Saturday, February 28, 2009

the kids are alright


Sandra Rayl is half wrong.

I went to visit her Creative Writing class yesterday, at Newbury Park High School, and before I left, she remarked how my visit helped to charge their batteries. Well… it actually helped to charge mine, too.

I mean, being around those brilliant, creative, and motivated kids was something else for me. Oh, and the best thing… well, not actually the best thing, but a pretty good thing, is that Newbury Park runs on a block schedule, so I got to visit the kids for a couple hours.

And they asked great questions, too. I almost wished I would have taken notes on some of them… they asked about character, story vs. message, all kinds of stuff that showed me just what an amazing teacher Sandra is.

But they mostly wanted to know about writing, the discipline involved, the yuck! business aspects, and how to get around blocks, or what happens more often to me – log jams. That’s where I get too many ideas going on at once.

So I talked to them about all my books that I’ve written so far: Ghost Medicine; in the path of falling objects; a historical novel, my second one, called Bird, which takes place in California in 1881, during the week of the Garfield assassination -- a story about a really smart kid with a really dark secret; a fourth novel called Winger, a contemporary YA about the consequences of focusing too much on the slight things that make us different; and the novel I’m currently writing – a kind of urban fantasy that isn’t really a fantasy, about a kid who gets kidnapped, runs away, and becomes a reluctant back-and-forth traveler between the present world and a world of last days – called The Marbury Lens.

At their request, I read to them from the beginning, middle, and toward the end (without giving away any spoilers) of in the path of falling objects, and they were hooked right away. It’s such a different story with such addictive voices, how could they help themselves? And... they were the first people EVER to get to hear those parts of the story.

A couple of the kids spoke with me personally afterward about how much they want to grow up and become writers. Okay... that was the best part of the day. Now, there’s nothing wrong with math, engineering, and science, but… come on! so many schools and learning communities ignore or discourage the creative impulse in kids. It’s like in some parts of the country, kids are never even told that you CAN grow up and be a writer.

If you work at it.

We will never NOT need writers, but some of these kids were so fired-up when I told them that, yes, there are lots of ways to go about becoming a writer, and plenty of viable career paths to do it (and, yes, at times like these I like to talk a little bit about one of my heroes, editorial assistant Allison Remcheck). So I talked to them about things like MFA/Creative Writing programs and what kinds of jobs you might look for coming out of school with that background, or as an English or Lit major… and it was like they’d never heard of such things. Ever.

One girl, who shall be nameless (but I happened to pick up a short story on the teacher’s desk before the class began and I read the first couple paragraphs – mature, great voice and mechanics – and I said, Wow, this kid can write!. I would definitely want to read on… and it was her story), she told me about how her parents didn’t really want her to go to college to be a writer.


I think we do have enough scientists and chemists.

Give your kids a break.

No… give your kids a push.

Then I met this boy who was particularly enthusiastic about our class session. He probably could have talked and asked questions all day long. Great kid.

Oh. He blogs, too. I asked him his blog address so I could check out his writing. I’m not going to mention his name because I think he prefers anonymity, but his blog is called Chocolate Hammer. Wait… don’t go there yet… hear me out:

I told him that I’m not a particular fan of fantasy – even though I’m currently writing an urban fantasy that’s not really a fantasy – so he knows I’m a hard-sell on the genre.

(Note: If you are a kid from Sandra’s class, you now MUST stop reading this)

So… I popped over to his blog.

What can I say? The kid can write. He actually has a voice, something that is rare. And he’s just a little kid!!!

Sorry… no offense, kid.

If Jake from Stupid Blog Name wasn't already picking out the tux for the wedding with my 11-year-old daughter, Chiara, I'd want this kid to marry her.

Okay, now you can pop over and visit Chocolate Hammer.

Thanks for having me out, Newbury Park kids.

It really charged my batteries.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

something else

Okay. I had something entirely different going for today's blog, but I decided to run that tomorrow and do a short something else.

This picture is our car. It's a 1940 Lincoln Cabriolet. It still looks exactly like that, but it's sealed inside a very small garage at the moment. The car is also a character of sorts in my forthcoming in the path of falling objects.

I'm supposed to be getting the first bound galley from that novel any day now. Like I said, I've seen Rich Deas' cover design and it looks fantastic! I can't wait until it's totally ready to be posted on line.

Tomorrow, I'm going to be guesting in Sandra Rayl's Creative Writing class at Newbury Park High School here in Southern California. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm going to read some excerpts from my first two novels (oh yeah... they'll be the first to hear some of in the path of falling objects), and maybe even something else entirely new.

