Puddin’s Got A Brand New Gig

Sometimes I get the feeling deep down in the hard, crystally, freezer-burnt depths of my stinky soul that I’m not being as prolific a blogger as I’d like to be these days. Because the fact of the matter is…

HEY!

WAIT! Come back!

Look, I know you’re about a millisecond away from closing this browser window with a woeful sigh and mumbling that I’m getting all petulant and whiny about “not having time to write posts” or whatever, and if you wanted to listen to moping you’d go back and review your first year philosophy notes from college. I get it. But, please. Give me a chance. This isn’t that. I swear on the sweet, dark chocolately souls of all the M&M’s I’ve consumed in the past year.

*moment of silence for M&M’s*

What I mean is that I feel like I could be posting more because I’m not always confortable rambling excessively about what’s on my mind. Sure, sometimes it’s not problem. My life amuses me plenty, and I fairly often do something ridiculous enough to warrant mentioning it.  Plus, cookies and/or brownies are always good topics of discussion.  But when I’m not acting like a fool or making delightful snacks and/or shoveling them down my munchietube*, I’m mostly thinking about books.

Specifically, that is, my books.  And writing them.  Or even writing in general, and everything that goes along with the daily trudge from Chapter One to The End. It’s a life-altering, swear-inducing, hair-curling, soul-crushing, joy-giving, confidence-affirming process that can swing your emotional pendulum from one side of the sanity arc to the the other in less than twenty minutes flat.

I just don’t want to bore you with all of it.

Because I spend so much time writing and/or contemplating it, it’s hard to shove my attention onto something else.  Many days, then, I don’t have anything else swirling about in the ghost town of my head compelling enough to be the subject of an entertaining blog post. For instance, I can’t even think of interesting things to write about beer anymore, and if that doesn’t tell you how serious I am bout this, nothing probably will.

So concocting a post topic can be like going to cupboard for the cookie jar and finding nothing but an endless supply of beef jerky. Sure, I love beef jerky. But if I gave you twenty pounds of it and nothing else, you’d want to shove it down my throat until I sneezed dry, salted beef flakes.

Which is why I’m thrilled to announce that I was recently selected as one of the new, regular blog contributors for Middle Grade Minded, a blog with a laser-like focus on Middle Grade stories and the variety of ways people like me tell them.

The hope is that with that particular writing-related itch scratched, I’ll have a little more headspace available to ramble about Oompa Loompas, the rise and fall of civilization, and possibly even why my shoes make me uncomfortable. You know, all the things that have traditionally filled the pages of Puddintopia since 2010.

And if that doesn’t get your follicles all a-tingle, well, I guess you should maybe be using a different dandruff shampoo.

Pud’n


*Seriously, “munchietube” might be the worst word I’ve ever made up. I can’t decide if reminds me more of one of those annoying kids shows with fully-costumed sing-a-long monsters, or one of those kinks that requires a full-color diagram and a strong constitution. Let’s agree to never use it again.

One Geek, Two Geek, That Was A Good Week(end)

As it turns out, I did not actually fall off the face of the Earth this past week. Or even into a vat of cookie dough large enough to house all of Wonka’s Oompa Loompas plus a goodly portion of his walnut-testing squirrels, despite the fact that I’ve done nothing but think of making cookies for the better part of a week.

Because, well, they’re cookies. Duh. How do you not think about them?

I did, however, fall face-first into a good chunk of writing for Project Hermey prior to the holiday weekend.  Hurray for progress! And then, well, it was the holiday weekend. Let’s be honest, nobody got anything doing over the holiday.

Of course, my traditional Labor Day probably differs a good bit from your average Joe’s boating-and-barbecuing bonanza. Because mine typically revolves around video games, shouting “Huzzah!” whenever possible, and a litany of other things that pretty effectively scream, “Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrd”!

Oh, did I forget to mention that Labor Day weekend is when I traditionally get the annual visit from my high school best friend? Because that’s what happens every year on the first Monday in September, and when it does, I gleefully revert to the awkward dork I desperately pretended not to be way back in 1990.

Um. Wow, that was a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time ago.  Can we pretend I didn’t say that? Or maybe add 10 years. Great. Perfect. Awesomesauce.

