother, Oliver (that’s me!), has not treated him well. Orlando meets Rosalind and is smitten, and vice versa. So Rosalind pretends to be a boy so she can mingle with people, and she again meets Orlando, and they play a game where they pretend the male-Rosalind is a woman named Rosalind and…

O.K. Maybe not so simple.

The plot is obviously not where Shakespeare got lazy. It’s incredibly complex and everything works out perfecetly and it is an example of the man’s brilliance. There are, like, four romanitc relationships he manipulates, fallen Dukes, conspiracies, you name it.

But the names. Oh, the names.

The show starts with a soliloquy from Orlando. Within the first few sentences, he mentions the second brother, Jaques (pronounces Ja-Queese). Later on, we meet a Jaques (pronounces Ja-Queese), but it is NOT the brother, but a completely different character. When the brother Jaques arrives (pronounced Ja-Queese), he is listed as Second Brother.

So already I’m confused.

Then, my character, Oliver. He’s the eldest brother. But later on, there’s another character named Oliver who is a drunk shepeard in a single scene. He’s given a last name, so it’s almost clear he’s a different character, but still. Why two Olivers?

I am baffled. This is not one of Shakespeare’s histories based on real people. It is a comedy. He made this up. He had full licence to name characters whatever he wanted. Why use Jaques and Oliver twice?

And lets talk about the Lords. There is a Duke Frederick and a Duke Senior. They each are attended by Lords. These Lords have lines. Duke Frederick has First Lord and Second Lord. Duke Senior has First Lord and Second Lord. Same names, different characters.

Who does that?

If I do that in my tenth-grade english class, my teacher marks me off, but Shakespeare gets away with it?

The guy was brilliant. Why couldn’t he come up with a few more names? Let Duke Frederick be attended by John and Paul and Duke Senior by George and Ringo. Or even First and Second Lord are with one guy, and Third and Forth Lord with the other. Now understand, you in the audience will never notice the Lord issue (you will certainly notice the Jaques issue, if only because it is pronounces Ja-Queese), but for an actor who has been given some of First Lord’s lines? It gets confusing.

Menawhile, he names a character Hyman. I mean if you can do that, why can’t you pick a few Richards and Biggles and Wadsworths out of your hat?

Ah well, such is the magic of Shakespeare. He gets to be lazy and creates one of his biggest successes that we are still performing 400 years after he’s dead and gone. Enjoy the show!

In the beginning…

When I was in the fourth grade, a man named Daraj Maxfield came to our school to immerse us into the world of theater. Valencia Elementary School didn’t have much of an arts program at the time, so we had no idea what to expect. When my class had its first session, Daraj (he was never Mr. Maxfield) explained that the school was going to put on a show, and that every student in the school was going to be part of it.

I was terrified. Up to that point, my life had consisted of being a top student (I got all smiley faces on my report card other than in handwriting, for which I earned a frowny face), playing Dungeons & Dragons, memorizing Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back (this was 1980), and that was about it. It is safe to say that I wasn’t the most popular kid in class. The idea of standing up in front of the entire school–having all those eyes on me–sent a shiver down my spine and gave me a punch in the gut.

Daraj’s vision for the show (which was, in fact, going to be an evening assembly for parents, teachers, friends, and anyone else they could stuff into the audience) was for each individual class to perform its own skit. The skits for the Kindergarten classes were obviously quite simple and short, with each grade taking on more and more elaborate work culminating in the sixth grade classes which would put on actual scenes.

The skit for my fourth grade class consisted of a family opening presents on Christmas morning. Almost everyone would be part of one of the presents that the mom, dad, son, and daughter would open. You had seven kids working together to be a table saw, five kids being a mixer, etc. The thing was, anyone who was part of a present had to stand still and silent for most of the scene. They started on stage, still as statues. Then the family entered and ‘opened’ their gifts one by one. When a gift was opened, the kids making up that gift would move and pretend to be the gift for a few seconds before going back to being still as the scene moved on to the next gift. Two kids were the Christmas tree, and they didn’t move during the entire scene!

Early on in rehearsals, it became very obvious that I could not stand still to save my life. I think I started as part of the table saw, but I fidgeted too much, Daraj switched me with the boy he’d cast to play “Boy.” Just like that, I had a part. I had lines. Three of them.

