My sister-in-law was sorting photos with my mom tonight and sent me this gem:


That really is me.

I’m surprised somebody caught this on honest-to-goodness camera film, mid 1990’s. It made me laugh. Pretty evident that I’ve always been into fantasy.   

Last weekend, I got to do a show in San Antonio. And people like this always come, dressed up in costumes just like the one above.  Or rather, a hundred times better. Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington were both there, but then this guy shows up (not pictured here) looking more like Kit Harington than Kit Harington, wolfskin pelts and all.  

And then there were these other costumes.  More my speed. Kids showing up in homemade outfits, made from the best they had. And you can tell they didn’t have a big budget or professional tailors. But still awesome.  

So just for funsies, here’s my costume, and my blog post, made from the best I had, which was about 13 minutes and an old picture from 1995, in a sparkly shirt, with a real sword, and a Robin Hood feather cap made by my dad.  (I think.)  Not perfect, but good enough.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to talk.



(for Part I, click here)

“Won’t I suffocate?” I ask my sixteen-year-old son, whilst standing in a three-block-deep hole and trying to remember the super-secret Xbox handshake for laying sod.  It isn’t enough to promise your son a day of Minecraft. You also have to survive it. And not just in the physical sense. “I’ll be completely sealed in!”

“Exactly. And you won’t suffocate. Minecraft monsters have no concept of object permanence. If you seal the hole, they’ll wander off.”

[Like adolescents, I might add, whenever chores start.]

“Are you sure that’s my best strategy?”

“Yes.” He doesn’t look at me, deftly maneuvering his character for the greater good of Minecraft. He avoids directly mentioning my crappy grasp of avatar control. “That’s the best you can do ‘til morning.”

I throw a block of freshly mined dirt into the air as instructed, but it does not seal the opening above me as promised but falls on my head and then bounces around by my feet.

Stupid dirt.

“Not the B button, Dad. The left trigger.”

“Very sound advice.  Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

I consider again the possibility of slipping the controller to my daughter (the youngest) and incrementally teleporting myself to the home office. I have other, very real holes to dig out of, and burying myself alive (virtually) hits a little close to home. But somehow, at Christmas, leaving feels wrong. Welch on this promise and I might as well douse the Christmas tree in gasoline and light a match.

“That’s the right bumper, Dad,” he corrects me again. “Use the trigger. No. . . No. . . the left trigger.

Dirt sails ineffectually through the air again. “Crap!” In terms of advice, I can confirm that it is much easier to give than receive.

I can hear monster sounds: grunts, groans, and creepy music that promise all sorts of doom.  One split-screen over, my son is halfway through turning his own sod-tomb into a hobbit mansion.

A mottled-green monster plops into my unfinished hole, sizzling like a lit M-80.

“Ope!” My son says. “That’s a creeper.”

“It’s ug—”


My son’s avatar stops digging and face-palms while I observe the smoking crater that once was me. The few, pitiful treasures I’d gathered are splattered across an empty grassy plain, glittering dewdrops of pain beneath the night sky.

The screen fades from red to gray. (Well, half of the screen fades. My son’s half is fine.)

After a few seconds my avatar reincarnates again, alone and unequipped in a field full of monsters, including the green explody kind.

“Dig!” my son commands. “Dig, you fool!”

I dig. Miraculously I manage to seal myself in the sod tomb, hands shaking on the controller. A happy little accident, as Bob Ross would say.

I am never going to survive a day of this, I think. I ready my ‘dig/punch’ function, determined to land at least one hit before getting detonated.

“Good job, Dad.”

Wait, what? Was that positive reinforcement?

Gradually the thrill of not dying is replaced with the dissatisfaction of sitting in a crummy hole. “This is boring. When do I get some payback?”

“Stay there,” my son says. “We’ll get to that.”

I look over at his side of the screen: he’s sprinting across the monster-laden plain recovering my lost goodies. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

And suddenly, it’s my son, the wise, old mentor.

“We’ll talk about retribution, after you make some armor.”

The Talent Thief, by Mike Thayer

I LOVED THIS BOOK . I loved it the first time I read it: unfinished, unedited, and arriving in small bites. It sucked me in and captured my imagination. Finished, polished, and published, I’ve read it again and love it even more.

The Talent Thief is the story of Tiffany Tudwell, an unlucky girl with an unfortunate name, cursed to live in the shadows by her uncanny knack for embarrassing, highly-public mistakes . . . until the day she realizes she can borrow other people’s talents.

