New Website Revealed!


You know that moment when you’re wondering if you should trade in your cow for three magic beans or not and then your friend is like, “I could so go for bean soup right now, or a bean burrito.” And then your Aunt stops over and tells you to eat more, that “you look like a string bean!” And then a truckload of jelly beans spills across the highway, right in front of you, and then a wandering fortune-teller goes out of her way to warn you of a mad cow virus that may be in your future? You know, that moment? The kind where the universe speaks to you?

Well, those kinds of moments happen to me all the time, only without the magic beans and cows and fortune tellers and such. Such was the case with making a website. Suggestions, prompting, and nudging by my very active and forward-thinking agent, being asked about my website and contact info by book stores, craft articles on the importance of author websites, reading Tweets on having an author website, a Writer’s Digest magazine cover featuring an article on how to make a great author website, advertisements for Wix (an awesome way to make cool websites), a low flying plane trailing a banner that read: Joe McGee, you NEED to make an author website (I may have made that last part up), all led to me FINALLY making said website.

While it is still in its infancy and will eventually have more to it (to include my blog which will be leaving here and moving there soon), I am quite proud of it. Why don’t you click over and have a look? Tell me what you think, give me feedback. It’s right here:

If you follow me here, please continue to follow my blog when it kicks in over there (there is, or will be, a button to press, or lever to pull or something for you to be notified when I post things, which will be more frequent from now on).

Thanks, friends!


A Tale of Two Josephs


Once upon a time, there was a boy who lived in a far away place called…let’s just make up a name…just a random name….Bethlehem. Yeah, that’s a good one: Bethlehem. So he lived in far away “Bethlehem.” And this boy loved sandals and magic tricks and making people feel good. He liked hanging out with his twelve friends and walking on water and stuff. We should give this boy a name, right? We’ll call him Jeremy Connor. No! How about John Connor? No, too Terminator. Jimmy Coffman? Julio Constantinople? Juan Carpenter? Oh, what does it matter? You know who I’m talking about! I’m not fooling anyone! Jesus Christ! There…we’re talking about Jesus Christ.

So Jesus had this dad, right? Joseph (who wasn’t his real dad, because his real dad was an all-powerful, divine, supreme entity, GOD, who was also kind of a piece of himself, making him kind of his own real father and son in one body…why does this sound like a Darth Vader/Luke Skywalker Star Wars thing?). And Joseph wasn’t too shabby of a carpenter. He made cool deck furniture and sheds and stuff and he was always like, “Hey, Jesus! Stop spreading the good word to those lepers and moneylenders and Republicans and do something worthwhile…like carpentry.” But Jesus didn’t want to be a carpenter. He wanted to be the Son of God.

“No, dad,” said Jesus. “I want to be a demigod. I want to die for everyone’s sins and then rise from the dead and try to make people do good things. You know, savior kind of stuff.”

Joseph was not pleased. “Jesus…you know I love you as my son, who’s not my son completely, considering that I never actually touched your mother, but a son who is also kind of my father, in an abstract, hand of the creator kind of way…but anyway, like a son. And I’m telling you, give up this crazy dream. Do you know how many people want to be the savior?”

Some passing guy on a donkey raised his hand, “I want to be the savior!”

“See?” said Joseph. “See? Do you see how many people are trying to be the savior? Your odds of making it are pathetic. You’ll just end up a poor prophet. Now carpentry…wooh boy…now there’s a real career. You can raise a family on it. Here, help me with this Adirondack chair.”

“I don’t want to be a carpenter!” shouted Jesus. “I want to be the savior! I’m going off to spread the good word. I’ll show you!”

And the rest is history….

Jesus followed his dream and didn’t let anyone tell him he couldn’t do what he’d set out to do. Not Joseph, not that slimeball Judas, not those crucifix-happy Romans, and certainly not Kim Jong-un. He set out to do what he dreamed of doing, or he’d die trying…ok, so he did die. But then he rose from the dead and kept on going. How’s that for dedication?

