Joplin, MO – Sometimes, all a young kid wants to do is hone his sweet ninja skills and take his rightful place as the “Bruce Lee of New England.”

Things, however, are not always that easy. Throw in the pressures of high school, a shopaholic mother, a rap-loving therapist and an Asian cyber-girlfriend, and young Timothy Dimmick’s quest takes some unexpected turns.

Timothy’s path is at the heart of “Fair Weather Ninjas,” the first novel by Dr. Michael Howarth, associate professor of English and director of the Honors Program at Missouri Southern State University.

“The idea for the story came to me when I was a graduate student at the University of Alaska Anchorage, working on my MFA in writings,” said Howarth. “The novel began as a few short stories I had written as part of my coursework. My mentor said it was some of my best work and suggested I expand the character and turn it into a novel.”

Between teaching and working on another book – “Under the Bed, Creeping: Psychoanalyzing the Gothic in Children’s Literature” was published in 2014 – “Fair Weather Ninjas” was a few years in the making.

While he teaches a children’s literature course, Howarth said the novel is aimed at young adults.

“It has a humorous element, and there’s a lot in there for adults, too,” he said. “It’s a really good mixture of humor and pathos.”

The novel was published this summer by Lamar University Literary Press. Andrew Geyer, author of “Dixie Fish” and “Meeting the Dead” said of the book: “If being a ninja means having the ability to overcome tragedy and to temper with grace the day-after-day awfulness that too often comes with being a teen, then Michael Howarth’s gorgeous coming-of-age novel is a must-read.”

The paperback is available through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Howarth said he is currently at work on a collection of nonfiction essays, and recently completed another young-adult novel that will be sent out to publishers.

Howarth will sign copies of “Fair Weather Ninjas” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, in Room 413 of Spiva Library, followed by a reading at 6:30 p.m.

Copies of the book will be available for $15, with $1 of each book sold being donated to the Myrna Marble Scholarship Fund.

-WWW.MSSU.EDU-