Blog Tour: Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand | Excerpt | Giveaway

Stranger Things Have Happened
Author: Jeff Strand
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Released: April 4th 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Jeff Strand pulls another winner out of his hat with this hilarious tale of illusions and self-discovery

At 15, Marcus Millian III, the great-grandson of the famous Zachary the Stupendous, is already a talented illusionist. But when Marcus chokes during a card trick and leaves the audience unimpressed, prideful Zachary promises that he and Marcus are working on an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish. That night, Zachary dies in his sleep.

To uphold the honor of Marcus's beloved great-grandfather, the show must go on, and Marcus will need to make a shark disappear in front of everybody. It would take a sorcerer to pull this off, but, hey, Marcus is the next best thing…right?


“IS THIS YOUR card?” asked Marcus Millian III, holding up the nine of hearts.

“It is!” said his mother, eyes wide with surprise. “How did you do that?”

Marcus sighed. “Seriously, Mom?”

“What’s wrong?”

“That wasn’t the card, and you know it.”

“Well, true. But I didn’t want you to feel bad.”

Marcus grabbed his mother’s hand and led her out of the kitchen into the dining room. The meatballs on her plate of spaghetti had been arranged to form the number two and a club.

“You were supposed to say no. Then I’d look all disappointed and say, ‘Okay, I guess I need to practice the trick more.’ And then we’d sit down for dinner, and you’d see your card number in the spaghetti.”

“That’s pretty clever.”

“I can’t become a master illusionist if you’re just going to humor me. The magician is supposed to deceive the audience, not the other way around.”

“You’re right. You’re right,” Mom said.

“I’m fifteen. That’s something you do with a six-year-old. I can take criticism. Do you think Penn & Teller’s parents fibbed to them about it being the right card?”

“You’ve made your point. It won’t happen again.” Mom smiled. “Next time I’ll throw the card down in disgust and say you’re not my son. Go call your father for dinner.”

Marcus had been testing a trick in which the picture frames on the wall in his father’s office would rearrange themselves to spell “DINNER.” It would require a fairly complex pattern of fishing line that he could manipulate from outside the room that he hadn’t worked out yet, and there were only enough frames currently on the wall to form “DIN,” but once it was perfected, he knew Dad would freak.

Until then, Marcus would have to resort to walking upstairs like a primate to pass along the message.

“Hey, Dad, dinner’s ready,” he said.

“Thanks.” Dad saved the file he was working on, pushed back his chair, and stood up.

“Got time for a quick trick first?” Marcus asked.

“Of course.”

Marcus shuffled his deck of cards, though it was a fake shuffle that kept the two of clubs on top. His favorite card was the jack of diamonds, but the two of clubs was easier to construct out of meatballs.

“Cut the deck anywhere,” Marcus instructed.

Dad cut the deck in half perfectly. Marcus frowned and furrowed his brow, pretending that the trick was ruined, and now it was going to be embarrassing and uncomfortable for everyone.
Misdirection—one of the most important skills for a magician.

Marcus set the two halves of the deck on the desk. “Look at the top card, but don’t show it to me,” said Marcus.

Dad complied, taking the card and glancing at it. He thought he was looking at the card where he’d cut the deck, but he was actually looking at the top card of the full deck.

“Stick it anywhere in the deck,” said Marcus, and Dad slid the card back in.

Marcus did a full shuffle. “Would you like to shuffle it yourself too?” he asked. The order of the cards made no difference now, so he’d let Dad think he had more control over the outcome than he really did.

“Sure.” Dad gave the cards a quick shuffle and then handed them back to Marcus.

Marcus stared at the deck, then pulled out a random card. The ace of spades. “Is this your card?”


Marcus feigned disappointment. “Are you sure you remembered it right?”


“Huh. Sorry. I guess I need to work on this trick some more.”

“No big deal. It’s all about practice,” Dad said.

They went downstairs and sat at the dining room table.

“Looks great, sweetie,” Dad said to Mom. He twirled some spaghetti on his fork, jabbed a meatball, and popped it into his mouth. “Delicious.”

He quickly ate another bite. “So good.”

He took a third bite. “Mmmmmm.”

Marcus sat there stunned, staring as Dad had three more bites.

“What’s the matter?” Dad asked. “Not hungry?”

“Did you notice the formation of your meatballs?”


“You didn’t look at them?”

Dad glanced down at his plate. “Is there something wrong with them? They tasted fine.”

“They formed a two of clubs.”

“Oh. Okay, yeah, no, I didn’t notice that.”

Marcus sighed.

“What? I don’t analyze my dinner before I eat it!” Dad said. “You should have told me the magic trick was still going on! I would’ve paid more attention!”

“It was a simple card force. I wouldn’t mess up a move that easy.”

“How am I supposed to know how easy a trick is? That’s between you and Grandpa Zachary.”

Grandpa Zachary was actually Marcus’s great-grandfather, who went by the stage name Zachary the Stupendous. Now eighty-nine years old, he’d retired twenty years ago and was mostly forgotten in the world of magic, but Marcus idolized the cranky old guy.

Hello. I'm author Jeff Strand. If you tolerated A Bad Day For Voodoo, were ambivalent toward I Have a Bad Feeling About This, and had little or no opinion regarding The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, I'm pleased to announced that you'll be equally unenthused about my latest YA novel, Stranger Things Have Happened.

It's an extremely silly comedy about 15-year-old Marcus Millian III, who aspires to be a legendary magician like his great-grandfather, Zachary the Stupendous. The problem (well, the first problem of many) is that he suffers from paralyzing stage fright. That's a bit of an issue when you want to be a stage magician.

Some stuff happens, and Marcus finds himself part of a bet between Grandpa Zachary and his arch-nemesis Bernard. Marcus has to invent and perform a ridiculously amazing illusion that will astound the audience at Bernard's theater. Yeah, this is going to be a challenge, but at least he's got Grandpa Zachary to help him. Until Grandpa Zachary dies in his sleep.

So now Marcus is on his own. Well, not entirely. He's got his neighbor (and secret crush) Kimberly to help out, along with the very socially awkward and heavily bullied new kid, Peter, who has...secrets. Together they will work to create the ultimate illusion, one that may or may not involve making a shark disappear from a tank in front of a live audience.

Also, there's a really evil guy named Sinister Seamus. Watch out for him.

Readers who are into magic (of the Penn & Teller variety, not Harry Potter) should enjoy this book because that's kind of what the whole thing is about. Readers who are into books that are filled with silly (some might even say stupid) jokes should also enjoy it. It's also about overcoming obstacles and following your dreams, if that's the angle you want to play.


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