Monday, March 28, 2022

A Tale of Love, Loss, and Rock and Roll

 


My middle grade novel, The Thing About Dad, is out now and available everywhere. Here's the summary:

For thirteen-year-old Jack Lansford, moving from upstate New York to Virginia is a prison sentence. At least that’s what it feels like when his dad takes a job down south and asks him to “give it a year.” Moving in, Jack's misery turns to confusion when he stumbles across a box of letters to his mother that forever changes the way he sees his light-hearted dad.

As close as Jack is with his father, they never talk about Mom, or the car accident that took her life when he was only three. So Jack can’t help himself from sneaking back to the journals—pages of heartfelt confessions about the mother he never knew. School begins and Jack tries to find his place—playing drums in the basement band with his dad and the neighbors while making a few friends along the way.

Jack confides in Miranda, the girl next door with the voice of a young Aretha Franklin. But when he shows her a poem his father wrote about his Mom, she decides it’s the song they should perform at the local band jam. With that, The Wallywalkers are primed for the big time, but first Jack has to summon the courage to have the talk of all talks with his dad.

Amazon

 Barnes & Noble



Wednesday, September 1, 2021

My Kid's Room

There’s something to be said about my baby Bella’s room. The books, the blocks, the crib, the loopy swirl of her name on the wall. It’s like a separate universe in our house. In Bella’s room we sit on the floor. We use our imagination. We play with stuffed animals or Barbie's. We don’t think about all that stuff on the news.

There’s a lamp on, casting a cozy glow over us as I look at my daughter, into her wide, all-encompassing eyes. It’s where I find the absolute best in humanity.

After a while she’ll crawl to me, bash into my chest then slide down and bury her little head in my lap. I’ll stroke her little tuffs of hair and her back while she murmurs softly. Then she’ll look up and say something like, “Blah.” Her mix of ball and dog.

I say it back to her. “Ball.” She smiles, coming alive. She crawls around, muttering to herself, pulling up on the dresser or crib as we talk colors and shapes. We point at things that spark our interest: a book, a shoe, the ceiling fan. Outside it might be raining, or hot, or windy or dusk, but it doesn’t matter. Not when we’re in her room, with the lamp on, talking shop.

When I’m in Bella’s room, I’m not thinking about work, or writing, of past failures or even worrying about Covid. I’m content to play and sing and laugh until she gets hungry or tired or simply grows bored with me.

My little girl's room is a safe place, for her, but for me as well. It’s where time stops and holds still in our laps—even as she’s growing so quickly. Where we wind up the music box and let its clicking melody pull us away. It’s where bears talk, turtles fly, monkey’s dance and I can take a moment to catch my breath.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Fairy Dust Fumble

Less than one month to go before my middle grade romp, Fairy Dust Fumble hits the shelves. My first four books have covered some pretty heavy topics. Not this time, my July release, Fairy Dust Fumble, tells story of Colton Clutts going from third string bench warmer to superstar phenom. And It’s plain silly fun.

Here's the summary:

Twelve-year-old Colton Clutts is looking for a breakthrough. But as the third-string quarterback of the middle school football, he team does himself no favors when he agrees to play the part of the fairy in the school play. Clad in tights, wings, and armed with a wand, Colton achieves school-wide fame after he tumbles off the stage during rehearsals. If that isn’t bad enough, a drafty backside incident on the football field quickly goes viral.

Things at home aren’t much better. Colton’s little sister thinks she’s a witch. She casts protective spells for Colton because she’s convinced he’s cursed. But when she stumbles upon a spell that actually works—turning theater-issued glitter into magical fairy dust—things start happening. It begins with crazy slam dunks in gym class, then Colton runs wild in a middle school football game. Just like that, Colt-the-Bolt is born—a superstar athlete who gallops into the record books.

For Colton, it’s a dream come true. But a feisty school journalist is chasing the story. And Colton’s sister no longer wants to be a witch. His drama crush isn’t interested in a superstar who’s skipping out on play rehearsals and his best friend is tired of being the sidekick. With the varsity coach calling and ESPN proclaiming him a “phenom,” the Colt-the-Bolt trend is nothing but a big glittery mess. And now, with the spotlight awaiting him and the fairy dust dwindling, Colt finds himself onstage and completely out of magic tricks.


Release date is 7/6, but for now here’s an excerpt—after Colton’s little sister has “spelled” his stage prop glitter and he realizes his new magical abilities:

-

The blitz comes storming and there is nowhere to go.

Correction. There is nowhere for a mere mortal to go. My

feet, however, have other plans.


They take me left. And when I say they, I really mean it.

My feet are driving and I’m only hanging on for the ride. A

wall of defenders close but I find a crack of daylight in the

middle. I slip between two hefties but more come calling.

