Nine year old girl captivates audience with tale of star stealing ogre, a rap-battling prince, and a quest to save bedtime.

And did I mention she’s my daughter? Yep, I’m one proud daddy. Years ago when Olivia was only four-years-old, she created a story about a meanie stealing the nighttime stars. In her story, a prince defeats the meanie and returns the stars to his princess, because without her stars, she couldn’t sleep. Her story idea was so well conceived that my wife and I didn’t believe she created it at first. We contacted her Pre-K teacher, grandparents, and Sunday school teacher to ask if they had shared a book or movie involving similar themes. Each person said they hadn’t.

In that moment, we knew Olivia’s imagination was beyond what we thought capable of a child her age. And being a writer, my wife prompted me to sit down with Olivia to tell her story.

And we did.

The end result is a children’s story called Ferdinand and the Stars in a Jar.  The tale begins when an ogre can’t sleep because stars are shining on his head, keeping him awake. He devises a plan to steal the stars, and thus sets the stage for a conflict of bedtime proportions.

Today, Olivia had an opportunity to share her story with classmates. To say the kids enjoyed the story is an understatement. They were hooked from the beginning and giggled at all the right moments. Several kids asked Olivia when the book would be out, because they wanted their copy now. This reaction touched Olivia’s heart in a huge way. My wife said when she picked her up from school, she was literally jumping up and down with joy. Man, talk about …

Melt.

My.

Heart.

Olivia is currently illustrating the story herself. The book will be published (fingers crossed) before the school year ends. My hope is that she will be able to give a copy to each classmate as a gift.

Anyway, if you’d like to read Olivia’s story I have included it below. Let me know what you think, and I’ll relay your messages personally to Olivia.

Yep, I know the author.

FERDINAND & THE STARS IN A JAR

Written by Olivia Douglas & her Daddy

From the day he was born, Ferdinand liked to sleep. The nasty old ogre slept from sunup to sunset, moonrise to moonfall. All he did was sleep. He slept so much his fingernails grew three feet long and the hair in his ears curled into braids. And when he slept, the darker the better. Not a nightlight in sight. So one evening when a light shone bright and peaked inside his castle’s walls, Ferdinand became angry.

“Argh!” the smelly ogre boomed as he climbed to his feet. He went to the window and threw back the curtain, before taking a peek. “What blasted light is keeping me awake?!”

A star twinkled high in the midnight sky.

“Argh!” Ferdinand yelled again. He covered his eyes and stomped his feet. He threw the loudest tantrum the likes never seen. “The light! It is so bright! It is toooooo bright!” He looked at the star and growled beneath his breath, then he threw back the curtain and snuggled into to bed.

But the light kept shining right on his head.

“Argh,” he bellowed, deep and with a burp. “That star has made me ANGRY!” He crawled out of bed and stomped around his room, asking himself, “What to do? What to do?” He scratched a wart on his chin. “I can’t sleep.” He picked a booger from his nose. “I can’t think.” He ate it. “I can’t think when I can’t sleep.”

But then Ferdinand saw a glass jar on his bedside table. The ogre snatched it up and stalked to the window, glanced back and forth between the jar and the star.

Jar. Star. Jar. Star.

“I kow what I’ll do,” Ferdinand finally said to a shoe. “I’ll capture that star, and put it in this jar. Then I’ll bury it deep, so it can’t make a peek.” But he couldn’t stop there. He’d have to capture them all if he were truly to get some rest. So Ferdinand went outside, which he rarely did, and traveled the world while collecting the stars. He scraped them out of the sky with his long fingernails, and flicked them into the bottom of the jar. Scrape and flick. Scrape and flick. Until the stars in the jar created a glare so bright, Ferdinand had to wear sunglasses to block the light. He grew tired, but he couldn’t rest, not until he’d captured …

Every.

Last.

Star.

Now, legend says that when he removed the last star from the night sky the whole world conked out and never woke up.

Hah, whatever.

Here’s what really happened: Ferdinand went back home, simple as that, and put the jar of stars under his bed so the light wouldn’t shine on the top of his head. And after he had fallen fast asleep, he happily dreamed of stink-farts and pop-tarts and the smells of his dirty feet.