As I write this, I am preparing to teach a whole new class of young writers in a new semester at Rowan University. An entire new class of aspiring authors has just graduated (today) with their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from my beloved Vermont College of Fine Arts. Two of my dearest friends have tendrils deep in the publishing machine: one is in the process of querying two amazing books and is so close to landing an agent, and the other is sending in novel revisions to his editor. I have friends with books recently released and friends with books having just won awards and friends with books on the horizon. My own debut book is released this October and I have a novel and a picture book under revision, in my agent’s hands.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because these people, these writers and students, they are following their dream. They are writing. They are going after what they want and they are not letting the Josephs of the world tell them, “NO. Be a carpenter.” I am following my dream and I had an actual Joseph tell me that I was wasting my time, that there was no life to be made from pursuing the arts. I’m not breaking the bank (not yet!), no, but I am making a living writing and teaching writing, and most importantly…I am happy. I am following my dreams. You CAN pursue a life as a wordsmith and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You just have to be determined, and dedicated, and willing to work your ass off. You have to be willing to make sacrifices and changes. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and have patience and somehow have the mental fortitude of Professor Xavier in the face of rejection and revision and negative feedback. Writing is not easy. Not at all. It’s a lot of work…like juggling 17 living octopus while on a fiery unicycle and someone is shooting watermelons out of a cannon at you kind of work. But it’s worth it….oh, so worth it (if, of course, that is your dream). Ani Difranco may have said it best when she said, “Art is why I get up in the morning.” Well, if that’s how you feel about your writing, then GET AFTER IT! Don’t worry about the odds and the money and the alternatives. Pursue your craft and let it take you where you need to be.

So, from THIS Joseph (who is a writer and NOT a carpenter), I say: “Go forth and be what you want to be. Follow your dream. Pursue your passion. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Don’t settle for someone else’s dream/life.”


How D&D Became a Youth Lesson in Morals, Politics, and Team-Building


I don’t, and never have, made any attempt to hide the fact that I am a HUGE “geek.” I read comic books, obsess over Doctor Who, own some rather nice Lord of the Rings replicas, and play…Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a little known fact that playing Dungeons & Dragons is what led several people to becoming human marshmallows during the Salem witch trials. The 1950s McCarthyism was not about rooting out “communists,” it was about exposing people who played Dungeons & Dragons. The crash at Roswell? A major Dungeons & Dragons cover up conspiracy. Nobody could know that top military brass played Dungeons & Dragons and that there were prototype d20s on the defense budget.

It was never “cool” to play Dungeons & Dragons. There was (is?) a stigma attached. Pfffttttt……..whatever.

Dungeons & Dragons is what got me writing stories in the first place. I remember being a 12-yr-old, listening to a handful of teenagers collaboratively telling stories, taking on the role of their own unique character, making choices, responding to the Dungeonmaster’s narrative, rolling dice and responding to the results. They were sitting around a picnic table in some Pittsburgh suburbia backyard, but their minds were far, far away. I listened, rapt, eyes wide – I was there, with them, in some place both magical and wondrous. There was a dank, decrepit tomb, and skeletal warriors with rusted scimitars and mildewed shreds of clothing and armor. There were wizards casting spells and warriors fighting through the undead horde. These kids were creating a story…together. It was oral storytelling at its best. It was synonymous with early man sitting around the fire and sharing folklore. It was enchanting. It fired so many imagination synapses at once that I was hooked…addicted. I wanted to not only live in those fantasy worlds, I wanted to create my own tales, let loose my imagination through the art of storytelling – I wanted to tell stories.

diceSo, fast forward – 30 years later. I still play, I always have. Sure, it’s waned a bit in recent years with schedules and workloads and such, but it’s never gone away. My boys have finally reached the age, where they can begin to play. And THEY approached me, “Dad, can we play Dungeons & Dragons?” My heart might have skipped a few beats. My boys were asking me to play Dungeons & Dragons. You have to understand, as much as I push reading, getting fresh air, limited screen time, unplugging (I don’t even own a TV in my apartment), it’s a major struggle to get them off the electronics. It’s our society, it’s the world we live in – kids are growing up with buttons to push and screens to stare at. But D&D offers them a chance to use paper, pencil, some dice and their imagination. No electronics, no screens. AND…as a writer, it was going to help my kids learn to actively share in storytelling. We could create stories together. As someone who thrives on imagination and creativity, it is an opportunity to help them feed that part of their young minds.

While I expected the game to be a gateway to creativity, and an opportunity for shared storytelling, I never expected what occurred during our first weekend of playing. On Friday night, we made characters. Shane (13) created a Dark Elf rogue (going so far as to Google the Dark Elf language and create his own name using two different Dark Elf words – this was an allowable use of screen time). Logan (10 going on 40), a human wizard, and Sawyer (7 – young, but don’t want to exclude him), a half-orc ranger. They ate chips and Doritos and drank root beer, it was like Geek Nirvana. Then we began the adventure: They were hired on by the council of merchants of the village of “Ravenswood” to discover what had happened to the logging camp a day north, and see if there was any truth to the North Woods being haunted. The first encounter of the first night involved a few traps and a lone goblin scout. They were getting their feet wet.

I was not prepared for the next day. After finding the logging camp and defeating the remaining goblins and their hobgoblin overlord, things got interesting.