I'll be heading to Chicago this July for the ALA Annual conference. I am very excited about that. We'll be signing advance copies of the new book there, and I will be part of the YA Authors' Coffee Klatch on Sunday morning. This is especially exciting for me, because at the last ALA, Kelly was able to sneak me in as a guest, just so I could sit slackjawed and starstruck by all the amazing authors there... and this year, I actually get to be one of them.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

catching a glimpse

I sent an email to my editor yesterday.

I've been kind of anxious about catching a glimpse of the cover art for in the path of falling objects, so I dropped a hey... by the way... is the cover READY???? not-too-subtle hint.

Okay. Two things. Well, three, really.

First, I must have a psychic connection with my editor or something, because she replied with a didn't-you-get-the-email-I-sent-you-earlier-today? that pointed out that the image had already been sent.

So... second: Why am I such a pathetic loser? Things like this always happen to me. Sure enough, she'd sent me the cover art, but it didn't show up in my inbox until later in the day... and when it did, it was slotted at the right time-stamp, BEFORE my email. This also convinces me that I really do live in one of the timeless inner rings of hell. Crap, any day now I'll probably get a draft notice for the Vietnam War.

And third, the cover is in-freekin-credible.

Trust me.

Cause I'm not allowed to show it yet.

Unless you come over to my house.

In Bolgia Nine in the Eighth Circle of Hell.

Oh... and check out Tina Nichols Coury's very cool blog. She posted an interview with me.

You know, I never read interviews with me... not print, nor otherwise... so let me know how much of a dork I sound like.

Which kind of brings me to a fourth thing. Considering the preceding admission, if you were going to write up an interview with me, you could pretty much attribute any quote you want to me and I'd never catch it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

my fast reader

Kelly is one heck of a fast reader.

That manuscript was, like, 85,000 words long -- and she read it in one day. Now, at least, two people in the universe have read it. Now I can go on. Or not.

The thing I liked most about living through the book was the cast of characters. They were really alive to me, and terribly hard to let go of once I'd finished writing it. I think Kelly liked them, too... especially because (and brace yourself) there is a strong, independent-minded girl character in the story.

I know. That will inevitably let down the English Professor fan of mine who thinks I'm misogynistic in Ghost Medicine.

Not to worry, though. The girl character in the upcoming in the path of falling objects is, well...




At least, not in my opinion. Others, like the brothers in the book, will probably fall for her.

Monday, February 23, 2009

random monday drivel

-- I found it very difficult to write much today, so I stopped pretty early. Some writers set quotas for their daily effort. I do that, but keep mine small so I don't disappoint myself. I didn't make my quota today, but I'm not disappointed, either. What I wrote was pretty good.

-- One of the reasons I stopped so early... it's Kelly's fault. She's reading a manuscript that I sent her, and nobody else IN THE WORLD has read it -- besides my agent, who loves it. Nobody. And I really want somebody else to read it... but I never let people in my family read what I write. So, anyway, since Kelly's reading it, I dug it off the floor of my office, where it has been buried since September, when I sent it to my agent, and I started reading it this morning. And I can't read something I've written and work on something new at the same time, because it makes me crazy. Well, crazier than I am... because everything I write is so different in every way.

-- That brings me to this idea that I saw kicked around on another blog about "branding" an author. I don't think I'm "branded." Ghost Medicine and in the path of falling objects are completely different, and the other novels I've written are... wayyy different.

-- A complete stranger came up to me today. He was carrying my book. He knew who I was and told me how much he loved the book. He asked me to sign it, and we talked a little bit about the next book coming out. He asked if it was going to be a sequel to Ghost Medicine, a question I get asked a lot. Nope. If/when I do write a sequel to Ghost Medicine, it will also be a sequel to in the path of falling objects, where one of the characters from that second book wanders into Three Points. Ooooh... yeah. So there.

-- Cat with broken leg update: The broken-leg cat is healing up. It has the most exaggerated lurch-limp when it walks on its Richard III front leg. I thought about naming it that... am also considering "tripod," but still... eh, I don't think it has really gone far enough on the evolutionary scale of coolness to have a name. But I'm thinking about it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

what keeps me writing

Well, I saw this question addressed on my good friend Kelly Milner Hall's blog, so I thought I'd respond to it, too. The question, as the title of this post implies, is What keeps you writing?

Ever since I read Kelly's post about this, I've been asking the question to myself. I guess I never really thought enough about it to be able to articulate an answer in words.