Truth be told, though, we don’t really get up to the same sort of hijinks nowadays as we did back then.  See, because:

  1. Nobody wants to go bowling that often
  2. I am kind of responsible of other living human beings, and ignoring them is largely frowned upon by the authorities, and
  3. I have my own house and can buy alcohol now, which makes sitting around my kitchen a much more entertaining prospect than it was when we were 18

We did, however, spend the weekend wandering castles, marveling at knights, knaves, ladies, and wenches while consuming smoked turkey legs at the Ohio Renaissance Festival,  and staying up much too late playing Magic: The Gathering with Actual Cards (some of which were older than my kids). Oh, and we ate grilled food. Because, hey, even when you are trying to keep things Nerd-fully Atypical, grilled bacon burgers are still delightfully mouth-watering.

To round out the weekend of fun and good times, we acquired a new pet at La Casa de Puddin. We are now the proud owners of a brand new betta fish, giving us a happy pair.  I mean, happy so long as they stay separated. Betta don’t get along with pretty much anything else. They’re like the TV sitcom Mother-In-Law of the home aquarium set.

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But that’s okay, because even with them living separated lives, I can still now point to our happily swimming pet fishies, and say (with a seriously ridiculous amount of joy)…

One Fish, Two Fish
Red Fish…well, I think you get the gist.

All of which is to say, my holiday was awesome.

How was yours?

Pud’n

About Time For A Kick In The Pants

Man, have I been slacking.

Well, okay, so that’s not the kind of news you wake your significant other up for.  Truth is, the idea that I’ve been slacking about something is roughly akin to getting all hyper and jumping up-and-down while screaming because, *gasp* the tide is getting higher!

Get it, because the tide gets high everyday? Which is also the frequency with which I slack? See? Funny, right?

Fine, let’s try it this way: if I was a superhero, I’d be Slackerman.  Or maybe The Slack? That sounds a little cooler, right? At any rate, the point I’m getting at (poorly) is that me being me and following the natural order of things by continuing to slack off an a daily basis is rarely worth tweeting about in 140 characters, let alone writing a post.

But then, I’m not talking about normal, everyday slacking here, I’m talking about Writer Slacking.

And that’s something I don’t think I’ve ever done before.

I realized towards the end of last week that Project Hermey has been lingering on the old progress bar there to the right for entirely too long. Sure, it inches forward with a new % or two every few days, but then it’ll spend a few more right where it is. 

Even more astounding, I started Project Hermey way, way, back on May 12.  For those of you with math skills (or maybe a fancy Texas Instruments calculator), that means I’ve been trudging away at it for more than three months.

Three. Long. Months.  Admittedly, three months is perfectly reasonable for an adult novel.  In fact, Project Macaroni took just over two months to draft the first time around.  But, then, the first draft of Project Macaroni was in the neighborhood of 112,000 words.  Hermey should come I under half that, and yet, as of this moment, in (roughly) the same amount of time, I’ve written a third as much. 

The good news is, much of the Cro-Magnon feet dragging here has been deliberate.  Yes, I mean it. No, that’s not something I just made up to make myself feel better, like Archibald, my friend who the “doctors” insist is purely “imaginary”.  Yeah, well, they aren’t the ones who Archibald wakes up every night at 3:03 AM to talk about the little people under his skin and their incessant demands for Italian sausage and M&Ms, are they?

Uh, maybe forget I said that.

Anyway, the point here is that I’ve been taking my time on purpose.  Ever since my first novel, FAMINE, took 18 months to draft, I’ve been burning through new novels like a Smokey Mountain vacationer through apple butter. I’ve written several more MG novels in a little more than a month, and longer adult ones in just over two.  Not to toot my own whistle, I’ve been a hard charging, draft-making machine.

After all that high-speed writing, though, I figured why not try something new? Why give Project Hermey the full-court, NANOWRIMO-style press this summer? Why not take my time instead and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the plot.  Maybe think about it more up front and hopefully revise a little less on the backend?

“What a great plan!” I thought. In May. Back before the kids even got out of school for the year.

But now, here we are in late August, and I’m still at least 10k words away from finishing.  Probably more like 20 because, well, sometimes there’s more story than you think there’s going to be.  I novel is like baking a pie: it’s done when it’s done.  And as for that “hopefully revise a little less” business? Yeah, no. I’m very happy with the rough story in Project Hermey so far, but when complete, it’s going to be one of the roughest drafts I’ve ever finished.  Definitely in need of some TLC, a lot of trimming, reshaping, and molding.

All of that is fine; it doesn’t bother me one bit. Writing is, after all, rewriting.  Which is good, because this time around, there will be significant rewriting.

