Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Scorpions of Zahir - An Unwanted Character - by Christine Brodien-Jones

When we write books, not all our characters can be warm and fuzzy, and not all of them should be, particularly the villains.  But sometimes a character turns up who's just plain annoying.  This happened in the early days of writing "The Scorpions of Zahir," when a character named Agdz elbowed her way into the story.  Agdz was ageless, appearing at various times as a young girl, a middle-aged woman and an old crone.  In all her guises she was tall and stringy and downright creepy, following Zagora and her brother Duncan around the Casbah in Marrakech, bugging them because she knew they possessed a magical stone that, like Gollum and the ring, she was totally obsessed with.
Illustration by Kelly Murphy

I did the only thing I could think of.  I turned Agdz into a giant scorpion.  Then, in a somewhat comic scene beside an underground river, chubby Duncan slips as he runs away from her, skidding into her vast scorpion body and knocking her into the river, where she sinks beneath the bubbling surface.  But even turning her into a monster didn't do the trick.  In the end I wrote Agdz out of the script, replacing her with two characters: Mina, a fiery young girl from an ancient desert tribe, and a mad scientist named Olivia.  Hopefully that's the last I'll ever see of Agdz: a scorpion-skeleton floating down underground rivers beneath the Sahara. 

Thanks to Kate Hannigan for featuring my book on her very cool blog Author Of.  Kate says:
"Want to take the kids on an exotic adventure, but haven't got the budget? Well there's hope! Christine Brodien-Jones' thrilling fantasy/adventure "The Scorpions of Zahir" is sure to thrill those middle-grade readers!"

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stepping on Superman's Cape

So every so often, I work with kids on how to write stories.  We talk a lot about creating characters that we love, that we’re interested in, and that we want to cheer on to success throughout the story. 
Then we talk about giving them problems.  Big problems.  Little problems.  It doesn’t actually matter.  It should just be a problem that almost seems like more than their characters can manage.  And no one wants to do it (including me—because I hate giving my characters a hard time). 
So then we stop and talk about Superman. 
Superman is pretty awesome, right?  He can fly, for starters, which is my very favorite superpower.  He is strong, bulletproof, can melt things with his eyes, and has higher than genius intelligence.  He’s also good-looking, pleasant, kind, and honorable.  He’s someone you can always count on: The sort of person I’d like to have as a neighbor in real life.*     
But if Superman were just simply super, I wouldn’t want to *read* about him.  His stories wouldn’t be stories, they’d just be boring scenarios that have a beginning and an end, but no real middle.  They would look something like this. 

1. There is a problem (An evil villain has a planet-destroying laser pointed at earth.  T-Rexes are brought back to life in the Natural History Museum and are terrorizing tourists.  A kitten is up in a tree and won’t come down). 

2. Superman fixes it.  The end.

            Fortunately, the creators of Superman realized this, and so they gave him a very big and very mean problem: kryptonite. Basically, Superman is super unless he’s around kryptonite.  Around kryptonite, he’s a sniveling mess.  Kryptonite is what changes these simple scenarios into real stories.  It’s what gives the story a middle instead of just a set-up and an ending. 

1. There is a problem (An evil villain has a planet-destroying laser pointed at earth.  T-Rexes are brought back to life in the Natural History Museum and are terrorizing tourists.  A kitten is up in a tree and won’t come down). 

2. Superman heads off to save the day, only to discover that the laser is made of kryptonite/the T-Rexes have been brought back to life with kryptonite/kitten in tree has kryptonite and a zealous hatred of all humans).  Now, even though Superman is the only one in the world who can die from kryptonite exposure, he’s still also the only who can save the day—so he has to risk everything.  He will be tested.  He will lose the strengths he’s always relied on and will discover new strengths he didn’t realize he had. 

3. Superman overcomes his weakness.  The laser is destroyed, the T-Rexes are subdued, and the kitten is stopped, even if only temporarily (because there is no way that kitten is done trying to destroy humankind yet).  The audience cheers.  The end. 

So I’d say the meanest thing I’ve ever done to the characters I’ve created is been too chicken to give them a problem worthy of their abilities.  It leaves them stranded without a story worth telling.  And that is a very sad place for a fictional character to be. 

