What I’m Writing

My Deal With Elvis

Twelve-year-old Bailey thinks the only good thing about moving to Milledgeville, Georgia is she can start her life over. But that will only happen if nobody finds out her ginormous secret—her dad’s in the slammer. And now that he’s in jail, he’s broken his promise to take her to all the mysterious places mentioned in the book, Strange Georgia. So Bailey makes her own promise—she’s never going to talk to him again even if he is nearby.

Things don’t improve when Bailey meets Elvis Barnard. His weird extra-large glasses and fake sideburns are a sure giveaway that he’s Georgia’s strangest kid. He’s been obsessed with Elvis Presley ever since he found a picture of his mama with an Elvis impersonator. She died when he was four and he thinks he can honor her memory by winning the school talent show. His act is imitating the King, but it’ll take more than blue suede shoes to help him win. To make matters worse, Elvis butts into Bailey’s budding friendship with Charlotte, the most popular girl in the sixth grade.  

If Bailey can solve a local mystery, she might be somebody. Only she can’t do it alone so she makes a deal with Elvis. She’ll help him with his dance moves if he’ll help her dig up an outlaw’s grave to look for buried loot. So what if the cemetery is over two hundred years old? And maybe haunted. But when two-faced Charlotte threatens to spill Bailey’s secret about her dad, Elvis offers another deal—one that might convince Bailey to accept herself and forgive her father.

Harvey the Bedazzler

Eleven-year-old Sydney has plenty to worry about.  The most popular girl in the sixth grade has stolen her best friend and her parents seem headed for divorce.

But when her family travels to Amelia Island, Florida to attend the funeral of a grandfather she barely remembers, things really begin to unravel. For the first time, Sydney hears stories about Grandpa Harvey’s too-incredible-to-be-true adventures. Like the tale about how her grandpa was rescued by a giant turtle when he was in the Vietnam War. And one where her grandpa entered a pig in a dog show—and won.  And another about how he made repairs on a witch’s house in exchange for a map to find his way out of the swamps. But Sydney’s dad, who’s still holding a grudge, thinks they’re all lies and wants to bury the stories with his father.

Sydney, with the help of her new friend, Nick, has only days to find proof and convince her dad that the stories are true. Along the way she might find the courage to have an adventure of her own and finally get to know her grandfather. And just maybe she can help fix the hole in her dad’s heart and save her family from falling apart.

HARVEY THE BEDAZZLER is a 37K contemporary middle grade novel with magical realism. It can best be described as Big FishA Novel of Mythic Proportions (Daniel Wallace) for kids, alternating between the present and past (1960s-1970s) in a way similar to Holes.

Drive-through Miracle

It’s hotter than heck this summer in Jessup, Georgia and twelve-year-old Mae spends most days sitting on the bench outside the Piggly Wiggly. She stops by the grocery store’s bakery to visit Miss Fannie, who makes the best cookies in the tri-county area. But when Mae discovers the folks in town are visiting the church’s drive-through prayer, figuring out what they’re praying for becomes her new summer hobby.

First it’s Mae’s sworn enemy, Bubba Duncan, who after an unfortunate dodge ball incident in the second grade, has taken to torturing her every chance he gets. Mae reckons he’s praying for Twinkies or some smarts. Then Davis Hampton, the town’s onetime super star, stops by. His prayer is pretty obvious since the Atlanta Braves released him for using drugs. He needs a job and the hardware store where they answer the phone, “Smith’s Hardware, where there’s a bolt for every nut,” is likely the best he can do. But when her best friend—make that only—friend, Jimmy Mac, stops by the drive-through, Mae can’t believe he hasn’t shared his burden with her.

Mae’s convinced they’re all wasting their time. She gave up on prayer a long time ago after nothing changed for her older sister. Shelby was born with cerebral palsy and years of praying couldn’t change the fact that she’d never be a regular sister.

But when Mae’s tricked into praying for Miss Fannie to win Georgia’s Best Baker Contest, Mae finds a tiny glimmer of hope. Maybe Davis Hampton hasn’t blown his only chance at making his dream come true. And maybe Miss Fannie won’t be stuck behind a grocery store counter forever. And just maybe Mae can find a way to show her sister that she loves her.

That last thing might never happen, but perhaps somebody in this tiny town can have a happy ending. All it will take is a miracle.

You can read about the origin of this idea here.

Harold – The Kid Who Ruined My Life and Saved the Day

Harold has ruined twelve-year-old Jake’s life for the last time. So what if Harold has Asperger’s and is a genius when it comes to baseball trivia and sixth grade Algebra. Jake’s D-O-N-E.

Harold collects baseball facts like the Smithsonian collects dead things and Jake is convinced that Harold also has a talent for killing his social life. Jake’s known Harold ever since kindergarten, and now that he’s in middle school he can finally be free of Harold and his obsession with the New York Yankees.  Harold’s on the accelerated track which means he’ll spend all his time in the super smart classes all the way on the second floor.

With Harold out of the way, Jake can focus on landing a spot with the undefeated Comets. The best Jake’s baseball team can do is second place and he’ll do whatever it takes to get on the number one team even if it means leaving his friends and his dad, the coach, behind. Once he’s rid of Harold and playing shortstop for a winning team, being one of the cool kids is in his glove.

But just as Jake finally gets a seat at lunch next to the Comets’ players, the unthinkable happens. Harold gets B lunch and in the words of Yogi Berra, it’s “deja vu all over again.”

If Jake wants to play for the Comets, he’ll have to ditch Harold for good and make it stick this time. Only he might decide that winning isn’t everything and that loyal friends are hard to find. And it’s just possible that Harold’s knowledge of expert plays can help Jake and his old team beat the undefeated Comets.

The Summer I Started a Business, Solved a Bank Robbery, and Showed Up on Cajun Pawn Stars

An old folks’ home is not where twelve-year-old Haley wants to spend her summer, but it’s where her mom works and Haley is stuck tagging along. At least she has plenty of time to figure out a way to make enough cash to buy a cell phone and smuggling contraband in is just the ticket. It turns out old people have a sweet tooth and selling snacks to the residents is a real money-maker.

Things turn less lame when Haley finds out that the newest resident, a retired Marine, likes her favorite TV show. He lets her watch Cajun Pawn Stars with him for the small price of a few Oreos an episode. Haley’s summer gets exciting when she discovers sixteen-year-old Rachel who’s living at the facility because it’s cheaper than a hospital. The only problem is she’s in a coma thanks to the driver of a getaway car. Rachel’s roommate is 80-something Miss Essie who can’t remember that the year is 2013 and Jimmy Carter is no longer President. So when she tells Haley that the strange men who come to visit Rachel are actual bank robbers who want to hurt the only witness, Haley has to decide if Miss Essie might be right.

If a kid who’s stranded for the summer, a former Marine General who’s given up on life, and an old lady with Alzheimer’s can solve a bank robbery and prevent a murder,  it’s possible Haley will have the best How I Spent My Summer essay in the history of middle school.

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