Sure, the money has been really nice, but it never was about that... and, unlike Kelly, I don't write to pay my bills (as much as I'd like to). But for now, money? No way.

Sometimes -- no, a lot of times -- I get pissy and swear to myself or anyone who'll listen that I'm never going to write again. Mostly, I think that's because of the business side of writing. I've always hated business stuff, and I'll never be able to get over it, I think. Another friend, Michael Grant, expresses it perfectly in his little bit about The Deal -- how it hangs over your head and you can't think about anything else... but you're supposed to be writing.

So... what keeps me writing? Well, this isn't egotistical -- I am not egotistical, despite the voice on many of my posts -- but, I think I'm pretty good at it. And I think I can be better. And I believe I am getting better, too.

So, I'm kind of in competition with myself. And as long as I'm satisfied that every new thing I write is maybe just a little bit better than the last thing I wrote, then I have to keep doing it.

Honestly, when I put out that one piece that I believe is perfect -- that I can't possibly do better -- then I will really, truly, stop. Not the pouty stop -- the I've-completed-my-final-footrace stop.

If that makes any sense.

So, since a kid picked and wheedled me about this yesterday, I will admit here that the book I am currently working on, which is called The Marbury Lens, is pretty goddamned good.

Friday, February 20, 2009

trust and doubt

This has nothing to do with movies.

I never go to the movies. I know... it's not that I'm crotchety and anti-social, I just prefer waiting for movies to come out on DVD so I can stop watching them when they suck.

Can I tell you about something that bugs me?

What bothers me about the current state of YA literature is the general and stubborn practice of "not getting it" when it comes to boys. Now, before you get all worked up over the exceptions you will validly be able make about my following statements -- don't. I'm not talking about "everyone," or "always," two words teenagers should "never" be allowed to use. I'm just talking about generally pervasive trends.

So, don't go to but-what-about-so-and-so land.

Complaint #1: Boys act the way girls expect boys to act in most YA novels. Not getting it. Stereotypical and just plain wrong. That would be like me writing a book with a teenage girl protagonist who dreams of one day having her very own ironing board -- just like mom -- so she could win the heart of the boy she's crushing on by pressing his marching band trousers.

Oooh... WIP, here I come, baby.

(That's writer talk. You might not get it. Like, you might not get the "San Onofre" reply to Michael's comment if you're not from So Cal... and it was spot-on whackingly brilliant).

I once got a review from a reader of Ghost Medicine who really liked the book, but she said she didn't believe that teenage guys could be so introspective... that it seemed unreal.

Well, yeah... that's because you've probably been reading too much YA about boys who don't act like boys. And, besides, the boys almost never talk about feelings with each other... they keep it on the concrete level, talking about ghost stories, castrating horses, building forts. The one time in the book any of them really talk about feelings is when Tom and Troy talk about losing their mothers.

Heck, I talked to my buddies about losing my dad when I was a kid.

As far as the narrator goes, well... he's bound to be introspective in his tale, but the story is being told mostly in his head.

The point I'm making here is that there are too many YA books that shortchange and two-dimensionalize what boys are really like during their coming-of-age years. Not all of them; some of them.

That does a disservice to readers, and boys in particular.

That's just one complaint about the XY in YA. It's a substantive issue, though. There are far more procedural mistakes we make when addressing the whole getting-XY-YA-kids to read thing, and I'll be talking about those issues, as I so often do, too.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

the non-review

I'll be honest.

Sort of.

I do not like to rate or review books publicly. There are a number of reasons for this, but I will say that I have no problem praising or ripping into a book privately among friends.

It kind of puts me in an awkward position, though, because I really like reading book reviews -- even those penned by other authors. And I'm a follower of GoodReads, too... but, I'm, like, what happens if a friend of mine, or someone who gets paid by the same parent company writes a book that's a total stinker and then asks me to review it?

So I don't. But, then again, I've never been part of a writer's group or crit circle, either, so I don't know anything about brutal honesty among competitive colleagues.

If that's what it is.

The last book I read that totally stunk I had to stop reading. This book has been well-received, lavished with hype, and is on lots of lists, too. But I started it... couldn't get into it... figured there was something wrong with me... started it again... then on about page 100 I threw it across the room, gave up, sighed, and donated it to a library.

I think one of my friends knows what book I'm talking about. He had the same reaction.

I mention this because I just finished reading the worst book I have ever read.