*well, maybe.  Superman’s lawn is probably always perfect in the summer and the sidewalk in front of his house is probably always the first one shoveled in the winter.  He also probably never takes the recycling out while still in his pajamas.  So it's possible probable I would grow to resent how bad he's always making me look.  I can be very petty.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

April Theme: When I Just Don't Care

So I was going back and forth between writing unlikable characters and writing characters that I don't care about, and decided that the whole unlikeable character thing would require the sort of extensive self-psychoanalysis that would only be interesting to me, and then wouldn't even hold me for very long, which brings me to...

When I just don't care.
The signs?

*I've written a character that is all caricature, no complexity. 
*My character has catchphrases, signature gestures, and nothing else. They're "the _____one."
*My character only exists to demonstrate some clever language, trick, or idea of mine that I think readers MUST see, because they must know how clever I am.
*They are boring, boring, boring.

Once in a while, I do write a shallow character on purpose, as a device that moves the story forward, or illuminates an idea or theme. (Or I try. Or just so I can say "I meant to do that.") But for the most part, even if they don't have a lot of time "on stage", or are only briefly mentioned in passing, I have to do my best to make sure they really mean something to the story, to me, and to the reader, or it hurts. And it's boring, or irritating, or both.

And that would be the worst!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A cautionary tale

Just saying my goodbyes
The living was the prize
The ending’s not the story"
--William Finn, Elegies

At last, the secret I’ve kept closest to my vest has been revealed.
I am a terrible blogger.
Not just terrible, mind you. PHENOMENALLY terrible. Atrocious, some might say.

When Holly asked me to join Smack Dab, drawing me in with the promise that it was only once a month, I warned her that I would miss some posts. I warned her that I probably wouldn’t be very good at it. It’s a sad victory to know just how right I was.
I’ve enjoyed being a member of the Smack Dab crew but, alas, this is my final post. I’ve so enjoyed the camaraderie of all these talented writers.  It’s not easily that I trod off yet trod I must.
If I have a parting thought, it is this; DON’T OVEREXTEND YOURSELF! Know your limits. Better than that, RESPECT your limits. Manage your ambition so you don’t end up like me.
Yes, I am the cautionary tale the members of this blog will whisper about for years to come. “And there was Brian, who was an abysmal blogger and nearly drove himself insane with the guilt of not blogging. They say he eats his own hair as penance.”
Seriously, though, it’s been fun. So many great and insightful posts.  I wish my fellow Smackers (Dabbers?) nothing but the absolute best, both on the blog and off. Keep writing up a storm! Keep supporting each other! And most importantly: DON'T EAT YOUR HAIR.

Catch you on the flipside, daddios!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Theme: Unfinished Stories

Stephanie J. Blake

The worst thing I have ever done to one of my characters? I've left some of their stories unfinished. Who has a box of unfinished or rejected manuscripts? I do.

There's the story of three boys who start a summer business. Each boy is dealing with a family issue, and these problems have brought them together in friendship. Mattie's dad died, Jefferson's dad lives in Seattle, and Trevor's dad is an overbearing sports junkie. Did their business fail? Does Annabelle stop tormenting them?

"Trevor stared at his dad’s blubbery belly. If he was so good at football in college, why hadn't he gone pro instead of becoming a tax accountant? How boring." --from Walking the Dogs (MG)

What about Kat? She's had a rough junior year and it's only spiraled. Her boyfriend left her in the lurch with an unplanned pregnancy and her father, the school principal, keeps reminding her that she lives in a fishbowl.

"Now, you’ve done it.
Don’t you know that our family lives in a fishbowl?
What you do with that boy reflects on my abilities as an educator.
How can I effectively manage 200 high school students
when I can’t even control my own daughter?" ---From Kat in the Fishbowl (a YA verse novel)

Then there's 11-year old Liberty Moon. Her dad is getting remarried and the school bully is a horrible girl. What happens to her imaginary friend and her not-so-wicked stepmother? Does Liberty win the Citizenship award? Is her stepmother really okay?