What I’m not so happy with is the three month-long process of drafting.  Every time I miss a few days, I feel like I have to start all over again to get the tone of it right.  And because some days have been less productive than others, the process feels like a century-old Model-T sputtering and puttering along, trailing a cloud of ugly, ashy, smoke.

Not exactly the feeling I’m going for with a light-hearted MG adventure.

So, no more.  Time to quit dawdling. No more slacking.  It’s time I  set myself a deadline, and since I’ve apparently only got two speeds: FULL THROTTLE and I’m-sorry-was-I-doing-something-here, it’s got to be a deadline that applies a little pressure.  Two weeks, then.  I’m going to type out, “The End” in this draft of Project Hermey by September 8th, even if it kills me.

And after that, I’m never taking this “slacker” approach to writing a draft again. Sure, the NANOWRIMO-esque 50k words in a month is aggressive and chaotic and could possibly lead to unnatural levels of caffeine consumption.  But then, anything worth doing is worth doing as quickly and sloppily as possible.

Because in the end, it’s all going into a messy first draft anyway, why waste weeks or months pretending that extra time means less revision?

Let’s face it, all it really means is extra slacking.

And if there’s one thing in my life I don’t need in excess around here, it’s extra slacking.

We’re all stocked up on that for years.

Pud’n

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The Difference Between Golf And Baking

IMG_0578.JPGMaybe last night wasn’t Thursday, my traditional cookie baking night, but since the do-over fairy let me down yesterday, I kicked customary to the curb and made a batch of oatmeal chocolate chips anyway.

As it turns out, in respectable golf (which I admittedly have little experience with), you only get to take a mulligan in certain circumstances. But if you know just a tiny, tablespoon-full of baking, you can pretty much cookie anytime.

And, let’s face it, cookies are generally a more reliable fix for your day anyway. Even when it isn’t Thursday.

Pud’n

Late Night Storms And Wednesday Morning Mulligans

Wednesday got off to a rough start.  Because Zeus and Poseidon were apparently attempting to settle a bet via what I can only assume was a raucous bowling match in the heavens above my house last night, I found myself conspicuously not asleep at 2:30 this morning. As a result, I slept through my alarm and woke up 10 minutes late.  Admittedly, that isn’t quite something you blame on the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, but still, it prompted me to hurry my poor, barely-been-a-middle-schooler-for-week out of the house to the slightly-early-and-waiting Middle School bus with only one shoe tied and while attempting to squeeze his new Texas-sized Middle School binder into his Middle School backpack mid-stride and also end up not tripping over his own shoelaces in the driveway. I mean, let’s be honest, having to get on the earliest bus is bad enough, but going face-down on the pavement in an explosion of folders, papers, and school supplies for all the Middle Schools bus riders’ early morning entertainment is the pre-teen equivalent of getting hot pokers to the fingernails.

Luckily, Oldest Son avoided such ignominy.  Which is good, because nobody really wanted him to have to change schools.

If sling-shotting my poor, slightly unprepared 6th grader out the door this morning had been the end of my questionable morning, I could find a way to live with it. After all, kids are resilient and an Icee cures most early-morning problems. But then I proceeded to bust a button off my work pants, and race out the door myself while forgetting my lunch as well as the cottage cheese that was theoretically going to be part of my breakfast.

Thinking that maybe a few belts of iced coffee might brighten my day (or at least fortify me against further AM hijinks), I stopped to get coffee. That’s when I realized I’d made the classic Wednesday Morning Coffee Shop Blunder. The place was overrun with what I can only assume were high school freshman.  I’m pretty sure somebody’s English teacher forgot to finish up that lesson plan the night before because, I don’t know, The Big Brother finale was on, so he sent the kids out for an offsite study hall. Unfortunately for me, the site, of course, was my provider of live-affirming caffeinated beverages, and if you’ve ever seen 9th graders in a coffee shop, you know that each and every last one of them Must. Order. The. Frozen. Blendy. Drink.

Or, as I like to call them, The Icy Mochas Of Stagnant Time.

Seriously, it takes the poor barista roughly seven hours to make each one. In fact, if you close your eyes, I’m pretty sure you can feel them thinking if I’d wanted to make milkshakes, I’d have gotten a job at Baskin Robbins.

That said, for those of you not familiar with the consequences of 20+ teens ordering iced blended concoctions at one time, what happens is that your average coffee drinking patron—you know, those of us who have jobs that come with employers that would rather we weren’t participating in class at the coffee shop—becomes semi-permanently trapped in a void pocket of space-time where centuries stretch out before you eyes, unmoving, unchanging, and filled with nothing but cold, frozen, mocha-colored emptiness.

