Saturday, October 31, 2020

Sneak Peak at My Answers for the Local Author Fair Panel

On Thursday, November 5, I will be one of four authors participating in the Local Authors Fair Panel through Woodneath Library Center, Kansas City, MO. You can attend virtual panel through this link.

Below are a few of the questions I may be asked and my rough draft answers.

What inspired you to write this piece?

The Secret Club is the sequel to my earlier novel, The Power Club. Both are set in a world in which some kids develop super-powers. My main character, Damon, joined a group called the Power Club in the first book. Damon has the ability to create darkness. In the Power Club, he becomes friends with Kyle (who teleports), Denise (who sees the future), her brother, Vee (who has super-speed), Ali (who flies), and Danner (who grows to giant sizes). Initially, they just hang out and have fun testing their powers. But after Damon and the others spontaneously stop a riot, he realizes they can use their powers for good . . . they can make a difference for ordinary people—“ords”—who fear kids with powers.

But in The Secret Club, everything has changed. The old Power Club is no more, and Damon enters a new school where he has to make new friends. Two of his old Power Club buds, Danner and Ali, have started a new club without him. And, on top of that, Damon’s old enemy, Calvin, returns.

Calvin has the ability to open rifts in space and send people he doesn’t like into other dimensions. Sometimes he forgets to bring them back. Because of this power, he has been separated from other kids and he’s jealous of Damon and his ability to make friends. When the Power Club rescued Damon from one of Calvin’s other dimensions in The Power Club, Calvin was forced to flee. Now he returns in the company of the others who work for a super-powered terrorist called, ironically, The Liberator. These terrorists want to start a war with ords, and only Damon can stop them—if he can form a new club in time.

What inspired all this? When I was a kid growing up in St. Joseph, MO, my friends and I immersed ourselves in comic books. We imagined ourselves to be Superman, Hawkman, Green Lantern, The Atom, The Flash . . . my friends gradually outgrew this obsession; I never did.

What is your writing process like?

My writing process changes for every project. I love to experiment. A project such as The Power Club usually begins with a burning desire to say something, an idea that has to be expressed, or an idea I can’t let go. I think all writers feel this way to an extent . . . something in the world isn’t the way it should be, and we try, with our words, to make it right. We feel we have something to say, and we know words have power. We hope our words have the right kind of power to make positive change.

The next step, for me, is to decide who my characters are, what they want, and who or what is stopping them from getting it. You have to spend some time fleshing out your characters. I write extensive character biographies. I want to know everything about my characters—their birthdays, their hobbies, how they get along with their families . . . if I do all this, I usually find the plot takes care of itself.

Then it’s a matter of applying seat to chair and writing. You have to actually do the writing. Not think about writing. Not talk about writing. Write. Some writers keep a daily schedule. If you work a full-time job or go to school, you work in writing when you can, but you have to write something every day and don’t stop until you finish.

How has your writing process changed during these new times?

I’ve been on hiatus from writing for some time. I finished working on a graphic novel earlier this year, though there are still a few touch-ups on which I’m currently working with an artist. I'm also exploring options for publishing it.

Another thing that has changed is that I’m exploring different forms of writing. I’m writing poetry and dabbling in flash fiction. Some of my poems and also essays can be viewed here

Do you have any writing tips?

Study the craft of writing. A lot of people think they can be writers just by coming up with ideas for stories. Bad news: Anybody can come up with ideas for stories. A writer is someone who actually sits down and does the work. But you also have to understand things like plotting, character development, theme, subtext, and world building. Study the masters. Figure out who inspires you and learn from them.

But also study other things—nature, mythology, history, science, politics. These things will help you fill out the world of your story and your characters’ lives. They also give you more ideas. There’s no sense in being the best writer in the world if you have nothing to write about.

. . . Those are my preliminary answers. Will I give the same ones or different/better ones? What other questions might be asked? Tune in on Thursday to find out.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

What Does The Power Club Have to do with Poetry?

Image for post
Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

 . . . well, not much. But all writers should write a variety of things, so I've been exploring my poetic side of late.

Poetry is a very different form of writing than fiction. Whereas a short story or novel can go on for pages describing and explaining what happens. poetry tends to be short, to the point, and more oblique. Poets try to capture a mood or a feeling or an experience and condense it down into a few words. Some poems can be more straightforward and long, but it's been my experience that poetry exercises a different part of the brain than fiction--it stimulates our capacity to create images and derive meaning from them. In this way, poetry seems, to me, at least, to be a close cousin of art.

(And no, I'm not an expert on brains or even poetry, so don't hold me to the above.)

