Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

guns, ketchup, and cake (b.e.s.t.)

...Almost hard to believe this will actually last for the rest of the year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

the bad mood that conquers all

Well, here it is: my 365th post for the year 2009. I have a lot to say, but I don't feel like saying it today. Instead, I'm simply going to post up the new book trailer for The Marbury Lens.

This is a first-cut. There will be changes to this trailer in the weeks ahead. I think it comes off pretty good, though.

Friday, December 25, 2009

the q and the a

I sat down recently with a pre-screened, frisked, and cavity-searched reader, who had a few questions about the blog having been taken over by Bad Existential Sockpuppet Theatre (B.E.S.T.) recently. Time, I suppose, to come clean and share:

Q: What, honestly, is running through your mind as you create B.E.S.T.?

A: I believe I am channeling the spirits of the creative masters. But, then again, I did attend several Grateful Dead gigs in the seventies, and there was always this great-tasting punch being passed around.

Q: I don't think it's funny at all. Are you laughing when you make these things?

A: I never laugh. When we're on the set, shooting B.E.S.T., I am usually dressed entirely in black, smoking unfiltered Gauloises, wearing a beret, thinking about my next tattoo, listening to the Smiths on my iPod, and weeping uncontrollably. Oh.. and drinking absinthe.

Q: I don't get what it has to do with Christmas. What does this last episode of B.E.S.T. have to do with Christmas?

A: Dude, what does Wal-Mart have to do with Christmas?

Q: Tell me about the cast and crew.

A: Well, if you notice, each one of the E.S.T.s has a name written on it. Drew is played by a sock named Brandon. Susan, for example, is played by a sock named Stephanie. Yvonne is played by... oh! I can't see her name, it got covered up by her boobs; but Gail is played by a sock named Annie. And the Existential Sock Ninja is played on the inside by Drew, who is actually a sock named Brandon.

Also, I do all the arm-work and cinematography, as well.

Q: It must be difficult, for example, to shoot fight scenes and the infamous ketchup scene AND do the camera work, all at once.

A: It's all about timing. I'd ask someone in my family to help out, but God! I am so tired of being taken away for all these endlessly inconvenient "Seventy-Two-Hour Observations."

Q: But you've left us hanging. When, for the love of God, will they be back?

A: Ask me that tomorrow.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

ho ho hosiery

Naturally, to be continued...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The info has been posted for the upcoming January 9, 2010 YAllapalooza Festival at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S McClintock Drive, Tempe, Arizona 85283, which begins at 4:00.

This sounds like a great reason for a party. From the Changing Hands website:

YAllapalooza 2010, a literary musical extravaganza featuring live bands, pizza, games, prizes, and a chance to mix and mingle with your favorite YA authors and get books signed! We’ll have a live game show that tests contestants’ knowledge of young adult and middle grade literature with games GUARANTEED to amaze and amuse. Los Angeles authors include Cecil Castellucci, Carol Snow, Blake Nelson, Andrew Smith, Mark London Williams, and Amy Goldman Koss. Arizona authors include Janette Rallison, James A. Owen, Angela Morrison, Janni Lee Simner, Tom Leveen, Tony Carrillo, Aprilynne Pike, and Jon Lewis. Bands to be announced.

You may know there's a big tie-in to Arizona in my latest, in the path of falling objects, and I have lots of friends and family there, so I am looking forward to seeing everyone.

Monday, December 21, 2009

the send button

I'm one of those guys who can look at a word, sentence, or paragraph and change it a thousand times. Then I'll come back to it later and still want to change it again. A thousand more times.

For a writer, that's the never-ending upstream swim with a WIP (that's sexy writer talk for Work In Progress). The trick -- if there is one -- is to know when to stop doing that and let it go, allow the "progress" part to halt, and just hit "send."

Most writers I know celebrate the send button.

That's very transmigrational, if you ask me. Celebrating the send button is an implicit affirmation of an afterlife, reincarnation.

I dread the send button. I don't care about afters or incarnations.

Oh well.

See ya, kid.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


A couple days ago, my friend Bill Konigsberg opened his blog with a brilliantly quotable quote:

Being a writer means being a waiter. And not in the same way that being an actor means being a waiter.