Slowly and carefully, Tiffany makes her exit from the shadows, despite Candace Palmer’s best efforts, a girl who lives for stealing the spotlight and making other kids feel insecure. The Talent Thief felt like a heist, hallmark, and heroine story all balled into one satisfying package about confidence, friendship, and self-acceptance.

And it’s funny:

Brady did a double take. “Do that again.“

I had hardly even meant to do the trick. It was so second nature to me that I’d simply done it without thinking. “Do what again? Buy a muffin? I only had two dollars and eighty–”

“I will give you another muffin, if you do that trick again.” Brady looked expectantly from my hand to my eyes. “Consider it like getting paid for a performance.”

“I can’t, actually.” I clicked my tongue.

“Why not?”

“Quarter keeps on disappearing,” I said, acting as if I were going to hand him the quarter, only to have it vanish. It wasn’t just that my moves were smooth. My performance, banter, misdirection were smooth. Maybe it was all part of the magic-act talent.

Brady blinked in amazement. “Please tell me you’re not gonna pull it out of my ear.”

“I can’t do that either,” I said, reaching across the counter to the side of Brady’s head. I pulled my hand back to reveal a handful of muffin crumbs. “Too much muffin crammed in there.”

If you liked The Deep End of Life, you will probably like The Talent Thief. If money’s tight and you can’t afford to buy it, message me, and I’ll let you borrow my copy. Fair warning on that front, though: It already has four “holds” on it. . .



Sometimes I’m a bad dad.

About two years ago, my son made this point effectively and unintentionally. We were visiting my sister, and an argument broke out around the XBOX and whose turn it was. I went to the game room to investigate, and in the mayhem, somebody handed me a controller. Cool uncle, right?

“Here, Uncle Ben, it’s your turn.”

“Um. Okay. What are we playing?”


I’d heard of Minecraft. I’d heard a lot about Minecraft. In fact, I’d heard so much about Minecraft that I’d deliberately avoided it. “Mine-Crack” some of the kids called it. With all those nieces and nephews staring at me, though, I froze. The people had decided. Who was I to argue?

I am not an uncoordinated person, but the XBOX controller for Minecraft can be tricky, with its multi-colored buttons, dual control sticks, dual triggers, D-Pad, and dual bumpers. Even worse when all your nieces and nephews are staring at you, and you’re trying desperately to maintain that thin façade of coolness that all adults think they wear, even after getting blown up several times by a green proximity bomb with legs.

My youngest daughter sets down her controller and re-explains the controls to me while the rest of the cousins giggle. And from the back of the cousin pile my son’s voice cuts through chatter like Minecraft’s infamous diamond blade:

“You know, all I ever wanted in elementary school was to spend a day playing Minecraft with Dad. And I never got to.”

That hit me right between the triggers. Or maybe the D-Pad. He’s 16 years old, and probably too grown up to care anymore, but I had never once played Minecraft with him. Not even for an hour, though I’d listened to him talk about it endlessly.

The point of being a parent, I think, is so you can feel bad about yourself more often, perhaps hoping eternally that you might get at least one thing right.

So for Christmas, I gave him a copy of Minecraft in his stocking. I’m probably the only historical example of a lame dad giving his sixteen-year-old son a five-year-old copy of Minecraft. About eight years too late, if you don’t think too hard about the math.

He sorta grinned when he took off the wrapping paper. “You know how old this is, right?”

“Yeah.” I grinned back. “But I’ve got the day off.”

The Explorer’s Code, Allison K. Hymas

“Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.”

–Agatha Christie

Idlewood Manor is about to be torn down.

In a rare show of generosity, its cantankerous caretaker Mr. Llewellyn opens the manor doors to ten groups from different walks of life. At face value, it’s just a weekend romp, a chance to experience the discomforts and delights of a bygone era. But each group has its own secret. One group is constantly looking under chairs and peeping through keyholes. A man wanders around the grounds with a stick that looks suspiciously like a metal detector. A young couple flees each time the other guests approach them.

Anna, Charlie, and Emily begin investigating the mystery of Idlewood Manor independently. Gradually, Anna’s fearless exploration, Charlie’s gift for codes, and Emily’s eye for detail coalesce into a clearer picture of what’s been happening at Idlewood, and the kids come together to solve the mystery of the manor.