I've published several poems on Here is a link to one called REM Diner. Check it out and let me know what you think. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Damon Starts the Eighth Grade in THE SECRET CLUB, and Then Things Get Worse

When I was a kid, the coolest thing I could imagine would be to possess a super-power. I wasn't picky. Any power would do: super-strength, super-speed, flight, hurling energy bolts from my hands... heck, even the ability to bounce like a rubber ball would have its uses (well, it did for Bouncing Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes).

In my first novel, THE POWER CLUB, I tried to tap into that feeling of being a kid and what it would be like to have have a power. Of course, powers come at a cost--in this case, freedom. Society simply can't have kids who teleport or grow to 30 feet tall or create rifts to other dimensions running around without keeping an eye on them. Thus, the kids have to live in the District, where mysterious leaders monitor what they can do.

Another cost? The power you have may not be the coolest or the most useful--at least at first.

Those were the themes I explored in THE POWER CLUB and take a step further in its just-published sequel, THE SECRET CLUB.

The Secret Club (The Power Club Book 2) by [Gildersleeve, Greg]

Set almost a year after the events of The Power Club, THE SECRET CLUB finds Damon entering the eighth grade--but things are nothing like he expected. Due to the influx of more kids with powers, the District has grown and the eighth grade has been moved to the high school. Instead of being in the top grade at the old school, Damon finds himself in the lowest grade at the new school.

He has to start over with new friends, new teachers, and new dangers lurking around every corner.

On his first day at the new school, he runs afoul of one such danger simply by walking down a hall:

Watch it!”
            Damon heard the warning a split second before he rounded a corner and collided with a wall. But this wall looked like a torso. He bounced back as if he’d landed face first on a trampoline and fell back on his butt. His books, class schedule, map scattered across the floor.
            A chorus of kids burst into laughter. Terrific. First day of school, and I’ve already made a fool of myself. He looked up to see what he had hit.
            The wall was in fact a torso. A towheaded youth towered over him like a mountain. Damon had never seen so many muscles, which rippled through the boy’s arms as if he were a cartoon character. A thin, long face perched atop a massive torso. The boy wore a plain t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up so there was no mistaking that the muscles were his.
            “That’s what you get for not paying attention!” the youth said.
            “I would,” Damon fired back, “but I didn’t expect to run into Mount Kilimanjaro!” He remembered Mount Kilimanjaro from geography class. Using humor might help him recover face.
            The youth’s smug expression turned into a hateful scowl. “I don’t like smart-asses!” he said, as he stomped toward Damon. The floor shook. The boy grabbed Damon and lifted him up over his head. Damon felt a rush of blood as he stared down at other kids, who paused in the hallway to laugh at him.
            He breathed in sharply. He could exhale—but what good would the darkspace do him in this situation? (THE SECRET CLUB, p. 13)

And that would be bad enough if his darkspace--his ability to create a cloud of darkness--didn't keep turning itself off and on at will.

And then things get worse.

What do you do when an old enemy shows up and wants to start a war with ords? Why, you form a Secret Club, of course!

Find out what happens in THE SECRET CLUB, now available on Amazon!

Friday, February 14, 2020

What’s Your Character’s Type? Part II: What the Enneagram Reveals about (More) Characters' Personalities

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

This post continues from this one, in which we looked at the Enneagram types of Damon, Denise, and Kyle, three of the main characters in my novel, The Power Club. In this post, we’ll reveal the Enneagram numbers of the remaining members of the PC--Vee, Danner, and Ali--plus one.

The Enneagram is an ancient concept which categorizes a person’s traits, strengths, and weaknesses into one of nine interconnected numbers. These numbers, scholars claim, can reveal a lot about your inner drives and fears, as well as how you behave in situations of stress and growth. (See, for example, the bibliography at the end of the previous post.)

The Enneagram is also useful, I’ve found, for uncovering the inner drives, fears, etc., of fictional characters—whether you are a writer or a fan. For the most part, I already knew the inner drives and motivations of the PC members—or I thought I did. The Enneagram has helped me look at certain choices the characters make in a new way.

More information on the Enneagram can be found at the Enneagram Institute, from whence came the quotes below which describe each type.

Vee = Seven (The Enthusiast)

With the power of super-speed, Vee lives life by literally running from one thing to the next. He is “extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous,” but he can also become “overextended, scattered, and undisciplined.” As the original leader of The Power Club, he decides to cancel a workout session for no other reason than to watch something on TV; however, he neglects to inform the club’s newest member, Damon, of the cancellation. Alone, Damon is ambushed by his enemy from school, Calvin.

Vee feels truly bad about the consequences of his actions, but this doesn’t stop him from making similar mistakes. Once Damon is elected leader, Vee becomes “perfectionistic and critical” of every mistake Damon makes. In part, this is because Vee thinks of PC as his club and resents Damon for intruding. However, Vee’s basic fear “of being deprived and in pain” forces him to keep these tendencies in check for now. If he gets kicked out of the PC, Vee fears the pain would be more than he can bear.

