Tuesday, September 30, 2008

fitting end

Well, I have blogged every day for the entire month of September, and here I am at a most fitting end.

It works out for a number of reasons. Coincidentally enough, today I just finished the final editorial revisions on in the path of falling objects (Fall 2009), and sent it off to my editor in New York.

And, since the whole original premise for blogging every day for a month was to keep some running blah-fest about what it's like to have your debut novel come out (in case you forgot, Ghost Medicine was released September 2), I thought I'd say a few words about the work involved with actually being published.

Step 1: You write a book that someone other than you, your family, or people who owe you money thinks is good.


The next part is the editing. Many writers I know dislike the editing portion of the journey, but it's one of my favorite parts. Then again, I've only worked with one editor, but it's been a blast for both of my books. I remember that when I gave her a manuscript of in the path of falling objects that she was thrilled and said the book was scary and tense.

I like that. I mean, after all, that was what I was aiming for.

But, through the editing process, she made it into an adrenaline-jolting-stuck-on-top-of-the-world's-biggest-ferris-wheel-during-a-major-earthquake ride. Now that's pure talent... to be able to get to what's really at the heart of a story by just making a few painless little slices here and there (and her editing suggestions have always been very minimal).

Have you ever read a book that you thought was a good story, but you said to yourself... wow, that guy could really use a good editor ? And then, other times, you'll read a book and everything is so seamless and smooth. Chances are, the latter case is when there's a talented editor on board. But they become invisible.

Okay. So that brings an end to the month of September, and the final installment of Blogging Every Day For A Month at bedfam 37, but don't think I'm through yet. As I've warned, I have something special coming up for the month of October, and that begins tomorrow.


-- A. S.

Monday, September 29, 2008

first rain

Today we got the first real rain up here in the mountains.

It was nice, but came at a most inopportune time. We were on our 5-mile run, about as far from home as we ever get, on top of a hill behind the old church, and then it was all rain and thunder and lightning. I didn't mind, but my wife has this completely irrational fear of thunderstorms. She just freezes up entirely, even inside the house.

Then, she asks one of those zen-like unanswerable questions:

"You think it's funny, don't you?"

Well. Yeah, I do. But, of course I didn't say that. I just pretended like I couldn't hear her.

Oh yeah. I like scaring her.

My daughter used to have one of these life-size carcinogenic and lead-based plastic Barbie dolls that was, I guess, about 3 feet tall. My wife was scared of that, too.

So, me being the sensitive type that I am, one April Fool's Day a couple years back, I got up really early and put the Barbie on the stairs like she was coming up to our room. Oh yeah... one little detail... I had her arm raised above her head and I taped a big butcher knife into her hand.

Then there was the ketchup dripping down her face, too.

It was all very tasteful and artistic, in my opinion, but sometimes, I guess, there's no accounting for what the viewing audience will accept as "art." Anyway, I wasn't at home when the discovery was made, but I do remember fielding a very angry phone call later that morning.

And we never saw that Barbie again, either.


-- A. S.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

back to me


Well, I'm going to rest for a while on the topic of boys and the damage that we've done to them in our public schools here in California. Time to move on to other topics, at least for the time being.

Today, I thought I'd talk a little bit about my writing, since I've kind of been working on a few things at once.

I'd exchanged a few emails over the past couple days with a fellow author, and I told her about how I'd written my last novel (345 pages and 85,000 words -- I had to double-check those stats just now) in five weeks, including a complete revision. I don't know why I did that, and I'd advise anyone not to do something so self-destructive. I had to send my wife and kids on multiple vacations during that time, and I worked for maybe 10 hours per day.

After reading Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle, I can really relate to his manic stonecutter, but at least I never resorted to eating instant coffee straight from the jar.

When you finish doing something like that, it's difficult to figure out what to do with yourself. Kind of like running a marathon, I guess (I've completed about 30 marathons in my running career). When I finish running 26.2 miles, it's kind of hard to grasp the idea of stopping.

Anyway, I've started two other things since that last novel. What I often do when writing is I'll write a few pages of a new novel and then put them away for months and just let the rest of the story play out in my head. When that happens, I can get back on those pages and the whole thing will come right out. So we'll see what happens with these latest projects.

This week, I am finishing my last edits on in the path of falling objects, which will be out in Fall 2009. I know it looks like there's a lot of work in front of me, but I am trying to finish by Wednesday. I work fast.

Finally, the picture on today's blog was just taken before sitting down here. That's a wooden skeleton I have hanging over my desk, staring at me all the time. He's also one of the first things described in in the path of falling objects, so when you read it, you'll get an idea of what the characters are looking at on that first bloody page.


-- A. S.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

the good word

One of the things I see happening increasingly in schools is the use of what are called "Reading Logs." These are timecard-like thingies where kids are supposed to keep track of the daily reading they do at home.

I'm sure no kids ever cheat their way through these things.

Again, this is just one more of those things where kids are supposed to be learning how to be more effective readers on their own, away from the school. Because God knows, at school the teachers are too busy with having kids make macaroni dioramas and such.

As Mark Twain would say, Hello Central!

Kids are supposed to be learning in school. They shouldn't be learning school stuff at home. I'm a teacher and a father, too, and I am here to tell you that right now: let kids do kid stuff at home (because they're going to, anyway) and teach them at school. Do not expect them to learn anything at home unless you don't care about the end results.


That's how we got here, California.

Now fix it.

I'm going to end up today with a few words sent to me on this subject by my good friend, author Lewis Buzbee (Steinbeck's Ghost):

But you were wondering why don't teen boys read. Here's my answer, and a thorny one. Teen boys don't read because their fathers don't read. It's just a fact that it's mostly women who read and buy books--it's a feminine trait in our society. Men don't. Except for a few of us geeky types. But on the whole, men stop reading at a certain point, by which I mean, reading for pleasure. And if boys don't see their fathers reading, they won't read. No modeling.

It's a simple equation for reading--most of the time--if the parents read, the kids will read. Parents making kids read when they don't read is fruitless.

Well, that's one--rather depressing--take on it. From a bookseller's point of view.

So... I'm going to be calling out all guy writers to be the fathers of our reading and non-reading boys in the world. We can get them back to where they were, say, when I was a kid and, believe it or not, all my guy friends read, and we all talked about books, too, and shared them, passed them around when we were finished.

What do my kids (at home and at school, by the way) see me doing every day? Reading for pleasure. This week, I finished reading Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle and Bill Konigsberg's Out of the Pocket... which reminds me, I've got to send Bill a note.

Even though I write YA fiction, I probably read more adult fiction than anything else. People who know me, online and otherwise, know that I don't like to give reviews of other writers' work, but I love to tell other authors directly what I think of their stuff. I'm not sure what's next up on the reading list for me.

Okay. This is day 34 of blogging every day for a month. October will be something new... just three days away.


-- A. S.