"Everyone knows that flower girls are never eleven and three quarters." --From "Liberty Moon is Totally Doomed." (MG)

Layla Watson lives in a tiny town she calls the Armpit of Colorado. A strange, and very cute, but troubled boy comes to town and Layla falls for him when he starts working in the family butcher shop. Layla's best friend Ethan has a secret crush, but is it on Layla or the new boy?

"You may as well know a couple of important things about me, up front. A: I’m not ugly, I’m perfectly cute. B. I have never cut, colored, or curled my waist-length hair. C: I don’t eat red meat, even though my parents, and my grandparents before them, own the biggest meat market in the area. And 4: I will always live in the shadow of my dead brother, but I don’t like to talk about that. Ever." --From "Meat Market" (YA romance)

Layla, Liberty, Mattie, and Kat have unfinished stories...these poor kids are stuck in my computer or in my head. That's the cruelest thing I've ever done to one of my characters.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


TS Eliot called April the cruelest month: Here are some lines from:

April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
"Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?

Here is my: 
April is the cruelest month because it resurrects us
from winter dormancy. When
maybe I don’t want to.
The characters we create resurrect us
because through them we explore our own lives. Even though
sometimes I don’t want to.
The dead things, the failures, the refuse we would rather not look at
live in our characters. Because
            I don’t want to.
April sun and rain grapple with memories and trauma, pushing them
toward the light and breaking through the soil hurts. Always
            when I don’t want to.
In April, desire stirs. You want to stuff that desire down in the dirt
because you know the pain of trampled shoots. Especially
when I don’t want to.
You get tired. Winter comes. You forget.
Then April, so cruelly you awaken us. Even
            when I don’t want to.

            I want to.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Greatness Inspired by Bad Things 

Like the other bloggers posting here this month, I’ve done some terrible things to my characters. You can’t throw twelve-year-old boys into war, as I do, without some horrific things happening. My boys have been forced to cross enemy lines in the midst of a great battle, slip across an icy harbor in the dead of winter (and the dead of night) to try and save a revolution, and even withstand Gestapo interrogation. Without overtly asking it, I was answering the question that @Bob Krech shared in this space, via Bruce Coville, earlier this month: What’s the WORST thing that can happen now?

As an aside, isn’t that brilliant? I plan to be asking myself that question when I’m plotting and revising from here on out. Because what are we here for if not to torture our characters?

Of course conflict is what keeps readers turning the pages, but in thinking about this month’s theme, I realized that there’s a common thread that weaves its way throughout my books. Not just my Boys of Wartime novels, but also throughout my middle grade biographies of George Washington and Harriet Tubman, and my book for younger readers, I Grew Up to be President. I realized that what I’m really writing about are ordinary people, ordinary kids, who find themselves in extraordinary situations. And in those situations, my subjects discover that they can be extraordinary.

Harriet Tubman began her fight for freedom the first time she ran away from a master at the age of five or six and hid in a pigsty for days to avoid a beating.

All of the men (and soon women, I hope) in I Grew Up to be President started out as ordinary kids—exploring the woods like George Washington, sneaking away to read in his grandfather’s library like Benjamin Harrison, or working the family farm like James A. Garfield. Ordinary kids, and for the most part ordinary childhoods, but yet they grew up to be president.

And of course in my Boys of Wartime novels things get really bad. Daniel, a spy for General Washington, finds himself trying to save the American Revolution when he discovers a traitor in the Commander-in-Chief’s inner circle. Will, after working tirelessly to help the Union during the horrific three-day battle, finds an unlikely friend, a Confederate drummer boy, wounded and in desperate need of medical attention. And Michael, poor Michael, thinks he has led the Gestapo right to his own front door when he brings an ill American pilot home rather than see him arrested by the Nazis in World War II Paris.

But in each of these terrible situations, my ordinary characters, my typical twelve-year-old boys, find the strength and the courage within themselves to be extraordinary.

I’ve never been tested like my characters have. I’ve never sat across from an enemy soldier and thought I might lose my life. I’ve never had to make a desperate journey to save myself and others, but I like to think that in a moment like that, when things are as dark as they can possibly be, I would rise to the occasion like my characters do. And I hope my readers, inspired by Daniel, Will, and Michael and all the real heroes out there, believe that they, too, can do the same.

