Monday, April 24, 2017

My Daughter is an Anteater

Wish I had more time to blog about what's been going on... but here's the quick version.

My daughter has chosen her college: UC Irvine!!!



More later!



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Word Count Wednesday -- April 19th, 2017


What Have I Been Working On?

I have had more free time lately, but I'm still not getting back to work on my novel or the play. I've gotten distracted by a children's book idea.

Here's the thing. It takes a LONG time to write a full-length play and an EVEN LONGER TIME to write a novel. But a picture book can be conceived and created in less than a week. So, it's very tempting to forgo the big uncertain projects and return to my comfort zone: the Picture Book.

So that's what I've been doing. Haven't finished anything new, but I've had several good ideas and just as many false starts.


Word Count: 1200


How Do I Feel About the Process?

Mixed feelings. I'm trying to write more stories from a child's perspective -- and it's proving more challenging than I'd imagined. I used to be good at this POV... Where's my inner child when I need him most???


What Am I Reading? 

Speaking of my inner child... I've been reading old Spider Man comics.

Also... I am about halfway through Stephen King's Eyes of the Dragon.


What Am I Watching?

I recently binge-watched two seasons of Better Call Saul. I have to say, I loved returning to the world of Breaking Bad -- and I never imagined I would have such sympathy for a low-life lawyer named Jimmy McGill.


The Reviews Are In!



Kind words about our new book from Kirkus Reviews:

"...Exuberant illustrations, emphasizing aqueous blues and greens..."

"...Instructive on several levels—and good, wet fun!"



It's funny -- months ago I was telling myself that I am going to be the kind of author that doesn't pay attention to what the critics say. But then, as soon as I heard that a review came out, I rushed to Google to find it. I couldn't help myself. Perhaps I'll try to be the kind of author who doesn't bother reading what they say about me on Goodreads... But who am I kidding?

I'm grateful that Kirkus likes the book! And I'm especially glad that the article rightfully praises Micha Archer's beautiful artwork.

Read the complete review...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Recalculating Route"


On Thursday I graded a whole mess of papers. It was the last batch until Finals Week. That means from now until May 12th I won't have any papers to grade, which means I can return my attention to creative projects.

But I didn't get any writing done yesterday (Friday). Part of that is because we spent much of the day packing for the weekend. Then in the late afternoon we drove out to Palm Desert. That's right, I'm at COACHELLA! (But we're not hear for a concert, we're visiting the Grandparents.) But the other reason I didn't jump back into writing is that I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where I am going as a writer.

Sometimes I feel like I am just throwing random stuff on the wall to see if it sticks. And sometimes I feel like my goals are very focused (such as the year I spent writing Duck Town).

Sometimes my goal as a writer is simply to make people laugh. Then, there are projects that are very personal -- and these are the ones I write without the expectation of the work ever making it to publication.

But sometimes I become overwhelmed with a thirst for success... I want so badly to impress publishers and editors that the my creativity dries up, and the only words that come tell stories that are trite and cliche -- I become too eager to please.

Whenever I go down this path, I eventually realize that it doesn't lead to anything of artistic value (or monetary value for that matter -- I'm not talented enough to be a sell-out).

When we were driving to the desert, we took a detour to avoid a patch of traffic. Whenever we do this, our GPS device starts to say, in her patient robotic voice, "Recalculating Route." How many times, as a writer, have I said this to myself?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - April 12, 2017


What Am I Working On?

Wish I had something more inspiring to say, or at least something I could brag about... But instead it's merely been a week of grading essays.


Word Count: ZERO


How Do I Feel About the Process?

I lost the novel's momentum. Hopefully once these papers are graded, I'll be able to return my energy to my creative projects.


What Am I Reading?

Lots and lots if essays... For English 1A and 1B. I finished all the Malcolm Gladwell essays and now I am moving on to the Poetry Essays.

to

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Home Stretch


Not ashamed to say that I am counting the days until summer vacation. (36, for those of us keeping track.)

This has been a wonderful semester, one that I am not in a hurry to see end. I am blessed with very productive and insightful students. In fact, my English 1B students are some of the most diligent pupils in recent memory. Just about all of them are keeping up with the reading.

And it goes without saying that I am loving my Creative Writing class.  Hopefully I'll teach this course again in the not too distant future -- but that won't be happening this fall. Instead, I'll be teaching the world premiere of our Drama Studies course, so that will be fun too.

