Guest Post: Barbie Meets Dante, by John Espie

The following is a guest post by the author of The Tenth Floor, a delightful holiday story that can be enjoyed by adults and MG readers alike:

When my daughter turned 3 years old, we’d already established a nightly routine:  she’d don her PJ’s, the two of us would crawl into her bed, and we'd read three... or four... or five picture books before the yawns set in, and she’d drift off to sleep.  I’d cuddle with her, listening to her adorable little snore, and I’d know that life couldn’t get any better than this.

By her fourth birthday, I’d have chosen to gouge my eyeballs out rather than read another Barbie Princess story.  “Hey, I can do better than this,” became my mantra. 

I penned a handful of picture books, but the hitch in my giddyap was that I have exactly zero artistic ability.  My line drawings made Shel Silverstein look like Rembrandt.   

Nevertheless, the writing was still good, so I shared the stories with an arty family member who seemed ecstatic for the collaboration.  But the stories languished until he reluctantly admitted that it wasn’t going to happen.  I coerced another family member into agreeing to work with me, and the stories languished a bit longer, so I tried somebody else, and so on.   

Eventually, years’ worth of sand trickled through the hourglass, my daughter grew too old for picture books, and I moved on with my life. 

Except... every Christmastime, my wife would ask what I was doing with “that one story” about the girl and the broken elevator. 

Ah, that story!  I had to admit that it was a solid idea:  on Christmas eve, a little girl helps an elderly man climb from the lobby of a building up to its top floor.  As they rise from level to level, their adventure becomes more whimsical, and he teaches her life lessons while seeming to grow physically stronger until they near the roof and... well, I'll let you make your own predictions from there. 

For a decade, that dang story gnawed at my brain. 

Nowadays, my daughter is thirteen, a complete bookworm… and she suspects that I’m a writer.  That suspicion may not seem like such a big revelation to you, dear reader, but here’s the thing:  I write my fiction under a pseudonym, and I’m fanatical about keeping my superhero identity a secret.   

“What are you writing, Dad?” she asks. 

“Nothing,” I say, closing my laptop.

“You spend hours sitting at the sofa, typing on the computer,” she grumbles, and then she just… stares at me.

“I’m doing my taxes,” I say, but I think she may have learned about April 15th in middle school.

 She knows! 

So, last January, I hatched a plan:  I’d pen the story as a family-style novella—ala A Christmas Carol—and I’d make my little girl the main character.  Then, I’d give it to her as a present on December 25th, 2021, with a personalized inscription stating that the hardback in her hands was written by none other than her Daddy, and she’s the star. 


I gotta say, I’ve written for some tough editors, but none of them compare to the pressure of writing fiction for my daughter.  I’m up against Rick Riordan and J. K. Rowling, here!

What’s a dad to do?  Tricks!  LOTS of imagery!  Subtly reference Willy Wonka here.  Throw in a biblical allusion there.  And moralistically parallel the floors of the building to the levels of hell in Dante’s Inferno!  She’ll love that, right??? 

(Maybe some of that stuff was more for me than her, but still...) 

It’s now Thanksgiving, and I’ve got the best piece of writing that I’ve ever produced.  I even went so far as to commission original artwork for the cover, crafted around a photograph of none other than my very own daughter.

Wow!  I can’t wait for Christmas, hoping that this will be a gift that she’ll treasure forever.  The only thing that could make it cooler is if it connects with other folks who share it with their kids.  The thought that maybe other parents will be able to share some of the same joy in reading my daughter’s story to their children, as I’ll share in reading it with mine… well, that just pushes it over the top, right? 

Merry Christmas, everybody!


From November 22nd through November 27th, John Espie’s novelette The Tenth Floor is FREE at  For those who really fall in love with it, a high-quality paperback is available for purchase, while the hardback version is printed on premium paper and in color, making it an extra-special Christmas gift for friends and family.  

John Espie can be followed via his Amazon author’s page and on Goodreads at where his fiction releases are announced, he can be reached by private message, and he occasionally blogs.





  1. I uploaded this story on my Kindle and look forward to reading it. Thanks for sharing Holly!


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