What I wish for my readers to know is that in their dark moments they can trust themselves to find the strength, the courage, and the daring they need to survive. And so I torture my characters, not only so that my readers will keep turning the pages, but so that they can believe in their own potential for greatness.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In Praise of Wolves and Other Risks

I love my characters--I don’t want bad things to happen to them, but sometimes they do.   They don’t happen because I want to inflict cruelty on my characters; bad things happen because life is cruel, and fiction is trouble, and a character in trouble is what makes my stories move. 

In truth, I’m often sorry for their troubles.  When I started Keeping Safe the Stars, I didn’t know Pride and Nightingale and Baby Star, I didn’t know the avalanche of trouble waiting for those kids.  I only knew their guardian, Old Finn, had driven to the hospital and hadn’t come back home.  And there they were, worrying and waiting, and wondering if something bad had happened to Old Finn.

Of course it had, but I don’t blame myself for that.  After all, I didn’t even know Old Finn, I was meeting this family for the first time, and I was just as scared and saddened as the children when a few short pages later I discovered with them that Old Finn had a serious infection in his brain. Oh no! I thought.  What next? 

On many, many days, the “what next” is what keeps me at the page.  I write in a state of anxious wonder, eager to discover how the trouble will turn out.   Will Old Finn come home soon?  And if he doesn’t, how will they survive?  What about food?  Money?  What happens to three kids in a cabin in the country all alone? 

Perhaps a kinder writer would have let Old Finn stroll home by chapter two—happy, healthy, ready to make breakfast for the kids.  Problem solved, trouble thankfully averted, the Stars could go on to live perfect, peaceful lives.  But I’m already yawning; I can’t continue writing about tranquility—not without some danger up ahead.  Imagine Red Riding Hood delivering the basket to her grandma and the two of them sitting down to supper with a perfect little feast.  Dinner done, Red kisses her good-bye and goes back home.  Would such a happy tale ever hold a reader’s interest?  Let alone become a classic tale?  If we’re honest, we admit we only care about that tale because the wolf promises real risk, and although it might seem cruel to have grandma served for supper, it’s the horror of that story that keeps the reader rapt.   

So Pride and Nightingale and Baby?  As much as I adored those kids, I couldn’t keep them out of trouble.  Like all my cherished characters, they had to save themselves. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bad Things My Characters Have Done to Me (April Theme) by Kristin Levine

The theme this month is the bad things we've done to our characters.  I don't feel like I've done anything bad to them.  They've done bad thing to ME!  Here are five examples.  My characters have:

1. Kept me up at night, worrying about them and how I was going to (somewhat realistically) get them out of the messes they'd gotten themselves into.

2. Caused me to drink coffee at 4 PM, which yes, allows me to get more work done, but also leads to sleepless nights (see #1).

3. Changed their names on me two or three times, to the extent that sometimes when I'm at a school visit and a student asks about "Bob" I have trouble remembering who that is, because I still think of him as "Henry."

4. Gotten me lots of strange looks at the coffee shop, when I'm working on a section of dialogue and I accidentally start talking to myself to get a feel for a character's voice.

5. Kept secrets from me, such as when the main character in Lions of Little Rock did not reveal to me that she had trouble talking until I had already written the entire first draft.

I guess in some ways, I really do think of my characters as people separate from me.  They might make me worry, embarrass me and cause me extra work, but gosh, I really do love them too.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April Theme: Small Bad Things

Like all authors who try to craft a compelling story, I give my characters challenging problems to deal with.  Occasionally I give them what the world might agree is a major problem: my recent novel One Square Inch is about a sixth-grade boy who creates an imaginary world with his little sister where they can escape from their mother’s bipolar disorder; my forthcoming novel Zero Tolerance is about a seventh-grade girl who finds herself facing mandatory expulsion under her school’s harsh “zero tolerance” policies when she brings an apple-cutting knife to school by mistake after having snatched the wrong lunchbox off the counter that morning. 