It was deliciously horrid. Some of the worst writing and editing ever... a virtual manual on how to suck. It was so bad, I couldn't stop reading it. Every page had the promise of presenting one of the suckiest lines you could ever read.

And this book was SERIOUS YA fiction, published by a major house that actually pays authors money. I will not identify the author, publisher, or title... and I will use XXXX in the place of identifying character names, but -- please -- allow me to share with you some of the absolute worst CRAP I have ever seen printed in a novel:

1.) The wind hadn't let up all day and the trees on the ridge whipped in the wind.

What??? Are you fucking kidding me??? It's like, really really windy. You can tell because all the wind of the wind is windy through the trees.

2.) But his sister said XXXX wasn't heavily into drugs; he only smoked the occasional marijuana cigarette.

After reading this shit, I felt like I'd been on the receiving end of a few bong tokes myself.

3.) She wanted to beg him to take her with him, but he hated whining.

Times like this, I wish I was Gumby so I could walk into this book and slap the shit out of her myself.

4.) Her heart felt as bleak as the darkening sky.

Okay. Honestly. I puked when I read that.

5.) Somehow it seemed okay to tell him about XXXX's hands on her breasts here at the beach.

Her breasts are at the beach?

And, finally, my favorite (an actual sentence -- not a quote -- punctuated with an exclamation point)...

6.) The gun must be what he told the guy on the phone at the donut shop that he had in the trunk of his car!

He told a gun he has a fucking donut shop in his trunk???? WTF?

Yeah... you just can't make this kind of stuff up.

And I guess this is why I've never been in a crit group.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I'm going to attempt to do this.

My wireless keyboard is acting up. And all this time I thought it liked the little bits of caramel corn and beer foam I've been feeding it.

Unlike most people in California, I refuse to answer my cell phone while I'm driving. Besides, it's too hard to get out of my pocket, and, invariably, if I try, I will be stopped in traffic next to some biker dude who stares at me while I stretch and contort, no doubt thinking to himself, "This sick bastard is playing with himself in traffic."

So I don't bother.

And don't even get me started on those Bluetooth things.

I mean... are you freekin serious?

Who, honestly, is so important they need one of those?

More importantly, who, honestly, has such impermeable self-esteem that they would walk around with one of those things on their freekin head and not feel like you're on center stage in the Lobster Boy tent at a 1900s Midwest sideshow? Especially the ones that light up or blink???

I envy people who can do that and be completely unaware that there are people like me -- and that biker dude next to me -- out there.

Always out there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

a kindred, agonized soul

Michael, can it get much worse than this?

I, too, have one of these self-propelled, snot-fizzling tumors.

I cried when I read about your pug. A cathartic and bitter sob session.

And this is the only male animal we have at the freekin zoo who was allowed to keep his balls. My wife, crazed, deludes herself into thinking that one day he will be allowed to actually breed.

God! Is there a bitch out there loose enough to allow herself to be plied with sufficient alcohol that she will submit to a tupping from a furry turd who smells like every collected armpit in Eastern Europe -- that, on a good day?

And isn't there a special place in hell for someone who would facilitate the propagation of this genetic blasphemy?

Besides, our pug happens to be openly gay. I'm okay with it. But he is, trust me.

Ugh. I'm in a bad mood. It's still snowing like a sonofabitch. On Valentine's Day (day before yesterday), my wife brought me home a big bouquet of heart-shaped helium balloons (honestly... it really IS just what I've always wanted).

Go figure that the skittish cat (The Calico) is also terrified of balloons. And, no, I never did anything to it involving balloons -- flaming or otherwise.

So, anyway, the cat just freaked out on the balloons yesterday morning -- total panic anxiety episode -- and it ran out of the house. Into a neighbor's yard, where it was attacked by a Corgi.

If God never made the pug, the Corgi would be His greatest canine flub-up.

If God shopped at IKEA, Allen wrenches would be as lethal as atomic bombs.

But I digress.

Cat. Attacked by Corgi. Now it has a broken leg.

Seriously. A broken freekin leg.


If it survives, it may have earned a name.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

on earning your name

I believe that there are only a couple kinds of animals that always require names: dogs and horses.

The vast, soulless, remaining members of the animal kingdom, being largely quite useless, will endure their lives namelessly as far as I'm concerned. At least, until they earn their names.

I've owned dozens of chickens, for example, but only ever named one: my hen, Lucky, who survived a dog attack and being stepped on by a horse, but is no longer with us after an unfortunate choking incident involving a mouse.

Yes, it's true. My chicken choked.

