The First Puddlegineer is down to a final proofread, and the eBook is available for pre-order on Amazon. It’s about the same word count as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (at slightly under 30,000 words). Print length is 151 pages. The book is lightly illustrated, by which I mean it has illustrations, but doesn’t rely on them to tell the story. My original plan was not to illustrate the book at all. It’s more aimed at a reader who is ready to leave pictures behind.
Over the holidays, my youngest niece picked up the first printed proof and immediately flipped through looking for pictures. She’s at the bottom of the intended age range, but I decided I’d add a few. The illustrations are more a bonus and an afterthought.
Since no sample will show on the sales page until the book is available, here's the first chapter for anybody who is curious and wants an idea about what kind of book this is. Spoilers… it’s a silly one.
Chapter 1 – The Hand of Doom
Jeremy Buttons pulled up the hood on his yellow raincoat, stomped his feet into his tight, yellow rubber boots—and stepped out into the damper world.
Wind had come with the day’s rain.
That wind ripped the door handle from Jeremy’s grasp.
The screen door swung all the way open and struck the house, giving him a fright. His hood blew off with a spray of raindrops, and then the finger-pinching spring brought the door back with startling speed. It would have knocked Jeremy down, but a hand reached out above his head and caught the swinging door.
It was the Hand of Doom.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Susie McWeeby asked.
Susie was the last person Jeremy wanted to see. Every hero needs an archenemy, and she was his. Susie was the worst of the worst: a monster who helped herself to cookies from the high cupboards without sharing them, and a tyrannical dictator who enforced bedtimes—even when no one else would know the difference. Worst of all, she was a chameleon, a slippery shapeshifter who his parents called ‘a nice, responsible young woman’. Susie McWeeby might have fooled the rest of the world, but Jeremy knew better.
“I have work to do,” Jeremy said.
He crossed his arms and scowled up at Susie. She shook her head, making her long braid wag like a dog’s tail.
“It’s thundering and lightning out. Get back inside and play with your Lego.”
She lifted her phone to her ear as she dragged him in, off the back porch. Susie mostly used the phone to talk to someone named Jenny. Jeremy assumed that Jenny was a member of the same street gang to which Susie belonged.
“I gotta go,” Susie told the phone. “Problems with the ankle-biter. I’ll call you later, Jen.”
She tucked the phone in her pocket and turned her attention back to Jeremy. Thunder shook the house, and the porchlight flickered.
“You see,” Susie said, “it’s dangerous.”
Jeremy wasn’t fooled by her act. Susie had no heart, but she had demonstrated a diabolical logic on more than one occasion. Maybe he could appeal to her reason.
“I have to go out,” Jeremy said. “I’m a puddlegineer.”
His father had once called him a puddle engineer, and Jeremy had joined the words together to create a new word—and with it—a new profession. The puddlegineer specialized in all things puddle. Obviously, there were overlaps with the field of civil engineering and the science of mudology, but puddlegineering was as much art as science. Jeremy discovered that few people understood puddlegineering—or recognized its value. In his heart, he knew that every pioneer faced similar hurdles, and that nobody would have stood on the surface of the moon without perseverance.
Susie laughed and unzipped his coat. Her long, powerful arms spun him around as she tore it from his back before hanging the coat on its hook.
“There’s no such thing,” she said. “The last time you snuck out in the rain, you tracked mud through the house. It took me an hour to clean it!”
That’s the real reason she stopped me, Jeremy thought.
Susie was no fan of hard work. Often, she’d spend a whole day watching the television. If not for her enormous size and cunning ways, he’d have defeated her long ago. He’d tracked in a little mud, once, but you didn’t find a new pet toad every day. Jeremy scrunched up his face to let Susie know what he thought of her.
“Your face might freeze like that,” she said.
That was just a lie that big people told. He’d once spent hours making a scary face—hoping he could wear it forever. All he’d gotten was a sore face.
“If you behave, I’ll give you a cookie,” Susie said.
Her friendly smile didn’t fool Jeremy, and her offer of a cookie was like a bank robber offering the guards a sack of money to look the other way… while they cleaned out the vault. Still, it would be a while before she returned to ignoring him, and a cookie was a cookie.
“The mud will still be there when the rain stops,” Susie said.
It was pointless explaining that it wasn’t just about the mud.
“I want to go out now.”
“We can’t always get what we want.”
That was true for little kids. Big people did whatever they wanted—whenever they wanted.
“I used to like making sandcastles,” Susie said as she led him into the kitchen.
Jeremy made a farting sound with his mouth.
“You don’t like sandcastles?”
Jeremy had nothing against sandcastles. If you went to a beach with your parents, you’d obviously build sandcastles. Everybody knew that, but amateurs—like the blond giant fetching him a chocolate chip cookie—would call any sloppy mound of sand a ‘castle’. Without towers, walls, and a moat, filled with water—you just had a pile of sand.
The job of sandcastle architect might be a pleasant diversion on a sunny day, but it wasn’t a proper profession