Monday, December 31, 2007

advice to writers 2008

1.Shooting yourself in the fucking head is a quicker and easier way for you to get lots and lots of attention, if that's what you're after. Personally, I have a deep fear of attention... so I am keeping a gun handy.

2.Read the posts on WritersNet. There is some good advice on that site, and plenty of people post samples of their writing there, which is bound to make you feel really good about yourself... especially because the worst of them just never seem to give up and shoot themselves in the head. (Smith NEVER posts samples of his work on the web... well, except for those couple lines on Ghost Medicine ... and blogs don't count as writing.) Lots of playground-like genital comparison goes on at that site, too (yawn), which is why I've only answered questions a handful of times there. Also, Flogging the Quill is a great site to get a decent idea of what grabs -- and irks -- an editor. Better writing samples there, too.

3.Get a coach. I have three of them: my agent, my editor, and my great friend Kel. I picked my agent (she was #1 on my list) from Jeff Herman's guidebook. I picked her based on her reputation, her background in literature, the agency she is associated with, and the genres she likes to rep. Since I knew she would be right for me, I valued her advice and suggestions. She worked with me for a LONG time in cleaning and tightening up my manuscript, which showed me that she believed in me, and, together, we put out a piece of property that caught the eye of several editors. My editor is hands-down one of the coolest and most talented people I know. Even a nose piercing or Maori facial tattoo couldn't make her cooler. And, next to her, everything I'd ever heard about editors is WRONG. She never cut anything out of my book... she kept asking me to add things I had cut from earlier drafts. She never told me to change anything... she just asked if I thought her ideas worked. And of course I did... she's brilliant... even though her ideas were little more than word substitutions. Oh, and she hates the word "flinch," which I used several times in my original manuscript. I don't think it's in the final version at all... I'll have to do a word scan and see. And, finally, my best friend Kel has been involved in writing ever since we were in high school together and worked on the newspaper, a Stalinist propaganda vehicle to promote uniformity and loyalty among the student masses.

When I decided to send one of my novels out into the world to get published, it was Kel who supported and advised me, and who frequently told me when my shit was shitty, and writers need someone like that at all times.

Happy 2008 (the year of Ghost Medicine).

Sunday, December 30, 2007

let's be honest

OK. So I'm not really the whiskey-soaked sourpuss I make myself out to be on the blogs. But that's as honest as I'll get.

My mother-in-law gave me a tee shirt that says, "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel." And my uncle gave me a bottle of whiskey (seriously).

I have to say that nobody I know ended up in any of my novels. Most of the people I know are far too boring for that.

Except for Rose. Rose is a character in Ghost Medicine modeled after a woman who used to own horse property next to us. And pretty much everything that Rose says and does in Ghost Medicine actually happened... but that was a very long time ago, and "Rose" has passed away.

And I did use one funny quote that Josh, a friend of mine who lives in China, once said to me in conversation... but, other than that, nothing. It's all damned lies. And I'm really hoping that Josh remembers saying it to me and finds the quote.

I take all the pictures I post on the blogs here. One of my favorites is the picture on the December 23 post. And I like the Flatiron Building photo, too. I took that one in New York when I was visiting my publisher (their offices are at the top of the building).

Sunday, December 23, 2007

i guess 'tis

OK... so I'm wondering if there are actually any new male authors out there. Seems like there's nothing but women writers everywhere; ones that hide behind gender-neutral initials. So, if you're a man and a new author, chime in. I'd like to hear from you. We can talk about sports and pain, or the hotness factor of certain women writers.

I read other writers' blogs. Of course, I can only find blogs from women writers. Maybe blogging is kind of metro, I don't know. One of them I recently read offered holiday recipes. So I thought I'd put a holiday recipe on here, too.

Here we go... I call this one "A Bottle of Whiskey"

A Bottle of Whiskey
1 medium to large bottle of whiskey


You're done.

No fucking candy thermometer needed.

And while I'm on the subject of testosterone and the holiday season, let's talk about resolutions. Here are some resolutions I am considering pledging myself to in 2008:

1) Start cussing more frequently. Especially in front of children or members of the clergy.