And we would have buried her, but luckily it was trash day. But that's another story.

Our goats have names, but I refuse to use them. Ever.

Same with our five cats. My wife and kids toiled away at coming up with names for them, but there is only one whose name will ever pass my lips: Shadow.

Shadow was a feral cat, abandoned by his mother when he was very small. He nearly died on us, and he stubbornly hated the human touch, being the wildcat that he is. He's been with us for about 5 years now. Here he is:

The other four cats are entirely worthless, having no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I will go to my grave without ever referring to them by name, unless, in the interim, they earn one.

Here's what I call them:

1.) The Black One (A particularly loathsome creature who delights in killing and dismembering all kinds of things. I once saw it kill and eat a small rabbit.)

2.) The Fat One (I am not kidding. This cat is really really fat. Repulsively so.)

3.) The Calico (This cat, for some unexplainable reason that may or may not involve squirt guns -- I am not offering a confession -- absolutely does not trust me. I had to chase it all over the house just to take its picture. Hello! Stupid cat! This camera doesn't squirt!)

4.) The Boy (The only thing remotely entertaining about him is that this cat seems to enjoy a firm spanking. That, and I did recently taunt him the morning before my wife took him to the vet: We're going to get your balls cut off! We're going to get your balls cut off! Still, not cool enough to have a name.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

i don't get it

After the morning coffee (see picture below), I went out for my five-mile run. It was amazing, running out on trails that were covered in snow, unmarked by footsteps except for one set of deer tracks and one from a coyote.

So, now that I think about it I realize the source of yesterday's torrent of unfortunate occurrences: duh... it was Friday the 13th.

Okay. Two things: I do not believe in luck at all; and, second, if I did, the number 13 is considered to be lucky in Italy. I remember that on my eighteenth birthday, in fact, when I was in Trieste, my aunt, Fernanda, gave me a silver number 13 on a chain. And, no, Fernanda was neither a pot smoker nor a member of the Mexican Mafia.

Can I get killed just for saying that?

As you can see by the sidebar of this blog, I am on Twitter.

I do not get Twitter at all.

Is it just a high-tech device so that stalkers can stay at home?

I would probably use it if I "got" it. I would maybe use it if I could get my iPhone to do it. But I can't do either of those things.

So... if you tweet and you tweet via iPhone, tell me what I'm missing. You can tweet it at me.

Now, I am going to go kill myself for using the verb "tweet" three times in my life.


this is what i see

I woke up this morning and stumbled downstairs to start the coffee and throw some wood in the stove. Out the windows of the office, this is what I see:I'll be back later.

Friday, February 13, 2009

falling objects

There are particular challenges living up here in the mountains.

For example, that photograph was taken just about 3 minutes ago. Yeah, it's snowing like crazy.

Let me tell you about my day. I decided to stay home today. It was nice sleeping in. My wife is down below at her job. My daughter asked if I'd drive her to school. The school is just on the other side of the lake. So she loaded up with her Valentines for the classmates and we set off.

On the way, I pulled over because I thought one of my tires sounded funny. I checked it out. Looked fine. Dropped the daughter off at school and came back home.

Yeah... I had a nail in my tire. It promptly went flat in my driveway.

That's when it began snowing.

There is something particularly hellish in changing a tire in a snowfall. It is not fun. But I changed it anyway.

Later, the school called to let me know that the buses couldn't bring kids home because there was too much snow on the roads. So, I went back to the school and piked my girl up.

Unfortunately, the mountain road leading up here is now closed, so my wife can't come back home and will have to spend the night at a friend's house down below. And tomorrow's Valentine's Day and we were supposed to have some alone time.

Yeah, she's crying on the phone about that.

By the way, I posted my first blog over at Stupid Blog Name. Ironically, I put a photo of my office in springtime on the blog... and that picture at the top of this post was just taken from the deck just outside this office.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

bye bye bunny

The bunny died yesterday.

If you're one of the three people who's read Ghost Medicine, you may have picked up on this Jungian-synchronous-interconnected thread running through the narrative. So, I'm just a little freaked out at this whole Peepy's revenge horror that has kept me up all night.

Besides, it's a girl???

So, today I am going to retreat behind my Shrine of Protection and chant. Yeah, I described the features of the Shrine of Protection a few months back when I got stuck in the room that kills people: a Jesus Christ action figure, a statue of Ganesh, a cast iron Garden Gnome, a pack of cigarettes that once belonged to Ronald Regan, a miniature Chacmool with some of Bryce Heventhal's actual blood on it, a purple Ninja, a poseable Elvis figure, and a dashboard Hula Dancer.

