Hi. Thanks for coming by. I’ll make this short n’ sweet.
Hi. Thanks for coming by. I’ll make this short n’ sweet.
Here’s what I can tell you:
FURRY & FLO: PORTAL BOUNCE (Book 7) is written. It’s being tweaked a little to make sure it’s as nice n’ edited as I can manage (without an editor!) and I’m just putting the final bits of polish on it. But…by and large, it’s done. It turned out acres and miles better than I’d hoped, considering I’d REALLY painted my self in a corner by:
a) Having the ending end where it did.
b) Learning my publisher wasn’t going to publish any more Furry & Flo adventures past #6.
c) Not getting the original illustrator to help me out.
But, I’m happy to report that BOOK 7 will be coming as soon as possible. I wanted to make sure we did it RIGHT and not just pull the old LET’S JUST GET IT DONE routine.
To do that, I’m working with the uber-talented artist Nathan Malvig to get this latest tale illustrated right. Just check the little teaser graphic, eh? Together we’re going to get FF7 up and into the world the the way it deserves.
The best part? It’s gonna be free and available on e-readers. So sit tight, friends.
It’s COMING SOON.
(P.S. Oh, and hey…if you haven’t read Furry & Flo 1-6? Now’s the time.)]]>
We see it at home, too. He needs to be asked multiple times to do things, puts up a fight when even the most simple request is asked of him and he digs his heels in. HARD.
I’ve struggled with how to correct his behavior. I immediately go to sarcasm and taking things away from him, letting him know that failure to comply with what we’re asking will have him lose privileges, go to bed earlier, miss out on stuff we have planned, etc.
His response is usually a shrug of the shoulders and: “So?”
It’s hard not to feel like a failure as a dad when I see him constantly take the hard way.
This past Saturday he and I were home alone. I thought it might be a chance for us to do something together and sort of bond. I’ve been struggling with what to do. We’ve gone on a few bike rides with mixed results and we sometimes spend time reading together (the dude is CRAZY about books), but I wanted to do something different.
And I had NO IDEA what to do.
He immediately decided he wanted to go over to his friend’s house across the street, leaving me on my own.
I should back up a bit and mention that this kid loves animals. I mean, he LOVES them. He’s constantly asking for a dog, he loves pictures and videos of cats doing dumb things, etc. Recently, we’ve had a crazy little finch fly at our front window, flapping his wings at the glass. He’ll then land and peck at the window like he’s trying to get in. Jake is fascinated by this little finch and decided to call him Little Jimmy.
What’s funny is, Jimmy didn’t figure out that the bird he was seeing in his reflection was just that…a reflection. He keeps coming back, flying at the window and making a fool out of himself. Jake will drop whatever he’s doing to watch this crazy little bird.
This has been happening for a couple weeks. As I was sitting there, sort of keeping my eye on the kid while he was playing with the neighbor, Little Jimmy came back. Did his little dance at the window, looked around and after maybe 5 minutes he flew off.
That’s when inspiration struck.
When Jake came back to get an arsenal of Nerf guns, I told him we should go get some lunch and work on a secret project. Immediately he was interested. Not sure if the prospect of getting a roast beef sandwich and some mozzarella sticks were the trigger, but I took it.
“What’s this secret project, Dad?” he asked, his face buried in whatever book he decided to bring along.
“I was thinking we could maybe get a birdhouse for Little Jimmy.”
“Are. You. Serious?” His head was up above the book and his blue eyes were wide with interest.
“Yeah,” I said. “I don’t know how it works with those birds. Maybe he already has a nest set up, but it’s worth a try.”
“We should get one of those birdhouses that has the one-way mirror in the back,” Jake suggested. “You know so we can see what Little Jimmy is doing.”
I hadn’t thought of that, but suddenly I was just as excited about getting this dumb bird a house as he was.
We stopped and got our food. Oddly enough, they messed up our order, but sort of to our benefit. We each ended up with a sandwich one step bigger than we had planned. When he saw his “mid-sized” roast beef sandwich he said: “This thing is SICK.”
Afterwards, we stopped at a store to see a guy about a birdhouse. We were told “if we have ’em, they’re over by the bird seed.”
We looked through the shelves but didn’t see what we were looking for. Instead, I saw a picture of a bird on a long tube of tiny black seeds that looked EXACTLY like Little Jimmy. Not wanting to go home empty-handed, I offered up a suggestion.
“Hey, how about we give Little Jimmy some food? We could totally set him up for the whole summer.”
Jake was a little wary, but I pressed on. I told him that a bird house might be kind of hit and miss. You never know if a bird is going to trust some birdhouse and if he’s already got one built up, he might not want to pack up his crap and move.
We settled on a suction cup holder and a tube that had little posts for the birds to land on and eat to their heart’s content. We went home, I pulled out the ladder and put the feeder up on the window where he liked to attack his reflection. It was worth a shot.
After putting the stuff away, we waited. Nothing. The wind made the little feeder sway a bit, but other than that it was a bust. Almost all of Saturday the bird stayed away. Sometime around dinner, we noticed Little Jimmy sitting on top of the feeder.
“There’s food below you, little guy,” Jake said, careful not to get too close to the window.
We watched as he flew down BELOW the feeder and did his pecking-at-the-window thing for a bit before flying off.
This happened a bunch of times. He’d cool out on top of the dumb feeder and then head for zee hills.
And then…on Sunday evening…magic.
Travis (my oldest) and I were in the basement playing video games and Jake went upstairs for a second. I heard him yell. “He’s on the feeder!”
I figured he was just doing the same thing, when I heard my littlest guy shout: “DAD! HE’S EATING THE SEEDS! LITTLE JIMMY IS REALLY EATING ‘EM!”
Travis and I ran upstairs and all of us watched from a safe distance behind the couch as Little Jimmy went to TOWN on those seeds. He’d grab some, look at himself in the window, grab some more, look around for predators, and then chowed down for ever longer. He was probably there a good 5-7 minutes before he took off.
We were ecstatic.