Anyway, despite loving this particular semester, I am looking forward to returning my focus to my creative projects. Summer is when I make my best stuff, and hopefully Summer 2017 won't let me down.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Resolution Check-In: April Edition

As you may know, if you read this blog, I am trying to keep tabs on my New Year's Resolution. My brain is a bit mushy right now because I've been grading essays all the live long day, but I'll do my best to be reflective.

1) Take More Photos (at least two pictures a week)

If I was part of the Selfie-Generation, taking pics would be second nature. But for me, I have to keep reminding myself about this one. It does help that I adopted my wife's iPhone 4. I just check, and it looks like I took a total of 69 snapshots in March.

It helps that we went to several cool places, including the touring production of Fun Home, the Universal Studios park -- complete with Hogwarts, Vasquez Rocks, and Disneyland. So, I am still keeping up with this resolution. I guess I should start posting more photos on the blog -- but as I mentioned before, the quality isn't great.

(By the way, I'm already off to a good start for April's quota. Mackenzie and I went out of state to visit colleges, and I took a bunch of photos.)

ACHIEVEMENT: 25% Complete


2) Write / Sell a New Picture Book

Holy cow! Big news on this front. I haven't signed a contract, so it's not official... but it looks like my agent sold Picture Book #5!!!!

When I can post specifics, I will certainly do so. But for now, let me say that this book sale was very unexpected. It's a book that I wrote a while ago (not the one that was most recently sent). The publisher had it for a long time, and after several months they decided to go for it. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson: Whoo-hoo!

Again, things can always fall apart... but for now we are going to consider this:

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.


3) Generate idea for next big project (Complete 25% of it)

I have been adding to my middle grade novel off-and-on. In part because I let life (and essays) get in the way. In part, because I'm still trying to figure out who these characters are... and what the exact plot will be. It sounds kinda sloppy, right? But I am confident that I will eventually create a novel that I am proud of... whether or not publishers will want it is a completely different issue.

So, I believe I have added another ten pages... Which means I need 80 more to reach my goal. I am curious to see how things turn out next month, because I have slowed down this week. I am switching back into Picture Book writing mode, at least for a little while.

ACHIEVEMENT: 20% Complete.


4) Work on a creative project with my daughters (YouTube video and/or Podcast) 

Emily and I were chatting about this, and I discussed the motivation of Youtubers. What draws them to this medium? Is it something that we want to pursue? If so, why?

Part of me wants to try to have this type of social media presence, but it might simply be motivated out of a desire for fame/recognition -- a way to try to create attention to myself as an author. And the more I think about that, the more it seems that my energies might be better spent actually writing instead of trying to brand myself as the John Green of the Picture Book World. (Although now that I've written that phrase, that does sound pretty awesome.)

In related news, Emily has been improving her ukelele and songwriting skills, so I think some Youtube posts might be arriving on her channel. (After she makes a channel.) Maybe I'll shift my focus and just concentrate on helping her film whatever she wants to film.

ACHIEVEMENT: Pending.


5) Show my appreciation more often / strengthen relationships and communication. 

I am very lame at this aspect of my resolutions. And that's kind of a surprise to me. I had considered myself a naturally empathetic person who is anxious to reach out and connect with his fellow human. However, based upon this month's results, I am a selfish hermit.

I don't think I made any progress on my list of folks. Let's hope I get this percentage up next month.

ACHIEVEMENT: 6.5%


6) Lose ten pounds. 

Yep. I'm still good with this one. But I did eat a sausage sandwich, complete with a large coke, so perhaps if I were to weigh myself I'd discover that I gained it all back. (I'm not stepping on that scale!)

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - April 5th, 2017


What Am I Working On?

This week I have been plotting and world building, not to mention developing character bibles for my middle grade novel.


Word Count: 1020 words (all of it outlining, no prose)


How Do I Feel About the Process?

Good -- but I just received a fresh batch of essays to grade, so it will be about two weeks until I can return my concentration to creative writing.


What am I Reading?

Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

The Wisdom of Jim Carey


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book Sale!!!!! & a Book Giveaway Contest!!!

For a limited time only, grab top notch middle grade books at their lowest prices ever, including AWARD WINNING TITLES, like The Storytellers and Ennara and the Fallen Druid! Also, one lucky winner will receive a bundle of 5 of the titles listed below! Scroll down to enter. But hurry! The giveaway ends on April 10th!!!



