I'm writing this post because I've now officially followed up with everyone who requested material from me at the conference. All I have to say iswow! What an amazing time I had in St. Louis. Below are some photos as well as brief descriptions of some of my favorite conference memories.

Jill Williamson is one of my favorite people on this planet. I've known her for nearly 8 years now and she is still incredibly encouraging and a blast to be around. Whenever we're at a conference together I can usually be found making a beeline to wherever she's at. My fav memory this year: Getting a call from Jill and leaving the critique session in order to go track her down as her friend drove her aimlessly around the confusing conference center.

Robert Liparulo was the keynote speaker at Realm Makers. He and I have corresponded through e-mail since I was sixteen, and I am overjoyed that I finally got to meet him in the flesh. My fav memory this year: Robert taking time out of his busy conference schedule to stop and talk to me whenever we spotted each other. I admire this man greatly for his sincerity and generosity, and hope we get to bump into each other at future conferences.

David Farland taught the continuing track I attended this year, which was primarily about editing. However, he touched on much more than that, and his class ended up being worth the price of admission at Realm Makers in and of itself! My fav memory: David Farland reminiscing about how he advised the marketing department at Scholastic to push Harry Potter in the states.

Donita K. Paul wrote the wonderful DragonKeeper Chronicles. She is an amazing author who I've always looked up to, ever since meeting her at a book signing in 2007 (pictured above). My fav memory: Getting the chance to tell her how much her words have meant to meboth the words of advice she gave me at her book signing as well as the words in her books. She is truly a gem.

Kat Heckenbach and I have known each other online since the ice age, but this was the first chance we've gotten to meet in real life (these types of meetings were a trend of the conference). If you haven't picked up her book Finding Angel, please do yourself a favor and remedy that. Here's a link. My fav memory: Walking up to Kat in order to say goodbye on the last night only to end up talking for another hour.

John Otte is the one person I could never attend a writing conference without. So of course, he and I spent a lot of time together. (I was surprised to find he's gotten shorter since we last saw each other a couple years back.) My fav memory: Explaining to John the dangers of two-dimensional characters.

There are so many more memories that I could share, but I could never capture them all in a blog post. But to sum everything upthis was an incredibly special conference and I hope I'll get the chance to attend next year.

Don't worry, this isn't a third post about dental surgery. I just came up with the title now and got really upset that I didn't use it for either of my previous blog posts. And then I realized there was nothing stopping me from using it here, right now—so I am. Just pretend this is one of the other posts. It's fine. Because this is my blog and you're getting what you paid for. Which is nothing. So we're even.

No, this post is one I've been waiting to put online because I wanted some time to pass first. It's about one of the more eventful nights of my last year. Which is sad, but very telling about my life.

Sitting in the back of a police cruiser, I couldn't help but wonder how my life had led me there. It had been a normal night at work, just like any other. But now I was locked in the back of a cop car, and no one was there to save or bail me out.

Flashback one hour before...

(Wasn't that cinematic? I feel like Emily Thorne.)

I'm a full-time student, but I also work part-time as a substitute custodian for my town's school district. It's a much nicer job than the hell I went through working at Subway, and I actually get decent pay and consistent work. During the night in question, I was working at a school known for being on the rougher side of town. The shift goes late, so as I was finishing up I went around the school making sure all the doors and windows were locked.

At night, it's already eerie being alone in the long halls. This particular school has a basement, which luckily I only have to go into at the end of my shift to check the doors are locked. The basement is dark and looks more like a parking garage than a school. The worst thing about it, though, is that the builders didn't put the light switches near the steps. Nope, they stuck them on a wall in the middle of the basement, which forces you to walk to them in pitch black. Logical, huh?