Friday, September 26, 2008

getting it back

Okay. So I thought I’d end the week out with some ideas about how we, as teachers and parents, can help boys get back to where they should be, in terms of closing the achievement gap in literacy with girls.

The tough part is going to be changing the schools. When we see programs, whether they are high school football or high school language arts, that are destroying our kids, we have to force them to change so that they can help foster the qualities in our boys that we expect, and on which our society’s future depends.

The problem with pedagogy is that (and I can say this is especially true in the state of California) schools have a habit of adopting any new trend that comes along, adhering to a kind of religious dogma that traditional ways are bad. In sports, this is the refusal to equate playing, youth, and fun with the idea of the game. In reading and writing this is (brace yourself) abandonment of READING and WRITING in the classroom.


Classes have become little multimedia playgrounds where kids move through a variety of rapid-fire fun but meaningless activities: let’s draw a picture, let’s walk around through a human statuary of our favorite characters, let’s make a movie poster of what we’re pretending we’re reading, and on and on until the bell rings and the kids hurry out of a class that was supposed to teach them how to be effective READERS and WRITERS.


That really makes me sick.

Oh… and the reading? They’re supposed to be doing that at home.

Yeah, right.

Well, God knows they don’t do it in school. They’re too busy with that other “stuff.” I don’t know if it’s really as bad as Richard Hofstadter claims in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, that American schools have been waging a war on intellectual development. 

Wait. Maybe I do. 

It is that bad.

“English,” what we used to think of as those first two Rs, has somehow transformed into a kind of watery cartoon world of vague “communication.” It’s hard to even understand why schools call English “English” anymore.

You know why my kids read? Because their mother and I are there reading with them. Heck, someone’s got to be the teacher. But I’ll get back to what parents and schools can do in future posts.

Really. I think I just have to say a couple more things on this topic.

Remember, I've got something special planned for October, and that's just a week away.


-- A. S.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

the campaign against boys

Okay. So, I was looking at school district performance in California just the other day and I saw all these stats that seemed to conform to the magical panacea called No Child Left Behind. There was data that showed improvements across the board, generally speaking, in schools' Academic Performance Indexes, and that was even broken down to show gains among ethnic groups and socioeconomic subgroups as well.

So I asked... can you break down the data over the past years (let's just go back as far as the present Bush administration, since they are the major proponents of the law) and segregate the trends for just two groups... girls and boys? Then I got to see that data.

If you have a son in school, you'd better take a deep breath. I would have told you to sit down, but this is a blog, and who the hell reads blogs while standing?

The data showed that girls were making significant gains in all those areas I commented on in my last blog post. But boys were actually getting worse. That's right... worse. You would think that if a state adopted curricular strategies that targeted improvement within one subgroup, that it wouldn't actually damage any other group. You would think. But we are actually harming boys at schools in California. Damaging them. Destroying their futures.

We didn't realize that when we bought in to revamping education to catch girls up in reading and writing that we were revamping it to make boys... um... dumber. Sure, the girls made significant gains. We developed curriculum that emphasized reading that was more girl-friendly, evoking emotions and internalization of conflict rather than action and concrete, physical realities. And the classroom activities we imposed dealt with "reflecting" or "role-playing," "imagining" and "cooperating;" all things that are innately non-boy. So we began turning boys off to reading about 20 years ago, and we're paying the price for it today.

A big part of the problem is the shift away from reading and writing to what Richard Allington, cited in Mike Schmoker's Results Now: How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning, refers to as "stuff." "Stuff" consists of the fluffy things girls like to do but boys tend to cringe at: making 3-D mobiles, a diorama, coloring a book jacket. One writer in Schmoker's book suggested that we all buy stock in Crayola, since "coloring" had become such a pervasive element in literacy curriculum through high school. These are just some of the reasons why boys are either not learning to read and write sooner, or avoiding those processes altogether.

The thing about girls is that they're adaptable. They can learn and color at the same time. They like to. Boys don't.

Take it from me. I'm a boy. We don't color. Or act in skits. Or form groups to talk about what we're going to color or who gets to play the role of Scout or Calpurnia in our skit we have to perform up in front of the entire freakin' class.

Here's the thing. Reality check. Reading and writing are the keys to success in anything, because all other intellectual abilities depend on them. Getting your next job depends on it. Democracy depends on it. Period. If we dumb down an entire gender as far as these skills are concerned, what does that mean for the economic future of males specifically, and our society, political institutions, and economy in general? Bad news.

So... what can we do to get boys back to where they used to be, and then push them beyond?

I'll talk about that coming up.


-- A. S.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

some kids left behind

Boys used to read when I went to school. In fact, boys outscored girls in reading and writing on standardized tests, the SAT, and outpaced girls as far as college admission was concerned, too.

Now none of that is true.

I'm certainly not promoting the idea of a war between the sexes, but evidence would seem to suggest that there has been some damage done to boys through educational reforms, or, at the very least, that boys have been quietly neglected for the past 20 years as school systems have directed efforts at narrowing the achievement gap between the genders. As a result, in the past 20 years, girls have excelled in gains, while boys have fallen behind.

Think about that. Education administrators would never tolerate such a reality if it applied to a racial or economic subgroup, but I have yet to see any of the bloated, score-oriented, out-of-touch with reality, number-crunching managers even look twice at the stats that show how we're leaving boys behind in school. Believe me, I sat through an endless borefest of death-by-PowerPoint NCLB pie charts and graphs just yesterday and saw trends graphically displayed for just about every group you could think about.

Except "boys."

Hmmm... kind of makes you wonder.

So, what started happening in California about 20 years ago that alienated boys from reading and writing? It's pretty simple, actually. California "girled up" curriculum. We know that the change in methodology helped girls significantly, but it hurt the boys. It's kind of like using a flame thrower to remove a wart... the problem will be eradicated, but so will the rest of your hand.

In the next post, I'll talk about "girled up" curriculum, and how it drove boys away from reading and writing. Then, eventually, I'll give a few ideas about more effective ways to teach boys.

This is day 31 of Blogging Every Day For A Month. (BEDFAM)

I'm not finished yet, though. I'm going to go all the way through the end of September... then I have a BIG announcement coming up for October.



-- A. S.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

time in

Okay. Back to the business.

I'll admit that my observations are anecdotal, but that doesn't detract from their weight. After all, I've spent decades in the very environments I am criticizing.

Now, I've taken a couple shots at how I see high school football in California as being destructive to our boys, so it's only fair that I continue on with how we damage their chances in the classroom as well.

In reading and writing, girls outperformed boys by "significant amounts" in all industrialized countries.

... That's data presented from a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003, cited in Michael Gurian's The Minds of Boys. It's a terrific book, and I highly recommend it for any teacher, and, especially, any parent of sons... because we're losing our boys in school, and we need to get them back.

For as much as has been debated about the questionable effectiveness of No Child Left Behind, the results of NCLB have actually had a more profoundly negative effect on boys. Although NCLB data is routinely NOT desegregated by genders, we know that today, boys in grades 4 - 8 are typically 2 - 3 years behind girls when it comes to reading level.

