It’s Absolute Mayhem! And this time, my children are not the cause

When fellow blogger, Kelly Suellentrop, first asked for help spreading the word about her new children’s book, Absolute Mayhem, I vacillated. I’m playing catch-up on my own writing these days and I didn’t want to commit to something if I lacked the time to follow through.

Then, I remembered how daunting it is to navigate the process of self-publishing your first book. How do you take a stack of paper with words or drawings on the sheets and turn that pile into an actual book that people can buy? (And I’m not talking about a comb-bound course packet from the Kinko’s copy center.) It’s not an easy process the third or fourth time you do it. The first time, it’s a mind-blowing mystery. To borrow from Kelly’s book title, it’s Absolute Mayhem.

It’s a lonely, confusing process, and anyone who makes it through deserves congratulations and support from the independent author community.

I signed up to help.

And then I had that moment. If you interact with writers at all, you know that moment. It goes like this in your head: “Oh my God! What if I don’t like the book? I’ve just agreed to blog about it, but what if I hate it? How will I get out of it? I know. I’ll tell her my blog is busy washing its hair.”

Before I opened the electronic proof file Kelly sent, I crossed my fingers and pleaded, “Please be good. Please be good. Nobody ever buys the hair washing excuse.”

Then, I opened the file and forgot all about making excuses, because Absolute Mayhem is an awesome children’s book. I don’t have to mince words. I don’t have to finesse anything. I get to relax and tell the truth, which is simply that I really like this book.

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Absolute Mayhem is the story of Lulu and Milo, siblings who dutifully do their schoolwork and chores all week long in anticipation of the fun they expect to have on the weekend. During the week, they rely upon their imaginations. But on the weekend, it’s Absolute Mayhem as they live their dreams.

I love the artwork in this book – not for any technical reasons, because I have no artistic talent, so I wouldn’t know a technical reason if it bit me in the deep lower back. The art here has an endearing playfulness. It’s the funny, little touches, like the rabbit spraying air freshener around the doggy doo in the back yard, that make the illustrations special.

The story is relatable to both kids and adults, a target that many children’s books miss. As a parent of three, I’ve been exposed to approximately 3.2 metric tons of children’s literature and this one is up there with the best of them.

Absolute Mayhem on Amazon.com

Kelly Suellentrop’s author website

Kelly Suellentrop’s blog: are you finished yet?

 

Reading is fun, except for all those words

I was helping my 1st grade son with his homework. This isn’t the perfect bonding exercise, as he does not like doing his homework and I do not enjoy watching him not like doing his homework. It leads to impatience in my voice, which he likes almost as little as he likes doing his homework.

Earlier this year, as I was dragging him out of bed for school, he told me, “I don’t like learning. It’s not really fun for me.” Dragging him out of bed in the morning is not really fun for his parents, but I suppose that’s an issue for another day.

Part of his homework that night was a questionnaire from his reading teacher. I guess she wanted to get a feel for each child’s attitude about reading before getting too far into the year. My son is a pretty good reader, when he has to be. And when he doesn’t have to be, he’s playing with LEGOs.

When it comes to reading practice, he’s lazy. I could compare him to a mule or other reluctant worker, but that’s not quite strong enough. The only simile that fully captures it is: he’s as lazy as a six-year-old.

The first question on the homework was: “Reading is _________”

The boy thought about it for a second, then filled in the word fun.

I raised an eyebrow. “Really? You don’t act like reading is fun.”

“Reading is kind of boring. But I think this is what the teacher wants me to say,” he explained.

It would be hypocritical of me to make him change his answer, since much of my own school career was based upon political expediency.

What books?

He loves going to the library. They have fun toys and games there, and you can even borrow Sponge Bob videos.

He answered a few more questions about his favorite subjects to read before he got to the question: “The best thing about reading is _________”

He didn’t have to think about it at all. He quickly went to work answering the pictures.

This didn’t sound much like a reading is fun kid, but maybe you can like to read and still like the pictures even a tiny bit more than the text. I let it go.

The next question was: “The worst thing about reading is _________”

He didn’t miss a beat. “The words,” he said, quicker than he could touch his pencil to the paper.

I had to slow him down this time. If you are going to start off playing this game of hiding your opinions behind the expected preferred opinions, then you ought not directly contradict yourself by letting your true feelings out later.

I should have let him look foolish with his incongruous answers, but I was in no mood to be dragged down with him.

We discussed it and decided the hard words made a better answer.

So it boils down to this: reading is fun, especially when accompanied by numerous illustrations, but the enjoyment can be diminished by an overabundance of difficult passages.

That sounds like a perfectly reasonable opinion, doesn’t’ it?