When I finally left the coffee shop, then, I took a moment to breathe, sip my iced Americano, and relax.

At which point, I did what any normal modern person would do, I whipped out my iPhone and proceeded to share my terrible, horrible, no good, very long morning with twitter and Facebook.

For the record, no I never did get to use that Mulligan. But at least the coffee turned out okay.

Pud’n

The Most Annoying Fairytale Creatures, A Guest Post By Author J. C. Nelson

[Puddin’s Note: Remember when I wouldn’t shut up about FREE AGENT, a book by friend and author J.C. Nelson that I couldn’t put down? Well, I enjoyed the thing so much, I jumped at the chance to have him throw a guest post together for us. So rather than subject you to my my usual 500 words of nonsense rambling I’ll let him take it away, and get to the point. Please don’t be afraid to like it and share, and by all means, if you’ve got an itch for a fantastic gritty slant on fairy tales in the modern world, be sure to check out FREE AGENT immediately. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.]

Fairytales are filled with creepy crawly creatures, some of which are relatively humanoid, and others are not, but you can bet, if it shows up in a fairy tale, it’s probably something you wish would go away. So let’s take a look at the creatures we hate to love in fairytales and get a glimpse of why:

  1. Imps. They might start out looking like a little man who can spin straw into gold, but once they have a deal, the claws come out. You’ll need to guess their name while avoiding being eviscerated.
  2. Gnomes. They run the postal service. They’re vicious, destructive, pedantic little bureaucrats hell bent on causing the world misery. What they lack in size they make up for in sheer spite.
  3. Princesses. Marked on their soul, Princesses have less to do with having a crown and more to do with a blessing from the universe. Their charms are impossible to resist, their love-life is universally dramatic, and they’re near impossible to get rid of.
  4. Fairies. Oh, you might be thinking Tinkerbell and friends, or maybe even the fae courts, but the fairies of the Grimm Agency world are creatures with reality altering power and a lust for magic above all else. They could make your fondest wish come true…or your worst nightmare. When the man in the mirror talks back, it’s best to listen.
  5. Dwarves. Kingdom’s resident miners, jewelers, and weapon-smiths, they also practice anger management techniques to ensure a proper level of anger is always maintained. If you need something crafted on short notice, a dwarf will do the deed. Why are they on this list? Because dealing with them is guaranteed to raise your blood pressure and damage your shins.
  6. And worst of all? The creature that causes no end of trouble? Wolves. They’re big. They’re bad. They’re eternally hungry, and generally speaking, they aren’t in a mood to bargain. Anyone in a fairy tale knows there’s the right end of a wolf (the tail, indicating it’s moving away) and the wrong end (the end with teeth). Furthermore, they’re just smart enough to be dangerous, and just dumb enough that you can’t teach them a lesson. Whether you’re a pig or a person, being on the wrong end of a wolf is bad news.

Free Agent has all of these and more, which is fortunate for us but unfortunate for Marissa Locks, agent of the Fairy Godfather. And there are worse creatures waiting, biding their time and planning their revenge…


More on JC Nelson

A Texas transplant to the Pacific Northwest, JC Nelson lives with a family and a flock of chickens near rainy Seattle.

Find JC Nelson online at:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/authorjcnelson
Face book: www.facebook.com/authorjcnelson
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7798544.J_C_Nelson
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/authorjcnelson

Find FREE AGENT at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | iTunes

The Sounds Of Silence

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La casa de Puddin was exceptionally, unusually, almost disturbingly quiet today. Sadly, not because the kids finally signed a peace accord to bring the “He Touched Me/She Won’t Stop Bossing Me Around” hostilities to an end, or even because they finally learned to appreciate a few moments of peace and quiet.  I know it seems odd to complain about the silence, though. On normal days, I’d give a gold-plated pair of flying squirrel’s paws to be able to sit in the woods alone and research whether or not a tree makes noise when no one else is around if it meant a few minutes free of the seemingly constant struggle of sibling wills.

Alas, when you have four kids, occasionally—by which I mean frequent—personality conflicts are kind of inevitable. Having grown up with two brothers and a sister of my own, this isn’t exactly revolutionary news. But, uh, that’s another post.

What is important right now is that this morning, all four of our kids boarded a bus to one school or another and headed off for the first day of the new year.  Yes, even The Attitude climbed on with an enthusiastic grin, en route to Day One of kindergarten.