1. From the moment of finding the logging camp, to the end of the battle, Shane and Logan argued over the proper tactics for approaching the camp in the first place.

Shane: “I’m going to walk into the clearing. Is there hay in the wagon? I’m going to search the wagon.”

Logan: “I’m following.”

Shane: “No you’re not.”

Logan: “Yes I am.”

Shane: “Stop following me. You’re going to give me away.”

Logan: “No I’m not. You’re walking in the open. I’m going too.”

Argue, argue, argue. You’re stupid. No, you’re stupid. You got us shot with arrows. No, you got yourself shot with arrows for walking right out in the open. argue, argue, argue.

2. Concerning the two wounded goblins that surrendered to them: An intense moral argument erupted about what to do with them.

Shane: “I’m going to make them our slaves.”

Logan: “No! Slavery is wrong. We are not taking them as our slaves.”

Sawyer: “Put them in a sack!”

Shane: “Yes, we are. They deserve it. They shot us with arrows.”

Logan: “We are not. That means they’ll get mistreated. Slaves get mistreated. We’re not doing that.”

Sawyer: “Put them in a sack!”

Shane: “Yes, we are.”

Logan: “No, we are not.”

Sawyer: “Sack!!”

This went on for about 15 minutes or so…

3. Which led to the next argument…about politics:

Logan: “You don’t get to make all the decisions.”

Shane: “I’m smarter than you. I know more.”

Logan: “No, my character has a higher intelligence than you. Besides, we should all have an equal say.”

Shane: “So, you think everyone gets to share equally? That’s communism. I’m not being a communist.”

Logan: “No. I’m saying we all get a vote. Majority decides. That’s a democracy.”

This political argument lasted another 15 minutes. Sawyer just ate chips.

4. Working on team-building skills:

The bleed over of who gets to call the shots, led to how they make decisions, led to what to do with the goblin’s equipment. For whatever reason, Shane and Logan insisted on arguing over who got the goblin’s scimitar and who got the short bow. They already had decent equipment and this was, after all, just crappy goblin weaponry. Nothing exciting. Nevertheless, the great goblin equipment debate ensued.

While it was frustrating at the time, and we had to pause the adventure and put the books and dice away lest they kill each other, I realized how awesome what had just transpired was. Arguments aside, my kids were engaging in a healthy debate about morals and politics. They were discussing and figuring out how to work as a team. They were engaging their imagination and taking on the role of their own character, collaboratively telling a story. All of this around some fictional goblins, some polyhedron dice, an original scenario and some character stats on a piece of paper. They were unplugged, excited and engaged. And despite their differences, they wanted (they want) more.

Dungeons & Dragons, and role-playing games like it, offer kids and adults alike an opportunity to really stretch their mind in a multitude of healthy ways. It is such a wonderful tool that it saddens me to think of the stigma attached to it – the trepidation with which adults approach the mere mention of the name. D&D is a wonderful, rich, imaginative tool just waiting to teach, inspire and exercise our minds. Give it a try – you’ll be wandering through fantastic worlds in search of adventure before you know it. Returning is optional. ;)

P.S. – The fate of the goblins is yet to be decided.


The 777 Throwdown


So there I was, minding my own business…pounding keys, smoke pouring from my fingertips when SLADDAP! Heather Demetrios comes strolling across my Twitter feed and slaps me across the cheek with a fish, or a gauntlet, or a canoe oar, it doesn’t really matter. What DOES matter is that I’ve been challenged. Challenged to put up or…I don’t really know what the alternatives are. But this is a challenge, right? One writer challenging another writer. And EVERYBODY else is doing it. In fact they’re all doing it right now. They were challenged and posted like 6 seconds later. Don’t these people have jobs? (Says the guy on his laptop, on his couch, at 3:53 p.m.). Kidding, friends :)

So what’s this challenge? 777 refers to the first full seven lines from page 7, (starting 7 lines down), of your current work in progress. It may also refer to the challenge of doing 777 push-ups in a row, but I am going to elect to go with the first choice of the 777 challenges as my current record is already 775 push-ups and I don’t want to show off by hitting 777.

Anyway, here it is, from my middle-grade work in progress, Russell Sprout: Mind Over Matter. Russell is a 5th-grader at Arthur J. Weevilnoggin Elementary. He’s in a pitched battle against his arch nemesis, Benjamin Franklin Gruber, for first place in the annual science fair. It’s a battle of the brains with a real, full size, robot on the line and the title of “Best Brain.” However, things take a crazy turn when Russell inadvertently drinks his father’s super secret formula and can suddenly make those figments of his imagination very, very real.

