Tuesday, November 24, 2015


On July 17, 2012, I was sitting in the cafeteria at the University of Findlay (not as a student, but as an attendee at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference). I can't remember what I was eating, but I am sure I was enjoying a tasty drink from the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.

I wanted to write at lunch so I chose a table in the back. I hoped to be inspired by the creative energy I had just experienced during a presentation by the amazing picture book creating duo, Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens.

I wrote in my journal, "What would ghosts collect? How would they acquire the items? Would one ghost have the collection or would they trade and add together?"

I initially answered the questions with a few ideas -- "Boo-bots, Battle Boos!, Boo-ba-loos." Also, I wrote "Collect all 20. 30."  There were even ideas of boo bucks being used to buy the toys and the toys came in multiple series. All of these ideas would find their way, three years later, into THREE GHOST FRIENDS AND THE BATTLE BOOS! (Except for the Boo-ba-loos. I don't know what that idea was all about.)

This idea sat in my journal for over a year. It was during the Halloween season of 2013 that I returned to the idea when I took a graduate class about teaching common core math concepts to early elementary students. I wondered if I could incorporate the concepts I was learning in the class into the story; dot patterns, ten frames, and other visual math stuff. During each class I doodled and wrote down ideas in the margins of my notebook.

First, it was doodles of robot-like ghosts with wheels, which had me leaning toward the idea that three ghost friends would collect toys called Boo-Bots.

Then, I wrote "# Boo-Bots -- Dot Rows". This got me thinking that the toys could have numbers on them and maybe three ghost friends could build with them and make dot rows that could be visually counted by the reader. However, building dot patterns, like on dice, would be difficult to make by stacking and building toys.

Later in my doodles, the Boo-Bots lost their wheels and appeared with rocket boosters. I thought, if the Boo-bots could fly then I could visually show the Boo-Bots flying in dot patterns.

So, I had the idea of unique flying robot-like toys that would appear in visual patterns for young readers to count. However, I didn't have a story.  The idea sat in my journal and notebooks and occasionally rolled around in my head.

In August 2014, I had just published BABY BEARDS! and was looking for the next project to work on. I decided to try drawing the robot-like ghost toys on the computer with the hopes that a THREE GHOST FRIENDS story idea would pop into my head.  The wheels returned on the initial drawings. I liked the drawings but wasn't totally crazy about them. I knew that each toy would need to be unique and maybe even have its own name. The thought of coming up with 20 unique toys was a haunting idea. However, I didn't know it then, but it would be the key to unlocking the whole story.

In September 2015, I had the idea to illustrate one page of a THREE GHOST FRIENDS book every day during the month of October. I thought working on the book during the Halloween season would help the idea come out. Plus, having the accountability of sharing a drawing each day on social media would be motivating.

I thought a structure like this would be feasible because it was the first time in ten years I had mornings free to work without interruptions. My oldest two children were in school all day, and my youngest two children attended school in the mornings. I had two and half hours every day to work on my writing and I was feeling ambitious.

I started working on the idea at the beginning of September to get my ideas organized so I would be ready to start illustrating in October. However, I was surprised when ideas started pouring out once I look at the toys as Battle Boos instead of Boo-Bots.

I walked my youngest two children to school each day and on the way home I would have idea after idea in my head for the story. As soon as I walked in the door I would write them all down. By the end of September I was creating 20 unique Battle Boo toys; Captain Boo Beard, Secret Agent BOO7, and General Boolius Caesar.

I decided not post anything on social media. I was now motivated by the new ideas. I worked 4 to 6 hours a day illustrating the book until I had a working proof to send to my editor and to test with the students at my oldest son's school.

After many (MANY!!) minor adjustments, the fifth THREE GHOST FRIENDS book was ready. My motivation to create this book was the students at Miller Elementary School and Craddock Elementary School in Aurora, Ohio. They were the first children I read my THREE GHOST FRIENDS books to and their enthusiasm made me feel like I had to find more stories about the Ghost Friends for them to enjoy. I think this book is going to be one that they will love.

It might have taken three years for me to answer those initial questions. But, I did finally answer them.

Three ghost friends collect Battle Boos. They acquire them by buying them at the B.O.O. Spookz Toy Store with boo bucks they saved in their pumpkin bank. They would share the collection of 21 unique Battle Boos that are numbered from 0-20. The Battle Boos fly, zoom, and attack and as an added bonus they teach three ghost friends how to count to twenty when they didn't think they could do it.

THREE GHOST FRIENDS AND THE BATTLE BOOS is available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon.com and for iPad/iPhone at iTunes:

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