Now far away, many towns and rivers and forests away, a princess awoke in the dark. “What happened to my night light?” said Ophelia, rubbing her eyes. She sat up and went to the window. “What happened to all the stars?”

“Hey, baby!” called Prince Claudius, with a wide-brim hat and mad-skillz when he rapped. Why just last week in a rap-battle with Motha-Goose, he impressed with his rhymes as he quoted Dr. Seuss. “An ogre came at night, and has stolen all the light. So I’m head’n to his castle, to give him a good hassle. But don’t you worry now, or wrinkle your fine brow. I’ll return after battle, to give you back your dazzle. Chica-chica, yeah.”

Princess Ophelia giggled. Prince Claudius bowed. And with coolness and courage and clever ideas, he whipped the reigns of his horse –which was named Star, go figure –and headed toward the north to try and retrieve the stolen light.

Hours passed. No one could sleep. Save Ferdinand, of course, who kept everyone awake with his wheezing nostrils.

Squo-ha-ha-honk, shee-hee-hee-ooo!

Squo-ha-ha-honk, shee-hee-hee-ooo!

He snored with such racket and ruckus that everyone wore earplugs and shouted to be heard. Until the prince entered his bedroom, not uttering a word.

Claudius studied Ferdinand sleeping in his bed. He was pretty gross – well, what do you expect? He’s an ogre! – and tried to find the stars. A light sparkled from underneath the mattress. Hmmm, the prince thought with a tip of his hat. I’ll just time the ogre’s snores as I sneak in like a cat.

Squonnnk-sheeeooo!

He put in some earplugs, and tip-toed into the room.

Squonnnk-sheeeooo!

The earplugs slipped out, and the prince’s ears rang.

Squonnnk-sheeeooo!

He reached up under the bed, and felt a smooth, round jar.

Squonnnk-sheeeooo!

Then …

Whack!

Wink!

Those ogre eyes popped open, and Claudius froze so he would not be seen.

“Argh,” Ferdinand yawned. “Is that you, momma?”

The prince made his voice rough and deep.“Uh-uh-yeah, baby, momma’s here for you. Just lay back and rest a bit, I know just what to do. I’ll rap you a lullaby, filled with all you love. So close your eyes and get some sleep, you flea-bitten dove. Chica-chica, yeah.”

And so the prince did. He rapped booger raps and danced booger jives, told fart jokes and squirted fart sighs. He built an ogre cradle that smelt of toe-jam jelly. He made a makeshift paci and rolled him on his belly. Then he grabbed the jar of stars and hid them under his hat. He tip-toed to his horse and fled in no time flat.

Well, Claudius kept his word. And in two shakes of a billy-goat’s gruff, the prince shook the jar of stars and untwisted the top.

Alla-bam! Light spewed out like soda from a can, and …

Alla-beep! The stars returned to heaven for all the world to keep.

Later that night, something woke the princess. Tap! Tap! Tap! Someone was throwing pebbles at her bedroom window. Ophelia crawled out of bed and went to take a look. Claudius stood there smug, with a jar full of bugs.

“I’ve returned with your dazzle,” the prince said with a grin, as he nodded to the sky. Ophelia glanced right up and couldn’t help but smile. Then he held up a jar of yellow-glowing fireflies.“And a nightlight for your bedside desk, so you’ll never wake again distressed. Chica-chica, yeah.”

Princess Ophelia sighed. And, despite the eventful evening – and the smelly ogre’s feet – the two lived happily ever after.

But what happened to Ferdinand, you ask? Well, that nasty ogre could no longer get out of bed, stuck in his cradle with a light shining on his head. He tossed and he turned and he hid beneath his pillow, with his hiney in the air like a burrowing armadillo.

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My daughter is a wrecking ball!

So yesterday my family went out for dinner. We have a mini-van, or to be more accurate, a mobile living room. The thing is super comfy. The sliding door was open. My daughter Olivia stood just inside the open door. As I approached, she jumped into my arms and I twirled her to the ground. She laughed and said the movement felt like a tornado. I told her she was a tornado.

“Meh,” she told me. “I’m more of a wrecking ball.”