THE ROCK OF IVANORE (Book I: The Celestine Chronicles)
by Laurisa White Reyes
Sale Price:  .99 cent (ebook)

The annual Great Quest is about to be announced in Quendel, a task that will determine the future of Marcus and the other boys from the village who are coming of age. The wizard Zyll commands them to find the Rock of Ivanore, but he doesn’t tell them what the Rock is exactly or where it can be found. Marcus must reach deep within himself to develop new powers of magic and find the strength to survive the wild lands and fierce enemies he encounters as he searches for the illusive Rock. If he succeeds, he will live a life of honor; if he fails, he will live a life of menial labor in shame. With more twists and turns than a labyrinth, and a story in which nothing is at it seems, this tale of deception and discovery keeps readers in suspense until the end.


THE LAST ENCHANTER (Book II: The Celestine Chronicles)
by Laurisa White Reyes
Sale Price:  .99 cent (ebook)

Months have passed since Marcus and Kelvin succeeded in their quest to find the Rock of Ivanore. Kelvin is living as royalty in Dokur, and Marcus is studying magic with Zyll. When Fredric is murdered and Kelvin becomes king, Zyll and Marcus head for Dokur in hopes of protecting Kelvin from meeting the same fate, though it quickly becomes apparent that none of them are safe, and Marcus has had disturbing visions of Zyll's death. With the help of his old friends Clovis and Bryn, joined by new friend Lael, a feisty girl in search of her mother, Marcus uncovers a powerful secret that will change the course of his life forever.




THE STORYTELLERS
2016 Spark Award Winner
for Best Non-Traditional Middle Grade Book 
by Laurisa White Reyes
Sale Price:  .99 cent (ebook)

12-year-old Elena Barrios' father has AIDS, a new disease in 1992 with a 100% fatality rate. Rather than face certain ridicule and ostracism, Elena tells her friends anything but the truth, fabricating stories about him being a writer and researcher. But the reality is Elena resents her father’s illness and can’t face the fact that he is dying.

When she is befriended by an older black woman named Ang who tells stories about her own father and the history of prejudice against African Americans in the years before the civil rights movement, Elena is transported into these stories, allowing her to experience them first hand. With Ang's help, Elena discovers the value of every individual, but will that be enough to help her say good-bye to the person she values the most?



ENNARA AND THE FALLEN DRUID
2013 Moonbeam Silver Medalist
for Best Preteen Book
by Angela Shelley
Sale Price:  .99 cent (ebook) / $5.00 (print)

Ennara has always been told she'd have legendary magic when she grew up, but she felt like the most normal girl in the world...
 
Until one night when she is attacked by a shadowy demon on her farmstead. Suddenly, Ennara is thrust into a world of magic, alchemy, and monsters, and she is charged with a quest to find an ancient sword that can end the shadowy curse--just as it ended the Fallen Druid centuries ago. To succeed, Ennara must confront pirates, servants of the Fallen Druid, and those who would use her magic for their own ends. In the end, she must learn to rely on the strengths of her friends and herself, and the deepest truths of life in the world of medieval Lan.


CAMP OMIGOSH
by Wade Bradford
Sale Price:  .99 cent (ebook) / $12.55 (print) 

Connor's summer is off to a rough start: the camp bus almost crashes, his cabin mates don't trust him, and the girls on the other side of the camp constantly outsmart him. But when he and his friends Tasha, Parker, and Kimberly investigate the mystery surrounding the "Ghost of Dead Billy," they begin a hilarious adventure that is worlds away from your typical campfire story.








TWEAKS: THE BEGINNING
by Terry Deighton
Sale Price:  .99 cent (ebook)/$5.99 (print)


Henry Johnson has a best friend, a crush, a life-long enemy, and no idea his life is a science project.
Then other people’s thoughts start popping into his head. He thinks he’s going crazy until he discovers he’s one of several kids with genetically modified abilities, including the school bully. To find out how they got tweaked, Henry faces betrayal, his parent’s abduction by a greedy scientist, and becoming frenemies with the bully. Can the Tweaks use their new abilities to avoid the greedy scientist on their trail?




