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  • Fibble: The Fourth Circle of Heck
  • Written by Dale E. Basye
    Illustrated by Bob Dob
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  • Fibble: The Fourth Circle of Heck
  • Written by Dale E. Basye
    Illustrated by Bob Dob
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  • Fibble: The Fourth Circle of Heck
  • Written by Dale E. Basye
    Illustrated by Bob Dob
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Written by Dale E. BasyeAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Dale E. Basye
Illustrated by Bob DobAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Bob Dob

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On Sale: May 24, 2011
Pages: 384 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89305-6
Published by : Random House Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
Fibble: The Fourth Circle of Heck Cover

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

With more dark humor and zany silliness, Dale E. Basye returns to Heck for his most over-the-top (the Big Top, that is) adventure yet.

When Marlo Fauster claims she has switched souls with her brother, she gets sent straight to Fibble, the circle of Heck reserved for liars. But it's true—Milton and Marlo have switched places, and Marlo finds herself trapped in Milton's gross, gangly body. She also finds herself trapped in Fibble, a three-ring media circus run by none other than P. T. Barnum, an insane ringmaster with grandiose plans and giant, flaming pants. Meanwhile Milton, as Marlo, is working at the devil's new television network, T.H.E.E.N.D. But there's something strange about these new shows. Why do they all air at the same? And are they really broadcasting to the Surface? Soon Milton and Marlo realize that they need each other to sort through the lies and possibly prevent the end of the world—if Bea "Elsa" Bubb doesn't catch them first.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

1

What Lies Ahead?

Being a boy feels really weird, Marlo thought as she dangled her brother’s gross feet off the backseat of the stagecoach taking her to Fibble, the circle of Heck for kids who lie. Her borrowed body felt alternately simpler and more complicated—frustrating in its sheer, dull straightforwardness. Just like boys, she reflected. Marlo tried her best not to overanalyze the skin she ached to jump out of: just thinking about being her younger brother, Milton—at least on the outside—made her skin crawl. Or his. Whatever.

Marlo was still fuzzy on the particulars of her current situation, but flashes of what had happened, and who she truly was, floated to the top of her brain like the cryptic messages of a Magic 8 Ball. She remembered graduating from Madame Pompadour’s Infernship program and becoming Satan’s Girl Friday the Thirteenth. Then she remembered Milton—though for some reason, at the time, she’d had no idea that the little twerp hopping around in his Stargate Atlantis underwear was her brother—storming the Surly Gates of h-e-double-hockey-sticks with Annubis, the dog god, and dragging her from her Deceptionist post to the Break Down Room with Principal Bubb and her demon guards in hot pursuit, before drugging her with a moldy cheese sandwich.

It was here that things got a little strange.

When Marlo had come to, she hadn’t felt quite . . . herself. Annubis had once presided over Heck’s Assessment Chamber, where souls were weighed on the Scales of Justice, so he had the power to pluck people’s spiritual essence from their bodies with his bare paws. He must have switched Milton’s soul with mine, Marlo presumed. To what end, Marlo could not be sure. But as she dredged the sludgy slough of her mind—still yawning and stretching from its peculiar nap—Marlo knew that her little brother was essentially a good kid, so whatever Milton’s specific intent, his heart was sure to be in the right place (even if his soul wasn’t). Marlo also knew that Milton had an ulcer, not because of any prior knowledge as his sister, but because of the waves of pain radiating from the pit of Milton’s stomach.

The man sitting across from her in the musty stagecoach coughed. He leered at her with a freaky smirk: a knowing grin that was totally one-sided.

“How long are we going to play this little game?” the old, dough-faced man said as he ran his fingers through his slicked-back hair. Marlo swallowed down the bile that kept creeping up her throat.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,” she replied in her brother’s squeaky voice. “And I’m not afraid of anything.”

The man laughed mirthlessly.

“You could have fooled me,” he said, training his beady black eyes on Marlo. “You seemed plenty afraid back in Limbo.”