2) Start chewing tobacco. Also, the same audience requirements as #1 would do nicely.

3) Stop bathing entirely. No more grooming of any kind. That would be cool. I already haven't shaved in over two weeks and I'm beginning to look like Rutherford B. Hayes.

But I'm just "toying" with those possibilities. My number one rule when adopting a resolution is make it enjoyable, attainable, and as personally inexpensive as possible. Hard to let yourself down that way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

the great blackout

So I drive home at night with my son. My wife and daughter are at dance class. The power is out and every home around the lake is totally dark except for the people I hate who have generators. Even their outdoor Christmas lights are on, mocking my anti-disaster-preparedness-deficit-disorder with their winking oppressed-Chinese-child-labor brilliance.

Pitch blackness, and I have a yearning to play poker on line.

And everything we have runs on juice and there's no dinner either.

I sit in the darkness at my computer and imagine there must be some terrorist attack (probably from Iran... see? you were right all along like you always are George... I can call him by his first name since I am rapidly climbing towards conservatism and honorary Texanism).

My son breaks out a flashlight; the only one in the house and it's about as powerful as the argument for Saddam's WMD program.

He says, "Why don't you light a fire, Dad?"

It's how we heat the house anyway.

I get the fire started and he decides to read. Just like Abe Lincoln, that boy (God! Here I go singing the praises of another Republican). He's reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I explain that Harper Lee only wrote one book, and after that she decided never to write again. I tell him that if you win a Pulitzer and have an Oscar-winning movie made from your one book, you may as well hang up the skates anyway, and he says, "But you better not do that, Dad."

I tell him I can't. I've already written three and two of them have sold.

He breaks out the flashlight and shines it on the pages as he reclines on the couch by the fire.

Some Republican.

Hey! Tomorrow is KELLY'S BIRTHDAY!!

Happy Birthday Kelly!!!! She's my oldest friend (I mean that in a good, self-esteem-preserving way, old gal), and I love her forever.

Obviously, the power came back after a couple hours so I could post this. But we'll still find a way to believe you, Mr. Bush.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

seems like a long time

I've been busy. I found out about my cover art for Ghost Medicine and it is amazingly good news. I hope to be able to put a cover image here and on the website soon, and talk about the perfect-match artist who's doing the work.

Meanwhile, I've been revising Bird, the second book my agent sold to my editor, but I've been working slower than usual on it because I'm spending a lot of time restructuring it in my head.

All this takes such a long time. Everyone said that going in. I wrote Ghost Medicine in 2004, and got an agent right away for it. She and I worked on it for quite a while and it sold a year ago in 2006 at auction in a two-book deal that included Bird, which I wrote in 2005. In April, I flew out to New York to meet everyone at the publishing house and get to work with my editor. The edits weren't major, and we finished them in October. I'm really happy with what we did. Now I'm waiting for the rest of the stuff to happen... the stuff that I don't have much of a hand in.

And I kind of miss conversing with my editor now that the final version is complete. She helped me become a better writer, and through her work I learned to see things that I just didn't recognize before. And she always seemed to find the perfect word to place in the perfect spot that matched my style and what I was trying to say.

I hope she enjoys working with Bird , because it is so different from Ghost Medicine . Bird is a darker story, set in the 1880s (a lot of research went into this). It is also told in a first-person account, so the voice and idioms used have an 1880s "accent." One of the things I researched for Bird was news reporting in the 1880s, because I use some newspaper accounts and descriptions of actual events in the story. I had to trim down that style a bit, though, because news writing in the 1880s was so convoluted and drawn-out. You'll see. But I don't want to give away too much of the plot, except to say that Bird takes place in California and tells a story of revenge and murder, addiction and cruelty, and accounts for the cost of believing in lies.

Friday, October 19, 2007

the great game

But, as tempting as it was, we ultimately didn't change our name to the Corn Jerkers.