I loved the quick-stroke character sketches that come out naturally through the narrative:

“Mr. Llewellyn struck Emily as the kind of man who liked children fine, but only after they’d celebrated their eighteenth birthday.” 


“‘It will be fun,’ his mother said. ‘Anna’s probably already out there.’ Charlie doubted it. Hitting a ball around the lawn with a mallet didn’t seem wild enough for Anna.”

The kids sounded like kids I knew, and the suspicious characters like mix-breeds born of Encyclopedia Brown and Agatha Christie. The prose felt so confident that I googled “explorer Virginia Maines,” only to realize she’s a fictional rather than historic personage. And despite my best intentions, Allison had me ciphering out codes by the end of the novel, and not because the narrative requires it.

My favorite part was the underlying theme: Not all treasures are found deep inside a musty vault.

The Explorer’s Code, Allison K Hymas

A Junior Library Guild Selection


We interrupt this regularly scheduled lunch with a public service announcement: My short story SUNBURN has been accepted for publication! It’s in the House of Zolo’s Journal of Speculative Literature, Volume 3, available on Amazon. Digital copies (Kindle) are free for the next 24 hours (November 16, 2021).

SUNBURN also won the Marburg Award in Germany in 2019. This version is even better.


In a post-apocalyptic, environmentally compromised world, young Jacob and the remnants of humanity live underground, only leaving their caves and habitats at night to gather precious resources from nearby cities.

Since being above ground after daybreak is deadly, the underground habitats have developed strict morning curfews to ensure the safety of dwindling resources. But Jacob has secretly been spending some of his “salvage night” working in an old bio-crystal lab in the nearest city, trying to develop a plant-crystal hybrid that will reverse atmospheric effects that make surface dwelling untenable.

On the verge of a break-through, Jacob stays late one morning, and his improvised lab catches fire. With his own life on the line, and the fate of humanity in the balance, Jacob jumps in his car for one final drive.

Die Ringe Von Ector

Announcing the publication of my first German novel translation, “Die Ringe on Ector”, which is out today!!! If you speak German and enjoy Fantasy stories with clever (anti) heroes, lots of action and some dark magic sprinkled on top, check out this series. (If you don’t speak German but want to do me a favor, download anyway 😏 and share with all your German-speaking friends. (If you have a Kindle Unlimited account, you can even read it for free.)

For a behind-the-scenes look working with a translator, check out this video from Life, the Universe, and Everything, February 2021.

For more information on my German releases, go to .

Buy on

Buy on

Book Review: The Double Life of Danny Day

“I like this book so I think I’m going to write a review on it.” –Benjamin K. Hewett

Danny Day lives every day twice.

By sixth grade, he’s a pro at it. He spends the first playing video games, scoping out important details, and doing things most of us will only daydream about, knowing his day will reset at 2:22 am and he’ll have to start all over.

For Danny, this is a good thing. His second day—the sticky day—usually goes off like a speed run. He gets perfect grades, stops his toddling twin sisters from decorating their bedroom walls with sharpies, and tricks his classmates into thinking he can read minds.

But Danny’s life is far from perfect. When his family moves from Texas to Idaho, Danny has to be the new kid at school twice as much as any normal kid. If he gets hurt on a sticky day, he hurts twice as long. Even worse, Danny starting to think he’s been doing it all wrong. Then he meets Zak, the kind, athletic sixth-grader who lives each day without regrets, and who convinces Danny that he can too. Danny eventually shares his secret with his new friend and swears him to secrecy and the two boys enlist Freddie, the girl-next-door, in bringing the bullies of Snake River Middle School to justice.

In reading the story, it is clear that Danny isn’t the only one reliving junior high. Author Mike Thayer’s portrayal of middle school feels almost photographic, but it serves up the sweet taste of sixth-grade wish-fulfillment right along with the poignant memory of mistakes made. In addition to painting his adolescents well, Thayer gets the adults right, with unique perspectives and personalities for each, without bogging down the book in elaborate backstories.

I especially like Danny’s mom. Even though he’s living every day twice, she still manages to surprise him sometimes, and those moments are some of the funniest.

In short, The Double Life of Danny Day is for middle-grade readers, current junior high attendees, and all the rest of us who survived junior high intact, more-or-less. It’s about finding balance, even when we think we have it all. In the end it’s not Danny’s singular power that makes him great, but what he spends that precious extra time on.

Is it a true story?

“No. But it could be true, and that’s all that matters.”