Her stomach suddenly felt as if it housed an unchaperoned, all-ages dance club. He must have been some teacher in Limbo, Marlo speculated. One of Milton’s teachers . . . and that’s who he thinks I am, naturally, because that’s who I am. But I can’t blow my cover, or else I’ll screw up whatever Milton has planned.

“Yeah, of course I remember you . . . sir,” Marlo replied. “You were my, um, teacher. Back in Limbo.”

The stagecoach shuddered. The hoofbeats of the Night Mares pulling the carriage clattered uncertainly before regaining their confident rhythm.

The man squinted so hard at Marlo that it looked as if the bags beneath his eyes would burst.

“What’s my name, then?” he asked, suspiciously, as he leaned in close to Marlo and stared into her borrowed hazel eyes.

“What, did you forget?” Marlo replied, using her patent-pending “tact-evasion” technique. “Didn’t your momma sew it in the lining of your jacket?”

“I can tell you’re covering up something,” the man spat back. “I can see it in your—”

Suddenly, the stagecoach bumped and shook so violently that the old man slammed his head into the top of the carriage.

“Oww!” he yelped as the demon driver—a swollen, bespectacled creature with goat horns and a white goatee rimmed around his orange duck bill—leaned into the carriage.

“Are you injured, Mr. Nixon?” the demon quacked. “I mean, Mr. President, sir.”

Mr. Nixon rubbed the swirling slick of hair atop his head.

“Pardon me, Mr. Nixon?” Marlo said, making Milton’s voice smugger than it had ever sounded before. “You were saying that you saw something in my oww?”

Mr. Nixon’s ashen face flushed red.

“I pardon no one! I’m the one that gets pardoned!”

The stagecoach fishtailed wildly, sending Marlo and Mr. Nixon crashing to the floor. The carriage skidded to a stop. Marlo crawled up off the floor and gazed out the window.

They were on the edge of a vast, frozen mound of water that shimmered weakly beneath the filmy crust. The swollen sea of frost resembled a massive Hostess Sno Ball dipped in crystal. Studding the distended icy knoll were clumps of scraggly bushes that—when rustled by the breeze—almost seemed to . . . talk. What they said, Marlo couldn’t make out. It just sounded like yammering nonsense.

Marlo pushed open the door and hopped onto the ice, steadying herself with the carriage. The horizon was clogged with a thick, gently seething bank of sparkling pea-soup smoke. The glimmering, billowing murk spewed from a towering structure in the distance perched atop the summit of the swollen, frozen sea.

Through a fleeting crack in the clouds Marlo could see that the structure was a cluster of grand, gaudy tents propped up on massive, swaying stilts. The wound in the cloud bank quickly healed, leaving Marlo dazzled, disoriented, and wanting to disgorge whatever her brother had last eaten all over his freaky skinny-long feet.

Mr. Nixon moaned as he rose from the floor. He crouched through the open stagecoach door, waving “V” for victory signs at the nonexistent crowd that roared in his mind, and joined Marlo.
 


From the Hardcover edition.
Dale E. Basye

About Dale E. Basye

Dale E. Basye - Fibble: The Fourth Circle of Heck
The idea for Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go came to me where most of my ideas come from: that area just behind the eyes and somewhere, approximately, between the ears. A friend of mine, whom I’ll refer to as “Paul Harrod,” wanted to make a short “mockumentary” film on the devil, sort of a VH1 “Behind the Brimstone”-type of thing (sorry for all the quotes and the parenthetical asides). While helping him to mine the topic for potential nuggets of humor, I unearthed the idea of an H-E-double-hockey-sticks Lite, just for children, which–of course–simply had to be called Heck. I researched such classic works as Dante’s Inferno and the phonebook (I wanted a pizza) and came up with a kid-ified underworld specifically designed to ignore the needs and enflame the misery of once-living children everywhere–in particular, the bad ones.

Of course, every story needs what is commonly referred to as a protagonist. That is, a hero, or–at the very least–someone whom the reader can relate to in some way while serving as a guide through a host of unpleasant, fantastical circumstances. Often, the protagonist mirrors the author, not for any significant reason other than it’s much easier for the author (fewer things to make up) while giving him/her the perfect excuse to write about himself/herself. Ever the overachiever, I decided to have two protagonists–hardly a “novel” idea–but it allowed me to write through my dual selves–the ever cautious, perpetually in-his-head Milton, and the tart, impulse-control-challenged Marlo.

