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!

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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā

Dr. Fell the Musical?

I recently saw my kids in a production of Mary Poppins Jr. at our local middle school. The director is a long-time friend with whom I’ve worked a few times. Each summer, he runs a ‘camp’ which is really a large musical production with a massive cast (including my kids) and live band and what not. Two years ago he did Les Miserables. Last year it was Into the Woods. So I asked him what he’s planning on doing this summer. He didn’t know. Hadn’t decided.

Then he asked me how things were going with my book. I lamented how there are still people out there who haven’t bought it (I don’t understand what’s keeping you, the link to purchase it on Amazon is right here), and so on and so forth. Then he says the magic words.

“Ever think of turning it into a play?”

I have had many pie-in-the-sky dreams regarding the future of Dr. Fell. A movie, yes, of course. Trading cards, why not? Soft, fuzzy, plush Dr. Fells? Absolutely! A line of purple Dr. Fell top hats? Bring it on!

But I’d never before thought about turning it into a play.

My director friend was only half-kidding. He went on to say it could be made for kids to preform, or perhaps for adults to preform for kids. He’s always looking for plays to direct with all of the different schools he works at. He can only direct Annie and/or The Phantom Tollbooth so many times.

The idea now lodged in my head, I went home. The idea churned and churned. Why not? Why not turn Dr. Fell into a play? And that’s when it hit me. Not a play.

A musical.

Songs started jumping out at me. An opening number, a finale, lots of ensemble numbers, different solos for different characters. Before I knew what I was doing, I grabbed a copy of the book (I seem to have a few lying around) and started outlining which bits I’d keep and where the songs would fit in. All the while, I kept telling myself that this is crazy and silly and pointless.

And yet I do not stop.

It’s only been a few days, but I’ve got the opening number written and have begun piecing together the script. Who knows?

Dr. Fell The Musical may be coming to a theater near you.

Also By…

This week marked another milestone for me; the ARCs (Advance Reader’s Copy) for my next book, Beyond the Doors, arrived on my doorstep!

I’ve been so heavily focused on spreading the word about Dr. Fell, that I completely forgot these were coming. I’m actually not allowed to share images of them with the public yet (that’ll come in early December), so you’ll have to take my word that they’re real.

About a year ago I received the ARCs for Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. Opening the box and seeing my work come to life for the first time was a huge moment for me. This week was no different, even though it’s my second book. I opened the box, and suddenly the book was real.

The world is so digital these days. I write my story on my computer. I email or share files with readers. I edit on my computer, sometimes working on files that folks have commented upon electronically. Eventually, I send it to my Awesome Agent over email, who reads it electronically and sends it on to Excellent Editor as a word file or a pdf or whatever secret proprietary digital format agents and editors use. From there it is read, reread, sent back to me for edits, returned, reread, sent to different departments, reread, reedited, spellchecked, and so on. All digitally.

It’s not until this moment, when the box of physical copies arrive at my door, that it becomes a physical thing to me.

And you want to know the best part? The part that brought a true smile to my lips?

The “Also by David Neilsen” page.

True, there is only one book listed on that page, but just having an “Also by…” page is remarkable. Exciting. It gives me a warm glow in my lower intestine (I’m quoting Matilda).

I’m very excited about Beyond the Doors, and can’t wait to share the cover image and other art with you, and then, on August 1, 2017, share with you all the tragic, wondrous, crazy world of the Rothbaum children.

I think you’re going to like it.

Win Free Copies of Dr. Fell!

Did you know you had not one, but TWO chances to win a free copy of my book, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom? It’s true!

Fandom Monthly Magazine¬†¬†and YA Books Central are each hosting giveaways on their sites–literally giving my book away!

My advice to you is to take advantage of their foolishness before they realize what they’re doing. Hurry! They’re bound to find out eventually.

In other news, I’m trying to decide what to write next. Do I write something new or go back into one of my preexisting worlds? I sway back and forth in my mind, with a number of different projects vying for attention. There are pros and cons to each approach.

Something New

Pro: I love new things. Exploring a new universe. Meeting new characters. Creating new adventures.

Con: I’ve put a lot of work into the worlds of Dr. Fell, Beyond the Doors, and Book Three. Now I’m gonna go and do it all over again?

Pro: My imagination gets to run wild. What interests me today? A forest of rotting trees? Schools filled with slime? THE Dr. Edward Virgil Ignatius Lance?

