Hello. I’m author Jeff Strand. If you tolerated A Bad Day For Voodoo, were ambivalent toward I Have a Bad Feeling About This, and had little or no opinion regarding The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, I’m pleased to announced that you’ll be equally unenthused about my latest YA novel, Stranger Things Have Happened.
It’s an extremely silly comedy about 15-year-old Marcus Millian III, who aspires to be a legendary magician like his great-grandfather, Zachary the Stupendous. The problem (well, the first problem of many) is that he suffers from paralyzing stage fright. That’s a bit of an issue when you want to be a stage magician.
Some stuff happens, and Marcus finds himself part of a bet between Grandpa Zachary and his arch-nemesis Bernard. Marcus has to invent and perform a ridiculously amazing illusion that will astound the audience at Bernard’s theater. Yeah, this is going to be a challenge, but at least he’s got Grandpa Zachary to help him. Until Grandpa Zachary dies in his sleep.
So now Marcus is on his own. Well, not entirely. He’s got his neighbor (and secret crush) Kimberly to help out, along with the very socially awkward and heavily bullied new kid, Peter, who has…secrets. Together they will work to create the ultimate illusion, one that may or may not involve making a shark disappear from a tank in front of a live audience.
Also, there’s a really evil guy named Sinister Seamus. Watch out for him.
Readers who are into magic (of the Penn & Teller variety, not Harry Potter) should enjoy this book because that’s kind of what the whole thing is about. Readers who are into books that are filled with silly (some might even say stupid) jokes should also enjoy it. It’s also about overcoming obstacles and following your dreams, if that’s the angle you want to play.
JEFF STRAND lives in Tampa, Florida. He is the author of A Bad Day for Voodoo, I Have a Bad Feeling About This, and The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. Explore his website at jeffstrand.com.
Title: Stranger Things Have Happened
Author: Jeff Strand
Pub Date: April 4, 2017
You can’t always believe what you see in this hilarious coming of age novel from the author of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever and I Have a Bad Feeling About This
Harry Houdini. Penn and Teller. David Copperfield. Marcus Millian the Third.
Okay, so Marcus isn’t a famous magician. He may not even be a great magician. But his great-grandfather, the once-legendary and long-retired Zachary the Stupendous, insists Marcus has true talent. And when Grandpa Zachary boasts that he and Marcus are working on an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish, Marcus wishes he could make himself disappear.
The problem? Marcus also has stage fright—in spades. It’s one thing to perform elaborate card tricks in front of his best friend, Kimberly, but it’s an entirely different feat to perform in front of an audience.
Then Grandpa Zachary dies in his sleep.
To uphold his great-grandfather’s honor, the show must go on. It would take a true sorcerer to pull off the trick Marcus has planned. But maybe he’s the next best thing…
“What is this slop?” asked Grandpa Zachary.
“Shhhh,” Mom hushed.
“Marcus, do your magic. Turn this food into something edible—wait. No magician has that much talent.”
Marcus was with his family at a fund-raiser potluck for a local animal shelter. Since his retirement, Grandpa Zachary had focused his attention on raising money for charitable causes, although he had trouble sticking with any particular cause for very long. Last month he’d been saving the red-tailed hawk, which he later discovered was nowhere close to being an endangered species.
“I wouldn’t feed this slop to the dogs we’re trying to help,” said Grandpa Zachary.
“Shhhh,” Mom repeated.
“I’m speaking at a very low volume. The people who brought this vile gunk won’t hear.”
There were about fifty people in the park. Admission was five dollars. Plus you were supposed to bring your own dish of food to share. Grandpa Zachary didn’t generate a lot of money for his causes, but he did give most of his free time.
Grandpa Zachary dipped a pretzel stick into the translucent goo and popped it into his mouth. “Actually, that’s infinitely better than it looks. I withdraw my criticism.” He snapped off the end of his pretzel so he wouldn’t be accused of double dipping. (Grandpa Zachary hated double dippers.) Then he plunged the pretzel into the sludge again. “Marcus Three, do me a favor. Find me a paper bowl so we can take this home with us. It’s delicious.”
Marcus went off in search of a bowl, grabbing an oatmeal raisin cookie along the way. The band, which had arrived half an hour late, was finally set up and ready to perform. The lead singer was wearing sweatpants, a white hat, and nothing else. He had dark circles under his eyes and looked like his latest shower was a distant memory.
“Good evening, everybody,” the singer said into the microphone. He held onto the stand as if to keep himself upright. “We’re Banjo Dan and the Wham Zaps. We’ve been drinking since nine-thirty this morning. Enjoy the show.”
He plucked a few strings on his instrument, which Marcus was pretty sure was a ukulele and not a banjo.
“This is a benefit for an animal shelter, right? So here’s a little song we wrote called ‘Your Wife Is Uglier than a Dog’.”
“Nope, nope, nope, we won’t be hearing that,” said Grandpa Zachary, hurrying up to the stage. For an eighty-nine-year-old, the man could move.
Still, he wasn’t fast enough to get there before Banjo Dan passed out. The other two members of the band just stood there, staring awkwardly at their fallen leader.
“What other songs do you know?” Grandpa Zachary asked them.
“Uhhhh…we actually just stand here and pretend to play.”
“Begone!” cried Grandpa Zachary. “Take your snookered friend with you. Shame, shame, shame!”
The Wham Zaps dragged Banjo Dan away.
Grandpa Zachary picked up the microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for that crass spectacle. What a disgrace.” He shook his head and started to scan the audience. “But the show will go on. Let us amuse you with a different act.”
Marcus suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He began to sweat. It was hard to breathe. His feet hurt, even though he couldn’t explain why.
Grandpa Zachary’s gaze fell on him, and Marcus started to tremble. He loved to perform tricks for Kimberly. Loved to perform tricks for his great-grandfather. Loved to perform tricks for his parents. But he was terrified of performing in front of an audience. He’d never done it before.
It was a fear he knew he’d have to overcome to pursue his dream of being a famous magician, but he sure wasn’t over it yet.
Grandpa Zachary cleared his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together in a warm welcome for Marcus!”