Absent-Minded Ramblings

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.

drfellwordsearch-001

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?

Halloween Hysteria

Five more days until the 31st and that means I’m in overdrive getting everything ready and doing shows and parties and generally running around like a deranged chicken out for blood.

I still have two more shows at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (tonight and Sunday), I’m visiting a local pre-school this morning to warp some toddler minds, and there are parties and readings and a zillion gloriously creepy things in the near-future. And the action never stops, because next weekend (Nov 3 and 4) I’m attending the Kid Lit Con in Hershey, PA as an author. I’ll be on a panel all about Middle Grade villains, and then hobbing and nobbing with folks at various other times of the weekend.

But aside from all the work, Halloween is just a ton of fun. I have been spending the past few days creating my yard. The key is always the lights, and we’ve added some this year. See, I live at the top of a steep driveway, and we need to really entice the kids to trek up to the house. Without a good display, some lazy kids would just look at the driveway and say “Forget it! That looks like exercise!”

I’ve got the graveyard out, and it’s lit with a red light from below and then highlighted by a pure bright white light from above. Various contraptions that are motion-sensitive. My famed rat-in-a-cage thingy. Body parts. Webs. The heartbeat. Jack-o-Lanterns. Anything else I can come up with. I’m thinking of creating a tableau of a dark form sitting at a table with a flaming jack-o-lantern for a head. Not 100% sure if I can pull it off, but it will be fun to try.

See, I have a reputation to uphold. For many years, a number of kids have said we are the scariest house. It warms the heart. 🙂

What’s got me even more excited is looking forward to NEXT Halloween. Fingers crossed, but all the stuff I was supposed to do with Historic Hudson Valley this year ought to take flight next year. As well as a couple of other possibilities. Period adventures! Escape the Room! Classic, Gothic theater!

Meanwhile, I’ve read some great Middle Grade books of late. One of my favorites was The Lost Property Office, by James Hannibal.

A fun, magical story of a kid in modern-day London following in the footsteps of the Great Fire of London in 1666. There are secret societies, mystical powers, dastardly villains, daring escapes. It rocks. And the sequel (already pre-ordered) comes out… on Halloween! Wooo!!!

Two other Must-Read books which I have devoured recently are The Empty Grave and The Assassins Curse.

The Empty Grave is the fifth and (no!!!) final installment of Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. novels.

Product Details

I have been enamored of these books since I discovered them and each one has pushed the story and world forward in fantastic ways. The finale does not disappoint, except for the fact that it’s the finale.

The Assassin’s Curse is the third book in Kevin Sands’ Blackthorn Key series.

Product Details

These books take place in 1665 London and follow an apprentice apothecary as he solves centuries-old mysteries (which is a feat, since he’s in the 1600’s, so centuries-old means, like, the 1300’s!) and navigates 1665 Europe. The latest volume brings him from London to Paris. However, it has suddenly occurred to me that he will probably return to London soon, since I can’t imagine Mr. Sands won’t take advantage of a particularly famous event which took place in 1666. (See “Lost Property Office” above)

 

So there ya go. Three great MG books for you to go purchase. Only after you’ve purchased Beyond the Doors and Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, of course. 🙂

Time For Some Halloween Fun!

Halloween season is upon us, and I could not be more giddy.

I have a slew of events and projects over the next six weeks that will be fun and crazy and creepy and awesome. It all starts this weekend with the 4th Annual Warner Library Headless Halloween Mini-Golf event. All day, on Saturday, September 23, the hallowed halls of our venerable library are turned into 19 holes of mini-golf awesomeness!

 

I’ve overseen this glorious event since its inception and am blown away with what the other builders come up with. That skull opens and closes its mouth!

Friday, September 29, I begin my unofficial residency at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery by hosting an original murder mystery event: Murder at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Someone is going to die and everyone is a suspect! Even you! Be warned, tickets are very limited!

The next day, Saturday, September 30, I’ll be back at the cemetery presenting Dark Dahl – Roald Dahl’s Creepy Tales at 5:00 and then again at 7:30.