Con: Each new book is one more book between a current title and its sequel. What if people lose interest in Dr. Fell or one of my other titles before I get around to a sequel?

Return to One of My Preexisting Worlds

Pro: A return to an old friend. I love my characters, I’m excited to play with them again.

Con: What if I write a sequel, then learn the publisher isn’t interested in a sequel? Is that time and work wasted?

Pro: Dr. Fell has more adventures in him. Book Three is specifically set up for sequels. Strike while the iron is hot!

Con:¬†The danger of unconsciously writing the same book over again. It worked once, what if I end up creating the same thing and fooling myself into thinking it’s different?

Not the world’s biggest dilemma, I know. But it’s where my mind’s at.

Thought you’d want to know.

Dr. Fell Art Preview!

In addition to the sweet cover drawing seen here-

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-the amazing artist Will Terry is supplying Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom with a number of full-page, black & white illustrations, one for every other chapter. Below is a sneak peek at the illustration for Chapter 1.

drfell-1 Chapter

In all, there are 14 or 15 illustrations (I forget the exact number), each one bringing a specific moment of the story to life. I love Mr. Terry’s work, and think he has done a fantastic job capturing the chilling joy of the story.

Seeing someone else interpret my work in this way has been an absolute thrill. When I saw the first pencil sketch of the Dr. Fell cover, I nearly cried. It was perfect. It was obvious at first glance that the artist had not only taken the time to read the book, but that he got it, that he understood it, and that he was ready to play in the same world. There are background elements on the cover that you don’t even notice but that are directly taken from the story. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Last week, I was shown an early pencil sketch of a cover design for Doors and had a similar reaction. Sort of like ‘Wow, this is real!’ Again, the artist (a different artist, and one whose identity I will disclose at a later date when I know I’m allowed) captured the feel of the story and brought a pivotal moment to life. I’m equally excited to see what the artist does with the remainder of the story (although truth be told, I have not specifically been told that Doors will feature internal illustrations the way Dr. Fell does. I’m only assuming because I’ve also not been told it won’t. Does that make any sense?).

I’m not an artist, at least not in the ‘I draw things that look good’ sort of way. My drawings are generally stick figures. And space ships, I always tend to draw space ships for some reason. But people? Living things? Forget it. I can’t even make a tree look good. My blades of grass leave a lot to be desired, as well. So when I see characters I created depicted on the page in two-dimensions (haven’t yet gotten anyone to make hologram of one) I am in awe.

The Sequel of Doom!

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom officially launches in less than four months! August 9, to be exact!

drfellcovercredit

I am, of course, ridiculously excited for the launch of the book, but there really and truly isn’t very much for me to do with regards to Dr. Fell between now and then. Except wait. And wait. And wait some more.

There seems to be a lot of waiting in the literary world. Maybe that’s why everyone likes to drink nice, soothing tea all the time.

Anyway.

So while I wait for Dr. Fell to jump into stores and off of shelves (and computer screens, remember, you can pre-order at Amazon today!), I instead concentrate on Book 2!

Except that I’ve already turned in Book 2 (which is not a sequel, but is, instead, the second book in my 2-book deal) and right now I’m waiting (there’s that word again) to get it back from Copyediting. This can take a while, as they often need to replenish the ink in their red pens in order to better underline everything I’ve done wrong.

So I turned my attentions to Book 3 (which is not a sequel to either Dr. Fell or Book 2, but a separate story that is totally awesome and which Awesome Agent will have the task of selling eventually). And finished the first draft. And sent it off to my early readers. And am now… you guessed it… WAITING to hear back from them.

So that’s three books all in the pipeline of being written and/or published, none of which I can actually work on at this point in time. What’s a writer to do?

Write something else.

Now I love new and original ideas. All three of these books are completely different works. My fourth book (which was actually the first one I wrote) is also its own beast. So that’s four books, four worlds. It can get lonely.

So I decided to revisit. I decided to begin work on a sequel.

Of course, the most likely book in need of a sequel at this time is the first one, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. I say this simply because it is being published first, and I wanted to revisit Dr. Fell’s world.

It’s a lot of fun.

The thing about writing a sequel is… trying not to make it the same thing. It needs to take the story someplace else. Build on what has come before. Take the reader by surprise while still feeling familiar. A tall order. Made taller still by the fact that the first Dr. Fell wasn’t necessarily written to have sequels. Mind you, I do keep the door open at the end. But this isn’t part one of a three-part trilogy like Lord of the Rings. Neither is this like “The continuing adventures of…” whomever you want. It’s like… you know how Stephen King wrote Dr. Sleep, a sequel to The Shining? The Shining didn’t need a sequel.¬†It was a complete story. But eventually, King wanted to revisit that world and so he wrote a sequel. And it works.