I know, pretty potent stuff. But who can really be sure that Peepy's blood lust hasn't been satiated? Peepy, you can have the bunny, but leave my pee-pee alone, please. You know... the Jungian-synchronous-interconnected thing.

I'm sorry. Cosmic-take-back-the-raisin-trail vibes being sent out to the universe.

Oh, and by the way, my daughter is loving Absolutely Maybe. Wow! She is actually reading on her own without me leaving books all over her room. Or beating her.

Living on a farm, things come and go all the time. It's a reasonably good lesson for kids. And despite their youth, they've become pretty good gravediggers, which, I believe, is a recession-proof skill.

That doesn't mean the kids are completely insensitive to the loss of one of the animals, though.

And then there's their mother. She can do anything for animals.

Like fixing an eggbound hen. Do you know what happens when a hen gets an egg that's too big to come out?


Believe me, in my world, that hen either takes care of business or it dies. Seriously... if my wife isn't around, it's just like As I Lay Dying. The hen lays there while the kids start digging another hole.

I've written past my usual morning blog time. I'm going out for a run and then off to hide behind the shrine and maybe write something for StupidBlogName.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

letting it go

I'm forcing myself to blog at 3 a.m. so I don't get so... edgy.

Lisa Yee said something that made me think.

I've been trying to tell people this all along, whenever I get asked the inevitable what did you mean by this part in Ghost Medicine?

Because I always shrug and say it doesn't matter what I meant, what matters is what you think it means.

The other night, Lisa said something like the only time you own what you write is before you put it out there to the readers. After that, it belongs to them, and there's nothing a writer can do about it.

That probably explains the devastating postpartum depression I get whenever I finish writing a book. 'Cause after that, it's all out of my hands, and it's going to grow -- or not -- in its own way.

Ghost Medicine was tough to let go of, but, after all this time I'm over it now. And... yikes!, in the path of falling objects started out as a short story I'd written as an undergrad wayyyy back when I thought I wanted to be a starving short-story writer. And my professor at the time kept bugging me to submit it to literary magazines, but I never got around to it... never wanted to. I just stowed it away, typewritten on curled paper, in a drawer of a desk that is currently still stored out in my garage.

I bet that story's still sitting there.

It's not much like the novel, though... it does have the car trip with the psycho, but lots more has been added to the novel (obviously enough, which explains why it's not a short story any more).

Later this month, I'm going to visit a creative writing class for kids at Newbury Park High School, in, of all places, Newbury Park, California. I'm really looking forward to it, and I hope the kids are going to have fun with what I do.

I promise no haiku.

Also, I've been invited to ride along with the other bloggers at Stupid Blog Name. If you haven't seen it, it is a very cool YA blog that combines the talents of some impressive and creative individuals, including Katherine (K.A.) Applegate, Michael Grant, Meg Cabot, Carol Snow, Michael Stearns, Mark McVeigh, Peter Glassman, the Book Muncher, the Story Siren, Shrinking Violets Productions, Alistair Spalding and Jake Mates.

A pretty intimidating cast. I think I'll stand in a corner -- by the Vesuvius of Cheese, for a while.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

if you give a bunny some heroin

I hate myself.

I am weak.

I try to be good and kind and pure. Then things happen... and I write about them.

And when Drew writes about them... ugh.

So, here's the deal. Honestly. My wife used to work assisting an animal doctor. So she knows how to do all these things that I'd never do. And maybe that's why our house is like a freekin zoo.

You know. I've listed all the animals before.

Well, we have this bunny, too. A rescue bunny. Not like he's a superhero or anything. We saved him from an elementary school classroom that just got tired of caring for him.

I even built him a hutch. Not just a hutch... the Taj-ma-freekin-Hal of rabbit hutches.

We've had him for years.

Yesterday, he got sick. My wife can tell these things with animals, just by looking at them. Me? If they're moving, they're good to go. So, she wrapped him up in a blanket and sat by the fire with him, petting him.

My daughter asked, "What's wrong with the bunny, Mommy?"

Wife said, "I think he's dying."

Pet, pet.


Then she gave the bunny a shot of something. She put him in a special cage inside my son's room.

A little while later, my son came out and said, "I think the bunny is feeling better."

His mom answered, "That's because I gave him a shot."

I said, "Of heroin."