But usually I give my characters problems that the rest of the world would think are very small. The biggest trouble Wilson faces in 7 x 9 = Trouble! is whether he can pass all his timed multiplication tests by the deadline to receive a promised ice cream cone.  The only disasters Mason faces in Mason Dixon: Fourth Grade Disasters are having to sing in public and having his dog eat the head off the school’s beloved stuffed-toy-dragon mascot.

I was criticized once years ago, in a scathing review of my book Losers, Inc. in the New York Times (my one and only review in the Times), for choosing to write about small problems. The reviewer mocked me for writing about a kid who wishes he were taller, feels bad that he isn’t as successful as his super-star older brother, and dies a thousand deaths when a girl in his class keeps writing love poems to him. The reviewer, in a line I’ll never forget, called my book “sanitized, censorship-proof vanilla pudding,” noting that other authors were tackling problems like drive-by shootings and prenatal crack addiction.

In one of the many letters that I wrote in reply (but fortunately did not send!), I remember saying that to write for children is almost by definition to write about problems that the rest of the world doesn’t think are very important. Yes, Wilson’s problems are small, and Mason’s problems are small – and Ramona Quimby, Junie B Jones, and Clementine have small problems, too. But the problems don’t feel small to these characters, and I don’t think they feel small to child readers, either.

This week of the tragic Boston Marathon explosions is a week where we know all too well that the world is full of huge, terrible, brutal, hideous cruelty. But there is still room in children’s fiction for honoring the small problems of children, problems that matter to the small people who live them, however little they matter in the scheme of things. Even as I’m reeling from the senseless carnage in Boston, I still care whether or not a third grader can earn his math-reward ice cream cone, and whether a fourth grader who hates to sing can make himself step up to the microphone to help his best friend overcome stage fright during a school concert.

Small things matter, too.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hard Days and Helpers (Stephanie Burgis)

I had a post all prepared for today, to fit the month's theme.

Then I saw the news last night. The pictures of Boston, the lives lost, the fear and injuries in a city that I love, a city where so many of my friends live. I went to sleep feeling numb.

Then I woke up to the news of the earthquake in Iran.

This is a late post, today, because for a long time, I didn't know what to write about. I didn't even know if I should write about anything at all or if I should just stay silent. In the end, this is what I came up with.

Today, I can't post about writing. Today, this month's theme (when bad things happen to good characters) feels too true-to-life, too painful to write about.

Today, this is all I really want to post, because it's something I've come back to again and again since I first saw it posted on Facebook a few months ago:

There are awful, awful images on the news today.

But there are also so many helpers, in both countries. And today, that's what I'm hanging onto.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Doing Bad Things to Characters (April Theme) by Bob Krech

I once heard prolific middle-grade author Bruce Coville speak during a school visit. I think he's a very talented writer and a very funny guy. He told the audience that when he writes a book he realizes that the book is in competition for a reader's attention with television, movies, youtube, phones, e-mail, texting and all sorts of other enticing ways to spend time.

Bruce Coville
In order to compete with all these choices, Coville says he might give a character, say a boy named Sam, a book and that Sam has to deliver this very important book safely to a mysterious old man on the other side of town. As soon as Sam leaves the house, a dog will chase Sam. It will begin to rain. A car will drive by splashing the book with water. Sam will take off his shirt to dry the book and the girl he likes will see him without his shirt in the rain. Her friends will laugh at him and the girl will join in. Then three bullies will be attracted by the attention and come over to see what all the fuss is about. They will see shirtless Sam and start throwing mud balls at him. One of them will take Sam's shirt and find the book. Then they will pass the book around holding it high over Sam's head. Then they will toss the book high in the air where it is suddenly snatched by a huge bird which flies toward the creek with it. Well, you get the picture. 