That’s what I need to create. Something that works.

I have LOTS of fun ideas, and am already crafting a lovely, demented little tale. It is just the matter of finding the right way to tease the legion of fans of the first book (oh yes, there will be legions) while also being open to those who, for whatever reason, have not read Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (they were probably in a coma).

Fingers crossed, but I think I’m on to something. I wanted to start familiar, let old readers think they know where this is going, but then slowly but surely pull the rug out from under them as the true story takes hold, shakes them up, and spits them out.

Yum!

If nothing else, it’s something to do while I wait for August 9…

 

This is a Bad Title

Titles are hard.

Sometimes. Sometimes they’re easy. I have written books and short stories based on a title that popped into my head., bringing with it an entire story.¬†Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom¬†(pre-order it on Amazon today!) was easy. Although my original title was simply Dr. Fell. The publisher added ‘and the Playground of Doom’ and I at first hated it but now I love it.

But sometimes they are hard. Book 2 is hard, and it doesn’t have a title yet. This is even though I’ve turned it in to the publisher and just today got their notes and am excited to dive into a second draft–all without a title.

Book 3 is easy. The title came first, and it took me a bit to wrap the story around everything the title promised. And I’ve been streaking through the writing process ever since (I wrote over 33,000 words in January!).

What do you want a title to say? What is its purpose? As a writer who spends a lot of time locked up in his little room with his keyboard, a cat, and some old Star Wars toys, I thought a title should be what the book is about. That’s why my first book was called Dr. Fell. It is about a small town where Dr. Fell arrives and then all Hell breaks loose. My publisher had other ideas. They thought the title should grab the potential book-buyer’s attention. They thought ‘Dr. Fell’ didn’t do that, because nobody knew who he was, so who cares. So they added ‘…and the Playground of Doom’ and presto chango! Now it nabs your attention.

“Ooo! A playground of doom? I must read about that at once!”

It also helps that the Playground of Doom shows up quite early in the book and is a focal point of the story. It works.

I’m currently reading Omega City by Diana Peterfreund. It is good so far. A fun read with fun characters, fun puzzles and conspiracies, and some other fun stuff. I like the book, despite what I’m going to be writing in a moment. I plan in finishing the book, which is a big thing for me.

The problem is, Omega City doesn’t work as a title. At least not for me.

I am currently only 70 pages into the story (the book is 318). The back of the book reads, in part “…Gillian sets off into the ruins of a vast doomsday bunker deep within the Earth.” Later on the back cover it reads “Now Gillian and her friends must race to explore Omega City and find the answers…”

So OK, it looks like much of the story revolves around an adventure inside this totally awesome Omega City.

I’m on page 70 and we’re not there yet. We don’t even know it exists. The characters are finding clues and not sure what’s going on. One of the clues mentions the word ‘Omega’ and they don’t know if that is important. Omega means last, so maybe it refers to the last of something?

No, it refers to the friggin’ lost city. Duh. Get on with it.

See, I read the back of the book. I know they’re going to find Omega City and go adventuring in it. So I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for them to get there. Why create a puzzle for your audience of the title of the book gives the puzzle away? I hate being smarter than the characters, and right now anyone actually reading the book is automatically smarter than the characters by virtue of knowing the title of the book.

Cheating and skimming ahead, it looks like the characters find Omega City (but don’t yet know that’s what it is called) around page 100. Between now (page 70) and then (page 100) they are following a series of clues, not sure exactly what they’re looking for.

That’s going to be a frustrating 30 pages.

I wonder if the author had this title from the start, or if it was given to her by her editor/publisher? If anyone knows Diana Peterfreund, ask her for me, will you?

Meanwhile, if the back cover copy and title didn’t give it away enough, here’s the cover art.

omegacity

To recap. I’m on page 70 and there is nothing even resembling that image yet. Sure looks exciting. Somebody wake me when they reach the underground bunker.

The Last Little Edits

If you’re read any of my previous posts, you know that my debut Middle Grade horror-adventure-comedy, Doctor Fell and the Playground of Doom, is coming out this coming August.

I’m kinda excited.

The timeline of the book’s creation and sale has been an educational experience.

