Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Leftover Magic - a new work in progress

My newest WIP is tentatively called Leftover Magic, and I'm very excited about it. It is a middle grade novel with a mystery element and something which might be termed magical realism and might be termed light fantasy. The main character is Chester, a boy with a journal that he thinks might hold clues to a treasure, possibly even a magical treasure. He is befriended by Olive, tormented by his great aunt, and confused by almost everybody else who might also be looking for the treasure.

While the novel is in prose, the journal and some other things have poems that provide Chester clues in his search, or guidance about how to proceed. Some of these are fairly simple and direct, such as this cinquain (2/4/6/8/2 syllables):

Today brings you
A friend, and enemy,
But which is which may not be clear

The more challenging ones are less clear to Chester. The following is one I wrote for a particular purpose, but it is probably too much for middle grade readers, so I'll save it here in case it doesn't make the cut or gets drastically simplified or something. It is a Petrarchan (or Italian) Sonnet, so iambic pentameter with a rhyming pattern of abba abba cdecde. (Yes, I am a poetry geek.)

Goldfinch in winter, having lost most of its yellow
The finch may seem so golden in the spring
as through the dew-dropped underbrush he flits.
A flash of yellow, then perchance he sits
surveys the yard as in his realm, the king.

But when the leaves begin their coloring
and in your evening walks, the cold chill hits
Then watch for him as early dusk permits
a tawny white with barely yellow tinge.

If knew you not the myst'ry of his kind
You'd think a diff'rent heart within him beat.
If you had learned his happy song to trust,
you might no longer, to his faith be blind.
Your doubts might grow, and think it was deceit
to think of him as friend, but sure you must.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Poem 4 - A Giant Feast

As I wait for the #PitchWars submission window, and try with desperation to narrow down my list of potential MG mentors, I'm sharing a poem a day (or so - I'm a busy guy!) about my MG Fantasy novel, Danger Tastes Dreadful, which stars two 11yo trolls, Bernie & Tish. I wrote this fourth poem today. It brings up the stakes for Bernie, basically rescue his parents before they become the main entree at a giant feast. (There is no poetry at all in my MS, more's the pity.) The drawing below is one of the giants, with Bernie beside him for perspective (and noshing on?!?) If you are curious, read my bio.

A Giant Feast

When giants come a'stomping, knocking down trees
Everybody scatters and hides.
What could they be there for, visiting? Please!
They want what is tasty inside.

A feast's in the planning, but they need hors d'oeuvres
Watch out if you're juicy and plump.
A horse might go well with some piglet preserves
Or a human who sports a large rump.

But most prized of all for the sumptuous feast
The entree for everyone's bowls
(though to me they don't sound good in the least)
Are the toughest, the chewiest trolls.

Under bridges, in caves and behind waterfalls
the giants will search every inch
Till they find every troll, take them back to their halls
And serve them with salt (just a pinch).

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Poem 3 - Trouble that Starts with T and Stands for Tish

As I wait for the #PitchWars mentor blog hop, I'm sharing a poem a day about my MG Fantasy novel, Danger Tastes Dreadful, which stars two 11yo trolls, Bernie & Tish. I wrote the third poem this morning. It describes Tish, who likes nothing more than causing a bit of trouble. (There is no poetry at all in my MS, more's the pity.) If you are curious, read my bio.

Trouble that Starts with T and Stands for Tish

In the world, there are many injustices
Those accused without basis at all
But with trolls, it's accepted as just how it is
When there's trouble, Tish must take the fall.

She's sly and she's tricky. Mischievous
is probably the very best spin
you can put on her exploits, which leave us
blaming her, but hiding a grin.

If your eel stew is suddenly motionless
If your cave entrance oddly's not there
If your ear contains earthworms in distress
It was Tish on a whim or a dare.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Poem 2 - Trolls Smell

As I wait for the #PitchWars mentor blog hop, I'm sharing a poem a day about my MG Fantasy novel, Danger Tastes Dreadful, which stars two 11yo trolls, Bernie & Tish. I wrote the second poem this morning (see below). It shows a way that my trolls are special.