We also know that no children of either gender consider themselves to be "non readers" in early grades, but by high school, a little more than half of all boys consider themselves to be non readers.

New mantra: non-readers. That scares the hell out of me, and not because I'm a writer.

Sounds like we're leaving a few children behind.

It didn't used to be like this, folks. We're killing boys' chances.

I guess, in California, we're like a bunch of drunks waking up in a fog, in some gutter, asking ourselves "How the hell did we get here?"

I have some ideas on our roadmap that got us into this wasteland, and, as long as I'm going to gripe, I better give a couple of suggestions for ways out, too. And those posts are coming up...

As for today, the 30th consecutive day of bedfam (blogging every day for a month), I had to slam this post up at 3:00 AM because I knew it was going to be a busy day and I wouldn't get a chance to later.

But I did it.



-- A. S.

Monday, September 22, 2008

time out


I'm going to take a time-out on my pieces about how we're killing boys in school sports and through our educational methods, but I promise to get right back on it as soon as I can.

I just needed to put in some incredible news, that in today's edition of Publisher's Weekly, there was a *starred* review for Ghost Medicine, which is, like, the Holy Grail as far as being a debut author is concerned.

Here's what they said:

Ghost Medicine Andrew Smith. Feiwel and Friends, $17.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-312-37557-7

Smith's first novel, a deceptively simple coming-of-age story, defies expectations via its sublime imagery and its elliptical narrative structure. Troy, 16, and two childhood friends spend the summer following Troy's mother's death wrangling wild horses while drinking homemade wine and sampling chewing tobacco. Each of their brushes with danger—a rattlesnake attack, a predatory mountain lion—they commemorate with tattoos and rituals in homage to the mysterious force they call “ghost medicine.” The intrepid Troy—who, in the beginning of the book, reads sections of The Idiot and Jude the Obscure while hiding out in his grandfather's mountain cabin with his horse—grapples with his mother's death through philosophical ruminations: “There might be a God [but] He is, at best, ambivalent to all of the things set in motion in this world.” In the periphery is Troy's first love, Luz, for whom Troy contemplates staying forever in the idyllic landscape, rather than leaving for college. While the summer climaxes with jarring violence, the possibility of a true departure never materializes: the outside world is held at bay by the inscrutable questions unveiled in the book's conclusion.

Wow. That is awesome.

Thanks, PW.

Oh yeah... BEDFAM 29

-- A. S.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

playing games

So, let's pick it up kind of where I left off.

In my last post, I asked you to visualize a couple words. Let's do that again, but now I'm going to add a third:




If you are normal, or, I might say, in the case of many people I encounter, when you used to be normal, you probably imagine kids playing and having fun. I might guess you can almost feel, without putting it into words, the adult view of the pointlessness of kids' play. That they play for the simple goal of play, something that is hard for us to appreciate at times.

Competitive high school sports in California have eviscerated those elements in nearly every game that kids ever used to think was fun.

Oh yeah... that's another word to think about.


In California, as soon as the high school football season ends (usually in November), the following season begins. And this is what it's like: During the season, kids practice every day except Sunday. They practice late into the dark. There is no time for them to get away from their football identity and just be kids. And I'm not even going to gripe about other responsibilities like doing homework. The most criminal part of the thing is that they don't have any time to cultivate their identities and do kid things.

They practice all summer, too... out on the astroturf when the sun is blazing down and turf-level temperatures get up around 120 degrees. Not only do football players in California not have the time to just be kids, they are not allowed to play any other sports, either, since football runs from January to December.

I asked a football coach (yes... he is a friend of mine, but we do get into this argument frequently) why he never lets up on the kids... why they don't stop practicing at the end of the season. He gave me the two most sickening answers I could possibly imagine:

1) Because they'd lose games against all the other teams who practice year round (mantra break... game, play, youth, fun).

2) Because the parents in the community wouldn't stand for it if he didn't produce winners.

Ugh. Taste of throw-up in my mouth.

Jewish boys are forbidden to attend classes on holy days, but their coaches would never tolerate them missing a football practice, no matter what.

I am not making that up, either, as offensive as it is.

Now I'm going to tell you a true story that makes me look bad. Last year, I was working quietly on my computer (I think I was doing some editing for Ghost Medicine) and I happened to be next door to the room where the football coaches were meeting with their high school team. I found myself in that situation quite a bit, actually, and it was frequently distracting because of all the yelling and cursing going on in those meetings. Don't be shocked, parents, remember... this is what you want for your sons. Make them winners. Well, on one particular day it was especially bad. The coaches were screaming and cussing at these teenage boys worse than anything I'd ever heard. Seriously. I couldn't even concentrate on anything else, and I felt almost like a voyeur, fully witnessing this meltdown and abuse of these young kids.

Then I heard the coach actually throwing things. He cussed and screamed, and all kinds of stuff began smashing into the walls. I can't imagine what the KIDS must have been thinking or doing, there was no sound from them at all. Nothing. Just what sounded like a nineteenth-century asylum next door, to me.

Remember parents... this is what you want. Maybe your boy will win the game this week!

And I got up out of my chair. I have a teenage son myself. And I thought, God, if my son was in that room, I'd be right through that door and get him out. But they weren't my sons in there. They were the sons of parents who wouldn't put up with losing a game.

So I was a coward, and I just sat there and listened to the abuse.

The next day I told the coach about what I'd heard. I told him if my son had been in that room I probably would have had him arrested when he started throwing stuff. You know what he did? Moved his team meetings to a different location.

So, yeah... California is killing its boys. You want to turn your son into an illiterate monster, California is the place to go.

And my football coach friends can't deny the logic of my argument. Look, I say... California has about 1/8 the population of the entire United States. Right? Do 1/8 of all boys who get D1 football scholarships come from California?

Uh... no.

Are 1/8 of the pros former high school players from California?


No... most of them come from places that actually allow kids to be kids. But here in California, forget it.

And it isn't just football that is killing our boys... it's other sports and what we do to them in the classrooms, too. So, don't just think I'm picking on football. I like the game, really I do. It's just after all these years of seeing what it does to kids, I've gotten sick of it.

(this will be continued)


-- A. S.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

the annihilation of boys


It's on.

I've talked about this a little bit before, in a number of respects, but now I'm going to spend a bit of time talking about how we've been wrecking kids, especially here in California.

This is probably going to make some people mad, but I want to start out by stressing that what I say may not pertain to any other part of the country outside of California, where I've been a teacher and coach for... ugh... a really long time. I've heard, and I believe, that there are other parts of the country that are not like this. Hmmm... go figure. Somewhere that's not like California.

Oh well.

But, in California, we are murdering youth in two major ways: high school education, and high school sports. Sorry, but I'm going to start with the sports.

I said in an earlier blog that I was conducting an experiment this year... that I was totally boycotting football; and that I was going to try to see if I could not even watch a second of it by accident this year.

