Cover by cover…

All seven books - bestThe seven book covers for my serialized coming-of-age novel Meeting Dennis Wilson are all deliberately based on the cover designs of classic Beach Boys album covers.

In doing the designs (and yes, I did all of the cover design myself; like everything else in this process, it was a learning experience!), I wanted to emulate those album covers without directly ripping them off.

Designing each one of them was fun in its own way, from the time-consuming “fill in the blank boxes on the graph paper with color” for Book Six to taking the pictures for the mock-up postcards that I created for Book Four. As on the group’s early Capitol album covers, I even included the “file under” tabs at the top of the covers (for consistency with the whole series, I used those tabs in all the book designs, even those where the original albums didn’t have the tabs).

The only quirk of the design process that I couldn’t correct or control was that two of the books (one and three) were too slender to have spine type. Perhaps I should include a Sharpie with each of those books.

Like the story itself, the Meeting Dennis Wilson cover designs are not directly “about” the Beach Boys, but inspired by them… and people who like the group, I hope, will get it.

For those who don’t, though, this photo album shows you the book covers alongside the album covers on which the designs were based.

For more about Meeting Dennis Wilson, click here.

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Wildflowers

An excerpt from the novel Meeting Dennis Wilson by Max Harrick Shenk

1398410_406444749484130_390119278_o…I kept thinking of Annie Pierce’s advice from the lunch line –“Why not spend the drycleaning money and get Christy extra flowers?”– and I realized that, even if Dad had given me a ride, we could’ve swung by Valley Florist or even the A&P and I could have snagged some flowers, any flowers, for Christy.

As that thought crossed my mind, I was at the corner where I turned left to go back toward Buford Circle and the Kellys’ house. I wiped a line of sweat from my forehead (it wasn’t even that warm out, and I could still feel the sweat dripping down my back and butt crack), and as I took a breath, I looked to my right, down the short dead-end street abutting the farmer’s field, where the asphalt turned to dirt and that dirt sprouted a wild spread of buttercups, dandelions, Queen Anne’s lace, purple cornflowers, Black-eyed Susans…

Another thing I fucked up, I thought as I walked down McCormick Street and then turned up into Buford Circle with the wildflower bouquet clutched in my fist. Annie said buy Christy flowers, and here I am, tromping over there with these crappy looking weeds, which I’m getting all wilty with my sweaty palms… if I’d thought of it sooner, I could’ve picked some real flowers from the back yard, or gone back to our fort and gotten some honeysuckle, which would have meant something more to Christy than this crappy, cheap-looking, thrown-together, picked-on-the-fly, quote-bouquet-end quote…

But when I hit the Kellys’ doorbell and the door opened almost immediately, Christy saw the small wildflower bouquet and pushed the screen door open, leaning down to hug me hard.

“Awwww, baby!” she whispered. “You are so sweet.”

And what did I say as she squeezed me?

“I knew you’d like them.”


“Today marks the day that I officially add Meeting Dennis Wilson to my ‘Favorite Coming of Age Books’ list. I adore John Green and his work [and] I fell in love with this book just as easily as I fell in love with Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines. Meeting Dennis Wilson can easily be compared to a teenager who’s just coming of age: awkward, quirky, hilarious, and loads of fun to be around.Meeting Dennis Wilson is incredibly comical, sweet, and ultimately feel-good.”
(The Literary Connoisseur)

All seven books - best.jpg

Meeting Dennis Wilson is available in both softcover print and Kindle editions, in either seven serialized installments or as an omnibus edition gathering all seven books.

Click here for ordering information for both print and e-book editions. 

