Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Where Evil Lives

When I saw the infographic below, I knew I had to pass it along to the followers of Mixed Up Files. Movoto has created a visual comparison of “evil villain lairs” from popular culture that really got me thinking about the places in our books where villains can chill out, and where heroes might find themselves deep behind enemy lines.

Some of the lairs below are massive and imposing, but it’s not size alone that makes a great home for villainy. Malfoy Manor (shown below) is a great Gothic castle of infamy, but Lucius Malfoy was only ever a minion at best, and Draco was more of a bully with aspirations of minionhood. Meanwhile Lord Voldemort, the real villain of the Harry Potter series, lived for a while under another man’s turban, in the dreams of a young boy, in the pages of an old diary, and in a bunch of other random objects. Voldemort was terrifying precisely because he did not care where or how he had to live as long as he could find some way to prolong his life and plot his return to power.

Now look at Mordor and Isengard from Middle Earth. These are some tall, imposing structures! This creates an amazing contrast with our primary heroes, the Hobbits, who tend to be short, barefoot homebodies. The Baggins family Hobbit-hole is an inward-looking place of quiet introspection, while the Eye of Mordor is constantly looking outward in every direction. Coincidence? There are no coincidences in well-plotted fiction.

We also see this kind of contrast in the Jolly Roger from Peter Pan, which is the polar opposite of the lair of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. The Jolly Roger is a mobile weapons platform built in a real shipyard and staffed by actual pirates, while the Lost Boys have an underground clubhouse they built themselves. The mismatch in lairs follows other mismatches in the story–Pan vs. Hook, boy vs. man, wooden swords vs. metal blades, youth vs. experience, fairness vs. cheating, playfulness vs. deadly revenge–all giving Hook and his crew every possible advantage. When the poor villain just can’t catch a break, we readers celebrate his defeat.

The villain’s impregnable lair can usually be infiltrated by a scarecrow, a cowardly lion, and a tin woodsman. Guards can be tricked or overcome. Sometimes the entire place can come crashing down at the hands of a seemingly outmatched hero.

The message for the villains is, enjoy your evil lair but don’t get too comfortable!

Villain Lairs

Villain Lairs

What are some of your favorite villain lairs from middle grade fiction? Put your suggestions in the comments below!

Changes at From the Mixed-Up Files

You may have noticed that our site has been a little more mixed-up than usual.  We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused everyone, but we are happy to announce that we have isolated the problem and found a solution.

Part of the issue required updating the look of our site as well, so today we’d like to unveil our new design. Welcome to the all new From the Mixed-Up Files!

The look may be different from what you’re used to, but you’ll notice that our basic design remains the same.  So you’ll still find our OhMG News on the left sidebar; our menus, categories, archives, and much much more on the right sidebar; tabs to our static web pages across the top; and our almost daily blog posts are still prominently in the center of our site.

There is one addition to our new design, and that is that we have moved some items from our right sidebar to the bottom of our page instead. So look there if you can’t find something you used to see on the right.

We hope you’ll enjoy the new look but the same great content.  And thanks for supporting our site as one of our dedicated readers!


Lots o’ Fives

Being responsible for the MUF post on Cinco de Mayo is a grand responsibility. After all, not only is today the fifth day of the fifth month of the year, but there are a lot of other things that come in fives. For example, like most folks, I have five fingers on each hand, which come in useful when giving high-fives. Last I checked I have five toes on each foot. And just last week I stole five pieces of chocolate from my son’s Easter stash and ate them all in exactly five seconds.

So . . . in celebration of all the fives in my life, here are five lists of five things you can think about in five minutes or less.


Five Foods I’d Like to Eat to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo While Completely Ignoring Caloric Intake:

  1. Burritos
  2. Tortilla chips with salsa con queso
  3. Churros with chocolate sauce
  4. Mexican fried rice
  5. More churros

Five Children’s Novels I’ve Read and Enjoyed in the Past Five Months:

  1. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
  2. Scumble by Ingrid Law
  3. The Last Present by Wendy Mass
  4. Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko
  5. Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington

Five More Children’s Novels I Really Want to Read before the Next Five Months Are Over:

  1. The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days by fellow-MUF-member Michele Weber Hurwitz
  2. Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue by Tom Angleberger
  3. Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana
  4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  5. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

the summer i saved the world

Five Character Names from My Writing Journal That I Hope to Use Someday:

  1. Abigail Blinsteen
  2. Lucas McShooster
  3. Olivia Ingledue
  4. Shishkabob Stubs
  5. Silas Slump

T. P. Jagger, The 3-Minute Writing Teacher

Five Reasons You Should Visit My New Website at and Tell Your Friends About It, Too:

  1. You can read my bio page and see what an Amazonian treehouse has to do with the day of my birth.
  2. I’ve posted free, original readers’ theatre scripts that middle-grade teachers can download and use to improve students’ reading fluency.
  3. I’ve adopted an alias—“The 3-Minute Writing Teacher”—and begun posting a series of short writing-tips videos that teachers can use with their students (and that beginning writers may find helpful, too).
  4. You can easily subscribe to my e-newsletter to receive automatic updates whenever I post new readers’ theatre scripts or how-to writing-tips videos.
  5. Did I mention the free readers’ theatre scripts and the videos of how-to writing tips from The 3-Minute Writing Teacher? . . .

Well, HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO, loyal MUF readers! Got anything to add to any of my lists? A must-eat Mexican food? A favorite book? A completely different list of five things? Post your comments below.

Along with his MUF posts, T. P. Jagger can be found at, where he provides brief how-to writing-tips videos as The 3-Minute Writing Teacher plus original readers’ theatre scripts for middle-grade teachers.