CLEOPATRA'S LEGACY SERIES
Books 2, 3 and 4
by Dorine White


[Book 1: THE EMERALD RING is available HERE]

THE RUBY PENDANT (Book 2)
Sale Price: .99 cent (ebook) / $7.99 (print) 

Welcome to New Orleans, home of Mardi Gras, jazz music, and voodoo. 8th grader Melanie Belaforte is home for Spring break and itching for excitement. Late one night she discovers a hidden chamber and a secret journal in her deceased Aunt Florence’s bedroom. The diary contains the writings of a mad woman, along with vague clues to the whereabouts of a ruby necklace that once belonged to Cleopatra. The ruby bestows upon the wearer the power to hear other people’s thoughts- even the thoughts of the dead! And so the hunt begins. Melanie, her best friend Sybil, and a haunting specter unravel clues that take them from crumbling graveyards, to the busy streets of the French Quarter, and then into murky swamps, all to find the prize. But they need to watch out, because a murderous cult is matching them step for step, and they won’t give up, ever.


THE DIAMOND LOOKING GLASS (Book 3)
Sale Price: .99 cent (ebook) / $7.99 (print)

The world knows it as a cartoon with dancing teacups and broomsticks. To twelve year old Claire La Fleur, it is family history, and the power behind Belle’s mirror is real. Every ten years her family gathers to see if the mirror will awaken, and for the last two hundred years it has slept. This time, Claire’s touch awakens the magic within the diamond looking glass, a direct portal to the past and a way to communicate with Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt. The lure of power brings with it many perils, and a betrayal close to home thrusts Claire into a treacherous underworld. To protect the mirror, she travels into the Louvre museum in the dark of night, searches abandoned subway tunnels, and walks the catacombs of the dead.


THE SAPPHIRE BLADE (Book 4)
Sale Price: .99 cent (ebook) / $7.99 (print) 


Travel with past heroes and a new adventurer to the historical romps of London and the scorching sands of Alexandria. Fourteen-year-old Akmir, raised from birth to sacrifice everything in the pursuit of Cleopatra’s magic gemstones, holds within his hands the secret location of the fifth and final mystic gem: the blue sapphire. His quest leads him to England, where four other gemstone searchers: Sara, Melanie, Kainu and Claire, are on the hunt. A pawn of the Roman Brotherhood, Akmir must choose his own path, whether to follow in his father’s brutal footsteps or stay true to his mother’s Egyptian heritage. Clues, puzzles, and danger rule the day. What will happen when the power of all five gemstones are brought together? This is a battle for life and death, and only one side can win.



THE MAGICIAN'S DREAM 
by LeAnn Mathis

Franklin dreams of a life with equality, but thinks it will never happen. When he transfers to a new school and meets Maddie, he realizes he has access to more power than he thought. It's the 60s and time to make some changes.









Monday, April 3, 2017

Epic World Building


This semester, my Creative Writing class and I have been discussing the differences between Plotters and Pantzers. Plotters do tons of outlining, character bibles, notecard arranging, story charting... Sometimes they do all of that before they even begin chapter one... And sometimes that Plotting happens in stages.

Pantzers write by the seat of their pants, and they discover the story and characters along the way. Sometimes the author has a destination in mind; sometimes they just follow where the characters take them.

More and more, I enjoy being a Pantzer. I wasn't always that way. When I write screenplays, I had a solid outline for each project. but I don't know that it really worked well for me. After all, how many screenplays have I sold? (Answer: Zero.)

There are other terms for Plotters and Pantzsers. Ellen Hopkins spke to the class via Google Hangouts last week, and she thinks of ut as being an Architect versus being a Gardener. Great metaphors! (Leave it to Ellen to be all poetic and genius like!)

I think I'm about thirty pages into my novel. I don't know the exact page count because I have been typing most of it on my Ipad. (Don't worry, I've been emailing each chaoter to myself as a back up.) So far, writing by the seat of my pants has paid off. but now it's time to put on my Plotter hat. I thought I would simply start by writing an outline of each of the characters in this family. I started by trying to create a character bible for a relatively minor character, the Grandmother. Outlining her character led to many other questions, relevant to the plot, and before you know it, I'm outlining some pretty cosmic and philosophic aspects of this imaginary world I'm building.