I know this probably doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but it was the end to a mostly perfect weekend at the House o’ Troupe. The bickering between brothers was minimal, there was more listening than usual, Jake held my hand more in the space of two days than he probably has in a year. Life was good.
When I tucked him into bed last night, I gave him a hug and a kiss goodnight.
“We did it, buddy,” I said.
“Yeah,” Jake said. “We did.”
You know, it always feels like I’m going into a confessional like back when I was a Catholic boy anytime I RARELY post on this site. I feel like a bad friend for not blogging more and telling you what’s been happening in my world.
Seriously, though…I mean…it’s …]]>
You know, it always feels like I’m going into a confessional like back when I was a Catholic boy anytime I RARELY post on this site. I feel like a bad friend for not blogging more and telling you what’s been happening in my world.
Seriously, though…I mean…it’s not like anyone is actually READING this thing anymore, are they?
Well, if so. Hi. This is the blog I’ve been dreading for some time, but I need to grab the edge of the super sticky Band-Aid and give it a good yank. Sure, there might be momentary pain and a couple of random hairs that come off with it, but it needs to be done.
Okay, here goes…
Remember that little series of books I wrote? Furry & Flo? The one about the 4th grade girl who moves into an apartment across the hall from a 3rd grade werewolf? I had plans to write like 10 books in the series and people seemed to love them and their wacky adventures? Those ones?
Yeah, well…sometime last year, I was told that Book 6 (The Solemn Golem) was going to be the last Furry & Flo book Capstone was going to publish. To say I was devastated was a real understatement.
But why, Thomas? Why would they stop publishing those books?
Well, it’s like this: Publishing is a business. If people don’t buy the books, there’s no incentive to keep publishing them. Simple.
Why didn’t YOU publicize them, man? Jeez…
I did all I could. I went to school visits where kids bought a bunch of ’em. I did a couple of readings at bookstores. I trumpeted how much I loved the books (shamelessly) from the mountaintops…or the really big hills we have here in Minnesota. But at the end of the day, they didn’t catch on as well as we would’ve liked.
Okay, I get that. But I’ve read all 6 books. The Solemn Golem ends on a cliffhanger! Are you just going to leave them _____________ ??? (spoilers omitted)
No! That’s the big thing and maybe the tiny silver lining to all of this. I’m going to write 2 more books and make them available FOR FREE as eBooks. I can’t, in good faith, leave the handful of people who have read the books (and care about F&F) hanging. Maybe people will snap up the eBooks and finish the arc, maybe not. I guess I don’t want to be the guy that said: Sorry folks. Nothing more to see here!
I thought you were going to do 10 books, Troupe. 10!!!
I did too, Fake-Question-Asking-Voice-From-the-Internet. I did, too. I had big plans for a few more books in there, but ultimately, I know I can nicely close the gap and give F&F a proper ending in 2 books.
So…that’s my plan. I’m almost done with Book 7 and I’m working out some details to have illustrator/genius/all-around great guy Stephen Gilpin do some illustrations for them. I’m also hoping (fingers crossed) that I can make them look like the original 6 books, so that if you’ve got ’em on your Kindle (or whatever), they look like they go together.
Does that mean you’re done writing other stuff?
Oh, gosh, no. I’ve got an insane writing schedule already this year (hence the lack of blog posts!) but I’m going to crowbar time in to give Furry & Flo the ending they deserve.
When? When are we going to be able to get our mitts on F&F 7? And what about #8?
If all goes well, I plan to have Furry & Flo 7: Portal Bounce ready to rock sometime in Spring. Furry & Flo 8: Big Bad Dad will drop sometime in the fall.
So, that’s the story! Whew. That wasn’t so bad. I mean, it still hurts little and my ego is still kinda bruised. I’ve got that weird oval, Band-Aid shaped red mark on my arm, but the cut is finally staring to heal.
We got this.]]>
So, I’m not going to do it. Nope.
But let …]]>
So, I’m not going to do it. Nope.
But let me tell you what I’ve been up to, okay?
Weird, right? An author guy has books to talk about. Who would’ve thunk it? Well, it’s true. Not only have a big ol’ pile of books come out since I last rapped at ya…
(go ahead and have a look, I can wait)
…but I’m working on (brace yourself) NINETEEN BOOKS between now and August. NINE. TEEN. That smashes any previous records I had for things to work on. It’s truly kind of insane. I thought it was nuts-deluxe when I was working on EIGHT non-fiction titles last summer. Nope. This takes the cake! It’s gotten so that I had to actually turn down a request for me to write 3 longer non-fiction titles. I never turn down book deals and a few weeks ago it happened for the first time.
It wasn’t easy. (I’m sorry editor person!)
So, I’m extremely grateful and maybe just a little crazy to be behind the wheel of a very aggressive schedule of deadlines. If it seems like I dropped off of the face of the planet, well…that’s why.
(shameless plug in 3…2…1…)
Oh…and can I just say how much I’d love it if you snapped up the new Furry & Flo books? They’re called THE VOICELESS VAMPIRE and THE SOLEMN GOLEM and I really love these little titles. They’re fun, the illustrations (done by the uber-talented Stephen Gilpin) are spot-on and they’re close to my heart. I REALLY wanna be able to finish up the story arc, so having more than a couple people scoop them up will help make this happen.
Please? I’ll totally buy you a taco the next time I see you. Plus, your kids will dig ’em. Believe that.
Remember that time when I used to be on Facebook? Where I’d sometimes write a thing or two that occasionally was kinda worth reading? Maybe?
Well, I’ve quit Facebook…cold turkey.
Take a seat. Let me tell you why:
I had this process every evening when I’d sit down to write. I’d say goodnight to the wife n’ kids and head downstairs to my office. I’d fire up the computer and open up my Word document in one window and Facebook in another. I’d scroll through the news feed, read some stuff, make some smart-alec comments on a few things and then flip back to my work in progress. A minute or two later, FB would make a noise and I’d flip over to see what’s going on.
Oh, someone liked my dumb comment. I should say something else! Oooh. Somone’s dog is sick. That sucks! Whoa. Is that a picture of someone’s meal? Nice!