I love that.

I'm a pretty patient guy when it comes to most things. I'm patient with my work, for example. It's one of the reasons why I write about the way I write, which, I think, is different from any other writer's method (and, anyway, every writer I know has a unique "production process").

Anyway, Bill's blog on waiting is one of the best writing blog posts I've read in a while.

Another thing struck me recently as I was reading yet another friend's blog about writing. This is a question I get asked frequently, too, from other writers. It's the what-does-my-agent/editor-mean-when-they-tell-me-this question.

Hmm... I say, if your wife or husband said something to you that you didn't understand, would you ask me to tell you what they mean? I mean, I could have a lot of fun with that one if you really trusted me.

The thing is, when people have good relationships with one another, and then one of the partners babbles something that is completely incoherent (happens a lot in my house), it's best to just say something along the lines of "what the hell are you talking about?"

I don't know. Just a thought. Seems like a lot of us writers are afraid to actually talk to our agents and editors. Now, granted, there is such a thing as too much talking. Nobody likes that. Well... at least I don't. So I think I'll shut up now.

But before I go, I would like to say maybe two things.

First, a lot of writers who blog actually talk about specific experiences with their agents and editors. I can't do that for a number of reasons. First of all, I don't have any experience with the plurals -- I've only ever worked with one literary agent and one editor. And they are both terrific, real, and private people (like me... well, at least the "real" and "private" parts). Easy enough for anyone to find out who they are and ask them anything you want to yourself. If you do, though, you'll probably be waiting a very long time for something that won't come (see opening paragraphs). So I am a bad source of advice for what-to-do-when-an-agent/editor-does-this kinds of questions.

Oh, and second, a correction on the post about my run by the lake the other morning: It wasn't a hawk, it was an eagle. This morning, I took my new dog for another run down along the lake (Aussies are the best jog partners), and we came upon the same bird with another kill in just about the same area. This time, though, we could see the eagle much more clearly, and its new victim was a heron with a head and beak that was about 14 inches long. I picked up the head, because I was going to take it home, but then I thought it was kind of gross for me to be carrying a gigantic bird's head all the way back to my house.

It was really cool, though.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

mr. soul

I had coffee with some friends down in the city yesterday morning. I told them the story about how my wife and kids had given me this dog as a gift.

I told them how I'd taken him for a walk down along the lake that morning. And one of them said, "What lake?" He didn't know where I lived, so I had to explain.

Yes, I live by a lake in the middle of a highly unpopulated nowhere. The downside, I suppose, is that it takes a long time to get to the city. The upsides are pretty amazing, though.

Yesterday, for example, when I was walking the dog along the lake shore, the sun hadn't come up yet, so it was very quiet. When we got near the water, startled fish would jump away from the edge of the water, and we woke up a couple Great Blue Herons that make the most annoying squawk. Then, when we walked out onto the sand bar, we flushed this enormous hawk out of the brush. When I went around to where he came from, we saw that he'd just killed a duck and was eating it when we scared him away.

Later in the afternoon, I walked the dog back to the same spot, and all that was left of the duck was its head and green webbed feet.

That was cool.

Friday, December 18, 2009

conspicuous consumption

How can I help but think about Jill Alexander's legendary No-Jesus Christmas Parade at this time of year?

That's thought number one.

And, thought number two, which I am sending out to a special person, and I really really hope you know who you are, is: Oh Puhhhhh-leeeeeze! Really? Really? Uh... NO. Now go away and spend some more time pumping hot cow methane into your ego. Are you fucking kidding me???

[I will explain this, in the long run, in more private settings. And suffice to say, it's a very funny story.]

Now that I got that off my chest, on to today's topic.

For those who faithfully follow these stories, you probably know that I have been experimenting with an indoor-remote-control-micro-helicopter-with-flashing-lights-and-machine-gun-sound-effects and wadded-up-balls-of-Scotch-tape-between-the-shoulder-blades exercise regimen for my cats.

Because I've been trying to turn them into something that they, alas, are not: animals with souls.