A few weeks ago, the father of my son's best friend died. It was kind of weird for me to watch my son deal with that; talking to the other boy on the phone for so long, about nothing, really, but just trying to make things feel normal. And I could tell he was looking at me like he was thinking what things would be like if I died, too, when he was still so young.

Then, at the funeral, my son's friend took him off on an off-road joyride in a golf cart and rolled it over in front of all the gathered people and scared the hell out of everyone because the boys got pinned beneath it. They weren't hurt too bad, though, but my son did end up having to sit through the services with blood all over his shirt.

And, just when things were getting back to normal, the following Saturday my son broke his collarbone playing rugby. He was tough about it. His mother was upset, complaining that her little egg had been damaged.

But rugby's the greatest game there is. It involves all the best there is with athletics, and you get all these brushes with the unexpected; but there is nothing a coach can choreograph from the sidelines to help you solve your problems. You just have to get through them.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

being a jerk

Being a jerk is something I'm pretty dang good at.

A couple years ago we considered renaming our rugby team. So I did a search on the internet for team names. I found a football team from the Midwest called the Corn Jerkers.

OK... I know you're probably asking why anyone would want to call their team the Corn Jerkers.

But why wouldn't you want to be called a Corn Jerker?

You gotta wonder, though, what would be painted on the sides of their football helmets.

Think of how easy it would be to develop one-of-a-kind fan gear. Of course they'd have to have a mascot... something yellow and long and cylindrical to dance around on the sidelines and annoy people. Maybe he'd get random fans to come up and give him a jerk.

Maybe they'd have those big foam hands... only they'd be grasping big foam corn cobs and the fans would wildly jerk them up and down in the stands when their team made a big play.

And then there'd be the cheerleaders -- maidens of the Corn Jerk. You wouldn't even have to be very creative to devise some interesting dances for them, jerking their big corns and all. Because, of course, they wouldn't flail pom poms... they'd all have cob-shaped things in each hand. Oh yeah, when you're in the Corn Jerkers' house, be prepared to be taunted by hypnotic cheers like, "We are the mighty Corn Jerkers! We jerk and jerk and jerk!"

I guess just being called a Corn Jerker takes some of the sting off losing.

Monday, September 17, 2007

i've never been arrested...

So... I went to Autumn Cornwell's party. It was a hoot.

But I'm not a stalker.


I have never been arrested for stalking.

In this country.

But I digress. Here's a couple things about the shindig... There were lots of people there, and they were all so NICE. That kind of creeped me out, coming from the West Coast and all. And, remember how I told you I had dinner with the Ben Afflecks? (and I am not supposed to mention Ben Affleck's name again or I'm going to have my kneecaps busted by an angry German woman) Well... Autumn and her husband and baby are like a hundred times more adorable than the family whose names can not be spoken again (or I'll be charged with stalking).

Anyway... my wife won an ultra-cool Carpe Diem tee-shirt. And I won an equally-ultra-cool woven cylinder of reed-like material that does something that I haven't figured out yet because, like my freekin iPhone, it didn't come with instructions. But I'm sure it's cool.

Whatever it is.

And it all made me wonder... What am I going to give out when Ghost Medicine comes out? I am at a loss... so if you have any suggestions, please email them to me. I mean, I can't rightfully give out chewing tobacco or whiskey, so what else is there? I mean, really.

The other thing is that Autumn is just so dang happy and energetic. How can you do that? I told my wife that it must be the burden of writing a book as funny and happy as Carpe Diem. Good thing Ghost Medicine is so serious. Maybe I won't have to smile as much as Autumn does. Maybe I'll invite a bunch of angry and depressed people to my launch party. I know enough to fill the freekin Staples Center.

And I was fooling around with my equally-ultra-cool woven cylinder of reed-like material just now and I practically cut my freekin thumb off with it.

So that's what it does.

HEY!!! Everyone... you must buy and read the ultra-cool and funny Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell.

Or else... you know... I know where you live.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


The word "whiskey" appears in Ghost Medicine 32 times. It gets some of the characters in a bit of trouble, though.

I have a fondness for good whiskey. There is nothing more foul than bad whiskey, though. Bad whiskey makes fights and bad dreams happen.