Then I’d get sucked into the black hole that is Amercia’s favorite social media outlet for 30 minutes or more. I’d blink and an hour would go by. I’d look at how far I’d gotten in my work and see barely any progress had been made. This would happen over and over and over again.
I have a saying (especially lately): THESE BOOKS AIN’T GONNA WRITE THEMSELVES!
I’m no math guy, but I’d say I’d dumped more hours than I’m comfortable admitting into Facebook. And for what? To read about how much people love coffee? The ads? The inspirational quotes text-boxed over a scenic picture of some dumb waterfall?
Even when I wasn’t writing, I found myself reaching for my phone like some sort of crutch, scrolling through stuff I could easily get through my day not knowing. My kids would be sitting around watching TV and I had my dumb face pressed against my iPhone. They’re not going to be little forever and squandering away their time so I can read about someone complaining about their job? Naaaaah.
So, I quit. Done. I’m out.
And no, I didn’t even bother to make that corny announcement: Attention everybody. I just wanted everyone to know I’m leaving Facebook. I just need to focus on my writing/family/toenail clipping/break-dancing career. No offense, but I need to cut the cord.
Doesn’t that always seem like a desperate last-ditch attempt for attention? It’s right up there with people that like to announce that they’re trimming their friends list.
Here, let me save you the time. UNFRIEND.
Nope. I just pulled the plug. I’m sure the world of social media is doing just fine without me and the junk I threw up on my wall. I suspect a few people assumed I “unfriended” them. But I didn’t. I just stepped off the book of faces. And you know what???
I honestly don’t miss it. Not even a little bit. It’s coming up on 2 months and while I’ve heard plenty of “you’ll be backs” and “who do you think you ares,” I’ve heard plenty of people say: Man…I need to do that, too.
You can do it, America. Mark Zuckerberg has plenty of cash already. He’s gonna be okay. I’m sure of it.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is this: If you want to contact me, please do. I haven’t dropped off of earth’s left buttcheek. I’m still here. Shoot me an e-mail, a text, drop a comment or a note through my dusty ol’ website. It’s like, whatever man.
Busy? Maybe a little, but I’ve always got time for you.
So, today I did what I’m guessing is likely my last author visit of the 2013-2014 school year. I went out to a school in Mahtomedi, Minnesota (a cool 20 minutes from home) and talked to close to 300 kids. It was a fantastic time (like pretty much all of the visits I’ve done) but I …]]>
So, today I did what I’m guessing is likely my last author visit of the 2013-2014 school year. I went out to a school in Mahtomedi, Minnesota (a cool 20 minutes from home) and talked to close to 300 kids. It was a fantastic time (like pretty much all of the visits I’ve done) but I gotta admit it was a little bittersweet.
I mean…seriously? The school year’s just about over? I won’t be able to do this again until fall?
Here’s the thing about author visits: They’re easily one of my favorite things to do. I get a huge smile on my big, dumb face when I get an e-mail from a teacher or a media center supervisor or even a friend who wants me to come out to their kid’s school. I’m not sure it’ll be easy to explain, but I’m going to try.
First Visit – Woodbury Library
(Okay…first off? Don’t worry. I’m not going to go into detail about EVERY SINGLE visit I’ve ever done. I just think it’s kind of interesting to think of how far things have progressed with these quirky little events.)
My first official visit was at the Woodbury Library. My second book (and first non-fiction title) MOUNT RUSHMORE had just been published and I was pretty darn excited. Sure, I was excited enough when PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS came out the year before, but now…I had TWO. It felt like I was bona-fide!!! Somehow I ended up talking with the head librarian and we figured out a time for me to come out into the little amphitheater they had outside the library. I could read a little bit, talk about where the ideas came from, etc. It was even in the local paper that I was coming. I told my friends and family, too. I’ve never been really nervous talking in front of people, but this made me a little jittery. I brought extra copies of my books in case some people wanted to buy ’em. It was going to be awesome.
I even thought I’d pull off the old suit jacket with jeans move that I figured authors did. The problem was, the sleeves were too long, so I folded them in and stapled them so they looked better. High class all the way, kids.
I was ready and I figured the children’s book reading public was ready for me.
Well…sort of. There was some sort of mis-communication in the paper that showed the wrong date. They tried to correct it, but it was too late. When I got there, I saw a bunch of my friends and family had shown up (thanks, guys!) but there wasn’t anyone there I didn’t know. I did my thing anyway to a group of around 20+ familiar folks who probably felt kind of sorry for me. Sure, I had some books published (one about an alligator who wears socks and the other about 4 crazy stone faces in a mountain), but man…NO ONE else showed up. While I was (and still am!) extremely grateful to have the support of those who did come by, it sort of left a bad taste in my mouth. I couldn’t help thinking: What happens when you throw a party and no one (else) shows up? Is that what this is going to be like???
Shoot. If people from the town where I live can’t be bothered to come, what does that say?
Ugh. I’m sure I sound bratty, but it was a bit humbling.
It was quite a while (and twenty-something published books later) before I started getting requests from friends who were teachers. Yes, I thought. A captive audience!
Students would have not choice but to sit and listen to me talk about books and writing and stuff. I would come in, introduce myself, read IF I WERE THE PRESIDENT or whatever else seemed right to a handful of kids and answer questions. Twenty minutes. BAM. It was perfect. And truth be told? It was… One of my favorite things about the visits is the questions at the end. They change, naturally, depending on the age of the students I’m visiting with, but man… Some of the earlier questions I would get were:
How old are you?
What’s your favorite book?
What’s your favorite food?
Do you draw all the pictures?
And one that really stumped me:
What’s your favorite book that you haven’t written yet?
I did these smaller visits for a while. Maybe a couple class rooms worth of students, eat lunch with them (school lunches are a little better these days!) and I was done.
Dollar Dollar Bill, Y’all
I should point out that I don’t charge schools to have me come out (though I’ve been told I should) and I take time off from work to do it.
I don’t know, man. I just have a hard time saying no if a school reaches out to me to come and talk with kids about books and stuff. I could probably drone on for hours (if they let me!) about where ideas come from, answering their questions, and letting them know about the stuff I’m working on. It’s like Hulkamania, you know?