So, here it is, 7 lines, from 7 lines down, on page 7, of Russell Sprout: Mind Over Matter:

“Have a good-” said Mom. But Russell was already hopping down the steps, the front door swinging shut behind him. “-day.”
“Come on, Dad,” said Bheane, violin case in hand. She popped her earbuds in. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Darwin?” said Mom.
“Yes?” He absentmindedly slipped the bottled orange liquid into his pocket, grabbed his briefcase off the table, and bit into a pickle. “These are fantastic pickles.”
“Please stop keeping your work in the refrigerator.”

I challenge the following writers: RL Saunders, Jim Hill, LoriGoe, Michael Gettel-Gilmartin and Tom Birdseye.

Take Your Creativity On A Treasure Hunt


So, I’m in the process of moving into my own place, a new place, a place in need of your used kitchen appliances and unwanted Tupperware. You know, the kinds of things that a guy moving into his own apartment doesn’t necessarily have in his back pocket (not that anyone has these things in their back pocket, because..that’s just…a blender? In your back pocket? That’s just…that would be extremely uncomfortable..and impractical…and potentially impossible. Enough! Figurative back pocket blenders! Ah, that’s better).

But don’t get me wrong, this is not a cry for your cast off, cast iron cooking skillet (but if you’re offering…). No, this is a blog about what an incredibly rich land of story potential and creative opportunity flea markets, auctions, and yard sales are. You see, in my pursuit of outfitting my new place, a place we shall henceforth refer to as THE DEATH STAR! No…..MORDOR!! No…the TARDIS? No….a place we shall henceforth refer to as “Joe’s Place” or “The House of Joe” and occasionally as “the Magnificent Joe Empire” I have been visiting markets and yard sales and such. Those places are absolutely awesome for writers to wander through!! I’ve taken to calling my market treks as “treasure hunting expeditions” because of what you find within and how it relates to writing. So here are my four main points for why flea markets and yard sales are treasure troves waiting for the intrepid writer:

1. Objects as potential stories: You never know WHAT you are going to find while wandering through the market. What’s that old adage? One person’s trash is another persondollhead‘s treasure? There are so many interesting objects just crying out to spark the catalyst of a story. In fact, I once wrote an entire short story about a monkey skull I’d seen at a yard sale! Yes, there was a…no, I don’t know why…no, I did not buy the monkey skull. But wander through, see what grabs your attention and then think about why it did. Was it odd? Scary? Funny? Unique? Start asking yourself questions, ask “what if,” let your imagination start creating a history behind the object. For example, what’s the deal with this creepy doll head I saw? Who did it belong to? Why is it smiling (what does it know that we don’t)? Where’s the rest of the doll? What might that doll have seen? Or take this set of samurai Samuraiswords. They belonged to the seller’s deceased brother. My mind starts going into weird places, like, was his brother slain in battle? Fighting ninjas? Monsters? Monstrous ninjas? Was his brother deceased when he took up the swords? Was he a zombie samurai!? Or maybe they were a family heirloom. Maybe his family served the Shogun of Japan. Maybe those were the Shogun’s swords! Maybe his brother was a crime fighter, or a time traveller, or a thief who had taken them from the home of the descendants of a famous samurai and now they were going to come looking for the swords and they were going to break into “The House of Joe” to get them (because that’s where they’re going) and I’d have to fight them off with the cast iron skillet that I don’t have!

2. Objects as character items: So, you’re trying to get into your character a little more, trying to really understand their personality, make them deeper, more believable. HooflampWhat kinds of objects might they put in their home, or what kinds of objects define them? You can tell a lot about a person by the things he/she might surround themselves with. Maybe Jimbo, your trailer-living private eye and off-season game warden, needs himself a new lamp. Maybe he just won himself a few bucks on a scratch off lottery ticket and he’s got his eyes all set on a new lamp. The kind of lamp the fellas are gonna be jealous of when they come by for bean dip and poker. You know the one, that deer hoof lamp on display in the window at Marshall’s Department Store. Take a walk through the market, see if you can find something that has your character’s name all over it.

3. Object histories as stories: Sometimes you find stories behind the object itself. These are sometimes touching, sometimes beautiful, sometimes remarkable, sad, or scary. Part of the fun of treasure hunting through the markets is talking to the sellers and finding out what they’re selling, and why, and where it came from. Sometimes the stories stand on their own, or sometimes they’re ripe to be tweaked, twisted, and elaborated on. Like my new Hemingway-esque photo (9)trunk/coffee table…this was hand-carved in Italy. An American soldier bought it while stationed overseas. After he passed away, his belongings were collected and placed into a storage unit. The seller bought the unit and everything that came with it, to include papers and letters…letters to a son he’d had with a woman from overseas, a son he’d never spoken to. Stories, people…they’re all around us.