About “Meeting Dennis Wilson”

“Today marks the day that I officially add Meeting Dennis Wilson to my ‘Favorite Coming of Age Books’ list. I adore John Green and his work [and] I fell in love with this book just as easily as I fell in love with Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines. Meeting Dennis Wilson can easily be compared to a teenager who’s just coming of age: awkward, quirky, hilarious, and loads of fun to be around.Meeting Dennis Wilson is incredibly comical, sweet, and ultimately feel-good.”
(The Literary Connoisseur)

All seven books - best.jpg

Meeting Dennis Wilson is available in both softcover print and Kindle editions, in either seven serialized installments or as an omnibus edition gathering all seven books.

To read excerpts from Meeting Dennis Wilson, click here.

Click here for ordering information for both print and e-book editions. 

“WHAT’D she say, little girl?”

Excerpt from the novel Meeting Dennis Wilson by Max Harrick Shenk

Chapter 58 of Meeting Dennis Wilson is one of the shortest in the book (at 732 words), but for some reason, it’s one of the author’s (my) favorites… maybe because it’s one of the only glimpses we get of Tom LeDoux, Margo’s dad.

Here’s the complete chapter, which takes place at a Friday night post-playoff-win softball team cookout on the patio behind the LeDoux’s house.

For more information on Meeting Dennis Wilson, click here.


 

Chapter 58

Margo came back out with another little bottle of Coke for herself and one for me. “Burgers are comin’,” she said, and from the opened kitchen window, I could hear Mrs. LeDoux shouting something in French. A couple moments later, Margo’s Dad backed out and down from the back door, onto the patio, platterful of uncooked burgers and hot dogs in his hand, shaking his head, muttering to himself about something.

Meanwhile, in the other direction, Tara Longbaugh was chasing down into the foot of my yard for an errant frisbee throw, long legs flying everywhere, and it was odd to not see her hair bouncing over her shoulders… or to realize that, even if Danny was anywhere near a window (talk about a big-time crush!), he’d have less of a shot at the object of his desires than John-Paul had at Liz.

We gotta get you a woman…

“So get this, Bri,” Margo said. “Guess who’s writing the article for the Reporter?”

“Let me guess,” Margo’s Dad said from the grill. “Linda Hopkins.”

Margo touched the end of her nose and then pointed toward her Dad. “Bingo!”

1235138_390706951057910_1415546697_n“Coulda figured,” Mr. LeDoux said as he lifted the hot grill up with his mitted hand. “Have the coach write it.”

Margo had the Coke bottle pressed between her boobs and was sliding it up and down. I noticed and then looked down, away, right, left, back up… anyplace but at.

“How can they do that, Dad?” she said. “I thought sportswriters were supposed to be impartial?”

“Because,” Mr. Ledoux explained, “they don’t want to pay someone to come to a girl’s game.” The sarcastic emphasis on those last two words might have caused an uprising, except that given Mr. LeDoux’s position –women’s basketball coach at Quaker Valley College– he knew from repeated, frustrating first-hand experience what he was talking about.

“That’s what Coach said,” Margo said. “We got back to the locker room and Coach comes up and goes ‘So, do you have any quotes for the press? I’m writing the article.’ She said ‘I told the Reporter that all the girls and their families would be happy to just read it in the Gettysburg Times…'”

Margo’s dad huffed a laugh. “…and they told her, ‘You want the article? Write it!’ Right?” He shook his head. “That’s how they work, little girl. You can’t get them to come to a women’s event, even a playoff game.” He was standing on the other side of the grill, prodding and rearranging the red hot coals in preparation for Meat Grilling. “The only way you can get coverage is to write it yourself,” he said. “I have a student do it.” Mr. LeDoux’s solution to almost every non-family, non-marital problem in his life was “have a student do it.” He reached up and wiped a bead of sweat from his brow, then brushed back the shock of honey blonde hair that was hanging down into his eyes. “Boy,” he said to us and anyone else who was listening, “you wanna heat up, stand here…”

“Thomas?” Margo’s mom’s voice called out from the kitchen.