I’m no pro-wrestling fan, but remember how The Hulkster would get his butt kicked around a bit, but when he needed a “boost” he’d do this ridiculous thing where he would listen to the crowd? They would cheer for him and after a while, the dude was so pumped up, he’d tear his shirt off and hit the other sweaty dude in the face with a chair.
That’s probably not the best analogy since I don’t hit anyone with chairs or have 1/3 of the muscles, but I think you get what I mean. When I talk to students about projects I have in the hopper and hear them go “SWEET!” or “OH, WOW” or something, I get a little amped up to get back behind the keyboard and get working. That’s sort of all the “pay” I need. Plus, schools have lousy budgets. At this point, I have a hard time justifying asking for any sort of money for me to show up there.
(Full Disclosure: A school I used to go to waaaay back asked me to come and asked what I charged. I threw out a number that was below what any other author would ask and they said: Yeah, I guess we can’t make that work. Haven’t done that since.)
Malone Elementary – The Game Changer
So, I was pretty comfortable doing little classroom visits here and there and I figured that’s how it would be. Every year I’d kick out a handful of new books and schools would let me know if they wanted me to come and talk to their classes. Some even had me back multiple times. (that means it’s working)
Through this trusty website, I ended up getting a message from a teacher from Malone Elementary in Prescott Wisconsin. He was running an after-school reading program for a group of boys who were kind of reluctant readers. They discovered the truth about the sports books written by Jake Maddox (it’s a fake author name that a handful of writers write under, including me!) and found my website. They asked if I wanted to come and hang with them, read some books, talk about author-ly stuff, the works. I did! They gave me an orange Popsicle (my favorite) and it was sooo cool to see a group of young readers get into some of the stuff I’d written. They were asking questions about some of the other titles I’d done and I was just blown away. I left feeling as close to a celebrity as I likely ever will.
Around a year later, Malone wanted me to come back, but on a larger scale. I got a message from their media center head honcho and was asked if I’d be interested in talking to the entire school. Never one to shy away from a chance to talk about books (and especially my books), I said sure. I figured I’d be doing multiple classroom visits throughout the day. OH NO. This was the entire school, broken into 3 sections. All told, it would end up being around 800+ students.
It wouldn’t be good enough to read a book and answer a few questions. This time, I was going to be up in front of everyone talking about how I got started, the process I follow, tips for aspiring authors, etc… And I needed to make it interesting to hold the attention of all kinds of age ranges. It couldn’t be too complicated and risk losing the attention of the Kindergartners and I couldn’t make it too cutesy and risk having the 5th graders throw rotten vegetables at me. I put together a thing where I covered it all, AND included a place for me to read PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS. I was worried that the older kids would hate it, but amazingly enough, they were probably more excited to hear about the lil’ alligator than the small fries were.
So…over the course of a few years, I went from a kind of little, low-impact visit at my city’s library to bigger schools and a lot more people. I was hooked and I literally got to the point where I was running out of vacation days from my real job to make it happen. I have yet to turn any requests down and I’ve had to get creative with my time, but so far it’s worked!
Still, I think some of the best things about the school visits is the excitement I can feel from the questions I get. I have a tendency to run out of time before I can get to everyone and I love that when it’s over, I get a swarm of students bum-rushing me to get their questions in before they get an angry teacher looking for them.
One kid in particular at an elementary school in Cottage Grove stuck out.
Cottage Grove Kid
After my third presentation, a young guy in 4th grade came up as the rest of his class was filing out. He asked me if he could talk to me about his story. Of course, I said: “Yeah, lay it on me, sir.”
He told me about this big book he was working on and how he didn’t feel confident enough to finish it. It was about a guy who had a magic backpack that could produce whatever he needed in a given situation. If he was going into battle, he could get armor and a sword instantly. He seemed nervous talking about it and sort of spoke in hushed tones as if he were worried others would hear him. I immediately felt a connection. I WAS THAT KID when I was his age. I had more ideas than I had the confidence to write out and I struggled with feeling like a bit of an outcast considering I wasn’t really all that into sports or anything else and just wanted to write and create stuff. As he was explaining the story to me, we walked, heading to the lunchroom. At one point he said: “I don’t know. I’m afraid people will think it sucks.”
I immediately told him, “That shouldn’t matter. Write what YOU think is cool and just get your story down. Finish it. Don’t over think it, just power through without worrying about the details. When you get to the end, you can give yourself a high-five for getting it done. Print it. Hold it in your hands. Feel the weight and know that your mind created something that has WEIGHT to it.”
“But what if it doesn’t turn out right?” he asked.
“Make it turn out right,” I replied. “When you’re done, work on it until you’re happy with it. If you’ve written the story you want to tell, it’s right. Plus, I think it sounds like a killer idea. Dude, I want to read it.”
Now, I know this sounds like a Hallmark Channel Movie of the Week moment, but seeing the kid nod and then eventually smile (and this guy was stoic as all get-out) totally made my day and visit worthwhile. He shook my hand, thanked me for the advice and help and joined his class.
Most Memorable Quote
“Mr. Troupe, are you part elf? Because you wrote a book about elves and your ears look kind of elf-like.”
Dang. I didn’t mean for this post to get soooo long. If you made it this far, thanks for humoring me. I guess in the end, I’m so grateful that I’m given the opportunity to do this. I’m grateful to the teachers, coordinators and students that invite me into their schools to (hopefully) ignite some imaginations. I love knowing that, in some ways, I’m helping to motivate young readers and writers to get creative. I love hearing back a month or two later or even in the REALLY INCREDIBLE thank you notes from students that they’re working on something and that I helped inspire them. I never had an author come to my school when I was growing up and I did sort of feel like I was alone in what I wanted to do. I think every young writer should feel like their stories should be finished and they should be heard. I, for one, am anxious to hear them!
So, while I might not ever get my name in lights or get a star on the Hollywood walk of fame or even end up on a best-seller list of some sort, this…
…is good enough for me.]]>
As I got to the bottom of the list, I discovered something that made me …]]>
As I got to the bottom of the list, I discovered something that made me get a lil’ bit melancholy:
PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS is no longer listed.