On Thursday, October 5, I’ll be doing a reading of my latest Middle Grade novel, Beyond the Doors at the Warner Library in Tarrytown at 7:00.

Saturday, October 7, will find me spending the day at the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, New Jersey.

Then on Monday, October 9, I’ll be back at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery for two performances of An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe. Shows are at 5:00 and 7:30.

I will be appearing at the Barnes & Nobles in Yonkers, NY on Friday, October 13 (Friday the 13th!) for a reading and signing at 6:30.

The next day, Saturday, October 14, is the annual Sleepy Hollow Street Fair in Sleepy Hollow, NY. I’ll have a booth with books and goodies so come on by!

And that takes us through the first half of October! There’s plenty more in the second half, including an exciting new project I’ve been working all year on with Historic Hudson Valley that I hope to be able to announce soon.

Happy Halloween!

From Providence to Nashville

The Cons are coming! The Cons are coming!

Cons, in this case, is short for Conventions. Or Book Festivals. Big events where people show up and do stuff. Like hold interesting discussions and autograph copies of their books.

This past weekend, I was once again a guest of the Necronomicon Providence, held every 2 years in Providence, R.I. It is a festival of all things ‘Weird Fiction’ and is inspired by the work of Providence’s own H. P. Lovecraft. I performed two of my one-man shows at the festival–my version of H.P. Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu and an original show that mixes the horrors of Lovecraft with the witty, upper-class farce of… witty, upper-class farces… called Horace Whitley and the Unspeakable Horror.

Both shows went well (my Call of Cthulhu was standing-room only), and I had the good fortune to be given an opening act, which was this fantastic Canadian magician named James Harrison who did a fun, mind-bending routine before each of my shows. I also spent time in the vendor’s room signing and meeting folks from all over the country and world.

This weekend, I’m off to Nashville for the Killer Nashville conference. I will be participating on three panels:

Friday 8/25 9:40am — They’re Real: How to Write Fantasy Thrillers & Mysteries

Friday 8/25 2:20pm — From Seuss to Potter, Kids Love to Read: Writing Picture Books to Chapter Adventures

Saturday 8/26 2:00pm — Coming of Age: How to write Young Adult Mysteries & Thrillers

I’ve also been given a number of different signing slots for each panel, so if you’re in Nashville this weekend, come on by!

While I’m very excited for all three panels, I’m particularly excited for the “From Seuss to Potter” panel because one of my co-panelists will be Chris Grabenstein, who is a great guy and has been instrumental to my career (and whom I’ve been stalking for a couple of years now).

Beyond Nashville I’ve got another one in October and one in November, with more on the way. These Book Festivals and Conventions are a lot of fun, a great chance to meet people, share my work with them, and get free swag!

What more could you ask for?

The Stars Are Right Again!

This weekend, I will be in Providence, Rhode Island as part of the 2017 Necronomicon.

What is the Necronomicon? Aside from a dark book of evil? So glad you asked.

It’s a convention to celebration of Weird Fiction. Much of my work exists in this hybrid world–often seen as a mash-up of science fiction and horror. The Grandfather of Weird Fiction was H. P. Lovecraft, and H. P. Lovecraft was from Providence, Rhode Island. So… that explains that.

While I will be there Friday afternoon and all day Saturday in the Dealer’s Room meeting, greeting, signing books (both my Lovecraftian-inspired, traditionally-published Middle Grade books and my very Lovecraftian-inspired, self-published works of insanity), and being a general ray of joyous light, my main contribution to the festival will be my performances.

I will be performing twice at the festival, once on Friday evening, and once late Saturday night. On Friday, I will be debuting a new one-man show entitled “Horace Whitley and the Unimaginable Horror.” Saturday night, I will be presenting my fan-favorite show, “H. P. Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu.” Both shows are open to the general public as well as convention-goers, so if you happen to live in and/or around the Providence area, you should swing by and catch a show!

You can find out more information about my performances on their website.

And if you happen to be in Providence this weekend, come say hi!