I wanted to die. My inability to stand still had forced me out of the shadows and into the spotlight. My parents were thrilled, of course. Mom even made me a rather ridiculous lime-green pajama suit to wear as a costume. But I dreaded every rehearsal…

…until I didn’t. Somewhere along the way, I began to look forward to the rehearsals. I would wait off-stage, then rush on with boundless enthusiasm. I didn’t know it yet, but I’d fallen in love with theater. I’d found my calling.

The night of the assembly came. Daraj started it off by tugging at everyone’s heartstring. He had a sixth-grader start the show alone on stage reading the evening news, and then the rest of the kids slowly walked into the auditorium carrying candles and singing Silent Night. By the time the first Kindergarten class went on stage, the entire room was in tears. It was only years later that I learned Daraj had stolen the idea from Simon and Garfunkel.

As the show proceeded, I became more and more excited. Finally, it was our turn. I had a blast and was the hit of the show. My three lines became five or six as my penchant for ad-libbing took hold. When the show was over, people came up to me and told me how much they’d enjoyed my performance. Kids congratulated me, even ones that generally didn’t know I existed. I was in Heaven.

That was the moment I became an actor.

You always hear people talk about the one teacher that inspired them or meant the most to them or had the greatest impact. For me, that was Daraj, a visiting artist who spent a couple weeks with us putting together a Christmas show in the fourth grade.

As fate would have it, our paths crossed again five years later. I was a Freshman at Aptos High School and had gone all-in on acting. Somehow, and I don’t recall how, I learned of a community show called Peace Child that was holding auditions in the area metropolis of Santa Cruz, California. It had already had a run, and was now casting for a second run that would also become a brief West Coast summer tour. The show is about an American boy who meets a Soviet girl. They become friends and, together, more or less end the Cold War through the power of their friendship (this was 1985). Aside from the two leads, the rest of the cast were either adults or ensemble. The girl who had played the lead in the first run was doing the part again, but for whatever reason (and I never found out why), they asked the boy who had done the lead originally to re-audition rather than just give him the part.

I auditioned and was called back, along with the original lead and one other boy. I assumed the entire time that they were going to give the part back to their original lead, but they didn’t. They gave it to me. We had a long run in Santa Cruz, then toured to three cities during the summer: Stockton, California; Laguna Beach, California; and Eugene, Oregon. That summer was monumental in my emotional and personal growth. I travelled with the troupe (me, my co-lead, and about twelve adults), learned a lot about myself as an actor, met an amazing array of people, and even, in Eugene, had my first kiss (Awkward, to say the least).

Peace Child, 1985. I’m the one in the middle. Daraj is the guy wearing the not-really-a-tux on the right.

So the two most formative events of my childhood are both inexorably tied to Daraj Maxfield. I have never forgotten him, and not just because of his unique name. I remember his smile, his laugh, his openness, his trust.

For the past couple of years, I’ve told myself I should look him up on social media or the internet. I couldn’t imagine it would be hard. It’s not like there are a thousand other Daraj Maxfields out there. But I always put it off. No reason, just laziness. Plus, what would I say if I found him? The only time in the past 35 years I’d even seen him was when I attended a community production of Camelot and he happened to be playing King Arthur. Even then, I don’t recall going backstage to say hi.

So this morning, I finally did it. I looked him up.

He died two months ago, on April 25, 2020. He was 69 years old.

He will never know just how much he meant to me or how he was such an important part of my life. It is safe to say that without him, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. He was the catalyst, the spark that sent me on my way. More importantly, he always believed in me. He believed in that wiggly fourth-grader enough to give him a speaking role, and he believed in that lanky high school freshman enough to cast him as a lead in his travelling show. That’s a lot of belief.

Thinking about this, about the effect a single individual had on my life over such a brief period of time, has made me consider all the chances I’ve had and continue to have to make a similar impression on someone else. Between my school visits, my theater camps, my work as a creative writing teacher, my after school improvisation classes, and more, I’ve come into contact with hundreds of kids over the last few years.

Every time I work with a child, I have a chance to make an impression. To help that girl or boy discover something in themselves they didn’t know was there. The same is true for any teacher, of course, and most educators have touched the lives of thousands more than I. But the next time I’m working with kids in whatever capacity it may be, I plan on keeping this thought at the forefront of my mind.

Maybe I can be somebody’s Daraj.

One of Us! One of Us!

It’s funny how things fall into place.

A few months ago, I get the opportunity to read an advance copy of an upcoming ‘spooky’ Middle Grade novel and then submit a promotional blurb.