August 2014 РI get the idea for the book and start dabbling.

September 2014 РAfter toying with it and a couple of other stories for a bit, and after an encouraging word from Awesome Agent, I get obsessed and dive into Dr. Fell wholeheartedly.

November 2014 РI finish the First Draft and send to friends and readers.

December 2014 – I finish Second Draft and send to Awesome Agent.

January 2015 – Awesome Agent likes it and starts sending it around.

April 2015 – Crown Books for Young Readers purchases Dr. Fell. I dance and sing and leap up and down like a little kid on an unending diet of sugar.

May 2015 – Excellent Editor sends it back with a ton of notes, including typos.

June 2015 – I finish Third Draft. Excellent Editor has more questions. I make more changes. We fix more typos. I eventually send in Fourth Draft.

September 2015 РThe Copy Editing department goes over it and sends it back with a ton more notes and typos and questions.

September 2015 РI answer more questions, fix more typos, make more very slight changes. Call it Fifth Draft.

October 2015 РI receive Advanced Reader Copies. Totally freak out. These copies are based on Fourth Draft.

December 10, 2015 – I receive email asking me to OK typo fixes on 6 separate pages.

How did any typos remain undiscovered through all of that to December 2015? When you think about all the times I’ve gone through it, all the times Excellent Editor has gone through it, all the times the Copy Editing department went through it… it ought to be impossible. Yet there they are, plain as day. Six pages, each with an obvious typo or issue on them that needs to be addressed.

This is why I am no longer surprised when I find typos in published material.¬†My book is only @215 pages or so. 45,000 words. The latest Rick Riordan is three times that length. Even going over it with a microscope, toothbrush, and metal detector, typos are going to slip through. They are literature’s little gremlins, and cannot be stopped, only contained.

Worse, I can almost guarantee (thanks to the inevitable law of human cluelessness) that there will be a hidden typo somewhere in the final, printed and published and on the shelves version of the book.

And my children will point it out within ten minutes of opening the book up to a random page.

Be strong.

 

 

 

 

The Feel of a Book in Your Hands

I started a new book the other day, The Zodiac Legacy by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, and Andie Tong. I like it fine so far, but have found myself drawn to it with a need to pick it up and just feel it in my hands.

It’s a thick, trade market-sized paperback and I bought it new. It just feels so good. Concrete. Solid. My rather disturbing fetish for the physicality of this particular book got me thinking. First, I’m wondering if they, like, coated the cover with some sort of opiate you absorb through your pores. But second, how much less I would enjoy this book on a Kindle or other e-Reader.

I don’t for this post to be a book review on this one title, because my revelations herein are more global in scale. However, this is the book I’m reading right now. As you might guess from the name of one of the authors (Stan Lee), there is a lot of art in the book–pages and pages of beautiful, comic book-style art interspersed between the pages of text. I don’t think the art would have as great an impact on me were I seeing it on a screen.

Having a book in my hands is a freeing experience. It signifies I’m about to set off on an adventure, journey to another land or another time or another world. Sitting down with a device¬†does none of that, because it could just as well mean I’m about to read an email or pay my bills online. Not quite as freeing.

When I started writing and selling short stories, I sold them wherever I could find them a home. This included a number of online publications, some of whom pay just as much or more as print publications. But it was never as satisfying as when I’d sell to a print anthology. The story felt temporary online. I’d link to it, read it, then the page gathers electrical dust on some long-forgotten server in the bowels of some long-forgotten server farm. An anthology exists in a state of permanence. It’s on my shelf. I can point to it. Take it down. Open it up. So now I only submit to print publications. And every time one of those anthologies shows up in my mail box, I relish ripping the collection out of the package and feeling the weight in my hands, smelling that wonderful New Book Smell, seeing my story right there on the page.

A couple of months ago, I got the ARC (Advanced Reader Copies) of Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (have you pre-ordered your copy yet?) and my heart did backflips while wearing those freaky leg-extenders the Cirque Du Soleil guys were wearing on The Wiz. Glorious paperback copies of my book, with my name right there on the cover. For the first time, it hit home. This was happening. My book was being published. I had the proof in my hands.

I don’t own a Nook or a Kindle or anything like that. I don’t tend to read books on my iPhone or computer. Reading a book is an escape. An escape from technology, an escape from the pressures of the day, an escape from the everyday stress of life. I want to hold it in my hands, feel the pages beneath my fingers.

I’m weird that way.