Margo’s dad looked up at the window. He was six-foot-five, a former power forward, so he didn’t really have to look up far. “What? Quoi?” he yelled, and then he craned his ears and blinked as, from the kitchen window, a cascade of Quebecois commands issued forth, almost inaudible because of John-Paul’s music, but even without the blaring Beatles, Mr. LeDoux would have been a little bit stuck, because still, after almost 17 years of marriage…

He shook his head. “I can’t… I didn’t get any of that.” He looked at his translator. “What’d she say, little girl?”

“She wants to know if you have that burger-flipper-thing,” Margo said.

Mr. LeDoux blinked once, twice, exactly the way his Little Girl did sometimes when she didn’t have a mouthful of water to do a spit take. “Really? That’s what she said? ‘Burger-flipper-thing’?”

Margo had just taken a draw from her Coke, so she nodded as she swallowed. “Yep,” she said, lowering the bottle. “En Francais.”

“En Francais,” Margo’s Dad muttered, like this phrase was the bane of his existence, and yet… “Tell her…” and he stopped, then looked up at the kitchen window. “No! No!” he yelled, then, much lower, to himself, as he stalked back toward the kitchen door, “No… non… nein… negatory…”


Meeting Dennis Wilson by Max Harrick Shenk

“Today marks the day that I officially add Meeting Dennis Wilson to my ‘Favorite Coming of Age Books’ list. I adore John Green and his work [and] I fell in love with this book just as easily as I fell in love with Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines. Meeting Dennis Wilson can easily be compared to a teenager who’s just coming of age: awkward, quirky, hilarious, and loads of fun to be around.Meeting Dennis Wilson is incredibly comical, sweet, and ultimately feel-good.”
(The Literary Connoisseur)

All seven books - best.jpg

Meeting Dennis Wilson is available in both softcover print and Kindle editions, in either seven serialized installments or as an omnibus edition gathering all seven books.

Click here for ordering information for both print and e-book editions.

“These things make the BEST water balloons…”

An excerpt from the novel Meeting Dennis Wilson by Max Harrick Shenk

Setting: 1976, a spring Saturday morning in Quaker Valley PA. 16-year-old narrator Brian and his best friend Margo are in the student store at Quaker Valley College, and Brian needs to make a purchase for himself and his girlfriend Christy…

…Margo patted my shoulder once, twice; I felt like I could feel her friendship spreading out through my body from the spot that she touched. “And look… speaking of being careful…”

I knew exactly what was next. We’d passed the display on the way in and she’d said, “Look, Bri…”

I sighed. “I don’t feel like buying them today,” I said.

“Brian… this might be the perfect time. You look collegiate.” She glanced toward the registers. “They’re right out up there, up with the cold meds. You don’t even have to ask anyone for them.”

I shifted a little where I was standing. “I know… I just…”

“You just… what?”

I glanced at Margo –blue jeans and red QUAKER VALLEY SOFTBALL windbreaker, straight blonde hair streaming down her back– and then past her at the cash register, where a petite, brunette Annie Pierce lookalike was absentmindedly pricing a stack of textbooks, next to a display of aspirin, bandaids, cough drops, cold meds, vitamins…

1451970_406962489432356_37246688_n…and six or seven different brands of condoms.

“I might not have to ask anyone for them,” I said, “but I’d have to pay someone for them.”

Not just someone. A girl. A girl would have to ring up my condom purchase.

What do you say then?

Oh, I’m using them for a science fair project.

These things make the best water balloons.

These? Nahh… they’re for my parents.

It was anyone’s guess why the idea of a girl –any female, in fact… even a total stranger, like this girl in the college store– knowing that I was buying rubbers made me so deathly afraid, but it did.

“So she’s a girl?” Margo repeated. “You know her?”

“No.”

“Well, then what’s the big deal?”

“It still makes me nervous–”

Margo TSKed. “You just get nervous about that because you don’t want to get nervous about what you’re getting them for.

Good point.

“Plus…” Margo continued, “you buy those magazines. Which you also say you get nervous about.”

“That’s different,” I said, not really sure why it was different.