Now I'll say why.

In California, football destroys kids.

It should be a crime.

In California, the football community of parents and coaches are like drug fiends who fix their addiction by sapping the lives of kids. In California, high school football is a year-round, every day commitment to being verbally and psychologically abused. Kids who play in high school get no time off, and no freedom. Their coaches even tell them what they can do when they're off the field and away from practice.

I want you to close your eyes (after you read the next couple lines) and think about the following two words:



You may already be catching on to my point. If you are catching on, then you're not a high school football coach. If you are a high school football coach, you're probably turning purple from the neck up and thinking about punching me.

Okay with me.

Fat loser tobacco-chewing guy who ignores his wife and kids.

Bring it.

I just got home from a rugby tournament that was held on the beach in Huntington Beach, CA. It was such an amazing and fun day. Nothing gets better than that, trust me. Some of the kids I coach played on our high school team, and some of them were playing for universities. It was an awesome day. But it's late, and I wanted to jam this blog in so I could mark my 27th day of blogging non-stop.

I will pick up tomorrow where I left off (that is, if a California High School football coach doesn't set fire to my house while I'm asleep tonight).


-- A. S.

Friday, September 19, 2008

the hand that rights

Sometimes, the hand that corrects me when I'm drifting off course is not mine.

But, that's okay.

I wanted to go back to a couple of things I'd put up in some of my earlier posts, but not yesterday's. I shouldn't have posted that one, but now that I left it there for so long, I'm not taking it down. I did that once before one time when I wrote about how my brother died when I was a young punk (hmm... sounds like Ghost Medicine). And I'd written that one on the anniversary of his death, but as soon as I put it up I got scared and took it down.

Well, enough about that.

A few days ago, I wrote about sounds. I mentioned something about the audiobook version of Ghost Medicine, and how I'd gotten a copy of it, but wouldn't open it. Well, the reason I came to have that one copy is that a friend of mine (Ross) is the son of someone who works for Random House. When I told him the audiobook was out, but I didn't know what it even looked like, he called his dad and had it in his hand the next day.

Today, when I came home, there was a case of them on my doorstep from Random House. Thanks very much. I opened one, and the CDs look awesome. They are imprinted with the cover art and every one of them has my name on it. Loving music as much as I do (I had been a professional musician at one point in my ridiculous life), it's kind of hard to express how cool it is to see a box of CDs with my name on them.

And I'm not going to go into too much detail about this, but a few posts ago I ranted a bit about how much it sucks to be a debut author. I did it because I wanted to tell the honest truth to people who feel so driven to write and get a novel published.

Okay, so now, without it being requested, I want to say why being a debut author is so rewarding. It's an incredible experience being a debut author when someone that you've never even met comes up to you and wants to talk about your book or writing. It's great to be a debut author when you see a kid reading your book, and you can tell he's been carrying it around everywhere because there's no book cover on it and the spine is all bent inward and the pages look smudged, and that particular kid has never even talked to you before, but came up to you today to tell you he finished reading your book, and when was your next one going to be out? It's awesome being a debut author when you get an email from some librarian on the other side of the country who said she read your book and fell in love with it, or when you get a message from someone who works in publishing (at a different house) who tells you how much they liked your book. And, it's great being a debut author when someone asks a question about what something in your book means, and how did you come up with a certain character or place or event. And it's nice, too, when newspapers and radio stations want to talk to you (but I NEVER listen to myself or even read the first word from any article that's ever appeared in the press about me). Sorry, reporters, but that's the truth. I don't want to read or hear about me.

And, as far as listening to the audiobook is concerned, I think I'm with Laurie Halse Anderson on this one. I just don't think I'm going to do it. But my son is putting it onto his iPod. I'd be very happy to donate some audiobooks to charities, though, like kids' libraries or literacy programs, or especially to hospitals or other programs where readers might be physically impaired as far as books and pages are concerned.

Please contact me if you know of any such programs in need.

Finally, I did send a copy of Ghost Medicine to my friend who lives in China (and he loves it), and today I signed copies for friends living in Australia, as well. So, I have a few more continents to go. I'll send one off to the first person in Africa and in South America, too, who requests a copy.



-- A. S.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

trash day

When I was a teenager, there was a place up on a mountain that everyone called "the Bus."

No brainer, really, why it was called that. There was an old abandoned school bus with nearly every window broken out sitting up there, resting on its wheelless axles. It seems like the only windows that I can recall that weren't smashed out were the ones on the emergency exit.

Kids used to go up to the Bus and party.

One friend of mine went up to the bus and got murdered there. It's a weird thing when you're a kid and something like that happens, especially in my case, because I had just seen him earlier in the night before it happened.

I don't know why I was thinking about that today. It happened such a long time ago. I apologize for throwing a downer at you. I could have written about a lot of things today, but I could have thought about a lot of things, too.

But I didn't.

I hate hearing the trash trucks come through the neighborhood.


-- A. S.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the big rant


I need to rant.

I imagine if the power existed where you could rewind time and go back and make different decisions that we'd all be endlessly stuck in an infinite loop back in the stone age wondering whether or not we should keep rubbing those stupid sticks together or just give up and rest our raw and aching hands because, after all, this feels pretty stupid --doesn't it?-- and it's just because the damned sticks got hot and hot meant something, and hot can do something, but of all the possible somethings we thought it would mean, we could never imagine the somethings we got from it, so we rubbed and rubbed those stupid sticks and next thing you know we're no longer running around naked and killing things when we get hungry because we're too busy figuring out how to change the freakin' TV back to widescreen display and what the hell we ever did before HDTV, not that I can even enjoy HDTV because my eyes are so bad all I need to do is pop my contacts out and nothing could ever possibly be HD again --ever-- so I might as well just rip the stupid thing out of the wall and run around naked and throw rocks and stuff at the bastards who thought rubbing the sticks together was some kind of a good idea in the first place, but they'd just woefully shake their heads back and forth like they're watching some slow-motion underwater naked tennis match (on HDTV) and sigh and say "Looks like nobody's talking to that whacko Smith again... tsk, tsk... and he's not writing again, either."



I got it out of my system.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Okay. I am, as promised, going to lay down one of those famous rants.

Just not today.

I'm wiped out.

In fact, I am really looking forward to this coming Sunday, because it will be the first day in about three weeks when I can actually stay home and do nothing. I may actually sleep in, which, to me, means about ten after six in the morning.

One of the things I like best about where I live is the sound. It's a rare thing here to hear a siren. That happens maybe once a month, at the most. And on summer nights when we sleep with the windows open, every few nights we will get the most amazing songs from the coyotes. Sometimes, they are right down in the creek bed behind the horses. Some nights, their songs are frantic and panicky, other nights they sound pained and scared, but every time they go off, my three dogs will join in.