It's not like I'm belting down the stuff right now, but writing about whiskey does kind of make me taste it. And I just drink it straight. Now that's a man's drink. I've never had a Cosmo or Sex on the Beach... I don't even know what goes into those things. So I guess I'm the kind of customer a bartender likes to have. There's no calculations or sloshing sugary mixer stuff all over the place when someone just asks for whiskey.

My favorite brand is Maker's Mark. That's real whiskey. And the folks at Maker's Mark put "Ghost Medicine" on the nameplate of one of their barrels, just for me. That's a picture of it at the top of this piece.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

school's in

My son started high school this week.

No more macaroni-glued Father's Day gifts from him.

It's worse than seeing him go off to kindergarten because I know he will only get corrupted by the vile teenagers he will encounter. He is quite a writer, though. I remember when I was in high school and I told my parents that I wanted to be a writer. It was over dinner (we actually used to eat together in those days, and moms didn't work), and both of my parents spit out what they were eating and said, "But what do you want to do for your real job?"

So I wrote in secret. Until my dearest friend Kel told me to get my shit together.

My son always said he wanted to be a writer. And I never said anything to him about it.

Then when I was offered representation from my most amazing and gifted agent he told me, "Thank you, Dad, for being a role-model to me."

I'm not making that up. It was the best thing I've ever heard in my life. And my kid actually said it to me.

I was never happy with the writing techniques he learned in school. They always put up with the lamest crap from their students, but I shut up about it. But I have been reading the stuff he's been doing in his English Honors class at high school, and I'm thinking this kid's really getting it. He reads constantly; more than I have time for. And he's going to be a hell of a writer one day.

Some dads get thrills over their sons pitching balls or making touchdowns. That's all great stuff, because I love sports too. My dad would have probably been happy if I became an engineer like he was, but that wasn't for me. Yeah, I'm a dad who writes. And I probably wouldn't have gotten back into it after writing copy for newspapers and radio stations if it weren't for all those nights I'd lay by my son and make up stories for him to put him to sleep... and then him saying thank you for being the dream that he has.

Do good in school, son.

I love you.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

ceteris paribus


Sometimes I am such a coward. I don't mind admitting it; personality shortfalls are a writer's bread and butter. Kind of like alcohol and feeling sorry for yourself. Ceteris paribus, the higher one's degree of personality afflictions, the greater the literary talent.

I got another batch of chapters from my editor last week. We're supposed to be finished by October first. 2008 is getting closer; my book's coming out then, it's an election year, and lame-duck politicians are scrambling to find romantic hideaways devoid of porcelain fixtures and urine on the floor.

She writes, "Andrew, These chapters are awesome. Wow."

Well, I don't know about that. I just tell stories that I like to tell. And I try to work slowly on my edits, just so I'll have something to do besides going crazy. I think one of the reasons why I've been crazy the last couple of weeks is that, besides my work on Ghost Medicine, I'm working on two other new projects and revising a third completed novel all at the same time.

I know.

Bad advice.

And I also keep getting hosed by the people I work with in my Stalinistic day job that I returned to after a three-month hiatus. They actually expect me to WORK. I can't figure them out at all. Smith never knits. And I think I have post-departum depression, a condition brought on by not hopping on airplanes and going places really far away. OK, I know... there's no such thing.

I used Latin in this post. Yeah, I'm pretty smart. Woo-hoo. I've even been on Jeopardy! But I got beat by Ken Jennings. Not cause he's smarter than me, though. It's cause I'm old and know nothing about Ben Affleck and J-Lo, and Ken's like sixteen and has the fastest ring-in-buzzer thumb twitch from all those lonely years he's spent cloistered away in his dark and quiet bedroom playing Mario Bros.

I suck at video games. When I play video games I look like President Bush trying to dance Hip Hop.

It's an awful and sad thing to watch. The only thing I'm good at is Wii Tiger Woods. I can beat my ten-year-old daughter at it. Oh yeah. And I tell her, "I own you!!! You know WHY I own you? Because you SUCK!!!!!"

Then she cries.