All the kids were off to school, and the house became still.

I’ve written plenty of posts before about first days of school, so it seems silly to rehash the matter again.  If you are feeling so inclined, though, maybe check out the archived posts in question. This one, from 2010, is probably my favorite. It’s certainly the one voted Most Likely To Make The Puddinette Ugly Cry. Don’t forget the posts from 2011 and 2012, either.  With a somewhat lighter touch, they’ll probably manage to entertain more than they pile on a several heaping dump trucks of the feels.

At any rate, my feed from various social media sources filled up faster than a rainfall gauge in Seattle this morning with picture after image after Instagram of well-groomed kids in fancy First Day clothes and shiny new kicks, all sporting backpacks and faces beaming with enthusiasm. And dammit, well, I didn’t see why they get to have all the fun.  I mean, sure, I’ve been going to the same job for something like 2000+ plus days, but that’s no reason not to get excited!

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So I had the Puddinette take a Back to Work picture of me after all the kids left and were on their way to get some education. Admittedly, I did it mostly to distract her from the strange, foreign blanket of quiet covering the house, but I’ve done sillier things for more ridiculous reasons in my day.

Oh, and hey, remember when I mentioned that time seemed to lose all meaning over summer break? Yeah, well, it did it again. If I had to guess I’d say it was last week or maybe the week before that I wrote that post about Space and Time, and now we’re back to the meaty bits of the calendar that include homework assignments and reading projects.

Christmas will be here before you can say, “Oh Sweet Jeebus, Not That Damned Elf On The Shelf Just Shoot Me Now.”

But at least we’ll get some Halloween action first.

Pud’n

Well, Dammit. Rest In Peace, Mr. Williams. And Thank You.

When I first heard the news—or more accurately, read about it from a barrage of tweets in the few moments after dinner when I had intended to merely glance at twitter before seeing to bath time—it kind of swept over me like a hot, summer gust.  Something to be recognized and noted in a kind of detached way, but then forgotten as it blew past and was gone, replaced with the usual concerns over evening responsibilities.

But now that I’ve stopped and given my brain and my heart a few moments to consider it, that detachment has grown into sadness, and I realize I can’t not write something about the passing of Robin Williams.

I’ve been a fan of Mr. Williams since the years when I could count my age on two hands.  Back then, an alien called Mork taught me through strange handshakes and even stranger words that even if you were maybe a bit not like everyone else, people would like you anyway if you could make them laugh.

His portrayal of a middle-aged Peter Pan in Hook helped me see that even though most of us have to become adults at some point, that doesn’t mean we always have to grow up. Even more than that, it led me to see that sometimes old stories can be told in new ways and capture new imaginations.

His roles in Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting showed me that even faces known for wide grins, crazy expressions, and manic cackles could still make a serious point.

All my life, his work made me laugh. But then, that’s not unusual; he made millions of people of laugh. For me, though, personally, he did a great deal more than that.  Without ever knowing it, or possibly intending it,  Robin Williams’ work shaped the not-quite-grown-up, middle-aged man I have become, as well as the writer I strive to show on the page.

If not for his influence, I wouldn’t try to make people smile.  I wouldn’t write silly blog posts. I wouldn’t spend hours pouring myself into middle grade stories in the fervent hope of making some other not-quite-fitting-in kid out there somewhere, someday smile or chuckle. To try to share the feeling, if even for a few fleeting moments, that everything is going to be okay.

I never met him. Hell, I doubt we were ever in the same zip code.  He’ll never know how he touched my life.

But I’ll never forget.

From the bottom of my heart, then, thank you, Mr. Williams.  I pray that wherever you are now, you’ve finally escaped the demons that seemed to plague you. May you rest in eternal peace.

When It Comes To Cookies, I Have No Excuse

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I seem to recall promising that I would write all about the awesome adventures we had on our recent family vacation and post it today.  But, um, mistakes were made. As it turns out, much as with mice and other furry, cute-only-when-animated rodents, the best laid plans of Puddin are easily waylaid by a sudden urge to make oatmeal cookies.

Yeah, so instead of writing that post I accidentally got a bunch of ingredients together and made cookies.  Oops. And now I’m totally going to eat them. But totally by happenstance, I swear.

You’re not buying it, are you?  I guess I wouldn’t either.  Especially since I don’t feel even a little bit bad about it.

Okay, maybe a little bad, but it’s amazing how much guilt a warm, chewy oatmeal cookie can soothe.

Want one?

Pud’n