4. Objects spark description: You’ve got this creepy neighbor character that happens to dress up as a clown and do kids’ birthday parties, but you’re not quite sure what kind of clown look you want. Sure, you could Google clown pics and surf the web, or you could get out, get some fresh air, and find that almost every market happens to have at least one person selling a creepy clown picture. Bam! Reference material, fresh air, and the creeps! Really, why are there so many clown paintings? And who hangs these things in their house?

IMG_3594  clown2


So there you have it, four reasons why flea markets and yard sales are so great for writers. Go on, get out there, feed your creativity…and who knows, maybe you’ll come home with a story idea AND a deer hoof lamp (NO, I did NOT buy the deer hoof lamp).

Happy writing, friends!


My ALS #IceBucketChallenge Response


So, my friend, Amy (A.S.) King has so generously slapped me with the icy cold gauntlet of the #IceBucketChallenge. If you are somehow unaware of what this is, it is a fun (and chilly) way to help fight against ALS. You take the challenge, donate what you can, and help spread the word. Plus, you get to watch people dump ice cold water over their heads, on the interwebs. If you don’t accept the challenge, you’re supposed to donate your soul (kidding), and you get called out over the web, and people everywhere will snigger and laugh behind your back and call you names that you have never even heard of. Really though, it’s a good cause, a silly challenge, and an opportunity for a spot of interwebs fun.

Read here for more details:

Anywho, as I was saying, A.S. King Tweet-called me out and so, in gentlemanly fashion, I pick up the gauntlet and respond via this video: Click HERE.


And, I further challenge my wunderbar literary agent, Linda Epstein, and the extremely talented and hilarious writer, R.L. Saunders, to step up and accept the glove of frigid H2O buffoonery with which I have tauntingly slapped them.


Must Have the Precious


Maybe it was the irregular sleep chart patterns. Maybe it was finding that everyone around me was simply breathing too loudly, or too close to me, or that their eyelids made noises when they moved. Maybe it was the incessant pacing, or the growling, or the muttering, or the fact that I answered anyone who dared speak to me in some angry, eldritch language. Or that my eyes were red, or that I was hovering eighteen inches off the floor, shooting lightning bolts from my eyes….

I mean, really, it could have been any one of those things. One of those things that told me…you’ve been away from the words too long


He didn’t write today

Because that’s just it. As writers, we crave the story. We need to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, or chisel to tablet (and if that’s you, you may seriously want to consider upgrading your routine). We need to pour out the words. We need to greet that page or screen (no, stop it, stone tablet writer…I’m not mentioning you. You just need to get with the times). We need to create. In short we need to write, and we need to write frequently. Ideally, every day, even if you can only find the time to get a few words down. A few is better than zero. We NEED to WRITE.

Yes, yeah, I know, I know….life, and jobs, and kids, and raising chickens, and commuting, and cooking, and fatigue and back alley games of ultimate backgammon. Dude, I get it. Life happens. It happens to all of us. And I’m writing this post to let you know that when you turn into a monster, that it’s ok. That it’s NORMAL. You’re a writer. It happens to all of us. It’s an occupational hazard (to everyone around us).

I’m writing this because after two days of zero words and then one where I produced less than I would have liked, I began to feel the symptoms (see paragraph 1). Then I realized, by Neptune’s beard,  we’re like Tolkien’s Gollum, from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings! Our writing is our Precious!

“We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious.” – Gollum

When we are writing and producing, we are clutching our Precious; happy and content and singing weird songs to ourselves in dank caves. What? You don’t? When something steals our time, or life intrudes, or the word count does not add up to much at the end of the week, we may find ourselves running amok, shrieking “They stole it from us! Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!” We grow irritable, confused, anxious, and prone to levitating, speaking in alien tongues and shooting lightning bolts from glowing red eyes.

Don’t shoot lightning bolts from glowing red eyes. Get writing.

WCCI’ve joined Jessica Cooper in holding ourselves accountable by keeping a weekly tally and then posting a pic of it on Twitter #WCC (Word Count Club). Basically you list each date Sun-Sat, with the number next to it, and then a weekly total. Even zeros. That’s right, big ‘ol goose eggs are a helluva a kick in the [deleted for family content’s sake]. Seeing three days of zeros is enough to light an inferno under your posterior. There’s no prize, just a visual look at what you’re doing, public accountability, and the admiration and/or commiseration of your fellow writers. So, I’m hoping you’ll join us in Tweeting your #WCC pics.

Hold on to your Precious, my friends….because the Hobbits of life will try and take it from you.