Anyways, as I was making my way towards the light*, I noticed that the basement was a lot colder than it should have been. And then I noticed that there was already a light just around the corner of the basement. A bright light, not unlike something from the movie Signs, streaming into the basement. "Beam me up, Scotty," I whispered to diffuse the tension. I'd like to imagine that's what I'd say if actual aliens were abducting me. But more likely I'd just scream, or ask the aliens if E.T. ever made it back to his family, or if aliens even have family, or are they just made in test-tubes and incubators?**

Turns out it wasn't aliens, it was just an open door. I walked to the door, covering my eyes to try and see outside, but it was too bright to see anything. Maybe I was dying, and this door of light was Jesus' way of calling me home.

"I'm not ready to come home, Lord," I thought. "I still haven't beaten the last Zelda game. And I never finished Watership Down, either. What's gonna happen to those rabbits? And why is it about rabbits? With a title like that, the story should be more along the lines of The Hunt for Red October. But maybe it does turn into that. Now I'll never find out."

"Stop right there!" I heard a man's voice yell. Still shielding my eyes, I thought about asking if it was Saruman or Gandalf addressing to me. "What's going on?" I asked instead. A pretty dumb question to ask a wizard/alien/Jesus.

The silhouette of a man stepped into the light and walked towards me, and gradually I could make out that the light was coming from the headlights of a car, and it was a cop warily striding towards me, one hand on the weapon at his belt. I immediately felt guilty, even though jaywalking is pretty much the most illegal thing I've ever done.

"We got a call that this door was left open," the cop said. "Who are you and what are you doing here?"

I wanted to seem composed, but instead I just babbled out an explanation for why I was there and how I'd just found the door open. It must have seemed like the most suspicious thing. I recently had someone think I was 16 years-old, and here I was, at night, looking for all the world like a hooligan  breaking into the school. Luckily I had my badge on me, which the cop analyzed carefully. And then he asked me to sit in the back of his car while he made some calls.

This was it. The end of the line. I imagined the expansive criminal life I could've led—culminating in this dramatic end. I felt like Lindsay Lohan as the officer opened the cruiser door for me and I crawled inside. I hoped I'd have a better mugshot.

The officer made his calls, trying to confirm that I actually worked for the school, and because it was so late, no one picked up.***

It became increasingly easier to imagine myself locked up in prison. "I don't even cuss," I thought aloud. The cop didn't hear me.

After I'd resigned myself to a life in the joint, the cop studied my badge again and then let me out of the car. Based on the evidence, it looked like I worked there, and we both concluded that someone must've left the door open earlier in the day. I was ready to be back inside and for my shift to end.

"Do you want me to search the school?" the officer asked.

I thanked him and said no. I'd been there the whole night and would've heard someone breaking in. He nodded, got in his cruiser, and drove away—leaving me 100% sure that the door HAD been opened by an intruder, that I was an idiot for not having the armed cop search the school, and I was about to be brutally murdered.

I cautiously closed the door, then bolted across the basement and up the stairs in exactly the way every kid does, thinking a monster is breathing down their neck.

Fusing my frayed wits back together, I re-checked every door, window, and room in the school. As I checked the last room, I heard footsteps in the long hallway—sprinting straight towards me. To my shame, I did nothing but stay absolutely still. If Darwin had been in the room, he would've rolled his eyes. I was the weakest link and this was clearly natural selection fishing me out of the gene pool.

A man ran into the room, brandishing a baseball bat, and started yelling at me. He had wild hair and his shirt was only half-buttoned. He was either crazy or had just gotten out of bed. I slowly made out what he was yelling and showed him my badge. This was the daytime custodian. He hadn't known a substitute was coming in that night, and a cop had left a message on his phone saying someone might've broken into his school.

We sorted out the understanding and he left the school, buttoning up his shirt on the way out.

As I locked the door of the school library, I caught sight of a well-loved Magic School Bus book. I was not Miss Frizzle. I was Mr. Frazzled, and I wanted this not-so-magical ride to be done. After checking all the doors to the school a 3rd time, I drove off—only to be tailed by a cop car. My mounting paranoia returned with a vengeance, and eventually the cruiser's lights turned on and he pulled me over.

"I almost got away with it," I thought. My delusions of being a criminal were making a brief comeback.