Coville says he tries to think of terrible obstacles that his hero must overcome in order to reach the goal. "What's the worst thing that could happen now?" he asks. He follows that up with "What could even be worse now?" The obstacles help make the book exciting and interesting and the hero must persevere (as a hero should) and overcome those obstacles in order to change in a positive way (as most heros do) and finally reach the goal. I think it's good advice and I've tried to follow it in many of the things I've written. I especially like to begin a book with an obstacle or "bad thing" right away in the first chapter. In the first chapter of Rebound, main character, Ray Wisniewski tries out for his high school basketball team with high hopes. During the tryout he is embarrassed by another player dribbling right through his legs, the coach ignores him, and at the end of the tryout he is cut. In the first chapter of Love Puppies and Corner Kicks, Andrea tries desperately to get her parents to change their minds about moving the family to Scotland for a year with no luck. Using the Coville method, in the second chapter once Andrea is in Scotland she finds out she has to live with her principal. What could be worse? Well, in Chapter 3 she throws up in his coat closet. In Chapter 4, well,  you get the picture.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

“Middleview” Interview with Debut Author Joe Lawlor

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, Joe Lawlor is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Joe’s debut middle grade novel BULLY.COM, EerdmansBooks For Young Readersreleased earlier this month, on 4/01/2013! Congratulations, Joe!

Here is Joe's biography:

Joe Lawlor works as a sixth grade Language Arts teacher.  He enjoys the challenge of working with adolescents, while secretly taking notes on his target audience.  He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and young son.

BULLY.COM description:

Jun never wanted to be a detective. He’s a shy kid, better at interfacing with PCs than people. But his world turns upside down when the principal accuses him of posting pictures on the school's website that expose the eating disorder of one of his classmates.
To prove his innocence, Jun has seven days to track down the true cyber bully. 

Jun's investigation will bring him face-to face with computer hackers, a jealous boyfriend, and more than one student who has been a victim of bullying. He discovers along the way that everyone's story is more complicated than it seems -- and that the people he meets have more in common than they think.

Here are links to Joe online: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon,

And now it’s time to hear from our guest.

Smack Dab Middleview with BULLY.COM author Joe Lawlor

1. What does your main character Jun want?

To clear his name.  He’s not a cyberbully and he’s determined to prove it to the principal.  He quickly discovers that his computer know-how isn’t the only reason he’s been accused.  He was spotted on the same library computer from which the blog was sent, and the timeframe his class was in the library matches the time the blog was posted.  Everything is against Jun, except for the fact that he’s innocent.

2. What is in Jun’s way?

Hunting a cyberbully isn’t easy.  The anonymity of the internet means anyone in school could be a suspect.  Then there’s Jun’s personality.  He’s a computer geek, better at interfacing with PCs than people.  Interviewing suspects is the last thing he wants to do.  He’ll have to overcome his natural shyness if he wants to clear his name.

3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?

I believe in outlining.  I meticulously laid out all my clues and followed my outline to the letter.  Along the way, however, Jun began whispering in my ear.  He had other ideas about the path he should follow.  The whispering was faint but insistent.  Ultimately, I took some detours.  It made for a great deal of extra work, but in the end I had a more character-driven story.

4. Was BULLY.COM always for middle grade readers or not? If so, why did you choose middle grade? If not, what had to change for it to be considered a middle grade novel?

I am a sixth grade language arts teacher.  Middle-grade kids are my job.  All day, I drink in their energy, their insecurities, and their silly sense of humor.  I know their language, and their tribal customs, so when it came time to write my cyberbullying story, which may have been better suited to a high school setting, it had to be a middle-grade novel.  It’s the world I know.

5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?

Middle grade kids are a bizarre blend of sophistication and silliness.  They’re old enough to wrap their brains around twisty plotlines and grapple with complex character emotions.  And yet, they still think it’s hilarious when a classmate rushes into homeroom with bedhead.  For an author, this is an attractive combination.  I can tackle tough topics while sprinkling the novel with moments of humor to lighten the tone.

6. Is there any downside?

As a teacher, I believe the best way to learn new words is to be exposed to them in the context of a well-written sentence.  Despite this, there are just some words that don’t belong in a middle-grade novel.  Ubiquitous, quixotic, idiosyncratic—all these words are in the penalty box until I decide to write more adult fiction.

7. A question Joe asks himself: Why write middle grade fiction?

Because growing up, I was the middle child.  Because I teach middle school.  Because at 40, I’m middle aged.  It’s hard to be stuck in the middle, but good writing is all about conflict and what better place to insert a protagonist than caught between two immovable forces.

Thank you for joining us for a Middleview today at Smack Dab Blog, Joe! Congratulations, again, on the release of BULLY.COM; we’ll look for it on bookshelves!