‘I won’t grow up’
Author Mike Blumer, May Township, who writes under the name J. Michael Blumer, has created a fantasy world with fantasy characters who do fantastical things.

Jan 29, 2008 - 09:09:01 CST.

Story by Jackie Dubbe

MAY TOWNSHIP — So, what would you do if you had to get somewhere far away fast?

Well, you'd summon a journeywind, of course.

Or maybe you'd go to sleep and dream-slip.

And when you arrived at your destination, it might be Gabendoor, where you'd meet up with wizards or the triplets — Molly Folly, Nelly Never and Tillie Truly Sallyforth, delightful siblings with their own form of broken English. Tillie Truly always tells the truth, and Nellie Never never does.

Mike Blumer of May Township is the author of The Secret Books of Gabendoor series, in which his main characters, Windslow and his stepsister, Hillary, dream-slip travel to Gabendoor.

Both Windslow and Hillary are 13 years old. They became step-siblings when his father married her mother. Because of an accident, Windslow is in a wheelchair. His being differently-abled and the kids' step-sibling relationship adds a refreshing dynamic to these pre-teen/teen fantasy novels.

Blumer has spent much of his life as a bit of a scamp "in his own world."

"I'm the only person I know who was suspended from kindergarten," says Blumer. "I love doing art, and one time, when it was time for a nap, I went out the window and did art all afternoon until I was found by the police."

Then there was the time in fourth grade when he was banned from the playground because he had lassoed a bully and hog-tied him on the playground with a jump rope.



He remembers his mother sitting him down when he was about 9 years old and saying, "Michael, you're the kind of little boy I don't want you to play with."

Blumer says it was worth being banned from the playground because he got to spend playground time inside painting with Mrs. Wold, and that turned him around.

"I had too much energy and creativity," says Blumer.

‘In sixth grade, Mrs. Rice assigned us to write an opening to a short story. It was the best homework ever," he says. Blumer wrote and rewrote and rewrote again and then turned in his assignment. "She gave me an F. She said I had plagiarized," he says. It wasn't until he returned from home carrying all his revisions that Mrs. Rice changed his F to an A.

Blumer calls himself an avid reader. He's loved books like "The Pearl," "The Old Man and the Sea," "Treasure Island" and "20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea." He read "War and Peace" at age 14, and as a teen did an oral book report on "All Quiet on the Western Front."

"Complexities of characters fascinated me," says Blumer.

As a young man, he considered writing careers, so he started college in a creative writing program. When he had to write a piece about a true-life experience, he wrote about an adventure he and a friend had at Pine Tree Orchard when they were eventually chased off by the police. He got another F when his professor said Blumer's writing was fiction.

He dropped out of the creative writing program and moved to the business and psychology programs. He spent 1970-71 in the Army, married and then went to work in sales and marketing with Northwestern Bell, which became Qwest. After a career with Qwest, he was offered a buyout or a position in Portland.

"My grown kids called me a hypocrite," he says. "They said ‘Would-n't this be a good time to be a writer?

You always said you wanted to do that'." (These are the same kids who had dubbed him an "alternative life form" because of his creative child rearing techniques — such as making them sing their arguments.)


Blumer started selling cars so he wouldn't have to take work home, and he began writing.

He joined an Internet online writing group that wrote "Lord of the Rings"-type fantasy for adults. His venture back into writing began with an adult fantasy series he intends to finish after the Secret Books of Gabendoor series. "The story I was developing had 500,000 words, so I knew it was at least a trilogy," says Blumer.

In the adult fantasy, he has an alter ego, Mike the janitor, custodian of a virtual pub on the Internet called the Serendip. It's a place where characters hang out to discuss and gossip about their authors. Mike the janitor "… ain't one of them uppity writer types." He simply takes care of the pub, living in the cellar with a few bats as companions and feeds the unnamed dragon that doubles as the Serendip's mascot and part-time bouncer.

One sixth grade teacher in Blumer's online writing group asked if anyone had a chapter that her students could critique. "I thought I could have fun with this," says Blumer. "When your goal is to get an F, it's a throwaway.

"I decided to have a wizard come to Earth from someplace. So, a journeywind burps out three wizards. The writers group loved it and wanted a second chapter. I wrote the whole book not knowing what was going to happen," he says.

"I set aside the books of writing rules and went on my own," he says, "and I was published by mistake."

He had submitted "The Book of Second Chances" to a publishing company that did books in a series. About six months later, he got a letter from them suggesting a possible book contract: "Please call."

When he called, he was asked what the name of the second book was.

He had to think fast, "Uh, ‘The Book of Broken Promises'."

"And the third book?"

"Uh, ‘The Book of Twisted Truths'."

"What's the name of the series?"

"Uh, The Secret Books of Gabendoor."

They sent him a contract in the mail.

"I had to quick write down the titles before I forgot them," says Blumer. ("The Book of Twisted Truths" has a projected September 2008 release date. The final two books in the series will be titled "The Book of Sallyforth" and "The Secret Library.")

He felt lucky, "Point 03 percent of submitted manuscripts are published," he says. "And there's a lot of work after publishing.

"As a fantasy or science fiction writer, we're looked at as second cousins by the kind of group that rejected Harry Potter," says Blumer, "yet many classics are fantasy and science fiction.

"You have to decide if you're going to write to the market — there is the business side of it," he says.

"Kids started saying things like, ‘I hope Hillary will ..., Windslow will ..., the Sallyforth sisters will ...,'" he says, "so, I started writing for fans."

Plot development falls into basically two categories, he explains. At one end are the outliners who have set out the whole book before they begin writing. At the other end are the organic writers.

"I'm an organic writer," says Blumer. "I never know what's going to happen, and that's so much fun because I get to experience a story as it develops. I love discovering the story as it unfolds, but I envy outliners and how reassuring that must be."

He says he uses wordplay to discover the names of his characters — names like Fistlock and Haggerwolf and Larkstone.

"My mind is always in my imagination," he says. "Sometimes I regret that my brain has to take time to deal with reality."

Blumer speaks about the passion of writing with groups of both adults and children.

"I love talking with kids in schools. I've always been a 2-year-old. I never grew up," he says. "Luckily, I was smart enough to marry a second grade teacher who knows how to handle me."

Blumer's books can be ordered complete with study guides, posters, trading cards and dream-slip bracelet bands.

He's built props to take into classrooms when he talks with students. "I'm a teacher at heart," he says. For example, he built a "Magic Book of Second Chances" that lights up and glass jewels flash.

"I tell kids to keep the passion (for writing), that it comes from you — cling to that," he says.

Jackie Dubbe can be reached at 651-407-1235 or scvalleynews@presspubs.com.

Editor's Note: Teachers who would like Mike Blumer to visit with or work with their classes, can contact him at jmblumer [at] gabendoor.com.

For more information, visit www.gabendoor.com.

To comment on this article, please go to the St. Croix Valley Pres web site.