A noun is a puppet, a verb pulls its strings.
Ah, writing. When Dante visited Hell, he saw millions of writers sitting at their desks, feverishly writing. When Dante visited Heaven, he saw millions of writers sitting at their desks, feverishly writing. He told his guide Beatrice he saw no difference between the writers in Hell and those in Heaven. “In Heaven," she explained, "they get published.”
Upcoming picture book : Whale in a Fishbowl, about a whale who lives in captivity and longs for the sea.
(Schwartz & Wade / Fall 2017)
(Schwartz & Wade / Fall 2017)
The Dragon of Cripple Creek (Abrams / Amulet)
Chosen for the American Booksellers Association’s “New Voices 2011”
Shortlisted for the 2012 “Reading the West” award
An Accelerated Reader book
"I hate it when really wonderful illustrators turn out to be even more wonderful at writing novels. But how can I hate Troy Howell whose sassy, self-aware (and hurting) heroine Kat has one of the freshest voices in children's novels today. Whose dragon Ye has a marvelous world-weary insouciance. Whose landscapes and cave-scapes are as visualized in words as in his paintings. You guessed it: I love this book."
—Jane Yolen, author of The Devil's Arithmetic and The Dragon's Boy
"Troy Howell's heroine, Kat, is as luminous as the gold she hides in her pocket. Readers better hang on to their hats as she tells her funny, sad, lyrical, and finally, breathtaking tale. I absolutely love this book."
—Mary Pope Osbourne, author of The Magic Tree House series
buy the book here or here
A Perfect Fit (Dorothy's Song)
Twinkle, twinkle, myriad stars
Upon two silver shoes;
I wish I may in wondrous flight
Away to where I choose.
A tap together of the heels,
A yearning of the soul,
And through a moment’s passageway
Across the heavens stroll.
No place I go—exotic, rare,
Exceeding great or fine--
No place, but to a simple state,
Modest by design.
No other comforts capture me,
No other people share
The plain familiarity,
The unassuming care.
The evening star above my bed,
Beneath my feet the loam
That holds the seed
that grows the life:
The place I call my home.
Note: In the original tale by L. Frank Baum Dorothy’s shoes are silver
from OZ: THE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
( Books of Wonder / HarperCollins / Peter Glassman, editor)
cover art by Maurice Sendak
River City Secrets Stories from Richmond (Chop Suey Books)
24 stories of imagination and adventure, with universal themes, set in many of the historic spots of Virginia’s capital city. Intended for young readers, enjoyed by all ages.
Here’s an excerpt from my story “The Vision,” about the native inhabitants of Virginia before Richmond rose on the river, before the river was called the James, before the Europeans came conquering …
That is when Cloud Eyes ran.
The wind opened for him and the woods sped by. He caught up with muskrat, who lumbered into the brush; and white-mouthed snake, who slithered into a hole. He caught up with deer, who leaped out of his way. Cloud Eyes ran with the fantastic images blazing in his head. He ran all morning without a pause and into the village by noon. Though his body ached and his lips were charred, he found the first shaman, who was Makes A Path, and said, I have seen--
But no sound came out.
buy the book here.
A Dime a Dozen
I’m occasionally asked where my ideas come from, and I usually give a vague answer. Most writers do. After all, we don’t want to make it too easy. If everyone took up writing, who’d be left to feed us? But I also believe in sharing. It’s just smart business. And today, I’m in a sharing mode. So, here goes.
I get my ideas from a discreet mail order company. Nothing spectacular. Maybe that’s why so few people know about it. You’d expect ideas to come from some metaphysical place. But, nope.
You can’t find the company on the Web, so don’t bother. They’ve been around a long, long time, and prefer anonymity. They use the old hand-delivery method, and you place your order by mail. I usually order a great amount, because the ideas are about a dime a dozen—literally—and most of them are small. There are four basic packages:
GrandCentral—1000 ideas for $99.95
Centumplex—100 for $9.99
60-Watt—60 for $6
Starter-Pak—20 for $2
(Shipping and handling determined by location.)
I usually order a few of the Centumplexes, or a GrandCentral, because the bigger the order, the higher your chances of getting a big idea. The company knows this and that’s how they make a profit. They maintain that the selection process is random. They use a hand scoop, a snow shovel, or a bucket loader, depending on the size of your order. Once you place your order, a plainly wrapped box with a modest label is delivered to your door. It takes two to seven days, depending on where you live. You’re required to sign for the package.
It’s always a thrill for me to open the box. I immediately look for a big idea. Most of the ideas are like pebbles, or Jelly-Bellies. I use a magnifying glass to read the small print. Some of the ideas are crazy, and act like Mexican jumping beans. Remove any ideas that seem rotten, or you run the risk of others rotting, too. The bad ones are usually rip-offs of something profound. Once, when I found a cheap imitation of Milton Glaser’s I♥NY and complained to customer service that it had little connection with writing, they explained that now and then ideas from another division (in this case Marketing) get misplaced. Many of the ideas are dull, but you will see a few bright ones, and that’s always a treat. If you’re lucky, there’ll be a big one, even two or three. The big ones have a more interesting shape and a deep patina, and can be read with your unaided eye.
