Discover Prompts Day 14: Book

“The Good, The Bad, and The Funny.” That was the name I gave to the first book I ever wrote. I’ve written four.

People have a great capacity to believe all kinds of things. Belief is a stretch into the unknown with a hope of something better. Sometimes the things people believe make no sense to anyone else. Hindsight perspective should be available beforehand. But, if it were available before, it wouldn’t be hindsight, would it? Others who have believed the same things but no longer do can warn or try to help those with present belief, but if the believing ones don’t hold fast, that may be seen as a lack of belief. Unfortunate. In some cases, tragic.

Sometimes belief becomes so strong all common sense is lost. Reason is tossed away like an old pair of shoes. Even in the face of undeniable evidence, which at some point becomes an enemy, nothing turns the believing one around. At that point, to some he is a hero. To others, he’s a lunatic.

The book was an exercise in self-therapy. I did try to get it published but was turned down many times. I received a letter from a secretary of a publishing house to whom I had submitted the manuscript. She said, “I’m not supposed to do this, but I wanted to tell you your manuscript really shook them up. You hit some nerves. I just thought you should know that.” The manuscript is still in my filing cabinet. Typewritten.

“One Plus One Equals Three” is the story of our life with four children. In 1984, we were blessed with triplet sons. Totally unexpected, we found out my wife was carrying three a week before they were born, ten weeks early.

The boys came home from the neonatal intensive care unit after 6, 8, and ten weeks of constant care. During that time we visited the hospital every single day, sometimes twice in the day. We didn’t find out until a month after our last son finally came home the doctors didn’t expect him to live through the first weekend. He did. They are thirty-six years old.

I have read more books in the last four years than I read in the past forty, which doesn’t speak well of my dedication to reading early on. Books can be a wealth of imagination and discovery.

“Camp’s Over, Now What?” I wrote this manuscript as a result of many years of youth work. Young people are incredibly emotional people. It’s a shame we tend to lose that enthusiasm and emotion as we get older. I wrote a column many years ago (I had a weekly column in a small-town newspaper for two years) about how we need to put our jammies on again. Life is wonderful, anything is possible, people can fly when they’re wearing their jammies.

The book is about young people being overcome with emotion, declaring they will change their school, their friends, and never be the same again. They soon discover the emotion doesn’t last, and they’re convinced nothing has changed at all. Someone should have told them, (us), the emotion wouldn’t last. However, decisions can last forever.

“Smivey Stepward” is my first middle grade novel, book one of my Smivey Stepward series. Smivey is a red haired, freckle faced, 7th grader, in love with Elizabeth since first grade, a girl he has never spoken to. Gretchen (Smivey calls her “Gretch”) drives him crazy.

Smivey lives in an old house that was a funeral home owned by his maternal great grandparents, Ira and Irvina Hipplemeyer. He thinks the house is haunted. His dad and mom are weird. His dad is co-owner of Stepward & Sons Hardware with his grandfather, Archie Stepward. His dad thinks only of the store and believes Smivey does too. He’s wrong.

Smivey’s best friend, Larry Murfin, is everything Smivey wants to be. He lives on a dairy farm, has a dog, a truck, and his mom can whistle really loud. Larry wishes he could change places with Smivey. The two boys have been inseparable since 2nd grade when they both threw up on their desks at the same time.

I’m working on finding a literary agent. She’s out there just waiting for this one.

I need coffee.

Discover Prompt Day 8: It’s a Curve

He hates grocery shopping with his mother. He never tells her she’s weird, but she is. She buys the same stuff every week. He knows what she’s going to buy before she even leaves the house. Bread, milk, eggs, coffee, bran cereal, and worst of all, baloney. When his mother orders the meat she always says, “One pound of baloney, sliced thin. If it’s sliced too thick, it gives my husband gas, and we don’t want that.”

He comes up with a plan he is sure will work. His mom won’t let him stay home, so he’ll say he has to go to the bathroom and he’ll stay in there until she’s done shopping. Brilliant!

“I have to go to the bathroom, mom.”

“Okay, I’ll wait for you right here, dear”, she says.

“No, mom, you go ahead and get the groceries and I’ll meet you at the front”, he answers.

“Oh, no, dear. I’ll wait right here. I love grocery shopping together. You go ahead, I’ll wait right here.” She didn’t get it, and he couldn’t tell her.

Now he’s stuck. He doesn’t have to use the bathroom, but now he has to fake it. He goes in the stall, locks the door, and waits. When it’s been long enough, he tries to open the door. It won’t budge. He bangs on it. Nothing. He takes a pen from his pocket and uses it to force the lock. The pen snaps in half and spills black ink all over his hands. He wipes his hands on his pants, totally forgetting he is still wearing his school clothes.