But I could count on Margo to tell me why.

“Yeah… you’re right they’re different,” she huffed, her voice getting a little loud. “The magazines say, ‘I’m a lonely pervert,’ and the rubbers say–”

“–Could you maybe keep it down?” I said.

Margo laughed once and looked around, blushing a little bit. “Sorry,” she said, her voice toned down a little. “Rubbers,” she continued in a near-whisper, “say ‘I care about whether or not my woman gets pregnant.’ You know? Trust me: girls–” She glanced toward the register “–any girls… will respect that.”


Meeting Dennis Wilson by Max Harrick Shenk

“Today marks the day that I officially add Meeting Dennis Wilson to my ‘Favorite Coming of Age Books’ list. I adore John Green and his work [and] I fell in love with this book just as easily as I fell in love with Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines. Meeting Dennis Wilson can easily be compared to a teenager who’s just coming of age: awkward, quirky, hilarious, and loads of fun to be around.Meeting Dennis Wilson is incredibly comical, sweet, and ultimately feel-good.”
(The Literary Connoisseur)

All seven books - best.jpg

Meeting Dennis Wilson is available in both softcover print and Kindle editions, in either seven serialized installments or as an omnibus edition gathering all seven books.

Click here for ordering information for both print and e-book editions. 

“He can meet all the girls!”

Excerpt from the novel Meeting Dennis Wilson by Max Harrick Shenk

Setting: spring 1976, Quaker Valley, Pennsylvania. 

…At the other end of the mall was The Antiques Show: a dozen or so vendors with furniture and folding tables stacked with dishes, books, linens, stamps, postcards, coins, comic books, sheet music, and, almost hidden under a table full of magazines and junk (oops… that’s ephemera)

544083_425828390879099_222566362_n“Records!” Margo yipped, and she made a beeline to the boxes: three weathered apple crates full of albums. I followed her and we each flipped through an end box. Which one of us would get to the middle one first? I wasn’t finding much that interested me back then, but if only I could go back now and buy them at fifty cents a pop: an apple crate full of classic country vinyl… Johnny Bond, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Wanda Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Red Foley–

“The Beach Boys! Scorrrre!” Margo pulled out a nice-looking original copy of Little Deuce Coupe and set it aside. “Another one–” Beach Boys Party! “–and another.” Surfer Girl. “Wow. Holy shhhh…crap!” Six classic Beach Boys albums, “none of them that I really have” (I took note of the word “really”), for fifty cents each, which added up to three dollars more than either Margo or I had on us… so…

“Maaaaaaahhhhhmmmmm…”

Mrs. LeDoux dutifully stepped over. “Maaaahhhhhhhmmmm,” she repeated, and she said something en Francais, and Margo and her started back and forth, and again I didn’t get it, but I heard “six” and “trois dollars” and “Pleeeeease?” (which was apparently the same in French as in English) and Maaaaaahhhhhmmm sighed and opened her purse and handed Margo a five, and looked at me. “You find any, Brian?” So I picked out four albums from the middle box– The Fabulous Style of the Everly Brothers and Jan and Dean Golden Hits Volume Two and Bennett-Basie (Count Basie had played at QVHS the previous spring) and another Beach Boys album, Pet Sounds (“It’s all right, Bri… I already have that one.”) and Margo paid, and we were done.

Except Margo had just started. “Oh my God… I can’t believe this,” she said as we walked out to their car. “Six albums. Why are they so cheap? There’s nothing wrong with them. There’s nothing wrong with yours, right, Bri?”