It's rather epic, actually. It makes me think of how much fun Tolkein must have had building a vast imaginary universe. Let's hope I don't get lost for too long, caught up in my own little world.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Jet Lag and Children's Lit


My eldest daughter and I are touring a couple colleges this weekend. On Thursday, we flew from Burbank to Daytona Beach (with a fuel stop in Albequerque and a tranfer in NYC). During the flight I had foolishly hoped that I would get some writing done; however, I lacked inspiration, and it didn't help that I was sitting between two people. Mackenzie was in the same situation in the row behind me. It was a crowded flight out to New York. And when I got sleepy, since it was a red-eye flight, I couldn't fall asleep. My neck is sore just thinking about that flight!

But we arrived on Friday morning, and we spent the first day exploring the campus -- which is amazing, by the way. I don't know which school my daughter will ultimately choose, but for anyone who wants to join the aerospace industry, this is the place to get your foot in the door.

While Mackenzie sat in on a couple classes (Aerospace Physiology & Turbine Rock Engines) I tinkered with new ideas for a children's picture book. Because I was so exhausted, keep in mind we stayed up all night long, I would start outlining ideas and then begin to doze off right where I sat. I would stumble into weird dreamy thoughts, often about the objects around me. For example, I was thinking of a story about a little boy who desperately wants to win a trophy because his sister wins trophies all of the time. (You know, a standard picture book plot, right?) Then, my mind would wander, and I would think things like, "Then the little boy gets trapped in a plasma chamber and his sister must use her engineering skills to save his life."

So, my writer's brain was simultaneously imaginative and useless!

Now that we're well rested, today is much more fun. We toured the campus, talked with some incredible students and faculty, and now we're relaxing back out our hotel. I might go do some writing down by the swimming pool. I better enjoy this Florida weather because tomorrow morning we journey to Nebraska.

Stay tuned!



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - March 29th, 2017


Wow. I did not blog very much this week. Since my last WCW I've posted only twice. And I wish I could say that this lack of posts resulted in an enormous word count, but I don't think that's the case. Let's check the results, shall we?

What Have You Been Working On?
No work completed on the middle grade novel. I finished Chapter Two last week, and I'm not sure how to begin Chapter Three. I mainly focused on the play. I finished a second scene, but I'm not sure it's working. For this project, I am co-writing the script, so I think it's time to hand things over to my writing partner and get some feedback.

Word Count: 979 (I'll make sure to write at least 81 more words in order to reach my meager goal.)

How Do I Feel About the Process?
I have mixed feelings right now because looking back over the week, it seems I had more to time work on my writing, and I really didn't take advantage of it. Pretty soon, I'll have lots of papers to grade, and I won't have the spare time that I've had during these previous three weeks. What will happen to my word count then?

On the other hand, after listening to Ellen Hopkins speak during her Virtual Visit, she reminded me that we can always make time to write. Ellen is raising several grandchildren, an obligation she didn't expect to take on, and yet she still stays on track, meeting those deadlines and pushing herself as an artist.

I know I can do better. I just need to commit. I need to etch out time in the mornings, in the evenings, in between classes. Since I became a full-time teacher I've been saving most of my writing activities for the summer break... but I don't want to be a seasonal author.

I've got 50 days left until summer. (Yes, I am counting the days.) I want to complete fifty more pages of my novel before the break begins. That way, there's a very good chance that I can finish the first draft of my book before fall semester begins.


Update: Hey, guess what, I just spent an hour in my office fretting over Chapter Three and wrote a paltry 259 words... so that means:

New Word Count: 1238.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Seven Highlights from Creative Writing


There's been a lot of productivity from my Creative Writing students this semester. Here are seven entries that have recently caught my attention...


"The Impressionist" -- a glimpse into the ugliness as well as the beauty of the human condition. Leon is an artist who is destroying his body with drugs... the same kind of drugs that ended the life of his girlfriend. Can he immortalize her in his art before he suffers the same fate?
(Written by Abraham N.)


Ophelia Speaking: Chapter One. I love the writing style of this blogger. Even when she is just posting her updates for "Word Count Wednesday," she offers thoughtfulness and honesty. So it's no surprise that the novel she is working on has the same powerful, inquisitive voice.


"Experiment #7: Metamorphosis" -- Rachel S. was given the Master Plot called Metamorphosis, and she incorporates some magical elements into this otherwise modern tale. It's like the Heat Miser meets A Clockwork Orange.