To me, it kind of sounds like the people at a rock concert who try to sing along with the band, but you just know why they're NOT the ones on stage. Domestic dogs just can't hang with a coyote concert. They're like a bad American Idol audition.

I bring up the idea of sounds because I got a copy of the Ghost Medicine audiobook the other day. It really is a cool thing to look at and hold. There are nine CDs in the box, and the artwork and layout of the box are so impressive. Of course, I haven't opened it. I will open it if I get another copy (hint to Random House). But I know what it sounds like, since I got to sit in the recording studio one day during the production.

And it's over 11 hours long, too. That's awesome.

Last summer, I got to meet and talk with author Laurie Halse Anderson. I think she's really cool, and doubt she would remember having met such a microscopic nobody as me. In any event, when I told her about my going to the studio, she said that she NEVER listens to her audiobooks. I can understand that, too.

I think as writers, we get so caught up with the squiggly black lines on the paper that we never even imagine the "sound" of our work. At least, I don't. Because it sure did "sound" weird to me to hear my book coming out of the mouth of an actor.

Okay. I got there. Day 23 of blogging every day for a month.

(Am afraid, being the obsessive compulsive moron I am that when I get to the end of the month I won't be able to stop)

Hmmm... and I nearly ranted about insane college Lit professors.



Monday, September 15, 2008

are you kidding me?

Sorry for the rant yesterday. I was just doing my duty.

I'm going to talk just a little bit about characters and ranting today. 

I have a character in one of my books who is more like me than any other character I've ever created. This guy can rant. He elevates ranting to a kind of religion, I think. He's an editor's nightmare (hmmm... just like... um, me), because he can spew out a single-sentence rant that has about 250 words in it.

Nothing says you can't have 250-word long sentences. If you doubt it, stay tuned... I'm going to lay one of those babies down before my month-long stream of uninterrupted blogging is finished.

Oh yeah. I'm going to do it.

Okay... so I had this Lit professor when I was an undergrad. He's probably dead now, but he became a character in one of my books, too. I don't really know how I feel about this, but some Lit people believe that it doesn't matter what a writer
intends his work to mean, that the only thing that matters is what the reader thinks it means. Like... the mirror is the message.

Or something. 

But what if the reader is

I ask this because my Lit professor probably was. He believed that everything written as fiction was actually some kind of thinly-veiled semi-pornographic manifesto on sex, perversion, and genitalia. I am not kidding. This guy thought
everything was about some kind of sex, even Huckleberry Finn and Billy Budd. Even A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.


Hello Central! (Smith loves Twain and that bastard professor made it all into prurient pornography)

He was insane. His mirror was like one of those fun-house ones. Except, instead of making you look real skinny or real fat, I bet it made you look... um... naked.

Or something.

does matter what a writer intends, especially in light of such compelling arguments as my now-dead Lit professor put forth.

I mean, I can take being misunderstood if there is some rational basis for the interpretation. One "Lit Guy" (an actual college professor... not that I hang out with college professors ever since being so deeply emotionally scarred as an undergrad) who read
Ghost Medicine (and liked the book, by the way) said he thought the novel was misogynistic. He explained exactly why he felt that way, and I guess I can understand where he was coming from, but I still think he's insane. Well... about the misogyny part, not about the actually liking my book part.

And this is exactly why, presently, I feel the need to go into a 250-word-long single-sentence rant.

I seem to never be able to express how I feel about things without someone taking it personally and getting offended or pissed-off at me. So, whatever I say, don't get pissed off (unless I call you names or make fun of your family members, which is something, like cussing, I never do) and don't assume I am crying out for help and need to be "fixed," either. I'm just blowing off steam (which, if my Lit professor was still alive, I would have to clearly and unequivocally explain is
NOT an idiomatic sexual metaphor).

I recently lost a friend over something I said. I mean, come on... are you
kidding me? And what I said it wasn't about my offended friend. It wasn't even about a person at all, it was about my take on a certain behavior that I interpreted (perhaps incorrectly) as being rude and snobbish. Nothing more. 

Hmmm... maybe the mirror
is the message. But I didn't get all bent out of shape for being called a misogynist. I laughed about it. But I laughed in a nice way.

You have to be careful around insane people.

Really insane people.

College professors.


I need to rant.



Sunday, September 14, 2008


Forgive me if this post is scattered all over the place, but driving home just now I thought about a few things I wanted to write just a little bit about.

First of all, I try really hard to avoid writing about anything overtly political or religious on my blog because 1) I don't really want people to know that much about me, and 2) I don't want to offend away any potential readers. Sure, you can probably read between the lines on a couple of my posts... but if you "get it," then I know you're not the ones who'd be offended.

But now I feel guilty, because prisca posted a comment on yesterday's blog where she said, "I've enjoy reading your journey with your book. It actually is nice to get an inside look at the ins and outs of a successful writers life. Us aspiring writers appreciate your candor." I feel guilty because I don't think I've been totally straightforward. So, here goes, and, please, I really do not want to offend anyone... there is nothing personal intended here, this is all about me (my favorite subject):

It sucks being a debut author. I've said it before... I do not love to write, but I can't do anything about it, either, because the alternative (not writing) is much worse. It sucks being a debut author because I've never been extremely self-confident, anyway, and although I never cared for a moment about making money from writing (which I do), I actually never felt driven to have lots of people read my stuff (that still freaks me out). It sucks being a debut author because bookstores are really nice to me when I come in (they treat me like I'm developmentally disabled and look over my shoulder like they're expecting someone to come along and tell me it's time for a diaper change) and they don't care to devote any shelf space to a debut author's work. It sucks being a debut author because nothing happens on my schedule, the busy times all come when I least expect them and when my family is counting on me for other things. So it sucks being a debut author because I don't think my family and friends "get it." They think it's all like being on a luxury cruise and being spoon fed or something.

But I wouldn't trade it for anything. Because at this point, I think I've just about given up everything else, anyway.

My friend, Bill Konigsberg wrote a brilliant blog entry the other day about a kind of need to feel more connected to the world through being published. Now I get it... I've spent my whole life trying to be as disconnected as possible. I have the opposite need, the need to be left alone, and I've obviously been using writing to get that need met.

So, if this in any way clears up any misconceptions for aspiring writers, then... I don't know.

I ran into another kid today who'd gotten my book. I didn't know him before, but he said his English teacher recommended he read my book for a book report. I don't know his English teacher, either. But, thanks.

Damn these connections.

When I visited the all-boy reading classes over the summer, one question the boys seemed to frequently ask was if I believed in ghosts. And I tell them, yes, that I lived in a honest-to-God haunted house when I was a kid. I thought that I was the only one who saw the other kid who was hanging out in the basement at night, but years after we moved from that ancient house, when I told my mother, she said that she used to see ghosts in that house all the time.

Ghosts. Talk about people who can't disconnect.



Saturday, September 13, 2008

film crew

I had a film crew up at the ranch today to make a short author promo about me for the Feiwel and Friends website. It was actually a very fun experience, and the kids who shot the film were extremely professional and nice to be around.