I nodded as I climbed into the back seat of the wagon and Margo got in the front, and her mom started the engine. “I mean, I have some of the songs on some of these,” Margo said. (“Actually,” she said when we talked on the phone later, “I had most of the songs on five of them, but I wasn’t gonna say that. I still think Mom knows more English than she lets on.”) She examined the covers. “I love the pictures,” she said. “They were so cute back then. Especially Denny…” and from the seat next to her, Mrs. LeDoux repeated, a little wearily, “Denny…”

Margo hit her mom’s leg. “He’s cute, Mom… come on!” She was examining the cover of Summer Days (and Summer Nights!). “Mike has his shirt off. Why doesn’t Denny have his shirt off? I mean, they’re on a boat. Nice black sweater, though…” She turned over the cover to examine the song list. “I don’t have all of these,” she said, and then, as she read the group members’ individual liner notes, she got hushed. “Wow…” she said at last.

“What?” I said. I was studying the bizarre Japanese tour pictures on the back of Pet Sounds. Margo insisted I’d like this album (“Brian, you will love this album!”) but I kind of wondered if I’d made the right choice, and wished I’d started in the box at Margo’s end… although if I’d found those albums, then I would have had to put up with her asking me to borrow them, tape them for her–

“Listen, Bri, listen!” She read from the back cover. “‘I love the summertime most because we get around to all the towns and I can meet all the girls.’ That’s Dennis.”

Seemed about right. “Yeah,” I said.

“‘Yeah?’ Brian… he says he can meet all the girls!” Her eyes caught mine in the little mirror in the sunvisor. They were sparkling more than usual, like an unseen source of fuel had been ignited by those words…


Meeting Dennis Wilson by Max Harrick Shenk

“Today marks the day that I officially add Meeting Dennis Wilson to my ‘Favorite Coming of Age Books’ list. I adore John Green and his work [and] I fell in love with this book just as easily as I fell in love with Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines. Meeting Dennis Wilson can easily be compared to a teenager who’s just coming of age: awkward, quirky, hilarious, and loads of fun to be around.Meeting Dennis Wilson is incredibly comical, sweet, and ultimately feel-good.”
(The Literary Connoisseur)

All seven books - best.jpg

Meeting Dennis Wilson is available in both softcover print and Kindle editions, in either seven serialized installments or as an omnibus edition gathering all seven books.

Click here for ordering information for both print and e-book editions. 

Margo’s Guide To Bra Sizes

15-year-old Margo ‘splains “the code” to her best friend Brian, so that Brian can, you know… help his girlfriend Christy shop for bras. Yeah. Shop for bras. That’s it.
(Excerpt from chapter 15 of the serialized novel Meeting Dennis Wilson: Book Two by Max Harrick Shenk)

Sizes

We stood quietly for a couple seconds as Margo looked down at the sidewalk, at her foot, swinging back and forth, making an invisible arc on the curb. “So… ” she said, softly, “I might be able to get Christy’s bra size for you this weekend.”

“So?” I said.

“‘So?!'” Margo laughed, and she kicked my shin weakly. “O.K… eff you. ‘So…'” she repeated, tittering. “Don’t you wanna know?

“I thought you said she was a 32 C,” I said.

“Brian… that’s what she says. But it’s like I keep sayin’… if you look, a lot of them don’t fit.”

“Yeah…” I said, like I understood… and of course, Margo saw right through it.

“What, Bri?”

“Well… how can you tell?

“Spillage and bumpage, Bri. Look…” She lowered her voice. “Bras… you have the number and the letter. You know all this, right?”

“Well…”

O.K. Was this finally the time to profess my ignorance–

“–what am I sayin’?” Margo cut me off. “Why should you know? You don’t wear one. At least I hope not.” She reached and felt my back with her flattened palm, right between the shoulder blades. “Just checkin’…” She took a breath. “Anyway… in a bra size, you have a number and a letter. Say… 32 C.”

I nodded. I was with her so far.