It turned out to be a different cop this time. Apparently, one of my tail lights was out. I apologized and he didn't write me a ticket, and I drove the rest of the way home.

The moral I can take away from this is that you should never leave doors open. And if one is open, it probably isn't an alien. But here's a dancing alien for you, anyways.

*This wasn't, yet, a near-death experience for me.

**If I'm ever abducted by aliens, I'll update this blog to let you know the answers to these important questions. Assuming, of course, that aliens have internet, and that I'm not inside out or exploded.

***Because of this experience, the school district has implemented a better emergency call situation. So I guess it's good this happened.
Things went both better and worse than I expected. The good part about getting my wisdom teeth ripped out of my face? The surgery was quick, went off without a hitch, and I didn't even have to get stitches. The pain is minimal and I've hardly had to take any meds.

The bad? Well. That's what this blog post is gonna be about.

But first, I want to talk about the laughing gas, 'cause that stuff is crazy. My mom once told me that when she had a tooth pulled in her teens, the gas made her feel like she was floating around on the ceiling. And though that wasn't my experience, it was still bizarre. The nurse who put the mask on me left me in the room alone, and I'm not sure why, but this made a giggle rise in my throat that I knew would go on for infinity if I let it out. Luckily, I wasn't alone with my thoughts for long. The doctor came in the room with two nurses, one of them lifted a bib to my mouth and told me to cough on it (???) and then they poked me with a needle and I left my tingly, giggly body for a better place.

Apparently I'm in a small percentage of people who react violently to general anesthesia. I've gone with a few of my friends to get their wisdom teeth out, and all of them were close to being back to themselves by the time we left the oral surgery center. But not me! Nope. I had to be carried out by my best friend and the nurse, which I'm glad I don't remember. I do, however, remember seeing double of certain things on the drive home. Like the man/men getting into his/their car/cars. Very weird.

I'm also glad that I didn't have a full-blown David after the Dentist experience. But there were a few odd thingsten second patches of memory scattered about here and there. I was like an ancient whale surfacing for breaths of fresh air before diving back into an oceany* abyss.

Me making a camio on the once-hit show "ER"
After getting home, I guess I sat in my room for about half an hour. I only remember it being about 30 seconds. Then I took my pills and crawled into bed for a couple hours. Luckily I was myself again when I woke up. Except that I was incredibly nauseous and kept throwing up.

My bff earned that title and spent the day with me, helping me recover. We watched the new Carrie movie (four out of five stars) and I took several naps. The nausea was really bad, though, and it got to the point where I couldn't take a drink of water without that inducing a very convincing Linda Blair impression. So my best friend called his dad, who is conveniently a doctor, and his dad said I should totes go to the ER. So I totes did.

There are only a few things worth mentioning after that. One is that my doctor at the ER introduced himself as "Dr. Quinn." Another is that I could barely hold back several Jane Seymour jokes. The last is that hospitals have some kind of anti-nausea serum that works wonders and we've all been suffering needlessly for years, guys.

All in all, it's been quite an eventful week. Hopefully I'll be able to eat solid food again soon and get back to the real world.

*I realize that "oceany" is not a correct word.
No one in my family has had wisdom teeth. For years, we didn't think that I did, either. But last month I got some x-rays done, and guess what, I have 'em up top. (Just more proof that I'm probably adopted.)

When I was younger, I thought of wisdom teeth in a very literal way. I thought that you couldn't gain true wisdom unless it was growing out of your face. Hence the name. It was hard accepting that I'd never have them, and then later, I was very glad that no one in my family did.

Bib selfie I took while waiting for x-rays
I suppose the tooth fairy has very selective hearing, though, and only chose to listen to the confused logic of mini Chris. Of course, she also janked things up, because my wisdom teeth are growing sideways under my gums. Apparently that's very bad, and it's why they both have to come out now, because if I don't have the surgery done, my wisdom teeth could grow under my 2nd molars and sever their roots, and then those would have to come out, too. And then, once those four teeth were out, I'd have to get rid of the top 2nd molars, as well, because they'd have overgrown thinking they had the space to get roomy. Dumbies. (But no one claims that those teeth are very wise, so I guess I can't blame them.)