The video was about me and one of my horses, Dusty. I'm not going to go into too much detail about Dusty, because she is the subject of another blog post I've written for Feiwel and Friends that will probably be coming up in the next month or so. Suffice it to say that Dusty has an amazing story about where she came from and what kind of horse she is today.

Well... actually, today Dusty was being kind of a pill, but she's usually very well-mannered. Like the Dusty in Ghost Medicine, my Dusty is also a silver buckskin. Unlike the Dusty in the book, though, mine's a girl. I didn't name Dusty after the character horse in my book. On the contrary, I had to change the horse's name in the book when my daughter named the horse we brought home a couple years ago.

Usually, Dusty loves to have her picture taken, but today, with a crew of four cinematographers, two big cameras, a boom mike, and those big white reflecting boards that I don't know what they're called, and to top it off, separating the other two horses in the upper corral, it was a little too nerve-wracking for my suddenly camera shy buckskin. So she kind of threw her weight around, didn't want to stand still, pushed me with her big head, and wiped grime and snot all over me every time I'd try to speak on camera.

Hopefully, we'll manage to get a couple minutes of video out of it.

At the end, the director asked me what I'd like them to do as far as the editing was concerned, and I told him to go ahead and make me look as stupid as he wants to... which, based on my recollection of what they must have filmed, won't be too difficult.

When the video is finished, I will post it on the Ghost Medicine website or on our Facebook if I can... and, of course, we are sending a copy to Feiwel and Friends so they can laugh at me, too.

And, when it is finished, I want to tell a little more about the young filmmakers who came out to make the video and the ambitious project they are working on this fall.

Last night, I had my second signing AND a reading at the Barnes and Noble in Palmdale, California. We had a great crowd there,and it was especially fun for me to read some of my favorite parts from Ghost Medicine, and watch the reaction from the audience. The day before, the local paper ran a huge story about me and my book, focusing on my commitment to expand reading and literacy among high school-aged boys. So, the very best part of the evening was getting the chance to meet with parents of young readers and all the terrific kids who came in and asked me to sign copies of books for them. What awesome youngsters... in a book store... who love to read. It can't ever get better than that.

Yeah... this is day 20 of Blogging Every Day For A Month.

No breaks. Now I've got to get to work on some other stuff that's got a Tuesday deadline on it.



Friday, September 12, 2008

second signing

Okay. It's Friday almost-evening. I am so tired I could actually take a nap, and that's something that I never do.

And I have a book signing and reading in a couple hours. Then it's out to dinner after that.


Yesterday, the day of the radio interview, the UPS truck stopped at my house at about 5:00. I got a shipment of thirty copies of Ghost Medicine from my publisher. Nice.

When I was a kid, besides having electrical equipment that delivered painful shocks to me, we had a room in our house that was like a library. My father built bookshelves on one wall, the entire length, floor to ceiling, and every shelf was completely filled with books. I guess I never thought much about it -- how my parents were such devoted readers. We all just read in my family. And it wasn't until I was a teenager and would go over to friends' houses that I realized that around where I lived, you just didn't see houses with walls of books in them. At least, not the kids I hung out with. Eh... go figure.

So my parents had silently indoctrinated me into the cult of reading, and I joined that church willingly.



Thursday, September 11, 2008

radio daze

Okay. So I still can't get Barracuda out of my head. Now I have it as a ringtone, too. And yes, Josh, I have GH3 (Wii), but I am about as good at video games as I am at thinking up some extreme-sucking analogy that won't offend anyone.

Or something.

I have decided to not talk about politics any more with my friends. They talk too much and it's making me crazy. They have completely bought in to all the non-issue stuff that's being slung around from every direction. I figure it's an inevitability for me that the following will happen:

First of all, I am a huge Dodger fan. Well... I'm actually kind of regular-sized, but I am a fan nonetheless. See... on a blog, saying you're a huge fan kind of makes me think that you're morbidly obese or something. But I digress. Here we are in September and the Dodgers (at least for today) are out in front of the West by 3-1/2 games. You'd think that we Dodger fans would learn from experience (I mean... seriously, how many times do you need to be hit in the face with a stick to know it's not going to EVER feel happy?). 'Cause I know that some time in October I'll be mourning the end of the season when the Dodgers lose in the first round.

Then... to make things worse, I'll wake up on November 5, turn on the news, and realize the world is actually, honest-to-God, coming to an end.

I think the expression is "Hell in a hand basket."

I don't think they actually make hand baskets any more. It kind of sounds like a basket you'd use to carry around dismembered hands. I wonder if they were hands of really big fans, if you'd need a really big basket.

I was on the radio today. Well, not actually on a radio. Do people even have just radios anymore? I used to have a radio when I was a kid. It was plastic and had a round, see-through dial. Of course, it was only AM. There was nothing else when I was a kid. And, sometimes, when I would plug it in, the electrical cord on it would shock me. You'd think my parents would get alarmed at things like that. Hmmm... outlet... shock... child. Oh well, they must have thought, he'll figure it out.

It was a pretty big radio, too, so I imagine I could actually have gotten on that one.

But it would have shocked me.

So, okay... I was interviewed on a radio program today about writing. It was fun, but I don't really remember what I said, so I probably said something stupid. No... make that lots of stupid things. Anyway, the host told me it was streaming live on the internet. If I would have known that, I probably would have done two things: 1)posted that information on here before the broadcast, and 2) thrown up on the air.

Just kidding.

I wouldn't have posted it.

But, I will post the link when the show is uploaded onto the station's website. Should be by Tuesday.



Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Why is it I can't get the epic rock anthem Barracuda by Heart out of my head?

Oh yeah. Those were the days.
duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh DUH DUH DUH DUH!!!!!

Back over Time when we were all trying for free
Met up with porpoise and me
No right no wrong you're selling a Song - a name
whisper game

"Sell me sell you" the porpoise said
Dive down deep to save my head
You... I think you got the blues too.

You lying so low in the weeds
Bet you gonna ambush me
You'd have me down on my knees
Wouldn't you, Barracuda?

Oh yeah... epic awesomness in the lyrics. And, recorded on tape, no less.

Today, nothing is recorded on tape. I thought I'd write about this since the audiobook version of Ghost Medicine was just released yesterday... and since I was lucky enough to be able to sit in the recording studio while it was being made (digitally... on a computer).

Yeah... well, I was going to write about it, but I can't get Heart and the Wilson sisters out of my head. I wonder why?

duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh DUH DUH DUH DUH!!!!!

And, almost as soon as I stop flashing back to the late 70s, big hair, and, of course, Heart, for whatever reason I start humming the theme song to the old TV show Maverick.

Who is the tall, dark stranger there?
Maverick is the name.
Ridin' the trail to who knows where,
Luck is his companion,
Gamblin' is his game.

Oh yeah... if that's not a prescription for how to live your life, then I need to give up the low-dose aspirin and start drinking buckets of bacon grease.