Immediately I thought: Oh, wait. There’s gotta be some mistake! Maybe I spelled PATRICK wrong. Maybe it’s under something else. Surely it isn’t what I think it is…is it?
I tried just SUPER SOCKS. I tried PATRICK. I even typed my name in and scrolled through the list of stuff I’ve been lucky enough to write over the last 6 years.
Nope. PSS was no where to be found. I’m guessing it’s been retired to that big ol’ Out Of Print Shelf in the sky, sitting next to other titles that had a good run but needed to make room for some other books.
I get it. I really do, but considering Patrick’s Super Socks was my first published book and is what I use as the “how I got started” portion during my author visits to schools, it’s got me feeling a little nostalgic.
Here’s what’s funny about PSS. It was originally a short story I entered into a contest for a book store called BookSmart. I don’t even know if the place is around anymore of it they became Half Price Books or WHAT happened. All I know is they had a contest for writers to enter in a 300 word short piece about going to bed. They wanted the stories to be something they could pile together into a volume of it’s-bedtime-so-get-yer-butt-to-bed stories for kids.
300 words? No problem, I thought.
Writers can enter up to 3 different pieces? Perfect!
So I did just that. I wrote 3 little stories that I thought were kind of fun.
– One was called JASPER’S JOB and it was about a dog who sleeps all day and is up all night protecting his family. Kind of a cute little story that shows how valuable a “lazy” dog can be to a family, yadda yadda.
– Another was called MOLLY’S NIGHT LIGHT. This one was about a little girl who doesn’t want to give up her favorite night light, but when she hears her baby sister crying all night, pulls it out of the socket and plugs it in near her lil’ sister’s crib. The crying stops and Molly (and heck, all of us) grow up just a little bit.
– The last one was (you guessed it) PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS, which was about a little boy with red hair who didn’t like sleep without the socks his grandma made for him. He dubbed them his SUPER SOCKS.
I entered all three into the contest after polishing the heck out of them and getting them in right on or just under the word count. I thought they sparkled and were going to make it into this book. I sincerely thought it might be my first real chance to be a published author-type guy.
3 chances to get in? It wasn’t going to be: Which one will they choose? It’ll be: Thomas, can we have all 3?
Sure thing, you greedy so-and-sos. Help yourself.
Turns out, NONE of them were picked.
I was no stranger to rejection, so it wasn’t completely soul-crushing. I put those stories in a folder somewhere and kind of forgot about them. But dang…
Then, a year or two later, the opportunity came for me to submit some samples of my work to a little imprint called Picture Window Books. I decided to give them little tastes of some of my best (and as-of-then-and-still) unpublished work. They got a little bit of TRAVIS & THE MAGIC SANDBOX, a little bit of THE SHORT BUS JOURNAL and some other stuff I don’t quite remember. I had it all packaged up nice and at the last minute, I thought: You know what? I’m going to send PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS too.
I sent it all off. I waited. In time I got a letter (or was it an e-mail? I think it was a letter) from editor/writer supreme, Jill Kalz. She thanked me for submitting my stuff. Before finishing it, I immediately figured it was a thanks-but-no-thanks letter.
Remember, I was no stranger to getting a big ol’ REJECTION.
Turns out I was wrong. Jill let me know that they were interested in PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS and that if I worked on it a bit, they’d like to publish it.
Friends, I was through the roof with excitement.
I worked on the book and with Jill’s help, got it to where it needed to be.
I think it never really hit me that it was actually happening. As a first time author, I felt like it was taking forever and I was waiting for Jill (or anyone at Picture Window Books) to say: “Ha ha. Just kidding, Thomas. Your story is garbage. We’re not making it into a book.”
That didn’t happen. Sure it got delayed a little bit which made the usual year-or-so turnaround even more excruciating. But…reality set in when Jill sent me an e-mail with a PDF attached. (I still have it) She let me know that while the book was taking forever, it was in sketches. She also mentioned that they changed my main character’s species. Patrick was no longer a little boy with red hair. He was now an alligator. Did I have a problem with that?
I was beyond excited as I opened the PDF and saw the initial sketches that would bring my goofy little story to life.
It was seriously almost as cool as watching the birth of my sons. But you, know, with a lot less screaming.
(okay, so I screamed a little bit)
And from that point, I knew that I had finally (FINALLY) gotten something published. Was it my action-adventure middle grade novel that clocked in at over 300 pages and already had a sequel written? Nope. Was it the book about the “normal” kid who had to endure bullies for riding the Short Bus with the handicapped kids? Nope. It was a little story I wrote on a whim to try and get published in some stinky little collection.
(I’m sure the book didn’t stink. My attitude did when I wasn’t accepted. Rejection is HARD, kids.)
I felt like I’d made it. And when PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS came out and I was able to hold it in my hand, I did the thing I always do: I felt the weight of it my hands.
THIS CAME OUT OF MY HEAD. IT HAS WEIGHT TO IT. IT DIDN’T EXIST BEFORE AND NOW IT’S GOT MASS. THIS CAME OUT OF MY HEAD!!!
(I know, I know. Weird.)
I checked out the spine. TROUPE. I opened it up. The illustrations were colorful and cute. They spelled my whole name out on the cover. It showed the illustrator’s name. I was certain she and I would be best friends. My book had a bar code on it.
A bar code. I had made it!
I told everyone in the world about it. I was finally a published author! Sure you couldn’t find it in stores, but if you went to the counter of Borders (RIP, old friend) you could ask them to order it for you. They would totally do it, too. Or, you know…you could save yourself the trip and order it yourself.
I started planning sequels where Patrick the alligator got himself into other little predicaments. I made big plans.
I had friends from across the country telling me that they saw my book in their libraries. A firefighter I worked with told me he hated Patrick and his stupid socks because his kids made him read it to them EVERY night. Another let me know that the book was read so much they had to duct tape the cover back on.
It was a cool time.