The company also offers inklings and notions, which are dirt cheap and recyclable. If you don’t see any you can develop further, just return the lot within the 10-day period and get your money back, minus the S&H. It sounds like a bargain, but I’ve never seen anything I could really use. I think it’s basically stuff they sweep off the floor.
There you have it. The secret is out. (Not entirely, of course: Notice I haven’t given any contact information. I believe every writer must discover that himself.) By the way, the idea for this article came from an order I received last week. It was one of the smaller ones, but it was bright, and it works. Don't you think?
In a parallel mouse hole, the mice are building a better humantrap.
from The Fairy Malfunction
Here is an excerpt from my next children's novel, in which Sparks, a fairy with underdeveloped wings, tries to find her place in the fairy world.
This chapter appears near the end of the book, when she returns to her favorite place, a place the Ogre Queen destroyed, to find it has been restored.
By now she is at peace with herself and has the ability to cross The Great Stream (which people call the Stream of Consciousness) into the human realm.
Perhaps it was just fantasy.
After all, that was the world she lived in.
Or perhaps she was seeing things. She was seeing things, no question there: Her eyes were open wide. Whether what she saw existed in her dreams or outside of them, was the doubt.
But when a bright gold leaf fell at her feet (for it was early autumn, and the sky shone a radiant blue), a real birch leaf that now she held within her hand, brushing her fingers on its warm, satin surface and down its edges and veins, and smelling its sun-soaked chlorophyll, a leaf from a bright gold tree standing tall among others of its kind, which circled a glittering pool that reflected a section of sky, as if to show the sky above how heavenly it was ...
That’s when she knew.
It was incredibly unreal.
“Greetings,” said the unicorn.
He was so stunningly beautiful, we won’t even try to describe him. He sat with his legs tucked in, surrounded by Solomon’s seal flowers that bloomed more fragrant and free than they had ever bloomed before. His tail was as long as his body. His horn was as long as that too, and had a roughened, broken end.
“I’ve waited for you,” he said.
“You have?” said Sparks, completely spellbound.
“Oh, yes. And believe me, you are one-of-a-kind, genuine, the best. I’ve heard everything about you.”
She blushed, and smiled her gap-toothed smile. (Gritrump had done a scrupulous job, and her mouth felt much better for it.) “But ... how?”
“We have a mutual friend.”
Up popped the frog on cue, a wet cap of moss on his head. “Missed you, babe.”
The three of them whiled away the time, and time didn’t mind at all. There was lots of chatter, catching up on many things—how Jots stayed buried deep in the muck, waiting to be rescued; how Sparks had made it all worse by pouring out the siren’s song; how the unicorn had wandered far, in quest of the Ogre Queen, and, on finding the shriveled pool, how he wakened it with his horn, as if resurrecting the dead--
“Worse than dead,” said Sparks. “It was twice cursed.”
The unicorn agreed this was true.
“But you saved it!” She touched his silvery mane, which, though matted with briars and twigs, was resplendent.
“I was thirsty,” he said.
He went on to explain there were three Ogre Queens—each one claiming the title because they were triplets, no eldest or youngest among them—who constantly fought for control. “Astonishing behavior,” said the unicorn. “Not exactly your neighborly norms.”
“But how did you—”
“Yes,” said the unicorn. “I will tell you. But since there’s nothing nice about it, I’ll keep it to the point.” He paused as if waiting for something. “That’s a joke.”
“Oh,” said Sparks.
Jots chuckled, yawned, and chuckled again.
“Since there was no way to tell them apart, I skewered each of them,” he said casually. “They put up a bumpy fight. Nothing to fool around with. But one of them got away—”
“She fell into the Ogre Queen trap!” said Sparks, excited to let him know. “Now it’s a wonderful place!”
“Indeed,” said the unicorn, flaring his nostrils.
“She turned to stone!”
“They do have that tendency.”
“Here’s what I found inside ...” She pulled out the tip of his horn.
The unicorn was calm. “Hold it here,” he said quietly, “where I can nuzzle it.”
That’s when she understood—the unicorn was blind. She had wondered about his eyes, which had a dreamy look, as well as the area around them, discolored as with a birthmark. He must have sensed her wonder, and while she combed out his mane with her fingers, he told her the rest of his tale.
“All that I’ve ever seen,” he said in an unhurried voice, “is a canopy of dense leaves, and my mother’s eyes on me. The Ogre Queen—one of the Ogre Queens—destroyed her when I was born, and in the blur of battle, as my mother hid me away, the brute’s slaver hit my face.”
There was nothing more to say. The leaves fell one by one, and the day burned blue above. Sparks, the unicorn, even Jots, were each adrift in thought (though Jots began to snore).
Then, when Sparks started to say how she’d lost her two front teeth, the unicorn remarked, “Looks mean nothing to me. Though I suppose it’s like losing the tip of your horn. Tell me about the sky.”