Tag Archive for Preller Family Life

Fan Mail Wednesday #190: A Future Detective Named Vaughn Just Wants to Know



Here we go, Fan Mail Wednesday! But first, let’s shake it out with a little zumba . . .

Just kidding, folks. You can relax.

James-Preller-cropped1Also, please note: This is the 1,001st post since I started this blog in May, 2008, back when I had dreams of RULING THE INTERNET. That’s an average of something like eight gazillion posts a year, and it’s pretty exhausting. I’ve slowed down the pace over the past few years, no longer  worrying much about this blog, or about getting “hits” or anything like that, but lately I’ve decided to step up my efforts. So don’t be surprised if the next time you stop by there’s some new throw pillows and curtains. You might even smell some incense and potpourri.

And if I haven’t said it lately, thank you, sincerely, for stopping by. The internet is deep and vast; it’s really something that you’ve managed to find yourself here, reading this. I’m grateful for that.

Here’s a note from my new main man of all men, Vaughn:


I replied:

Hi, Vaughn,

Thanks a lot for reading my book, and thanks a really lot for writing to tell me about it.

795.Sch_Jigsaw_jones_0.tifYou hope that Hermie doesn’t get eaten by a snake? Imagine how Hermie feels!

Do I like detectives? Oh, yeah, for sure. I love trying to figure out mysteries, looking for clues, solving secret codes, and encountering new characters. But one of the things that I grew to love about this series was the friendship, and the loyalty, between Jigsaw and Mila. They always look out for each other.

As a young boy, maybe even around your age, I used to spy on my brothers and sisters (I’m the youngest of seven). I’d hide in weird places, sneak around corners, crawl silently up darkened stairways. I used to own a “spy scope,” which was a long, expandable telescope that could be used to see around corners. Man, I loved that toy. Once I even watched in horror as my big brother, Billy, and his girlfriend, the beautiful & sweet-smelling Janice Snellbaker, kissed! They didn’t know I was there.

All I can say is: Yuck!

Some things, Vaughn, are hard to unsee.

I hope you keep reading books, any books at all, even mine. Good luck with your detective work. Remember this: Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.

My best,


Overheard: “Don’t try to write anything funny.”

Ah, the joys of middle school life. Is anyone else out there in the midst of it? It’s a really complex time for those kids. And they might be, possibly, out of their minds. Helplessly so.

Anyway, the scene: Gavin, my 6th-grader, comes to me in the morning. He needs me to write a note giving him permission to ride the bus to a friend’s house after school.

That he comes to me with a Post-It Note we’ll ignore.

As I’m about to write the brief note, he says, “Don’t try to write anything funny.”

Because parents can be so painfully embarrassing . . .

Overheard: “Mom, I Can’t Say THAT!” Subtitle: Gavin and Valentine’s Day

Ah, Valentine’s Day. What torture.

And when did it become almost exclusively about candy?

I’m reminded of one of my favorite comments made by Jigsaw Jones eleven years ago in The Case of the Secret Valentine. Jigsaw has just made an unnerving discovery: someone sent him a secret Valentine. He complains to Mila:

“You know what the worst part is,” I complained. “This girl is ruining a perfectly good holiday. I mean, I like Valentine’s Day. You get to eat cupcakes. Why does she have to drag love into it?”

Anyway, our family’s participation in the holiday has devolved over the years from our kids’  highly artistic, creative efforts at card-making to pure commercialism. Lisa now buys the cards at CVS, the kids fill ’em out, and we’re through it with a minimum of hassle.

Tip to parents: Things go so much easier when you eliminate tiresome concepts such as art, creativity, effort, and care!

Anyway, Lisa brought home some generic cards for Gavin. They contained benign messages like, I don’t know, “You’re a blast!” (cue rocket ship art), “You’re awesome!” and so on. You know the type.

Gavin looked at the cards and nearly died right there from mortification. He began twitching, scratching himself, blinking uncontrollably, clearly agitated.  “Mom, I can’t say that . . . to a girl!”


Gavin could barely form the words. He finally sputtered,  “I can’t say that a girl is awesome.”

They talked about it, and Gavin made it clear that any expression of affection, admiration, or even grudging respect would be unacceptable. So Lisa, no dummy, surrendered to our fifth-grade boy’s abject terror. She instead bought  a holiday bag of mini Kit-Kat bars with the words “TO” and “FROM” printed on each individual bar. Gavin had only to fill out the names — which was about as much emotion as he was willing to expend.

At CVS, Lisa ran into another mother of a fifth-grade boy. She was on the same errand, dealing with a similar revolt. Looks like a lot of kids will be getting Kit Kat bars in school today. The next few years should be interesting.

Husbands and Wives: A Quick Story

My daughter, Maggie, age eight, had a long-standing appointment with the orthodontist (note to self: write faster!). But as the date neared, my wife, Lisa, realized she’d be unable to bring Maggie to the appointment.

So she called the receptionist.

Wife: “Hi, this is Lisa Preller. I’m calling in the hopes of changing my daughter’s appointment. It turns out I have a work conflict. I’m sorry, I know it’s been in the book for a while. My husband could still take her, but he’s not, you know, detail oriented and, um, I had just hoped that maybe if it wasn’t too much trouble . . .”

Receptionist: “Say no more, dearie. I have a husband, too. How’s next Tuesday work for you?”