Because of his sister Denise’s concern for his safety, Vee misses out on “a worthwhile experience,” which causes him to become ever more resentful towards Damon, as we will see in the second book. At his best, though, Vee is more focused and able to do what is required of him to help the others survive.

Danner = Eight (The Challenger)

Danner’s ability to grow to as large as 30 feet exemplifies his personality as an Eight: “self-confident, strong, and assertive” as well as “egocentric and domineering.” At school, Danner serves as a crossing guard, a position of authority he relishes. Typical of Eights, he loves to control his environment and the people in it. When Damon resists his authority, Danner becomes temperamental. This leads him to make a choice he later regrets (including fighting his former best friend, Kyle) and he goes to great lengths to pay off the debt he has created for himself. Losing self-control, to Danner, is the greatest weakness.

Still, Danner recognizes the good he did as a member of PC and takes it to the next level in the second book so he can “protect himself and others.” When this protection goes awry, he is forced into a truce with Damon and later saves Damon's life. Despite their mutual dislike, Danner readily thinks of himself as in charge and as a protector.

Ali = Three (The Achiever)

Ali, like Kyle, is a Three, but her Enneagram type is expressed in slightly different ways. Like Kyle, she is “assured, attractive, and charming” as well as “self-accepting and authentic.” But she is also competitive and needs to feel valuable. When the riot breaks out in the mall, Ali jumps right into the fight. Later, she loudly objects when Damon suggests her role in the group could be that of a mere lookout. In spite of that, she arrives late to the scene of the robbery and ends up acting as lookout anyway.

For Ali, feeling worthless is unacceptable, and this feeling can cause her to become “disengaged and apathetic.” Although she truly does not like lying to her parents about her PC activities, one reason she quits PC is because she feels relegated to a secondary role.

In the first book, she is still learning to use her power of flight and lacks confidence. By the second book, she exhibits much more control and daring. She plays a central role in The Safety Patrol, the school-sponsored club of powered kids. She becomes “cooperative and committed to others,” putting her life at risk to help the others out of a deadly situation. And she takes no b.s. from a would-be kidnapper.

And now the plus-one:

Calvin = Four (The Individualist)

It’s hard for me to think of “bad guy” Calvin as a Four because that’s the number I most identify with. But Calvin has a typical Four personality. He is “self-aware, sensitive, and reserved” but also “moody and self-conscious.” He feels “disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living.” He “has problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity.” Fours can be withdrawn, and Calvin possesses a literal power to withdraw: He can create rifts into other dimensions and then hide in those dimensions or make others disappear into them.

From Damon’s perspective, Calvin is a villain. But Calvin sees himself as a victim who is misunderstood and who has been isolated because of the dangers of his powers. Because he has spent so much of his childhood apart from other kids, he feels he has “no identity or personal significance.” He “wants to express [himself] and [his] individuality,” but when he did so in the past, it resulted in a classmate disappearing forever. Calvin thinks it unfair that his own powers are singled out as too dangerous while other kids get to practice theirs and to make friends. In the meantime, he is looking for a “rescuer” and, by the end of the first book, believes he has found one.

If Calvin gets a chance to grow in different directions, he may embrace the positive aspects of being a Four: surrounding himself with beauty and “becoming more objective and principled,” but a lot depends on his ability to make positive choices from the challenges he faces.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Enneagram types as expressed through the main characters in The Power Club. I enjoyed exploring the types and learning new things about each character. In some cases, motivations are revealed here for the first time—things they haven’t shared with Damon, through whose eyes the story unfolds.

In a few days, the second book in the series, The Secret Club, will be available. In it, we will meet new powered kids to interact with Damon and the rest. In a future post, we’ll uncover their Enneagram numbers, as well.

Monday, February 10, 2020

What’s Your Character’s Number? What the Enneagram can reveal about your characters’ personalities

silhouette of man illustration
Photo by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

Personality tests are all the rage in social media land, but few tests can be as accurate, revealing, and insightful as the Enneagram. An ancient concept that finds modern uses among psychologists, educators, and hiring managers, the Enneagram is a circle separated into nine interconnected numbers, with each number representing personality traits, inner drives, and strengths and weaknesses.

I thought it would be fun to see where the characters in my novel, The Power Club and its forthcoming sequel, The Secret Club (due to be published on Feb. 20) land on this circle, and below is what I came up with. 

First, a couple of caveats need mentioning.

Not every trait in a personality type will apply to everyone who fits that type. If you are a Seven (“The Enthusiast”), for example, you might find some traits that resemble you and others that don’t.