I will continue working with the cats, but I realize it is no secret that I'm a dog person.

I've always had Australian Shepherds, ever since I was a kid. They are high-energy, high-maintenance dogs that require plenty of space and mental challenges (like land and livestock) in order to become self-actualized dogs.

Anyway, my very very best Aussie ever, a champion blue merle named Luc, died about 6 months ago (he was very old). He was an amazing dog, by far the smartest animal I've ever owned, besides my son.

So, last night, my wife and kids came home with an early no-Jesus Christmas present for me: a 13-week-old tank of an Aussie tri, who looks like he's going to shape up to be a pretty good animal, already exerting complete pwnage over my struggling and special cats.

Today, he's going to get to meet the horses, too, and I'm taking him out on the trail.

I'm not one for gifts, really. I love to give them. I bought a car for my wife for Christmas, and lots of cool stuff for my kids. I even bought an electric squirt gun for my cats. I can't wait to see the looks on their faces when they open that present.

And, honestly, the only gift I wanted was a new CD-wallet for my car. Mine's all jammed up with backup copies of my novel. Eh... whatever. CDs for music are on their way out, unless you're a writer with a backup addiction. The new AV system in my car is all about (sorry VP) MP3.

So, anyway, here is the new master of the house:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

piling it up

They're stacking up.

When I write, I don't read. When I read, I don't write. But, lately, I've picked up some books that I am dying to read... but I refuse to touch them.

So they're stacking up.

Also, if you haven't checked it out, you should take a look at the LAYAS (Los Angeles YA Authors) group on Facebook. There are some really talented authors among the members, and groups of us will be presenting panels at the CATE (California Teachers of English) Conference coming up in Los Angeles in February.

More on the LAYAS (which, I have been told, is pronounced "Lie-Uhs" although I insist on using the more evocative "Lay-Uhs") and CATE coming soon...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

a dream of jack lord

The other night I had a dream that I was Jack Lord.

You know... Steve McGarrett from Hawaii Five-0.

That Jack Lord.

In my dream, I remember thinking, while the story played out, is Jack Lord still alive?

Because I wasn't sure. So, yesterday, I researched Jack Lord on the internet and found out that he is, indeed, dead. It kind of bummed me out, after the dream and all.

You know what I like to do when I get bummed out after realizing that someone I dreamed about being has been dead for over a decade?

Pout and throw a tantrum.

And put balls of Scotch Tape right between my cats' shoulder blades.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

the second half

...and, rounding out my favorite blog art pieces for the year are the final six:

From July:

From August:

From September:

Form October:

From November:

From December:

Monday, December 14, 2009

most despised

Since the decade is winding to an end in a couple weeks, I thought I'd post some of my personal favorite blog art pieces from the past year here on Ghost Medicine.

From January:

From February:

From March:

From April:

From May:

From June:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

the emerging trend


I realize that when you post stuff on your blog every day, sometimes those posts are going to rock (like yesterday's and Thursday's -- which kind of creeped some people out), and sometimes they're going to suck.

I figured if I really wanted to write a sucky blog entry that I'd be pretty good at it. I'd probably do dumb stuff like tell the truth about what I'm going to do today, or confess that I'm stressed out because I'm meeting some people later and I've developed a zit on my chin. Those kinds of posts. They suck ass.

Lately, too, I've noticed that a number of people whom I follow -- writer types -- are posting things about how they're forcing themselves to take a break from their computers because they're on them too much.

How can you be a writer and take a break from your computer?

I don't get it.

I guess they'll just get a box set of last season's Mad Men and watch more television.

Which I don't get, either. In fact, I don't even know what Mad Men is, I just said that because it seems lots of people who want to swear off computers know stuff about Mad Men, or Glee -- whatever the holy hell "Glee" is, too.

I do not watch television. Not one second of one episode. Ever. I wouldn't know Ugly Betty from Adam Lambert. I shit you not. You want to kick my ass? Play me in TV Trivial Pursuit. I'm about as good at that shit as Rush Limbaugh is on the balance beam.

Now, I'd watch that shit on TV.