"Mary, Teen of Scots" -- Okay, that's not the title of Sarah C's novel. However, it is about a teen girl at a unique academy who discovers that she is the reincarnation of Mary Queen of Scots... and everyone else at the school is also a royal reincarnation. Will history repeat itself?


"In Between" -- Our narrator wakes up dead, and a mysterious supernatural creature, a goth girl named Kat, has one job -- to lead our hero to the Other Side.


"100 Word Stories" -- Emily C. presents a half-dozen literary gems in the fast and furious genre of Flash Fiction.


"The Almost Biography of Another Troubled Teen" -- sometimes angsty, sometimes funny with a more than a hint of tragedy, Shoshana's first part of her epic teen novel has lots of potential and a distinct voice throughout.


Students, if you didn't make this list, fear not! I will be posting more highlights in the days and weeks to come. So keep on blogging!













Saturday, March 25, 2017

Camp Omigosh Podcast


My Creative Writing students have been given a new literary experiment (if they choose to accept this challenge):

Create an audio recording. This could be a cool podcast, or an audio recording of a student's story, or a recitation of a poem, or a song performance, or a radio show -- you get the idea. Anything involving sound is welcome.

Once upon a time, when I was trying to come up with marketing ideas for my book/play Camp Omigosh, I decided to make some video / audio promos, inspired by the amazingly quirky podcast Welcome to Night Vale. 

Oh, by the way, if you'd like to read my middle grade adventure novel, Camp Omigosh, the Kindle version is now on sale for 99 cents! 

Back to my podcast experiment: I recorded audio tracks, organizing a variety of camp bulletins, delivered by a strangely pleasant Head Counselor named Mr. Warren. The goal was to get into the spirit of the book (which combines elements of humor, supernatural, sci-fi, and summer camp adventures). And since I was planning to post it on Youtube, I decided to add a variety of still images to help with the comedy. I'll let you decided whether or not it works.

Camp Omigosh: Day One



Camp Omigosh: Day Two




Camp Omigosh: Day Three




Camp Omigosh: Day Four




Camp Omigosh: Day Five




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - March 22nd, 2017


What Am I working On?
Still working on the same projects: the middle grade adventure & the full length play. I was productive during the second half of spring break.


Word Count: 5428 (That's pretty good, but I thought it was going to be more. The pages of a play trick you because there's so much blank space.)



How Do I Feel About the Process?
I feel good about the past week because its the most productive I've been since the start of the semester. There are two more months to go until summer. Hopefully I won't be too bogged down in papers. It would be wonderful if my weekly word count average could be at least 4000. Then, during the summer break, I ratchet things up a couple notches to get as close as I can to Stephen King's 10,000 words a day. (I won't do it, but it's fun to try.)



What Am I Reading?
I finally finished Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath.

It just dawned on me that I stopped listening to the audiobook of Little Dorrit. I might have to give that another try. It's a pretty slow boil and it hasn't hooked me yet. Maybe it never will.

And for the sake of nostalgia, I have been reading G.I. Joe comics from the 1980s.



What Am I Watching?
I binged watched the first six episodes of Into the Badlands... and I LOVE IT!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Break a Leg, Drake!

I just read that a high school student named Drake Spina will be attending a national speech tournament where he will perform a one-man show version of one of my short plays: "How To Kiss a Girl." Check out the article on Drake at this Ohio News Reporter.

This is a bold undertaking because the play has about ten characters, so I applaud this young man's bravery.

Here's the premise to give you an idea of the craziness Mr. Spina is about to experience in front of a live audience:

When young Ken Beardsley gets ready for his very first date, he decides to download audio advice from across the centuries in order to impress his high school crush, Steph. However, the date quickly spirals out of control as he tries to simultaneously follow dating tips from a communist-fearing nationalist from the '50s, a swashbuckling pirate, a sweet southern belle, and a puritanical pilgrim. Poor Ken realizes that if he really wants to win Steph's heart, he'll need to tune out his smartphone and tune in to his own instincts before it's too late.

(Available at Playscripts.com) 


I wish I could be there because I am very curious to see how he pulls off the kiss at the end of the play!


(PS... Unfortunately, despite the title of this play, there is no useful advice about kissing techniques.) 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Virtual Classroom Visit with Ellen Hopkins!


That's right! The intense, passionate, ground-breaking poet-novelist Ellen Hopkins will be chatting with our creative writing class via Skype.