Also, it can be difficult to pin one’s own number down. I’ve taken several Enneagram tests in the last few months, and depending on their results and on the opinions of people who know me, I’m a One (“The Reformer,” also known as “The Perfectionist”), a Four (“The Individualist”), A Five (“The Investigator”) or a Nine (“The Peacemaker”).

However, in studying the Enneagram, I think I have come to understand myself a little better.

But in terms of revealing where your characters might land on the circle, the Ennegram can be both insightful and surprising, as my results on three of the Power Club characters show.

More information on the Enneagram can be found at the Enneagram Institute, from when come the quotes below. Two helpful books are also listed in the bibliography at the end of this post.

Herewith is how three of the main PC kids stack up:

Damon = Six (The Loyalist)

According to the Enneagram Institute, Sixes are “reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trusting.” They “foresee problems and foster cooperation.” We see this in the first book, as Damon is the one who rallies The Power Club into becoming heroes. They join in when he fights back against the mob that invades the mall, and they (or most of them) later help him foil a robbery. Of all the PC members, Damon is the most committed to becoming a hero and doing something positive with the powers they possess.

But Sixes also have a dark side (in Damon’s case, this is both literal and figurative). They can become “defensive, evasive, and anxious,” and also “reactive, defiant, and rebellious.” We see these traits play out when the District opposes Damon’s plans to turn the PC into heroes. Damon becomes convinced, rightly or wrongly, that the unseen leaders of the District are out to get him, lying about the limits of his darkness power and turning other kids against him.

Sixes “want to have security, to feel supported by others,” and this is why the Power Club is so important to Damon. He doesn’t want to become a solo hero, acting on his own. He wants to be part of a team, working with other powered kids to make a difference. When things don’t work out the way he plans, he can become “competitive and arrogant” (as we’ll see in the second book), but, at his best, Damon is “internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing [himself] and others”—especially when their survival is at stake.

Denise = Five (The Investigator)

As a precognitive, Denise embodies a Five’s traits of being “visionary . . . ahead of [her] time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.” But her “Fiveness” goes beyond the nature of her power. She is “able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and independent skills.” In the False Alarm prequel, we saw that young Denise loved science and kept an ant farm. Her interest in science ties in with her key motivation of wanting to possess knowledge and understand the physical environment.

But the downside of her power and personality is that she can become “detached . . . high-strung and intense.” Her desire to control her world leads her to make decisions she later regrets. (We will see one such decision at the end The Power Club and some consequences of it in The Secret Club.) 

Typical of Fives, Denise is afraid of being useless; she knows her power isn’t very useful in battle, and, thus, she struggles with feeling insecure and isolated. At her best, she is “self-confident and decisive” and even the other PC members know when to listen to her.

Kyle = Three (The Achiever)

Kyle, who becomes Damon’s best friend, exudes the traits of a Three: “self-assured, attractive, and charming” as well as “ambitious, competent, and energetic.” As the oldest member of PC, Kyle is probably the best qualified to be its leader, but he’s not threatened when Damon is chosen instead. Rather, Kyle remains “diplomatic and poised,” a role model “who inspires others.”

Still, like other Threes, Kyle is status-conscious, and in his world, status often means doing the things other 15-year-old boys do: hunt, play football, and drive sports cars. In fact, Kyle is obsessed with a Mustang he helps his father rebuild, even though his own natural teleportation power can take him anywhere he wants to go. In his heart, Kyle wants both to fit in and “to be admired, and to impress others.” To him, this means acquiring the status symbols of achievement, such as the driver’s license he is looking forward to on his 16th birthday.

At his best, Kyle becomes “cooperative and committed to others,” assisting Damon in foiling the robbery at great personal cost.

So, what do we learn from all this?

What’s most interesting to me is that the types align not only with each character’s personality but also with his or her powers. A security-conscious Damon, for example, would naturally see his darkspace as an environment in which to feel safe. Kyle, on the other hand, has an inverse relationship between his power and his personality. As a teleporter, he is conceivably one of the most powerful kids in the district, but all he wants to do is fit in.

In the next post, I’ll reveal the numbers of the other PC kids.

Meanwhile, you can use the Enneagram to see what you can learn about your own characters.


The Enneagram Institute. (2019). Retrieved from

Stabile, Suzanne. (2018). The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships. InterVarsity Press.

Palmer, Helen. (2010). The Enneagram in Love and Work: Understanding Your Intimate & Business Relationships. HarperOne.

Sneak Peak at My Answers for the Local Author Fair Panel

On Thursday, November 5, I will be one of four authors participating in the Local Authors Fair Panel through Woodneath Library Center, Kansa...