I must be losing my mind.



Tuesday, September 9, 2008


After Rasputin stopped riding up and down the canyon, people began missing him.

But nobody knew what happened, either. Rumors circulated that maybe he'd been hit by a car. Some people said he was a mental patient, too. But, just like everyone made up their own names for him, they made up their own stories, too. It was all speculation.

And I don't know for sure what actually did happen to him, but after a couple years of not being around, Rasputin eventually showed up again. Now, when he rides, he usually wears something that looks like a Speedo. Nothing else. And he's cut his hair and shaved off his beard, too, but it's still Rasputin.

Yeah, he's a strange guy, but we've gotten used to him and missed him for those years we didn't see him on his bike.

I guess most people are like that; we get used to certain anchors to reality, as strange as they may sometimes be... and when that anchor is gone it just doesn't seem normal. And now, on the days we drive past him, both my kids will talk about the weird guy riding the bike. They make up stories, too.

This is day sixteen of bedfam. I've always liked the number sixteen. It's not like I'm into numbers or anything. Well... okay, I actually am, but not to the point of being a mental patient about it. In my next release, in the path of falling objects, there's a character who counts everything... all the time... to the point it actually snaps his fragile sanity.

Sometimes, I wonder where I get these ideas.



Monday, September 8, 2008


Even though I live in California, there are some characteristics of where I live that are uniquely non-Californian.


For one thing, it is twenty miles from my home to the nearest traffic signal or grocery store. The only way to get to my home from "civilization" is by following any one of a number of winding, two-lane mountain roads. When we first moved there, my son was a toddler and my daughter was only weeks old, so we did a lot of driving up and down the mountain with both of them snugged up in their car seats.

Early on, we noticed a frequent sight. A strange man who wore a heavy coat riding his bicycle up and down the canyon road every day. What was strange about this guy was he'd wear that trench coat even on days when it was about a hundred degrees, and his bike had no gears... it was an old cruiser-type thing. When we first saw him, he always had wild hair and a long beard. My son would ask about him when we'd pass him, and I began making up stories about him. I told my son the man's name was Rasputin.

Rasputin became almost a family member. When we'd pass him, my son would say, "There's Rasputin," and one of my daughter's first words was... of course, "Rasputin." After a few years, we stopped seeing Rasputin.

Small towns being what they are, we began asking our neighbors about him.

"Do you know what happened to Rasputin?" we'd ask.

And it seemed like every family had their own made-up name for him.

"You mean Hungry Jack?" a neighbor would say.

But no one really knew anything about him. And he was suddenly gone.

(to be continued)



Sunday, September 7, 2008

wipe out

We wiped out all the books at Barnes and Noble yesterday in about 30 minutes. It was awesome.

In fact, I met a couple of people who'd come to get a copy of Ghost Medicine who really affected me in a profound way. I stuck around for a while after all the books had been signed and sold because there were plenty of people who'd come in for a copy after the shelves were picked clean. The last person I met was a boy, about fifteen years old, who came in with his mother. This kid reads about 2,000 pages per week. He loves books, and wants to be a writer, but he wasn't able to get a copy of Ghost Medicine.

Don't worry. We're making sure he gets a signed copy.

As I explained to his mom, that kid is the entire reason why I wrote the book in the first place.

So... now it's out. People are getting it. I have actually seen Ghost Medicine being checked out in a library. I have seen people I don't know carrying copies of Ghost Medicine in their hand. That's pretty good stuff, but not nearly as good as the connection that was made for that boy who one day would like to write his own book.

This is day fourteen of bedfam (Blogging Every Day For A Month). I didn't think I'd get one out consecutively at the beginning. Blogging can be a real chore. But it looks like I'll make it.

And it's going to be about a hundred degrees today, but I don't care. I'm going to go out and play a little rugby.



Saturday, September 6, 2008


This is going to be the year without football for me. Well... American gridiron football, that is.

I used to love watching football. It was something I'd do all day long, Saturdays and Sundays, with my dad when I was a kid. He used to take me and my brothers to watch the L.A. Rams play in the Coliseum.

But I'm conducting an experiment: I'm not going to watch it this year. Not one second. Not even by accident.

I'm just going to leave it at that, and clarify my reasons in one or more future posts. No sense getting people all worked up this early in the season. I know the words I've written above come about as close to sacrilege in some people's minds as you can get, and I need everyone to think as clearly and rationally as they can between now and November, so I'll ease into my explanation slowly and as painlessly as possible.

I am blogging every day for a month (bedfam), and today is day thirteen. I slept in very late for me: I got out of bed at 6:00 a.m. Today is going to be my first post-release signing of Ghost Medicine at Barnes and Noble in Valencia, CA. I've signed hundreds of galley copies of the book, but this will be the first time my signature goes onto a hardback copy. Should be fun.

So, I am getting the blogging over with early so I'll have time to do the usual Saturday routine: go out with the horses, run five miles through the hills, get my scattered crap together for the trip down the mountain. I doubt I'll be able to post anything later today, after the event, because there are too many bars and friends in the Valencia area, but I will try.

Or something.

I wanted to end up by saying a huge thanks to author Bill Konigsberg, who left a status update on Facebook last night that said: "Bill Konigsberg implores his friends to read Andrew Smith's "Ghost Medicine." It's really, really good!"

I have so much respect for Bill, and his words really mean a lot to me. I also know the overwhelming blah-ness he is feeling right about now as he toils through the editing of his next novel, just thirteen days away from the release of his debut Out of the Pocket. Been there. Done that. Notice the theme of thirteen running through this blog.

In Italy, where I spent much of my youth growing up, the number thirteen is considered to be very lucky. I remember my aunt giving me a silver number thirteen on one of my birthdays when I was in Trieste. I think it was on my eighteenth. I'm going to dig that thirteen out... I know it's around here somewhere.

And, by the way, I have already pre-ordered my copy of Out of the Pocket. I know, Bill, it doesn't help first-day sales numbers, but, heck, that one-click purchasing on Amazon is so freakin easy.

Oh, and the other theme running through this post: football. Out of the Pocket is about a football player. No violation of my experiment there, I said I wasn't going to watch it this season. I never said I wasn't going to read about it.


-- A.S.

Friday, September 5, 2008

ahh... friday

Well, here we are at the end of a week.

Tomorrow is my first post-release signing at Barnes and Noble in Valencia. I'll have pictures taken so I can show how many people attend. I'm not nervous or anything, but I'll probably rip my pants or something dumb right before it starts. Things like that tend to happen to me, and, despite the release of Ghost Medicine this week, today has been one of those nothing's-working-out-right Fridays.

Well, no one's talking to me anyway. So, eh.

I did get a really nice series of messages via email and on my Facebook from people who've already gotten copies of Ghost Medicine in their hands. Some of these are from friends in the writing biz, and some are from former students who still (God only knows why) stay in touch. Most of them are off at incredibly prestigious schools and academies all over the country.