All in all, that's a risk of losing 6 teeth. So I chose to just get the 2 done now.

After making that decision, my mom took it upon herself to purchase every jar of apple sauce, yogurt, soup, and pudding within the county. So I've got that going for me. She even bought some Danimals, which I've never had (they look kinda gross).

Since you need a designated driver after the surgery, my best friend is coming to pick me up in the morning to take me to the oral surgery center. I'm glad it's going to be him with me, because he already knows too much about me, and I don't have to worry about him judging me too harshly when I come out of the surgery room gassed-up and ready to babble.

Now, because I'm kind of a paranoid idiot, last night I spent a traumatizing half hour trolling through wisdom teeth removal videos on YouTube, and just to add to my anxiety, I went on several blogs and read horror story-like experiences people have had with anesthesia and tooth pulling. So I'm basically on the verge of a panic attack, despite knowing that getting your wisdom teeth out is one of the most common and basic surgeries out there. My heart thinks it's going to be like Jennifer Garner in that first episode of Alias, while my head knows that everything's going to be fine.

Maybe it's just time for me to wise up.

p.s. I hope to update soon with a pic of my face swollen to three times its normal size, but I may be too drugged-out to remember what the internet is. We'll see.
Hey there! The other day we got the chance to talk to Robert Liparulo about high school, characters, writing advice, pets, and all kinds of other stuff. Today we’re gonna tackle some of the heavier subjects. So let’s get started!

Robert, can you tell us about how you came to know Jesus?

I was raised Catholic—even went to a parochial middle school—and during one short time when I was about eleven I considered being a priest. I had a falling out with Catholicism in my teens and wasn’t sure what to do about God. A few years into my marriage, my wife and I weren’t getting along, and I felt terrible about it. For the first time in years, I prayed, and I asked God why this woman who I loved so much seemed like a stranger to me. God answered in a way that I can only describe as an audible voice. To this day, I believed I hear Him with my ears as well as my heart. He said, “The reason this has happened is because I’m not part of your life.”
I immediately went to my wife, who was raised agnostic, and told her what had happened. I said I wanted to bring God into our lives, into our marriage. She responded like someone who’d been holding her breath forever and was just told that it was ok to breathe. We went to a Presbyterian church, had a meeting with the pastor, and have walked with Christ ever since. I wish I had been smarter and more faithful to Him in my late-teens and early-twenties, but I’m sure glad He shook up my life and got my attention again.

If you had the chance to change a scene from one of your previous releases, what book would you choose, what scene would you change, and how would you change it?

In Germ, there’s a scene in which a compound that makes biological weapons is bombed in an air strike. If I were to write that scene today, instead of an air strike, I think I’d have the compound attacked by an elite fighting force, a special ops team. It would be cool to have these guys stealthily infiltrate the compound, setting explosives all around, and slowly working their way to the heart of the operation. It was also allow me to have more human/character contact, between them and the good guys who are already in the compound and the bad guys. More now than ever, I’m always looking for ways to build character, to make the characters propel the story forward. By putting more characters on the page instead of anonymous airplanes, I could have done that better.
A few people I’ve told that to argue that the air strike worked because it put the good guys on the ground at risk and it was exciting to see if they’d be able to get out in time. But I think I could have created the same sort of stakes, the same suspense by giving the special ops team the order to kill everyone they encountered.
I’ve talked to the producer who’s making Germ into a movie and he likes the idea. And it doesn’t hurt that shooting a bunch of guys breaking into the compound is a lot cheaper to film than an air strike. So maybe I’ll be able to have it both ways—one for the book and one for the movie.

You get the chance to star in an upcoming film release. What genre of movie would you star in and who would you pick as your costar?