But one of the best parts? After I showed Picture Windows Books that I was pretty dang easy to work with, they asked me if I wanted to write another book for them. A non-fiction book about MOUNT RUSHMORE. Sure! I’d never been there (at the time) but why not? And thus began my beautiful, continued relationship with Picture Windows (writing non-fictions) and later Stone Arch Books (writing fiction).
So yeah…finding out today that my “first born” was no longer in print was sort of a strange and unavoidable milestone. Heck, I didn’t expect Warner Bros. to swoop in, buy the rights and make it into a 6 minute movie or anything, but it’s still a little sad.
2008 doesn’t seem like THAT long ago. You know?
Anyway, thanks for indulging me. And thanks Patrick, for opening doors for me and for giving me what is easily the best part-time/night job a fella could ever ask for.
I hope wherever you are, your little book toes are safe from the creepies.
So Cate is the big winner! I know she’s going to put FF1 up on the book shelf with all of her Oprah’s Book Club selections. It’ll be great.
Oh…and fun fact: the Furry & Flo ARC is a little different from the real deal. It’s paperback, it says it’s an advanced reader’s copy, the Furry & Flo logo is different, and the title says BIG HAIRY SECRET. The real book says THE BIG HAIRY SECRET.
(Please don’t put it on eBay, Cate)
One of the things that’s a little crazy is that, um…I think the book is out now. If you go to the Capstone website, you’ll see it’s no longer a pre-order, but it looks like they’re in there.
However! I’d be more than thrilled if you bought it from this-here website! (THIS WAY)
Right now the links will take you to the Amazon site where you can pre-order it, but my Spidey Sense tells me it’s going to be coming out in the next few weeks or so. Plus, if you buy it from here, ol’ TKT gets a little taste (a tiny, tiny taste), but a taste nonetheless.
Other items of Furry coolness! I went out to Crestview Elementary School today to visit a smaller group of kids to talk about writing, reading, and all kinds of book dorkery. They have this open library program for the kids during the summer which is awesome and they give them incentives to read by issuing prizes and such. I got to talk about how I got started, how I come up with ideas and spent a little time plugging Furry & Flo, including playing the book trailer for them to watch n’ enjoy. The teachers and media specialists were pretty stoked about it and I’m telling you guys.
I. CAN’T. WAIT.
And then! As if that weren’t enough, a good friend of mine (from back in the day when I lived in California) sent me an e-mail, letting me know that my illustrator (Stephen Gilpin) and I inspired him yet again. He dropped a bomb of awesome proportions into my inbox.
If you can’t tell, Ray is a sculptor. Nay. Ray is an INCREDIBLE sculptor who in the past has sculpted all kinds of stuff. You can see the magnitude of the stuff he’s created both in sculpture and art-wise on his Facebook page HERE.
We just recently “found” each other again through the magic of Facebook and we’ve been catching up. He used to kick my butt in pool on an almost weekly basis, but you know…I still like the dude. He’s good quality and an AMAZING artist.
But lookit! It’s a little sculpture of FURRY for cryin’ out loud!!! He told me: “Flo’s next.”
Yeah. This might be my favorite thing about today.]]>
Yeah, I’m embarrassed it took this long, too.
Really. What’s gotten into me?
This is what’s up for grabs: A limited edition ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of the first book in my …]]>
Yeah, I’m embarrassed it took this long, too.
Really. What’s gotten into me?
This is what’s up for grabs: A limited edition ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of the first book in my new series. If you haven’t yet, you REALLY should check out the cool little book preview Capstone put out:
This little guy (along with Furry & Flo The Problems With Goblins) comes out in August 2013.
So, here’s the deal: All you gotta do is one of the following things:
– Watch the following (gratuitous) video of my kids talking about Furry & Flo.
To prove you actually watched it, you’ll need to answer the trivia questions below and send your answers into the comments. (Feel free to cheat.)
– Or…you can go ahead and LIKE my author Facebook page over on…Facebook. Get there by going HERE. (Don’t forget to like…um, click LIKE, okay?)
– Better yet? Spread the word about FURRY & FLO by SHARING the Facebook post or this blog post or a lamp post. Post office.
– And for the ultra lazy, go ahead and just leave a comment on this post. Even a simple “What up, TKT?” will suffice.
On June 15th, I’m going to look at all the entries, shares, trivia answers, comments, etc… and pull a winner out of a hat.
To keep it fair, I’ll likely solicit the help of my zany kids. They get into that stuff.
Good luck party people! I can’t wait to fire one of these books in YOUR direction, months before (just about) anyone else!
After some confusing directions from both Siri and the Google Map app on our iPhones, we were on our way. By then I had mastered the art of streaming my music via BlueTooth through our deluxe Ford Focus’ radio system. It took a Master’s Degree in Crappy Technology, but we got it done and we were puttering up through the Rocky Mountains in tiny style.
(Pro Tip: Don’t buy a Ford Focus. Just. Don’t.)
After saying “holy crap” and “man, that’s beautiful” about 800 times in the hour it took us to get from Fort Collins to Estes Park, we had arrived. We knew we had plenty of time for ghost huntin’, so we stopped off for a hike. There was a 3 mile and change trail that would deliver us up into the mountains to a little place called Gem Lake. We just didn’t know exactly where to find it. So, we stopped off at one of those DNR places and a golden-throated park ranger dished out the straight dope.
Seriously. The guy should have a career in radio.
“Here’s what you’re going to do…” he said and Matt and I were in awe. The dude knew the trails and stuff like the back of his hand. He encouraged us to go off the trail, climb some rocks, and go buck wild out there. He did warn us: “Don’t step on the flowers.”
(For the record, we didn’t.)
Here’s the thing about hiking. I never really “got” it before my trip to Colorado. I thought it was a fancy word for walking and quite honestly, it didn’t sound like much fun to me. Now, having gone on a couple award-winning hikes? I’m a huge fan. Huge.
We took some small packs of beef jerky, a bottle of water and we were ready to rock.
Look…I know you don’t care about the hike. I get it. You wanna read about ghost crap. So, just humor me and look at some of these pictures. We’ll get to the goods in no time, okay?