Image result for from sunset to sunrise bookIt’s a fun book, called From Sunset to Sunrise by Jonathan Rosen and it’s all about kids and vampires and mad scientists and other things that go bump in the night.

A few months later, Jonathan drops me a Facebook line and invites me to join a fledgling group of other writers of Spooky Middle Grade books. I join up. Next thing I know we’re doing joint Skype visits and then there’s a website and now it’s a total thing!

The site is http://spookymiddlegrade.com.

We’re from all over the country, and many of us will probably never meet the others in person, but online, we are a cohesive unit. I did my first joint Skype visit with the group on Halloween. It was awesome. Four of us in our respective corners talking to a class of kids excited to hear from us about our work, our stories, our lives. It was fun to share this with the other three writers, and we’ll be doing a lot more of these as more and more teachers reach out and sign up (the visits are free, of course).

What struck me during the Skype was listening to the responses of the others and noting how similar they were to my own thoughts and stories. We really seemed to share a lot, and it was great to interact and work with like-minded people.

There will be more to come, but for now, check out our site and find a Spooky Middle Grade writer near you!

World Read Aloud Day Inspires!

Happy Day-After-World-Read-Aloud Day!

About a month ago I saw something on Twitter that talked about an upcoming World Read Aloud Day set for February 1. Interested, I followed the link which led to another link which led to another link which led to a few hours reading about crop circles. Then I went back a couple of links and found a page from an author I admire who was taking names and information of any authors interested in being a part of World Read Aloud Day by Skyping with classrooms across America.

I sent my info over to her and the next day I was listed along with a gazillion other authors on her site. I shrugged my shoulders and forgot about it. But it didn’t forget about me.

I got three bites. Two wanted me to Skype on World Read Aloud Day, and a third was hoping I could do it a week later. So yesterday I Skyped first with Ms. Jenny Berlin’s English 7 class at Baker Middle School located in Troy, Michigan. Later in the day, I Skyped with Ms. Fran King’s combined classes of grades 5 and 7 at St. Andrews School in Clifton, New Jersey. I’m still in talks trying to find a time that works with the third school.

It was awesome.

First, I have to apologize profusely to Ms. Berlin’s class. I Skyped from my Chromebook, and couldn’t get my camera to work. So while I had a nice video feed of the classroom, they were forced to stare at a black screen. I’m glad they couldn’t see how red I turned when I couldn’t get it to work.

Other than that, however, it was a great visit. They had lots of fantastic questions, some of which I get all the time (as, I assume, most authors do) and some of which I’d never heard before. They were engaged and interested even though it was 8:30 in the morning.

For my second Skype, I used my phone and it worked fine. Again the kids had a lot of questions: about me, my books, the publishing world, and writing in general. For both visits I tried to impart what little advise I could, drawing a lot from my School Visit Presentation ‘What If?’ And then I read the first chapter of Dr. Fell.

Talking with these kids, it really makes me realize how lucky I am. I mean I spend my days grumbling about low sales numbers (got a royalties statement that was about as depressing as one could be) and worrying that I won’t get another contract and all the while I’m forgetting that I did it. I got two books traditionally published by a pretty big publisher. That is huge, and a lot farther than most writers will ever get. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunities that I’ve had, and I can only hope I haven’t wasted them.

Both classes asked what I was working on next. After explaining that most likely, the next thing they will come across is something I finished writing over a year ago, I teased my latest project. It got a decent reaction, and just talking about it, putting it out there in the universe, got me extra-jazzed about it. So I’ve been writing a storm the last couple of days and it is heading into the final stretch. I feel pretty confident that I’ll finish it this month. But then the real work begins.

But more on that on a later blog post.


Can You Keep Up with Dr. Fell?

Greetings and salutations one and all!

In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, Dr. Fell has chosen to give thanks that he has a better vocabulary than anyone! To prove it, he has created a dastardly, cruel, Wicked Word Search! Find glorious words such as rapscallions and whippersnappers hidden on the page! (Beware, as the answers are printed in the bottom right corner of the page. No peeking!)

Dr. Fell’s Wicked Word Search is available as a free download as both a PDF and a JPG.


It’s the perfect activity for those cold, snowy (or just really cold), Winter afternoons spent lazily in front of the fire. Dazzle your friends! Confound your enemies! Defeat Dr. Fell!

The Mushy Middle

Endings are hard to write.