(Note: Hey cool cats and catareenas... Drew is not actually hip to the smack vibes... you know, man, it's double shot espressos, it's the SoCal-faux-Cal scene for him, jazz dogs and dogettes. So, don't call the fuzz, man, 'cause the fuzz don't swing the jests he slings.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

my entourage

Seriously, who could get by without one?

I mean, all of us writers have an entourage. We have to... we're too busy thinking up neat ideas to do things like laundry, shopping, trimming our nails, and exfoliating.


But Drew, the guy in my entourage who writes my blog, has been getting a little out of hand lately.

I'm thinking of letting him go. Don't tell him I'm considering it, though, because last time I gave him an unrequested week off, I let Andy, the food-taster, do the blogging.

And he's always wasted out of his fucking mind.

Are you scared?

Don't worry. Freddie, the guy who watches me shower, is out of the question.


But Drew keeps making stuff up to make me look stupid. I mean... really. Me? At a dinner? With Susan Patron, Pam Munoz Ryan, Katherine Applegate, Lisa Yee, Eve Bunting, token guy Michael Grant? And me wearing a tie???

I think I'll get my official laugh-with-bitter-mockery entourage member, Francois (he doesn't speak English, but he's got a hell of a mocking laugh) out of the old wine cellar and dust off his Gauloises-calloused vocal cords for that one.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

i made peepy poopie

I did what I had to do.

Now, as Katherine Applegate told me when I finished my mission, I can die happy. Well, she actually said something like you might as well go kill yourself. I could be wrong, too.


Lots and lots of them.

Okay, so here's the deal. I'm going to start with getting dressed for last night's SCIBA Children's Books and Literacy Dinner: I was having a tie crisis. I mean, after all, when I think of anything that is officially a Dinner with a capital D, I suppose the Code of Boy says you should wear a jacket and tie.

Let me deviate here for a minute. One day, I am going to spell out, in no uncertain terms, exactly what is on the 25 empty toilet paper rolls Ernest Hemingway delivered to me during a Sharpie-fume-haze in a burning urinal. These scrolls constitute the Code of Boy. The vast majority of you have it all wrong. Especially the XX set. Just sayin'.

Okay. So, my Feiwel friend author James Preller tells me, "No tie, Drew." I figure he's an East Coast guy. Writers don't wear ties there. And they cuss and drink. A lot. Which is entirely okay in H's Code of Boy. In fact, I think it's a commandment.

So I get dressed. Shirt, open at the collar. Jacket. I come downstairs.


Back upstairs. I forgot the pants.

My wife, toiling, bent over an endless batch of brownies or carrot cakes she will inevitably burn and feed to our chickens, looks at me and says:



Back upstairs.

The dinner was incredible. Hundreds of people in attendance. But, it being a writers' event, there were only, like, six guys there. And... woo hoo! four of us were wearing ties! Yeah... me, and the three guys who took the dirty dishes away from the tables.

Yeah, I saw them pointing and laughing at me from the hallway, taunting me with their tray jacks and dessert carts, pulling their ties out and sensually stroking them in a bizarre sartorial saturnalia of silk.

Eww... did I actually say that? Maybe I should go kill myself.


Sorry, Hemingway.

I'm a loser.

Well, okay. So, I did actually set out to accomplish the three things I said I would. Remember? Here they are:

1. Keep the freekin badge on all night so I don't get strip-searched by hotel security again.

2. Meet and chat with Katherine Applegate.

3. Have my picture taken with Lisa Yee's little stuffed yellow jalapeno or banana slug or whatever it is.

But there was a lot more to it than that.

So, yeah... I got to meet Katherine Applegate. I also met Kathryn Fitzmaurice. Need I say there was an abundance of Katherines?

Okay. I'll go kill myself now.

But both of the Ks are just incredible people. AND K.A. signed a copy of her book, Home of the Brave, which is a definite keeper, and her husband (male number 5, tieless) noticed how pathetic I looked standing by the Vesuvius of Cheese display and talked to me... about whiskey.


He has read from the scrolls.

K.F. ran out of her book, The Year the Swallows Came Early, which I really wanted to pick up for my little girl. So... off to the bookstore. Indie.

Then, I got to meet Lisa Yee, and I had the stalker-like audacity to ask for a picture with Peepy. Hmmm... nowhere in the scrolls is there a reference to making such requests, although I suspect some karmic punishment is pending. I did, however, manage to put the little guy (who would, I must admit, be promptly shot at if I ever saw one of his kind in my back yard) on a cheese plate with three strategically placed raisins trailing from his backside for a Lisa Yee original picture.

Please, let's see that Peepy Poopie Picture, Lisa.