Now it was just a matter of writing it all down. Oh, yes…writing

Writing is really, really, really hard. It’s easier if you have fingers and not, say, great unwieldy crab claws, but still. There are only two enjoyable aspects of the writing experience, as I see it. The first is when you are on the bus, clipping your toenails, or grooming the pet monkey you “found” at the circus: those little in-between moments where inspiration often bubbles to the top of your consciousness like a cork bobbing up to the surface of the sea. It’s when you come up with that big idea…the one that seems so inevitable, as if it had always been there, only you were the one to stumble on to it. You’re elated. You’re filled with excitement. You miss your stop, cut your pinky toenail too deep, or accidentally tug too hard on your monkey’s fur with its brush (which Dr. Zaius hates…I have the bite marks to prove it). It’s a great moment (not the monkey bites, but the “zapped with creative fire” part). Unfortunately, when a writer is blessed with a good idea, he/she is then immediately cursed with having to actually do something about it. This is called work. Some writers also consider this play, but–to the best of my knowledge–Roget’s Thesaurus doesn’t happen to include “play” as a synonym for “work.”

The second great part of writing is right after you are through and are fairly convinced that what you wrote isn't completely awful. Not that you ever really think that (or that you are ever really “through”) but there’s a point where most of the heavy lifting is done and the voices in your head at least dull to a manageable murmur. This is also the point where it is safe for your family to come out from underneath the kitchen table, bearing soap, a towel, and a change of clothes.

So why write? There are some who write solely to pay the utility bill, to which I say: good luck. Then, there are others, who simply have to write. This is the column I find myself squarely in. I’ve tried to express myself eloquently with guitar solos, touchdowns, and even ballroom dancing once, and the only thing I managed to achieve was a state of humiliation (and occasionally sore feet). Writing is the closest I’ve come to putting something out in the world that bears a faint resemblance to the notion that was originally in my head (this essay notwithstanding).

And, somehow, it’s all worth it. The staring at the screen until it stares back. The slow dwindling of friends, hairs, and social niceties. The less-than-healthful food choices. The getting up in the middle of the night and splashing in your neighbor's koi pond (this may not have anything to do with writing but may instead be a symptom of a deeper problem). But when you go to a bookstore and see your book, or even simply the space where your book will soon be, you feel as if you have joined an illustrious fraternity of literature, a centuries-old club boasting everyone from Aesop to Zola (a French writer whom one should only read if one finds oneself unbearably happy and wishes to remedy this condition immediately).

Speaking of tedium, I couldn’t stand school. And the feeling was mutual.

But, thanks to some phenomenal teachers, I realized the freeing power of the imagination. It was as if every story I wrote or doodle I scrawled was a spadeful of dirt, unearthing a secret tunnel, getting me closer and closer to escape. Laughter was also a lifesaver for me, often literally. Not only is it rightfully considered the best medicine (if used liberally, only as directed), it can also save you from getting your butt kicked in PE.

The point is (yes, there's a point here somewhere), that preadolescence can feel like an eternity when you’re in it, but you actually get through it fairly unscathed, though your body and voice may soon be rendered unrecognizable. This complete freakishness is normal. So let laughter and perseverance be your best and most trusted bodyguards, providing loyal service without even demanding your lunch money in return.

I hope that you enjoy, appreciate, and–above all–buy my book Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go–at least three copies (one for locking away in your safe for future generations, one for reading, and one for travel). I think you’ll find that it’s a story full of laughter and hope (OK, and a fair amount of demons, poop, and dead historical figures). And if you don’t buy it for the story, then buy it for the amazing illustrations by Bob Dob. So, thank you for reading this long-winded essay (assuming you still are) and I caution you to be wary of words such as flummox, maelstrom, and irony. If you find yourself using them, you may already be a–egads–writer.

Cordially,
Dale E. Basye

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