Trolls Smell

You might think it's an insult
  to say that all trolls smell,
But if you said it to one,
  he'd nod and say "quite well".

Aside from all the odors
  wafting from his feet,
aside from stinky underarms
  and ears that simply reek,

All trolls smell things that we don't,
  smells which make no sense
Like trouble (spicy cinnamon)
  or tangy (like suspense)

They taste things that we can't at all
  they have a special knack
The bitter taste of danger
  right before the crack.

So, when I say a troll smells
  Ignore his stinky butt
Admire instead his magic
  and how he smells whats what.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Poem 1 - Three Billy Goats Yum!

As I wait for the #PitchWars mentor blog hop, I thought perhaps I could share a few poems about my MG Fantasy novel, which stars two 11yo trolls, Bernie & Tish. The first poem is included below, and is the poem which first started me thinking about trolls as heroes. I wrote this back in 2009. Other poems will be new, meaning I have no idea what I will write but like to challenge myself.

Three Billy Goats Yum!

I lie in wait beneath the bridge
and lick my lips, my eyes ablaze.
There’s nothing fearsome trolls like more
than Billy Goat with Hollandaise.

As shadows lengthen, prospects dim.
I lie in wait beneath the bridge,
dismayed that I may have to eat
some week-old toad left in my fridge.

With aching tummy left to mourn
the tasty treats that might have been,
I lie in wait beneath the bridge.
Trolls should be fat, but I’m so thin.

But wait, is that a tapping hoof?
Three goats traipse down from yonder ridge.
My dinner plans at last prepared,
I lie in wait beneath the bridge.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Pimp My Bio

I've never been much of a joiner, even in school, so when I read (today) about Pimp My Bio for #PitchWars mentees, I hesitated.

But I have learned a few things since school... as an adult, as an author, as a socially awkward middle aged man in a virtual room full of digital natives wearing their neon warpaint in the form of GIFs and selfies.

I have learned that sometimes you have to dance if you want to attend the party.

So, here I am.

Oh yes, you don't know me. My name is Ben, I'm 53 and own a small software company. My software hides in the background, much like me, so you won't have noticed it, even if you use it.

I write stories and poems and occasionally draw things. I have three kids, but they've all flown the nest, so I live quietly with my wife and two cats (okay, they aren't quiet - they knock things over a lot). I write middle grade fantasy, among other things. (I also write poetry - Orson Scott Card once wrote and said he loved my poems. How cool is that?)

My Pitch Wars middle grade novel has trolls (nice ones) and giants (not so nice, but perhaps just misunderstood) and dragons (nasty pieces of work). It also has friendship and adventure and... well, you'll just have to read it. Suffice it to say, the main characters are eleven-year-old Bernie and Tish. He's always hungry but more timid than a troll should be. She's obsessed with rocks and loves trouble, even when it leaves her smelling strongly of cinnamon.

Below is a drawing I made of Tish's home, though it is a bit hard to see through the water.

Thanks you to Lana Pattinson for hosting the mentee bio blogs. See other links on her website. And thank you for stopping by. Mind the penguin on your way out.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

New WIP - New excitement

After a long time editing and rewriting Danger Tastes Dreadful, my middle grade fantasy that is in the query cycle right now, I am thrilled to be writing something new. It feels like it has been forever.

My new novel is tentatively called Josiah and the Bridge of Fire, and it is a very different book for me. This is a contemporary late middle grade novel, but it has a parallel story told in poems in the book Josiah finds. These poems echo some of what is going on in his life with perhaps a touch of magical realism in how appropriate they can be.

I have little idea how one pitches/sells/categorizes a book which is partly prose and partly poems, but I've wanted to give it a try for a while. I'll worry about details like that when I have something to show people.

Since Josiah is African-American, and living somewhat on the edge of poverty, I wanted the poems to resonate better with that life. With that in mind, some of them will be written in a form of hip hop poetry if I can manage. I have actually written the first of the ones for the novel, but don't want to share it yet, so instead, here is my first hip hop poem, which is a rewriting of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. Click on it to see a larger version if you have trouble reading it.