“Why does this stuff always happen to me?!!” He quietly screams to himself.

“Mom!” He says just loud enough so she might hear him.

“Mom!!” He says just a little bit louder.

“Mommmm!!!” He finally screams in total frustration.

“What is it, dear?” she calls through the door.

“I can’t get the door open! Come in and help me, please!” he yells.

“Oh, no, dear, I can’t come in there. It’s the men’s bathroom” she calls.

“Mom!! There’s no one in here but me!! Please come in and help me!!”

“I’ll get the manager, dear.”

“No! Mom! Just come and help me!!”

“Don’t you worry, dear. I’ll be right back.”

He sits down on the toilet, wondering what he did to deserve this.

Soon he hears someone come in. “Son? Are you in there?”

“Yes, I can’t get the door open”, he answers.

“Your mother tells me you don’t like going grocery shopping. Why is that?” he asks.

“What? Please! Just open the door! It’s locked!

“Oh, it is? I thought you didn’t want to come out” the manager says.

“No! The door won’t open!” he says.

“Well, why didn’t you say that?! I’ll go get something to open it.”

“Finally!” he whispers to himself. As he’s waiting, he can hear the faint sound of sirens. They’re getting closer.

Suddenly, two firemen burst into the bathroom. “Son!! Are you in there?!” One of them yells, even though he’s right outside the stall door.

“Yes, please open the door.”

“Ok, son, you need to calm down. Take a deep breath. Say this with me, I’m going to be alright,” the fireman says.

“Please, just open the door.”

“Why don’t you want to go grocery shopping with your mother, son?”

“What?!! Pleeease!! Just open the door. It’s locked! It won’t open!” he yells.

The fireman answers, “What? It’s locked? Why didn’t you say that. Stand back!”

Soon a motor starts, and sparks begin flying. Suddenly the stall door swings open.

“Thank you! Thank you!” he says, and tries to walk past the firemen.

“Oh, no, son. You’ve been through trauma. We need to take you to the hospital.”

“What?! No! I just want to go home!”

One of the firemen takes him by the arm and lays him down on a stretcher. He is pushed through the store as he continues to yell.

“Mom!! Don’t let them take me!! I’m fine!! I just want to go home!”

He is pushed into a waiting ambulance. The doors are closed and soon they are speeding to the hospital. When they arrive, the doors swing open and he is wheeled into the emergency room.

“This looks serious!” a doctor says. “We’re going to have to operate immediately.”

“Operate?! No! I’m fine! I just want to go home!”

He is wheeled into a bright room. A mask is placed over his face and the room begins to spin.

“Mommm!! Don’t let them…”

“Wake up! Wake up!”

He opens his eyes and is shocked to see his own bedroom.

“You were yelling in your sleep, dear. Get your hands washed, dinner is ready.”

The Fun of Writing a Middle Grade Novel

Coming up with the main character wasn’t difficult at all. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. Maybe I should say I spent sleepless nights, endless days in turmoil over the identity of my protagonist. But I didn’t. His name just came to me.

He’s a freckle-faced kid, twelve years old, in the seventh grade. He’s been in love with the same girl since first grade, she just doesn’t know it. In fact, he’s never spoken to her even though they were in the same class twice in elementary school, and now have two classes together. He’s been writing poems and love notes to her since he was six, and still has each one. They’re hidden in a tin box behind a trap door in his closet on the second floor of the old house.

There is another girl driving him crazy, but for different reasons. She’s perfectly perfect. Plays the piano, dresses like a beauty queen, thinks she’s the answer to every question, and likes him.

He and his best friend have been inseparable since second grade when they threw up on their desks at the same time. It seemed planned, but obviously wasn’t. His friend lives on a dairy farm and hates it. The two wish they could trade lives.

His family has owned the hardware store in town for several generations. His father dreams of him taking over the store one day, and he wants nothing to do with it.

Singing “Springtime in My Love’s Caress” in choir class is almost the worst part of his day. “…feeling such a warmth within my breast…” is too much. He can’t sing it.

I read excerpts of my MG novel to classes of middle grade students. I was pleased with their response. Especially when I sang “Softly, softly, sweeping through the meadow, feeling such a warmth within my breast…”. The boys turned red. Just what I was looking for. I told my seventh grade Psychology History class that when the book is published I will include all of their names in the acknowledgements.

Query letter, synopsis, word-count, outline, chapters, editing, thinking, re-thinking, thinking again. It was really sort of a let-down when I typed, “The End”. I missed the characters. Watching them develop and evolve was exciting. I wonder what they’re thinking now.