It's happening on March 27th, so you've got a week to visit your local book store to get better acquainted with this amazing author.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Morning Cartoons: G.I. JOE


I was in our new Canyon Country bookstore yesterday... The Open Book...


Among the their many books, both new and used, I discovered boxes of old comics from the 1980s. That's when I was in my comic book heyday. Usually I bought comics because I loved them, but there were times I bought certain comic books because I thought of it as a financial investment. I figured by the time I was in my mid-40s I could sell my comic book collection and retire. 

When I bought comics the price was just transitioning from 75 cents to a dollar. Gues how much these mint condition 1980s comics were selling for? 

100 bucks? 50 bucks a piece? 

No, they were priced at a dollar per issue. So their value has remained the same since 1986. That's pathetically impressive in its own way. 

So, while thumbing through the old comics and lamenting the fact that I'll never retire in luxury, I happened upon some G.I. Joe comics. 


I collected these comics for a while because I loved the cartoon show... 


In the age of ISIS, I don't know that modern day television corporations would green-light a fun-filled show about fighting a terrorist organization, but I am thankful that so much of my childhood afternoons were spent with this silly yet action-packed distraction. 



One of the glorious fallacies about this show was that it was filled with battle sequences yet no one ever died. There were lots of explosions, but everyone always made it out alive. Even when G.I. Joe would blow up the Cobra Jets, you would still see a little terrorist floating away on a parachute. NO wonder the G.I. Joe / Cobra conflict was never-ending, they never had any casualties! 

This wasn't a Saturday morning cartoon, at least not for me. This was an after school show, and it seemed that after slogging through a long, torturous day of being a seventh-grader, this was the best way for me to unwind. 

If I ever lied to my mom and told her, "No, I don't have any homework," I fibbed just so I could watch this show. (Sorry, Mom!) 

Have you seen this show? Do you have a favorite character? Or a favorite ridiculous action sequence? Or better yet, perhaps you have a favorite "Knowing is Half the Battle" coda... 

Here's mine... it involves "Doc" who just happens to be hanging out by the window. 


Here's another one about "strange danger":





Hmm... Now that I'm watching these as an adult, I find them quite unsettling... 






Friday, March 17, 2017

The Modern American Author Stereotype


There are many writer stereotypes. I am embody more than a few of them. I have been a struggling artist in my youth. I moved far away from home to find myself. I became an English teacher.  But right now I am doing something that is woefully stereotypical, even for me. I am sitting at a Starbucks working on the Great American Novel. 

But hey, at least I am writing! 

I don't know if I creating something that other people would want to read, but I am making something that I would want to read... So there must be others out there like me, right? 

I am feeling good because I got an update from my agent regarding the dragon-themed picture book. The manuscript received another rejection -- a nice, friendly one, which is comforting because those are the kinds that tell you about the flaws before they tell you "no thanks." This is the third rejection... There are still ten more editors who have the picture book sitting in their offices, waiting to be discivered. 

I feel good right now, because I am confident that even if no one buys my little dragon book friend (because that's what my books are to me: friends), that I still have a lot of ideas left, still so many things to write, still so many ways to fail and chances to succeed. 

All right... 

Enough stalling, Wade. Back to the novel. 

By the way, Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody. . 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Word Count Wednesday: March 15th, 2017


Happy spring break, Moorpark students! Enjoy it while it lasts! Gather ye rosebuds while ye may!

What am I working on? 
I finished chapter three of the adventure Middle Grade novel. These chapters are turning out rather short, so I might rethink my organizational strategy. Not sure yet.

I am also still brainstorming characters and ideas for a play about an all-inclusive resort. Haven't written any dialogue yet, but I plan to start before the weekend is over.


Word Count: 3000


How Do I Feel about the Process?

There's still a little uncertainty about this book... I think because so far I have written about 5000 words and it's all basically been one continuous scene. That habit -- for better or worse -- comes from my playwright background.

I am enjoying spending time with these characters, and because I am modeling the setting after a real place from my childhood, the writing process is making me feel pleasantly nostalgic.


What am I Reading? 

Three more chapters to go with the Malcolm Gladwell book.

Also, I finally finished reading all four novellas in Stephen King's collection Different Seasons. (I hadn't gotten around to reading The Breathing Method until now.)