Well... it's what Ken Jennings said to me over lunch at the Jeopardy! set.

Just kidding. She doesn't cry when I say that.

Even if I did cry when Ken said it to me.

And I used Latin because I got invited (Woo hoo!) to a Hollywood party for Autumn Cornwell. Autumn's book, Carpe Diem, just came out and is in the bookstores. I loved that book, and we loaned it out to so many of our friends when we got the ARC for it. Everyone I know loved it, too. It's hilarious. You can read about it on

Of course, we are published by the same great publisher, and we share the same amazing editor, but I've never met Autumn face-to-face and she promises that she'll sign my copy for me... so it's off to Hollywood for me and the missus.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

change is ok i guess

I changed the Ghost Medicine website again.

It's probably driving people crazy but I don't like seeing things stay the same for too long. Because nothing ever stays the same, really, we just think it does while we concurrently decay.

My editor, Liz, is coming back to work this week. Yay! I have been going crazy (as evidenced by certain recent rantings) wanting to get back to work.

I walked out to my car the other day and there was a woman in black leaning up against it with her arms folded.

Sometimes, you know, you can just get a certain body language vibe when someone is pissed off at you. Call me Kreskin, but I could see she was pissed about something.

"You think you're pretty funny, don't you?"

Okay. Two things here: First, how can anyone really answer that question? Second, she has this accented and gravelly voice and sounds (I'd imagine) something like Eva Braun after chain-smoking a carton of Luckys. So... yeah... I was kind of scared.

I just shrugged my shoulders.

"You think you can get away with making fun of Ben Affleck?"

Seriously. I could not freekin believe it.

(to be continued)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

smith never knits

Maybe it's just the jet lag.

I don't know.

But this is one of those bummer days when I just feel like giving up.

If your friends ever tell you that you should write a book, you should stab them in the eyes with carrots.

I knew a lady once who sat down while she was knitting and both her knitting needles went up her nostrils and stabbed her in the brain. You may laugh... you may say I'm full of crap, but that's an absolutely true story. She ultimately died from lung cancer because she smoked so much.

You shouldn't smoke.

You shouldn't knit, either.

But I like Cuban cigars.

I don't even know if it's legal, but I brought three boxes of them back home from my overseas travels this summer. I haven't opened them yet, though.

I went through a lot of foreign airports coming back to the US this summer, too. Some of them are pretty lame.

I think their security people knit.

I take all the pictures on my blog and my website. I guess taking pictures is like knitting, but you can't stab yourself in the brain when you sit down on your couch to smoke. The guy in the picture here is a gargoyle on a church. He barfs out water when it rains. He doesn't have arms, so he is obviously neither a knitter nor smoker.

This is one of those days.

I think I'll have a cigar and a glass of whiskey.

(smith never knits)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

our dinner with kel

We went to dinner with Kelly the night before leaving for London and I didn’t post this until today (from London):

First off, I’d like to begin with the disclaimer that I do not watch much television, very few movies, and never read pop culture periodicals.

I probably wouldn’t even recognize Lindsay Lohan if she ran over me with her Mercedes.

But that’s just me.

So… we went out to dinner with Kelly tonight. It was so great to see her again.

We went to some little trendy Italian place on the West Side where the waiters were all Hispanic, but barked out orders in Italian.

When we get there, the place is entirely deserted. The hostess asks me if we have reservations. I laugh and say, “Apparently it looks like we need them.”

She laughs and goes to talk to the maitre d’, a man who moved over to the foyer with amazing agility considering the telephone-pole sized stick he had up his ass.

And he looks at me seriously and says, “I can let you have a table, but we will be very busy soon so you can only have it for a little while.”

Look, I’m thinking: 1) I am a writer who is going out to dinner with his wife and another accomplished author 2) I am wearing black, which is, like, the official national color of Brentwood, and 3) This guy has a freekin stick up his ass. The place is deserted. It’s not going to fill up in an hour, Chef Boy-Ar-Dee.

And I have a motto that has served me well over the course of my life. It goes like this: That’s what you get for trusting me.