Sometimes I’ll find myself running in circles and drawing out the last chapter because nothing I write works as a final line. There was an urban legend that may or may not be true (hence: urban legend) saying the J.K. Rowling knew for many years that the last word of Harry Potter 7 was going to be the word “scar.”

It wasn’t. She changed her mind. Writers do that.

I have leaped with great gusto into writing a new book. It has been some time since a story grabbed me and shook me into submission like this one, and I’m loving it. The start was easy. I raced through about 8 or 9 chapters lickedy-split. I’ve also gone to the trouble of mapping out the entire book. I know what’s going to happen, how it ends, everything. Don’t have the final word nailed down, but I’ll figure it out when I get to it.

So far, everything is awesome.

Until it’s not.

Image result for writer tearing hair out

(not actually me)

Somewhere around chapter 10, I ran into a problem. Looking at my notes, there is a very specific “X happens now” note, which is great, but it’s more of a guideline. The note’s actually closer to “X shows up here.” So cool, X shows up. But I didn’t actually say what X is supposed to do or how anyone is supposed to react to finding X standing in the middle of the puddling (Oops! Did I give too much away?).

Looking further on my outline, the next event is “Y shows up.” Again, not that helpful. Beyond that, I get some very specific instructions on plot point Z and the story rapidly unfolds beat by beat to the end. So if I can just get past this obnoxious middle, I’m set. But I’m stumped.

I know that I need X and Y to arrive before we get to exciting plot point Z. But X and Y can’t just show up and then everyone sits around for a bit until it’s time for Plot Point Z. Things need to happen. I’m just not sure what.

I’m stuck in the mushy middle.

It’s not that X and Y are empty characters. I have lots of very detailed things that X and Y will do as we get further into the book. I just didn’t think to have them do much more than plop their fictional fannies on a bar stool and twiddle their thumbs upon arrival. I’ve gone back to the beginning and edited and thinned and altered and tightened and made it even better and even more exciting and funny and cool. But then I get to “X shows up” and the writing process screeches to a halt.

Making things harder is the fact that, due to the rules of the world I’ve created, there needs to be a period of time between the arrivals of X and Y and then more time must pass until Plot Point Z. I can’t just cram all three beats into one scene and be done with it. That would break the universe I’ve created.

It’s frustrating.

Because usually it’s the end that stabs you in the back, severing your spinal cord and making you flop to the ground like wet linguine.

Image result for wet linguine

(me after being turned into wet linguine)

Thoughts From KidLitCon 2017

This past weekend I attended Kidlitcon, a middle grade book bloggers conference in Hershey, PA. Everyone was pretty pumped to be there, and the panels were a lot of fun. I was on a panel on the second day regarding Middle Grade Villains. There were five of us, and we took turns explaining why today’s villains are so much better than the cardboard cutouts of our own youth.

It’s always great to meet other authors and hear their stories. Some of them are success stories, some are stories of perseverance. All of them are stories of writers. It’s always good to hear other people going through a lot of the same things that I’m going through. Makes me feel less alone. Misery loves company.

The conference was held in The Hershey Lodge. As in Hershey chocolate. As in the entire town of Hershey is basically a huge company town. Of chocolate. The Hershey Lodge had little bowls of Hershey’s Kisses on every table, in every room. You couldn’t turn around without knocking a mass of Kisses onto the floor. I didn’t stay in the Lodge, but those that did told me that they found Hershey Chocolate Bars on their pillows, as well as chocolate soap in the bathroom. I imagine true chocoholics walk into this place and never return. They just consume so much chocolate that they become a permanent addition to the lodge.

But I didn’t stay there. I stayed at The Comfort Inn down the road. There was no chocolate bar on my pillow.

When I checked in, the woman at the desk said, “Don’t worry about the noise. It looks like the teams are all well-behaved.”

Well that raised a red flag.

“What teams?” I asked.

“All of the high school cross-country teams here for the weekend’s tournament.”

“Ah. Those teams.”

Yes, my hotel was filled to bursting with high school runners. These runners seemed to be very dedicated to their craft, as they were practicing running up and down the hall right outside my room until just past midnight.

My room which was DIRECTLY across from the elevators. Like three feet away. So that any time anyone did something silly like arrive on the floor, I knew. Oh yes, I knew.

All in all, it was a good weekend. I even got some writing done. At a writing conference. Well, OK, a book blogger’s conference. But bloggers write. And they blog about writing, so it counts, right?