Too funny.

My next novel is based on Olivia and her two younger brothers. The main character’s name is Maddie, but her personality is mirrored after my daughter. Maddie is spunky, rebellious and intriguing–an overall great main character who isn’t your stereotypical girl. And those words aren’t mine own, but of someone who has read the novel’s first chapter and provided constructive feedback.

Olivia’s comment yesterday reminded me of Maddie, because like my daughter, she is certainly a wrecking ball. In light of this revelation, I thought it would be fun to share the first chapter with you in the Maddie Jones saga. I’ve posted it below, so read and enjoy…and let me know what you think.

Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors

Chapter 1

The worst day of my life started like this.

I was climbing the rock wall in gym class, hoisting myself up one colorful handhold at a time, when I heard an angry voice yelling at me to speed up.

“You can do better than that, Jones,” Coach Sinclair, my pudgy P.E. instructor whose whistle rested on his round pot-belly, shouted from below.

I grunted, grabbed a yellow handhold, and climbed a bit higher. Ever since the first week of school, I’d grown to hate the rock wall. It was my worst activity in the whole gym class. Maybe it was because I lacked the upper body strength of boys. Or the sturdy legs of a sprinter. I refused to believe it was because I was a thirteen year old girl.

“Let’s go, Miss Jones,” Coach Sinclair blew his whistle. “Two minutes to reach the top!”

“You know, Coach,” I said as sweat dripped into my eyes. “I heard a rumor that you didn’t make your high school football team. Is it true?”

“What?” he barked. “That’s it, you’re running suicides next.”

I groaned. Me and my big fat mouth. It got me in trouble more than I cared to admit.

I finally reached the top. I struck the bell Coach Sinclair required us to hit. It chimed, signaling success. Then I repelled down thirty feet to the basketball court.

Coach Sinclair was there to greet me with arms folded across his chest and a toothy grin. “Suicides, Miss Jones. You’ve earned them.”

“I’m beginning to think you enjoy torturing kids,” I told him.

His grin widened. “What? Me? Never.” Then he stepped aside, motioning to the lines on the court I’d need to touch as I ran back and forth.

“This class sucks,” I said.

“That’ll be ten additional suicides,” he said. “Another word, and it will be ten more.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but thought better of it. My mouth got me into this mess. I doubted it would get me out of it.

So I crouched into a running stance and took a deep breath. But before I could begin, the gym doors opened and in walked Principal Watson in her business skirt and blouse. Two armed police officers joined her. Principal Watson looked around, her eyes settled on me, and she pointed.

“There she is,” her voice echoed across the spacious gym floor. “That’s Maddie Jones.”

The officers nodded to Principal Watson, then began walking my way.

Holy cow! What was this about? Did they find out it was me who stole the cow and put him in the school’s library? Or was it the issue with the front office’s aquarium, when the fish went missing and somehow appeared in bathroom toilets all over campus? I promised Principal Watson I had nothing to do with the incident when confronted a month ago, but apparently she wasn’t convinced. What more did she need?

Perhaps she wanted the missing fish. I’d kept one. He was too cute to give back.

The officer’s shoes thudded against the court, their handcuffs clinking as they approached.

I had to act fast. I wasn’t going to Juvie. Not again.

I don’t remember running, but the next thing I knew, I was sprinting to the girls locker room, where a back exit led to the outside tennis courts and football field.

I heard one of the officer’s shout, “Hey, Maddie, wait!” and he lunged to catch me.

But I was too fast, and seconds later, my Nike tennis shoes were kicking up grass and dirt as I sprinted through boys running scrimmages for next Tuesday’s football game.

Look, I know I said I’m not much of a sprinter. But when running from trouble, you’d be amazed how quickly your legs can move.

And you know what’s crazy? Running from the police wasn’t even why this was the worst day of my life.

Just wait, things are about to get interesting.

Bummer! Last days of summer vacation, but keep calm and write on.