 

Books: so much more appealing when they have covers

Occasionally I take a post off from Daddy Blogging in order to talk about blogging or writing in general. This usually happens when another blogger tags me for some type of event that’s going around the blogging community. Then, I put the kids to bed and talk about my blogging process or the writing life.

This is like that, but different. I’m taking off the Daddy Blogger hat, but not at the behest of other bloggers. I’m doing it on my own, in order to make some exciting announcements.

The thing about me and announcements is I’m not very good at them. They make me nervous. People will know my plans, so now I have to follow through on them. I’d rather finish my projects and then say, “See? That’s what I did.” But that doesn’t build any hype, and hype is part of marketing, and marketing is what you’re supposed to do at times like this. So I’m told by successful writers.

And I want to be successful.

So, announcements.

We have cover art!

Last time I took off the Daddy Blogger hat, I mentioned that I’m working on publishing a new book. It seems like I’ve been working on publishing this book forever. One of the delays was finding the right artist to do the cover. I finally found her. Her name is Jessica O’Brien. She did this awesome artwork.

 

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I just have to get the final proofing done and we’ll finally have a book. Cross your fingers.

And when will this final proofing be done? Ha! You actually expect a man with my dread of announcements to give a date? Don’t worry; I’ll make an announcement.

I’m working on a new blog.

As part of this book rollout, I’ve replaced my author website with a new WordPress blog. My static website was a completely amateurish endeavor, built by me, a completely amateurish web designer. In moving to WordPress I hope to do more with less (time and money). That savings should allow me to maintain two blogs at once. We’ll see about that, won’t we?

At the other blog, I will be writing about writing. If that’s the sort of thing that excites you, you probably have issues, so you should go here www.scottnagele.com and click “follow” right away.

This blog will remain.

I’m proud of this blog. It’s not the most widely read blog, but I think it has its entertaining moments. (Click the Index of Posts tab at the top to see everywhere it’s been.) But when you are trying to publish a book, write another one, transition a website, work a full-time job, and raise three boys, time can get tight. (Note to the homeowners association: this has nothing to do with why my lawn is eight inches high; it rains every time I try to mow, so tell it to the weatherman.)

I cut down to posting once per week here over the summer. Maybe once my obsession with this new book eases, I’ll be able to post more. I hope so, because Daddy Blogging is the most fun writing I do.

P.S. My apologies to those who read the title and thought this would be a fun post about toddlers tearing the covers off books.

After we’re done inflating your ego, can I play a computer game?

Fathers are inherently selfish. We want our kids to like the stuff we like.

Mothers also have inherent traits, but I won’t go into that because those fall outside of my personal experience. Also, I don’t want to sleep on the couch tonight.

To a father, delight is seeing your child excited about one of your interests. With my oldest, this has been a win some, lose some proposition. He’s always been interested in geography and history, but not so much in reading or sports.

For a boy anticipating the 1st grade, he has good reading skills. Still, he hasn’t ever shown much joy at the prospect of reading. He’s clung to the standard “Reading is boring.” ideology common among boys.

So he wouldn’t lose ground over summer vacation, my wife took him to the library and signed him up for the summer reading program. He showed me the books he checked out. They share a single theme. We began with Weapons of the Civil War. He will likely be the only 1st grader in his school with the word Howitzer in his lexicon.

The unspecified prizes from the library program are of limited motivational value. What does motivate him is that we allow him time playing computer games after he reads. This is a win-win, since some of his games teach him things, like reading graphs, and all of them keep him quiet for an hour.

He’s begun asking to read. He’s politically astute enough to claim he wants to read so he can improve his skills, but we all know it’s so he can earn computer time. Either way, I’ll take it.

Like with reading, the boy never showed much interest in football or basketball. I don’t know why, but this summer he has been asking to play basketball with me. I’ve been meaning to fix our driveway backboard since we bought the house in 2005. Meanwhile, we play on a plastic kids’ hoop. Under the plastic hoop rules, the boy needs only dribble the ball when convenient and Daddy must stand clear whenever the boy announces his intention to shoot.

 

lay up

“Get your defense out of the way, I’m about to shoot.”

I was pleasantly surprised last week when he asked if we could watch a basketball game on TV together. There aren’t many basketball games on TV in summer, so we settled for the replay of a college football game from 1981. When Mommy called to see what we were up to, he told her, “We’re just watching a football game from when Daddy was 14.” We bet on who would win the game. I had the advantage, having been alive at the first playing. I got to spend time sharing one of my interests with my son, so I guess I won.

There’s no guarantee that my son’s new-found interests will last. I’m making the most of them while they’re fresh. We’ve got a library down the street, and that basketball hoop I’ve meant to fix for the past nine years – I ordered a replacement backboard today.

face rebound

In basketball vernacular, this is known as a face rebound.