Margo continued. “Now… the number is… if you took a tape measure and went around your rib cage… not yours, but mine, or Christy’s… a girl’s… that number is how big around her chest is. Under her boobs. O.K.? But then the letter… that’s the actual size of the boobage. The cup size. So… someone who’s really big around the ribs but has teeny tiny boobs? They’d be like a 38 A. You know? And then meanwhile, there’s the Daralee phenomenon. Who’s this teeny tiny petite thing, but who is huge. I mean, possibly a triple-D. We have discussed this…”

We certainly had… ever since the first day of eighth grade, when petite, previously flat-chested Daralee Holbert came into school and “Yeesh… va-va-va-va-VOOM!” I’d gotten many reports since then from Margo, who was in Daralee’s gym class for the fourth year in a row, and usually they went like this:

They’re HUGE, Brian. I mean, we’re talking bigger-than-her-head huge. And I’m a C, so I know she’s gotta be at least three times that.

“So,” Margo continued, “that’s how you decipher–” She lowered her voice dramatically. “–the bra code. Now… how can I tell that some of Christy’s don’t fit? Just… look when she’s wearing a tight top. She’s bumpy around the straps in the back, and that means they’re too tight in the chest. Which would mean if it’s a 32, it’s too small. And others in the front she spills out of the top of the cups, which means if she’s wearing a C-cup, that’s too small. The cups. And that’s a problem.”

I’d noticed that look occasionally with Christy, and, actually, I kind of liked it. To me, it said Christy has so much breast that she can’t fit into her bra.

Why would that be a “problem”?

Margo looked at me. “So either way, it means her bras are too small. You got it?”

I nodded. I couldn’t believe it, but I actually did get it.

Still just one question, though…

“Why doesn’t she just buy bras that fit?”

“Because she doesn’t try them on. Either she just thinks that’s her size and she grabs them… or… my guess… she told Katie that she’s a 32 C and Katie just goes and gets them for her. Which Christy wouldn’t complain about if they didn’t fit, because her mom is so busy and does so much…” Margo rolled her eyes. “But even if not… clothing sizes… I mean, think of those Wranglers you bought. They said 30-32, which is your Levi’s size, but with Wranglers they were too tight. And who knows what it’d be with store brands. You know? Same with bra-age. You can’t go by the size.” She looked at me. “Vous comprenez? Capiche?”

“Ouais,” I said.

“Ouais! Y-E-S… ouais!” Margo said, smiling…

 

Meeting Dennis Wilson by Max Harrick Shenk

“Today marks the day that I officially add Meeting Dennis Wilson to my ‘Favorite Coming of Age Books’ list. I adore John Green and his work [and] I fell in love with this book just as easily as I fell in love with Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines. Meeting Dennis Wilson can easily be compared to a teenager who’s just coming of age: awkward, quirky, hilarious, and loads of fun to be around. Meeting Dennis Wilson is incredibly comical, sweet, and ultimately feel-good.”
(The Literary Connoisseur)

All seven books - best.jpg

Meeting Dennis Wilson is available in both softcover print and Kindle editions, in either seven serialized installments or as an omnibus edition gathering all seven books.

Click here for ordering information for both print and e-book editions. 

Dear Denny…

Opening of the novel Meeting Dennis Wilson by Max Harrick Shenk

Meeting Dennis Wilson begins with 15-year-old Margo’s then-latest fan letter to her teenage heartthrob: Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson.mdw_01.2_Margo_s_letter_bold001mdw_01.2_Margo_s_letter_bold002

Meeting Dennis Wilson by Max Harrick Shenk

“Today marks the day that I officially add Meeting Dennis Wilson to my ‘Favorite Coming of Age Books’ list. I adore John Green and his work [and] I fell in love with this book just as easily as I fell in love with Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines. Meeting Dennis Wilson can easily be compared to a teenager who’s just coming of age: awkward, quirky, hilarious, and loads of fun to be around. Meeting Dennis Wilson is incredibly comical, sweet, and ultimately feel-good.”
(The Literary Connoisseur)

All seven books - best.jpg

Meeting Dennis Wilson is available in both softcover print and Kindle editions, in either seven serialized installments or as an omnibus edition gathering all seven books.

Click here for ordering information for both print and e-book editions.