When the hike was done, we had to haul some Ford Focus to the hotel and check in. We had a ghost tour starting at 3pm (yeah, more on that in a bit) and we wanted to check out the historic (and haunted?) hotel we’d be staying at.
Pulling up to the hotel, we got to see just how majestic and awesome it is. Seriously. Even if you’re not into ghosts and such, this place is a thing of beauty. Thanks, LivingSocial. Best. Deal. Ever.
We got checked into our “active” room, got a quick look at our place and it was time to head downstairs for our tour.
Matt and I arrived at the spot where the tours start to be greeted by a couple of dudes and a woman. One of the guys had some of the craziest eyebrows I’d ever seen. Like someone went nutty with the hairbrush when they drew up his face. We asked if we were in the right place for the ghost tour and Eyebrows told us we were.
“However,” he said. “The ghost tours start at 9pm.”
“Huh,” I said. “The lady on the phone told me the ghost tour I signed up for was at 3pm.”
“Yeah,” Brows Deluxe said. “You guys aren’t signed up for the ghost tour.”
I took a deep breath and resisted the urge the get my fists stuck in his jungle-esqe eyebrows.
“Well, can we sign up for the ghost tour, then?” I asked through gritted teeth. I could feel my heart sink into my other sloppy internal organs.
“Nope,” Brows McBrowserton said. “It’s full.”
“Can we get on a stand-by list in case someone craps out?”
“No,” Stupid Eyebrow Face said and gave me the smarmiest look of all time.
So, the two of us were stuck with just a historical tour of The Stanley. The woman, (who we soon learned was named Toya) took us over to the chairs and let us watch a video.
“You guys want the haunted tour, eh?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” we both chimed like a couple of eager little cub scouts.
“I’ll hook you up,” Toya said.
From there, we watched a video hosted by one of their goofy tour guides named Scary Mary. She was creepy all right, but could’ve used the help of a dialogue coach. But in no time, Toya took us on a whirlwind tour of some of The Stanley’s scary places.
To cut to the chase, she took us into the Orchestra Hall, a small, separate building where they once held piano performances and such. She told us how the ghost of Mrs. Stanley was sometimes seen in the balcony, waving down to people. But where it got really kind of cool was when we went into the basement and she told us about the 1970’s.
Apparently, in the 70’s, The Stanley was all but bankrupt. No one was staying there, it was closed for a while and people were basically looting the place and stealing stuff from the hotel. A young woman had run away from home and was squatting down in the basement of the Orchestra Hall back in the 70’s. Her name was Lucy and she liked dudes. The people still running the hotel discovered her “room” down in the basement and threw her out. A little later, they found her back in there as she tried to continuing living in the basement. They threw her out again and figured out how and where she was sneaking back in. They boarded the entrance up and that kept her out…in the cold, unforgiving snow.
They think she died outside with nowhere else to go and now haunts the Orchestra Hall basement. While Toya was telling us the story of Lucy and how she came to haunt the place, this happened:
Now, I know the shot was quick, but Matt was pretty quick with the camera. He heard the door squeak, heard Toya say “Hi Luce” and boom: We got a shot of “Lucy” closing the door on us. Now…I don’t know if it was a timing thing or what, but a little later we left the room so that Toya could tell us about another ghost named Paul who hangs out in a room across the hall. After we left “Paul’s” room, we went down the hall and back the way we came. As we approached Lucy’s room, the door slammed closed again.
Was it just part of the show or was there really a ghost? Hard to say. Toya told us that Lucy had slammed doors in people’s face before, but seemed to think she liked us.
(Gosh. A couple of nice dudes from Minnesota? Who wouldn’t?)
The tour was really cool, even if it was during the day. We ended up in the tunnel system built beneath The Stanley. Apparently, there is a network of tunnels that connect the buildings together. These were used to servants and people to move from building to building without having to go outside in the harsh Colorado winters. As we sort of wrapped up the tour, Matt fired a picture into the tunnel. Here’s what he got:
Now, we’re not trying to say there’s something there, but if you look towards the back of the tunnel along the right-hand side, it sorta looks like an image of a kid climbing up on the rocks. It might not be a coincidence that the kids who stayed in the hotel (and were watched by nannies) were forbidden inside (but were sometimes caught sneaking around in) the tunnels.
So this stuff happened during the day. At night, Matt and I were up to our old tricks. We broke out the balls, I left some Lemonheads on the floor (you know, for the ghost kids) and we decided to try and ask the spirits if they wanted to communicate with us. I stabilized my iPad to ensure it wouldn’t get knocked down (like at the Armstrong) and we were ready to rock.
Nothing really happened. We kept the lights dim and tried some other tactics. We even told the ghosts we were nice guys, hoping to illicit a similar reaction like our bellhop at the Armstrong Hotel. Nothing.
Then, I got the bright idea to turn the lights off and use the little light on our iPhones to see if we could see anything moving through the dark. It couldn’t hurt, right?
Almost immediately, we began to see little glowing “orbs” and little slashes of light in the room. It was pretty exciting and we kept capturing them. I know one isn’t supposed to take much stock in that kind of thing, but it seemed like it could be legit. We were pretty calm about it, until this happened to me:
Yeah. I sorta lost it. I suddenly saw this blue orb just rise up from the carpet and I was CONVINCED that I saw something supernatural. Kind of cool, no?
But here’s the thing about that: It was just dust.
Matt looked at the light on his iPhone and you could see tons of little dust particles moving around the phone. The light blasts these little monsters and they put on quite the show. So…yeah.
At different points during the day, we left our room with the doors and armoire open, encouraging the ghosts to close it while we were gone. Nothing. Not even the set of balls *snicker* that Matt brought with him seemed to interest the spirits in any way. I even hoped the creepy closet door next to the bed would creak open in the night while we were asleep.
A couple cool things of note: There are all kinds of creepy old photos in the hallways. One of them had a woman(?) that looked a lot like Dustin Hoffman.
Every time we passed it in the hallway, we laughed.