You know why I can name off these people? Because I read. I read blogs and newspapers on line every day. I have to. And I don't feel the slightest remorse about it, either.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

twelve twelve

Two years and counting.

I am not a hoarder. Things pile up, and, periodically I throw them all out. There are certain things I hold on to, though.

Like all the ammo and weapons I bought ten years ago in preparation for Y2K.

What? Don't judge me.

I guess I should probably throw out the barrels of wheat grain, though.

I am not a big believer in Mayan prophesies, either. As a general rule, I try to avoid taking pointers from people who practice ritual sacrifice and play soccer with the heads of their enemies.

Call me a freak if you will.

I had a neighbor one time who did that shit -- Crazy Jim. You know where he is now? In jail, my friends, in jail. And the only advice I ever took from Crazy Jim was if the pigs ever come looking for me, just tell them you don't know my real last name.

Which he never told me, anyway.

I always just thought his real name was actually Crazy Jim.

That said, if the world actually does end on December 12, 2012, I will be sitting out on the deck with my sunglasses on and a glass of (good and expensive) whiskey in my hand, watching the shit go down.

I hope it takes a while, too. Nothing worse than buying expensive tickets for a concert only to find the band you're coming to see plays a twenty-minute set of stuff from their not-yet-released album and then won't come out for an encore.

Give me a break.

I hate that.

I hope it takes a really long time and people are running around naked, flailing their arms and shrieking insanely.

Come to think about it, that conjures up images of some of the better concerts I've been to in my life.

Friday, December 11, 2009

idea spring

Well, it's likely that were it not for the nameless throngs of anonymous readers, there'd be a significant dearth of chits in the ol' suggestion box. So I'll try this one.

A couple days ago, someone asked:

Where do you get your ideas from?

What ideas? I have ideas?

I don't think so.

If you've got some kind of idea that I get ideas, you've got the wrong idea, buddy.

The other day, I had what seemed like a great idea: I was going to take a shower. But when I got into the water, it became strikingly apparent that my water heater was broken. At that moment, not a second sooner or later, I got the idea that taking a shower was probably a bad idea.

That is exactly how I get my ideas.

And who knows where they come from?

I could just have easily gotten the idea to have a ham sandwich.

But I will tell you an idea that's been bugging me lately. It has to do with Carl Jung. You see, when I was young, I had the idea to read a lot of Jung. I had this idea that he knew what he was talking about. Still, to a large extent, I suppose, I still have this idea.

Even if he was a nut job.

I wonder if he ever played with sock puppets.

In any event, throughout history there have been scores of thinkers, inventors, and artists who believed in this idea of a sort of "collective unconscious" that's out there -- capable of being tapped into. Carl Jung wrote of it, "It ...seems something like an unceasing stream or perhaps an ocean of images, figures which drift into consciousness in our dreams or in abnormal states of mind."

Two things:

1. Abnormal states of mind??? Me???

2. I believe that's where my ideas come from.

Any questions?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

more on the process


Yesterday was a very bizarre day for so many reasons. There will be more existential sock puppets coming your way, though. Because, yes... they do, indeed, represent a cry for help.

When I went to the speaking event over the weekend, one topic that came up (as it invariably does with writers) was about work regimen and the revision process. One of the things that makes my process differ from a lot of other writers, I think, is that when I'm finished with a novel, I'm finished. That's when I send it off to agent and editor land.

The main reason I work this way is that I revise and revise and edit and edit as I'm writing. So, when I am finished, it's about as good as I can get it to be on my own (until my editor or agent can give me input).

So, here's where I'm at right now on novel number 7: I will be finished with it -- finished -- some time this month. I figure it's going to weigh in at about 450 pages or so.

And so here I am, for the seventh time in a row, near the end of something that has totally consumed my energy, waking and sleeping, and, just like every time before this, I find myself wondering what the hell I'm doing.

It's my special place: self-doubt.

It hits the hardest when I get into transitional parts of my books -- parts where something minor has to happen just to set up for the big bang up the road. Because, being the immature person that I am, I don't want to delay gratification by actually having to work for the payoff.

I hate that about myself.

I think that's the element that effectively separates writers from people who just want to tell stories. But what do I know?