It’d have to be a thriller—a cops and robbers or bank heist story. I love those. My dream co-stars would be Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, but I’d love to work with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon as well. I’ve met DiCaprio and Damon, but not DeNiro or Pacino. For some reason, when I get totally burnt out after a long day of writing, I find myself watching the same films over and over: Heat, Ronin, and Bourne Identity. I think the crazy action of those films lets me sort of check out mentally. I also like horror films—smart horror films—but I’m afraid if I were to star in one, they’d want to cast me as the monster.

You’re invited to a White House function, and you have the chance to give a 10-minute speech to the President and the country watching on TV. What do you talk about?

I love what former Australian prime minister John Howard said: “Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.” (Unfortunately the country’s new PM, Julia Gillard, has proclaimed, “I don’t believe in God.”) I would appeal to our president to take a similar stance as Mr. Howard. We are a Christian country, founded on Christian principles, and anyone who doesn’t like that can leave. That doesn’t mean we don’t have tolerance for other religions, but taking God off our coins and out of our schools is just ridiculous. We can honor God and keep reminders of His presence in public places without violating the rights of people with differing beliefs. We need a president who believes that.

Do you have a favorite Christian band? If so, who is it and what’s your favorite song by them?
I’m partial to Third Day. Mac Powell’s voice floors me, it’s so emotive. I had a chance to hang out with him and the band backstage once, and it was great experience, seeing that they aren’t just talents, but Godly men and fun guys. I like a lot of Third Day songs, but I guess my favorite for now is “Call My Name.”
I also like David Crowder, Randy Stonehill, Casting Crowns, Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Jars of Clay, tobyMac. Dreamhouse Kings was a co-sponsor of one of tobyMac’s concert tours last year, which as totally cool.

If you would meet any celebrity, dead or alive, who would you choose and what would you ask him or her?

Well, I’d love to have a conversation with C.S. Lewis, but I’ve read so many of his books and biographies that I feel I already know him. So for the sake of diversity, I’d choose someone else. There are so many people I admire: Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, Michelangelo. But in the end, I’d love to go through a Dreamhouse portal and meet Martin Luther, who started the Protestant Reformation. The foundation of his Ninety-Five Theses was that God’s grace could not be earned or purchase, but is a free gift. The theme of my next thriller, The 13th Tribe, is exactly this, so maybe right now I’m especially sensitive to Luther’s teaching.
I can just imagine the two of us discussing theology for hours—days. I think he would do most of the talking, but I’d love to ask him about the nuances of free grace: Is it possible to accept the gift and live by God’s word solely out of gratitude, without ever once thinking, “Doing this makes me a good person; this will bring me closer to God”? Is accepting the gift really all we have to do? I’ve heard that Luther enjoyed a fermented beverage now and then, so maybe we could have this great conversation over a couple pints of ale.

What world issue are you passionate about? Why?

It drives me crazy that there are hungry people in the world. Food isn’t a privilege; it’s a necessity and a basic human right. That there are children, even here in America , who go to bed hungry—I mean with a pain in the gut most of us have never felt—is one of the saddest tragedies I can think of. My family helps out at food kitchens, and I donate to organizations like Feeding America, Freedom from Hunger, and Global Hunger Project. But it’s all just a drop in the bucket. As long as there’s a single starving person in the world, we’re not doing enough.

God tells you that you’ll never publish another book. Do you still keep writing?

I wouldn’t know what else to do. I believe God wired me to write, but if for some reason He says I won’t ever be published again, of course I’d abide by that, but it wouldn’t keep me from doing what I was born to do. Maybe He has other plans for my words—through oration or some other medium, I don’t know.
I believe God wouldn’t give you a gift and desire to do something without also giving you the opportunities to fulfill that desire. That’s why I tell new writers that every one of them could be published and make a career out of writing. They have a strong, God-given desire, and God will be faithful to that desire. They just have to be faithful to it as well. My favorite verse is 2 Chronicles 31:21: “In everything that he undertook . . . he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.” To me, this verse unites human endeavor with God’s sovereignty and providence. Seek God and work hard. Often, we forget one side of that equation.

You can visit Robert online at: www.DreamhouseKings.com.