Also, some joker got wise and defaced the hatch leading into the bell tower:
We also went out and explored the nearby Pet Cemetery, too. Kind of creepy in a “don’t-bury-your-toddler-who-was-hit-by-a-semi-here” kind of way. Oh, Stevie King!
All in all, The Stanley was a blast and really was the impetus for us even coming out to Colorado in the first place.
Would we head out there again some time?
Let me answer that with a question:
DOES ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY?
(yes. yes it does.)]]>
A few months back, there was a deal to stay in the Stanley Hotel, the place where parts of The Shining (the Kubrick one) was filmed. It was 99 bucks to stay on an off-season night. I put the word out onto the ol’ Facebook to see if there were any takers. A few people were interested, but my friend Matt was definitely in.
Anyway…to cut to the chase, we ended up planning a 3-night whirlwind trip out to Colorado to stay at The Stanley. To make it interesting, we thought it would be cool to make every night during our stay a ghostly good time. I found a couple other places that were reported to have some ghostly stuff happening and here we are!
For our first night, we drove from the airport in Denver (we flew with SPIRIT airlines, by the way) to Fort Collins where we had a room reserved at the Armstrong Hotel.
On the phone I was told there were a couple of rooms that had some activity reported there. We ended up reserving room 210, an “active” room. When we checked in, I asked the two dudes at the front counter what the story was. They let us know that people have reported seeing a bell-hop-looking spirit that had gold accents in his uniform and hat. With that in mind, we were ready to rock.
Since it was pretty much amateur hour at the Armstrong, we didn’t really know what to do. I mean, sure, we had some apps on our iPhones and iPad that could capture some stuff. Matt has this thing called M2 that does a sweep of the room like a radar sorta thing, looking for any abnormalities in the air. It’ll blip and we’re able to pinpoint where there might (or might not) be some paranormal fun occurring. It also throws out an occasional word that it picks up. To be honest, I’m not sure how much stock I put into that thing. I used an app called Paranormal Recorder. It’ll pick up EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) if there’s any to be had. I also set my iPad up in the room and set it to record, thinking we might see something move or some sort of image in the video. Worth a shot, right?
So, we started by asking questions:
“Is there anybody here?”
“Can you give us a sign that you’re with us?”
At one point during all of this, I got a really creepy sensation, followed by a localized area or hairs on my left bicep sort of feeling “brushed.” I don’t know. Usually when I get creeped out by something, all of the hair on my arms goes up and I feel goosebumps rise up. That wasn’t the case here. It was literally just a small patch and it felt strange.
Hard to quantify and I think we’ve got footage of that to examine later. We’ll see if it was anything worth getting excited over. We decided to up the stakes a bit and see if we could get some action in some other way.
Matt had brought 4 balls of various weights, colors and size. He thought if we set them up, we might be able to get the presence to move them or give us an indication that we weren’t alone. So, we tried that, too.
“If you’re in the room, can you move one of the balls?”
Matt decided to get more specific.
“Can you move the yellow ball? It’s lighter than the others.”
We didn’t have anything. So, we took a break, went out and got a delicious ice cream-stuffed cookie (Mary’s Mountain Cookies) and came back. I set the iPad (camera) up on the counter near the wall. I wedged it between some stuff to keep it in place and to make sure you could see our dumb faces on the video. It wasn’t going anywhere. We set up the balls, took a seat and started talking again. That’s when this happened:
Needless to say, this little bit kinda scared the crap out of us. At first I thought, well, big deal. My iPad fell forward off of the counter. It happens. But what’s weird it that it was pretty well stabilized. Even weirder? There isn’t that moment where it’s sort of slipping and then it topples over. It’s literally like someone (or something!) just slapped it off of the counter after Matt said “nice guys.”
Wow. I thought we were nice guys. Maybe not.
We watched the footage over and over and this is shortened so that it could be uploaded here, but it sort of captures the gist of what we’re trying question-wise. We’re not trying to antagonize the spirits (if there are any) or anything like that. Sure, maybe we’re asking for parlor tricks, but c’mon. We need SOMETHING. It’s not like we’re staying there ALL week. Ya know?
Anyway, we moved around and did some more monitoring. We even moved into the other room at one point to see what was going on in the bedroom. It was sufficiently creepy in there, but we didn’t have anything of note happen. Matt’s meter showed a blip in a couple of different spots, but my EVP thing didn’t capture anything and we sort of felt like that was it.
After another break to see what Fort Collins nightlife had to offer (the Drunken Monkey had karaoke and a girl with some odd face piercings was urging us to sing…we didn’t). We had a delicious beverage and came back to the Armstrong. After putzing around a bit more, we decided to hit the hay.
Nothing happened that I noticed while we were sleeping. I had my EVP detector running all night, hoping to capture something. Maybe an apology for knocking over my iPad. Nothing!
I got up at 6am (Colorado time) and went into the living room to putz around on my phone. I got rid of some e-mails, played a stupid game, the works. After about a half hour, I sat up and looked at the table where Matt had placed the balls.
The yellow ball was missing.
It didn’t take me long to find it. There, under the chair where Matt was sitting, was the yellow ball that he urged the spirit to move (since it was the lightest). At first I thought: Friggin’ Matt. He got up in the middle of the night and moved it. He’s messing with me.
He was still asleep and so I decided to take some pictures, post a dumb update on Facebook and see what he had to say when he got up. Matt was up a little later, holding his phone. Right away he said: “I didn’t touch the balls. I swear.”
So…there’s that. The thing about it is this: The balls were wedged pretty close together, so it would’ve been tough to just have one roll away while keeping the others in a pretty symmetrical line. Also, if it did indeed come loose, it could’ve rolled ANYWHERE. But no, it sort of went out of it’s way to end up under Matt’s chair.
Reading too much into it? Perhaps.
Still sorta creeped out? You’re GD right.
So, that was our night at the Armstrong. Later in the morning I could hear meowing from Oreo, the hotel cat. He was outside working the hallways, likely looking for attention or a tasty treat. I went outside and gave him the petting of a lifetime. I almost wanted to bring him into our room to see if he could spot “the bellhop,” but decided against it.