Anyway, one former student (currently at UCLA) said:

Well, I must admit, your book was extremely good and I can't wait until the next one comes out next year! It was a great writer's technique to have that foreshadowing at the beginning of what would happen by the end because I was wondering how it would all piece together. It really turned out great! The details made me feel like I was there and that's kind of how I could tell that made you had experienced something similar. But I went by Barnes and Noble today to look for the book and I couldn't find it! I was just wondering if maybe it wasn't going to be released there until tomorrow at your signing or if maybe I just couldn't find it. I hope that everything goes well tomorrow at your signing. I know that your book is going to have a great deal of success!

So... I kinda wish B & N wouldn't be holding on to books just for the signing tomorrow... but we'll see.



Thursday, September 4, 2008

bedfam 11

Okay, So, I am on day 11 of Blogging Every Day for a Month (bedfam 11). Ghost Medicine has been out for two days, and people who pre-ordered it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble received it on its release day. It's a little slower getting into the stores, though, but it's getting there.

I will be signing at Barnes and Noble in Valencia, California, this Saturday at 2 PM. I called them today to make sure everything was okay, and they were like, "Who the hell are you?" No... just kidding. There was a bit of a mix-up getting the books in, though, but one of their managers (who happened to be blessed with the first name Andrew) took care of everything, so the event should come off without a hitch.

I hope everyone who goes can get a copy, though, so I'd suggest coming early rather than later.

Then, I'll be on the air doing a radio interview on Thursday afternoon. Sorry... I don't know the station or the show. I'm kind of a dork about things like that, and I don't even watch TV or listen to the radio. Well... sometimes I listen to the radio on the computer, but those are satellite channels, so I don't know what they are, either.

The day after that, I'll be signing at the Barnes and Noble in Palmdale (Friday, Sept. 12 at 7 PM), which is about a half hour's drive from Valencia, so if you are in desperate need of a signed copy of Ghost Medicine, you can head north.

I know. The blog is kind of boring today. It's really hot and I'm trying to do anything so I won't have to go outside and feed the horses yet.


-- A.S.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

the bad word

Everyone who knows me in person knows that I do not cuss.

The biggest reason why I don't cuss is that it sounds so unconvincing coming from me. I'm not good at it. Some people are, but not me.

One of the most incredible things to me is how much teenagers cuss today. It's mostly boys, but there are some girls out there who are pretty adept at it, too.

I spend a lot of time every day with teenagers, so I know. I am not making this shit up.

Ooops. Just kidding. I don't really cuss. Well, not with my mouth, at least. And cussing on paper doesn't really count in the long run, does it?

Most teenagers today use the f-bomb as though it is an alternative form of a comma. It is the punctuation mark of young people, and some people sound cool when they say it. But not me.

I bring this shit up because there are no cuss-words in Ghost Medicine. Unless, I guess, if you think "balls" is a cuss-word. I don't. I know it can kind of seem unreal to have a book about teenagers who don't cuss (except the "balls" thing), but Ghost Medicine is a kind of fable in some ways... so I think the dialogue is comfortably realistic.

And there's no cussing in my second book, in the path of falling objects, either. Except for "piss," but I don't think that's a cuss-word, either. The thing about in the path of falling objects is that it takes place in 1970. And in 1970, people really didn't cuss. At least, not like today. In 1970, movies that used words like "damn" were seen as soft-core porn or something.

Oh well. just my thoughts on the evolution of spoken language.

By the way, the no-cussing-in-my-books thing is not like the Smith brand. Lots of writers have written stories and avoided the use of profanity. I guarantee you, though, that I do have stuff where there is no attempt to hold back. But then again, I don't consider cussing with a keyboard to be real-life cussing.

This is the tenth consecutive day I've been blogging every day for a month -- BEDFAM 10

-- A.S.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

the first day

Okay. Today is the big day.

Ghost Medicine is in the stores, and it has been an incredible day from the moment my feet hit the floor when I got out of bed, at about 3 this morning.

First off, I finished my revisions on in the path of falling objects for my amazing editor and I sent those off to her before the workday in New York City began.

Then, I heard from my agent (who is on the other side of the world) about my recently-completed fourth novel... and my agent called it "brilliant" and "powerful," a "masterpiece" and said, "books like this are why I became an agent."

I'll digress a little here. My agent is not especially easily-pleased, so I'll take that praise as a good omen. Secondly, I also happen to love this novel... I mean, to the point where I've actually printed it out and carry it around with me just about everywhere I go. In fact, this book made me go insane for a while, because when I finished writing it, I got so incredibly depressed over putting it away and, basically, saying goodbye to all these amazing characters who had almost become part of my real life.

So... all this is going on during my actual pub day for my debut novel. And... to top it off, the icing on the cake was the amazingly flattering and humbling review of Ghost Medicine that came out from School Library Journal today:

SMITH, Andrew. Ghost Medicine. 368p. Feiwel & Friends. Sept. 2008. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-312-37557-7. LC number unavailable.

Gr 8 Up–Distant from his emotionally absent father, and missing his mother, who died recently, 16-year-old Troy first finds solace on a solo camping trip and then with his friends–Tom Buller, a wild and fearless farmhand; Gabe Benavidez, the timorous and underestimated son of a wealthy Western ranch owner; and Luz Benavidez, Gabe’s sister and Troy’s lifetime love. That summer is a journey of loss, self-discovery, pain, triumph, and growth as the young people try to define who they are and what they’re meant to do. Oftentimes they seek answers from what Troy calls Ghost Medicine, a Native American philosophy that explains the strength and signs that can be drawn from nature. While Troy senses that change is coming fast and fierce, he never imagines the deadly threat the sheriff’s son imposes when childhood pranks, jealousy, and vengeance get out of control. Troy wishes to be lost, but his greatest hope is to be found, and Ghost Medicine beautifully captures that paradox in this timeless and tender coming-of-age story. Not only will it inspire readers to prod the boundaries of their own courage, but it will also remind them that life and love are precious and fleeting.–Terri Clark, Smokey Hill Library, Centennial, CO



Monday, September 1, 2008

leader of the troops, ganapati

This is it. Tomorrow, everything is going to be different.

I wonder if I'm supposed to have a party or something.


I started working on edits this morning at 5:30. Thankfully, my editor gave me some great stuff to work on for next year's in the path of falling objects. It's really scary and has some extra-crazy people in it. I guess it's obvious that writing about extra-crazy, obsessive-compulsive people comes kinda easy to me. Go figure.

So, it's 7:30. The black cat who likes to fight with rattlesnakes is eating a potato bug outside my front door.


I hate that cat.

I am more afraid of potato bugs than rattlesnakes.


Tomorrow, Ghost Medicine will be in the stores. I'll be doing my first book signing for it on Saturday, September 6 at the Barnes and Noble Booksellers in Valencia, CA. at 2 p.m.

-- A.S.