At the last second, I catch a glimpse of Harrison streaking

down the sidelines with a couple steps on his guy.

I chuck it with everything I’ve got.


The pass flutters in the wind. Harrison slows, his

facemask to the sky as he makes the adjustment. A roaming

defensive back converges on what should be an easy

interception. What happens next will be discussed for

years.


Doing all that running, I hadn’t put enough muscle into

the pass, so the ball floats like a sagging balloon at a parade.

The safety arrives perfectly on time to make the play, but

it’s like someone has hit the pause button. The balloon

slows to a magical stop in midair. I mean, the football halts

and hangs there, like a cloud, until the poor safety goes

crashing into his own bench.


Only then does the football drop safely into Harrison’s

hands, where he stands stock still, looking down at the ball

like it’s a meteor rock. Hundreds of jaws drop in complete

silence. Finally, Coach Barber cries out for him to run, and

he mechanically jogs into the end zone.


No one chases Harrison. Probably because no one

knows what in the heck they’ve just seen. Me included.

Without peeling his eyes away, the referee slowly finds his

whistle and eventually, cautiously, raises his hands to signal

a touchdown.


Both sides of the bleachers are as quiet as a library


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Tale of Two Dads

I slide into safety, taking cover between the bushes. Having escaped enemy fire, I catch my breath and wait to ambush my assailant. A quick peek out, when I don’t hear footsteps. But I force myself to hold still. This war is won with patience, not bravado. I clutch two guns, both cocked and ready. From my vantage point I have an excellent view of the field, the hill between the houses, even the back door. I have everything covered. It's a perfect plan. 

Minutes pass. A fly lands on my nose but I don’t dare move a muscle. I have to be ready for anything. But nothing is happening. Maybe the plan is not so perfect. 

Slowly, against my better instincts, I leave the safety of the bushes. Arms raised, wielding my pistols, I climb the hill to the front yard. My ears perked, my eyes open. I swing around, wildly, my arms like hands on a clock. But there’s no sign of my attacker.

I creep to the maple tree in the front yard. I clear the treehouse then step down, allow myself to relax. Then, I make a crucial mistake. I wander out of the shaded safety of the trees to the street--no man's land--where I hear a snicker. I look up. There, I spot my pint-size opponent, fifty yards away, rifle in hand. I hang my head in shame. 

I’ve been outsmarted, outmaneuvered, my impatience has doomed me once again. But luck is on my side, as his cartridge drops from his rifle. He looks down, then back to me. 

I smile.

With only one option left, I go full Braveheart on him. I charge, pistols extended, Tarrantino-style as my feet slap the asphalt. Neighbors take notice. In the confusion, a couple of the neighborhood kids join in, running behind me. I look left, then right, as one kid’s face is covered full in war paint, the other wears a towel around his shoulder, with… one boxing glove? I shake it off. There’s no time for questions. It's go time. 

The gleam in my opponent’s eyes turns to surprise, fear, panic. He rushes to retrieve the cartridge as I bear down on him. Twenty feet… ten…

Just when I think I have him, my forty-eight inch target stands tall. My first dart whizzes by his ear, the second falls short at his feet. I keep gunning, reloading as I approach, until I hear the snap of the cartridge and he takes aim like a dueler at high noon. I shoot again, but it’s too late.

I’m hit.

He nails me between the eyes. I let out a wail, stumbling, my arms out, pistols skidding along the street. My opponent shows no mercy. A second shot finds my ribs, and I crumple to the street, mortally wounded, staring up the lazy clouds passing through the evening sky.

I stammer over some last words as my assailant takes aim and looms over me, when my reprieve comes from the house. 

“Honey, can you take the baby? I’m trying to fix dinner.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah.”

I roll over, amidst a collection of Nerf darts and oil stains. I get to my feet and wipe myself off. “Well, I gotta go.”

My son lowers the rifle. I hand the pistols to the other two kids. I know they’ll take good care of my weapons. “Until next time.”

As I hobble into the house, defeated but smiling, I’m handed a bundle of pink and told I have a leaf in my hair. A wide-eyed munchkin squeals at me. I make a face, she giggles. I tell her about the battle with her brother. She grabs my nose. 

Being the dad of an eight-year old boy and an eight-month old daughter is a great thing. It’s also very confusing at times.

It means waging an all out Nerf war outside, then coming in to read about purple monkeys and bubble gum trees. It means being careful not to get bike chain grease on the pretty pink onesie. It means wrestling on a trampoline then gently pushing the Little Tikes swing. It means trying to keep the baby from eating your UNO cards.

But at times, when it all collides, when my wild man eight-year old stops and hugs his sister, when she lights up with a smile as he dances for her, it’s not confusing at all.

It’s easy.