Back to school

Welp, summer break will officially be over for me Monday. It’s back to school, to teach those kids a thing or two about Civics and History. I enjoy my time in the classroom with my students. I’m looking forward to getting started, but I’m also sad to see the break end. I have enjoyed spending time with my wife and children tremendously. Usually, I’m in a funk for a few days once I start back to work. I will miss my family. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still see them every day, but my time with them will be lessened quite a bit–especially once my doctorate school starts back up at the end of August. Phew, boy. It’s going to get busy, and it will happen quick. Still need to find time to write.

I enjoy a challenge.

The year isn’t over yet. So far, 2017 has seen two book releases from me: The Hero’s Ballad, an anthology of award-winning short stories, and Adventures in the Arcane, Volume IIan anthology comprised of a myriad of authors written in a fun pulp style with arcane elements. Both are great reads, with strong tales filled with adventure, thrills and heart. But guess what. I still have one more book to release before the year is through.

That’s right. Medical MECH will be my second novel, a book written for middle school kids. The story follows thirteen-year-old Riley Davis as he attempts to stop a robot invasion from destroying his town. He discovers that the only way to defeat the machines is with music, and his bass guitar works best. But Riley will need the help of a punk rocker and her gang of misfit musicians if he is to succeed. Can Riley stop the robots before it’s too late?

Find out in September when Medical MECH hits store shelves. So summer is pretty much over, but life keeps moving forward. Although I will be super busy by the end of this month, I plan to keep devoting time to my writing projects. Not only in the form of Medical MECH, but also with the first novel in the Adventures of Maddie Jones series: Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors. Plus, I have set a goal for myself to send out my novels to literary agents this fall in order to secure representation.

Busy. Busy. But I believe hard work pays off.

Keep calm and write on

What do you get when authors, readers, food, and storytelling combine?

A good time, that’s what. Holy cow! Countless people converged on the City Arts Cooperative Saturday to buy their copies of Adventures in the Arcane, Volume II. Readers were treated to food and beverages, as well as excerpt readings from all the authors present. Readers were also able to purchase the authors’ additional novels, comics and artwork. I sold quite a few additional books, especially after I read the introduction to Curse of the Conquistador–which you can check out on my short stories page here on this very website. Warning! You’ll be left with a cliffhanger and will end up buying Adventures in the Arcane, Volume II in order to find out what happens to Maddie and her adventure inside her dad’s museum.

Anyway, I had an awesome time with my fellow authors. After the book event, we ended up going out for pizza and beer, fellowship and laughs. I feel blessed to be included in such an amazing anthology along such talented people. At the pizza joint, there was even an art show going on. A lot of people out there call me an artist, being a writer an all, but I never think of myself in that way. I’m simply trying to entertain people through story, and hope to one day make enough money to write more than I currently do. The artwork on display was quite impressive. I tend to not really get art–I’m a fairly simple guy, ask my wife–but I appreciate it nonetheless.

If you couldn’t make it, or live far away as I know some of you do, then check out the pictures from the event. My next novel, Medical MECH, debuts in September…so expect more news on upcoming book events this fall. Plus, there’s Creative Con to consider. Great stuff on the horizon.

Vacation Time!

It’s that time of year when my family enjoys time off from school and work. That usually means I don’t write as much, too. You would think my writing time would increase, but I get wrapped up in trips to the zoo, aquarium, big cities and baseball games. I tend to play as much golf as I can, enjoy the beach with the kids–plus we stay up too late and sleep too late. Ah, summer time is great.

I have family in Texas. We’re spending a couple weeks with them around the Houston area. We’ve enjoyed an Astros baseball game, a day at the zoo, another at an aquarium, played several rounds of golf, gamed at an arcade, gone to the movies, and the kids even had a snowball fight. Meanwhile, our hometown in Panama City Beach has been rained out for days on end. We got a bit lucky. But the storm causing much of the rain might hit here in Texas in the next day or so. Keeping fingers crossed we don’t get too much rain.

Amidst all the fun, I have managed to work on my next novel, but only for a brief bit. Medical Mech is slated to release this September. All of my test readers have returned their manuscripts, and I have several areas to work on in order to improve the story before publication. Fortunately, the kids LOVED the book and there isn’t a ton to do; but the areas needing work will require careful tweaking.

Anyway, that’s what has been going on with me since school let out a couple weeks ago. How are you spending your summer?