So we sit down. And I was fully intending to have an unhurried dinner, even to the point where we dismissed our waiter to study the menu over a few glasses of wine, and all the while Armani-suit-telephone-pole-boy kept glaring at me (well there was no one else there to glare at) like he was expecting me to say, "You mean to tell me you DON'T have chili cheese fries in this freekin dump?"

But I don’t want to have my kneecaps busted by a baseball bat just hours before getting on our plane, so I have another glass of wine and order our appetizers.

Then, a couple walks in toting a highchair-sized toddler, and I’m thinking, “Oh, this place is really jumping now.”

And, by the way, the guy-half of the couple is wearing a white tee shirt and a backwards black yo-homey-g-dawg baseball cap. He looks like someone I’d hire to re-do the tiles in my freekin bathroom. And… he was wearing a white tee shirt in a province where not wearing black is like quoting Michael Moore at a Republican fundraiser.

And I swear all through dinner he kept looking at my wife’s boobs, too.

So we have our dinner. Then dessert. Just us and the tile-setter’s family. Right next to us.

The maitre d’ fumed, circles of sweat appearing in his armpits.

And when I put my credit card down on the tabletop, the maitre d’ swooped down on it like a school of plastic-eating piranhas.

And we left. The place was empty again.

Then my wife says, “That was Ben Affleck next to us.”

Tile guy. Homey G. Ben Affleck.

Go figure.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

meeting kel

I got my laptop packed and am ready to head to the airport for our trip to Canada and the UK. Hope to make at least one post from London.

Today I am going to LA to meet one of my best lifelong friends, Kelly, who is also an author. She's down in LA researching her next book and we haven't seen each other for years (although we've managed to stay in touch).

My kids and I absolutely love Kelly's books. You can check them out on her website at

Kelly and I have known each other since high school, when we both worked for our school paper and both aspired to one day grow up. And be writers. I guess we made it (the writers part, at least). And we terrorized the teachers at our school, too. Well... at least I did. Kelly's always been so dang nice.

Kelly also works with the amazing author Chris Crutcher, which must be ultra-cool.

Anyway, about this whole "Kelly being nicer than me" thing... She really helped me out SOOOOO much when I was in the process of seeking representation for my first novel. I can't believe how stupid I would have been if it hadn't been for Kelly saving my butt and telling me I was being stupid. So I ended up getting signed by an agent that I had designated my top choice (Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown Literary Agency... if you look them up, you'll see how many big deals she makes!), mostly because Kelly helped me take all the stupid and rambling stuff out of my query letter.

And, believe me, my first attempt at writing a query letter was stupid and rambling.

Now that I have an agent and a publishing contract and a great editor, I guess I don't have to worry as much about the perfect query letter as I do about my tendency to be stupid and rambling. But Kelly will keep me in line on that, I guess.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

moving this way

Note: I've decided to move my blog from my website ( over to here. The old entries will still be on that site, though, at least for a while.

I am leaving the country tomorrow. Again.

And I'm trying to get things done. I am just about through with my edits for GHOST MEDICINE, which will come out next year. Then I have two completed and different versions of my second book, BIRD, which was also sold to my publisher. And, with the help of my incredible agent, Laura, I've been rewriting and polishing up a third novel which I hope to make available soon.

If all that weren't enough, I came home from my run in the hills yesterday morning and my death-machine black cat was in my back yard trying to kill a rattlesnake.

You know I'm no particular fan of cats, but I didn't want to have to tell my daughter that her kitty got killed by a rattlesnake. And the snake was working on doing exactly that, rattling and striking as the cat jumped and clawed.

Unlike dogs, cats do not run away when you yell things like, "Get out of here you stupid idiot!" So I tried to grab the cat's tail and give it a friendly (and lifesaving) fling. And the rattlesnake tried to bite me on the arm, missing by about an inch. So I backed off and convinced the cat to do the same by throwing a brick at her.

Eventually, I managed to kill the snake with the paddle from my kayak (the closest thing on hand).

I felt sorry for the snake, but I can't have those things running (or whatever they do) free in my yard.