Oh yeah... she is ultra-cool. Like me, she takes pictures with her iPhone.

Then, I actually had a lengthy chat with Newbery-Winner-not-afraid-to-say-scrotum-but-the-Code-of-Boy-requires-use-of-the-term-ballsack Susan Patron. Incredible. And, in all sincerity, Susan gave a truly significant and inspiring speech that I will have to mention in a future blog. Thank you, Susan... and thanks for the book... I know my daughter is going to love it.

In fact, every one of the speakers was awesomely inspiring: Pam Munoz Ryan, Lisa Yee, Eve Bunting, and Susan Patron, whose table was next to mine at the book signing portion of the evening.(Of course, the guys had to sit down and stare off into space during all these speeches... and this was even pointed out by one of the presenters, but I can't remember who because I was paying attention to the wait staff mocking me with their ties outside in the hallway). Oh, and Kerry Madden showed up and sat at my dinner table, too. She's like a walking smile, and I forgot to tell her how much my daughter loved Jessie's Mountain. But... Kerry, she loved it.

But during the signing, I was overcome by the fumes from the Sharpies (Smith has never used a Sharpie to sign) and I hallucinated (I think) seeing Kurt Cobain lip-syncing to Bette Midler's Wind Beneath My Wings.

Nah... that must have really happened.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

the killer question

Okay. So, this morning I get asked, "Drew, how can you possibly come up with a blog post every single day?"

And then, I thought about it. And thought about it. And all of a sudden I was, like, holy shit, I don't think I have anything to talk about now.

Thanks for asking the question that kills.

And now, I'm supposed to be getting ready to go out to the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association's Children's Books and Literacy Dinner tonight, and I'm like, what if someone asks me another question that kills?

It's like my brain can't even function now. Tie or no tie? What shoes should I wear?


I am such a loser.

And it's been raining for, like, two straight days in Southern California. Two days of continuous rain in L.A. is like shit, did I pass out on Wednesday night and wake up in Antarctica?

Oh well. Just give me a fistful of tranks. I'll tell you all about the dinner tomorrow.

Friday, February 6, 2009

what would gandhi do?

I didn't blog at my usual 3 a.m. today. I was in too much pain.

I burned the hell out of my tongue last night on a piece of broccoli.

I love broccoli. Obviously, enough to permanently scar myself.

In fact, if I had to choose between giving up broccoli or giving up sex... well... let's just say my tongue would be fine this morning.

What do you think I am, an idiot?

I wonder what Gandhi would say if he ever burned his tongue on broccoli. Probably not, Jesus Christ, that's hotter than shit! or, Fuck ME! I'm dying! I'm guessing.

I'll be honest. I'm a bad person. I said those things.

So, when I'm finished sobbing like I've never cried before in my life, after I burn the crap out of my mouth, the phone rings. I have the nicest talk with my friend, Lewis Buzbee (Steinbeck's Ghost), even if I slur my words like a glue huffer.

I'm going to invoke the spirit of something I include in the acknowledgments of my forthcoming novel, in the path of falling objects, that Lewis mentioned to me again last night. It's about where the "friends" comes from at Feiwel & Friends. I don't know if other publishing imprints are like this, but at f&f everyone is just so damned cool, and we have the best time together. From Jean Feiwel herself, to the editors, art department, the authors, and everyone else, we have such a great kind of connection.

And so here are Lewis and I chatting about things like Brian James' new release The Heights, and Greg Taylor's Killer Pizza, which are both incredibly cool. I don't know if other publishing houses have groups of authors that actually are each others' fans, but at f&f we have the greatest times together. Like that trendy Cuban place we all went to last summer, or that midnight party at the old LA Library. Good times.

And then today, I got the nicest message from Jill Alexander, whose debut novel The Sweetheart of Prosper County shares a spot in the fall catalog with my book.

Coolest people in the world to work with.

Even with a burned-up tongue.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

this i promise

I promise to keep the badge on this time.

I promise to keep the badge on this time.

Just in case there is some kind of hotel security guy network, or something.

If that doesn't make sense, you might look back to a post from October called boy rules that tells the chilling story of what happened to me at an expo in Los Angeles.

This Saturday, I'm heading out to Pasadena to attend the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association's Children's Book and Literacy Dinner. That's going to be really cool because at the dinner, there are separate tables with an author at each one and we get to sit with all the SCIBA guests and chat. Afterwards, there is a book signing and everyone will get a copy (Thanks, Jean Feiwel!) of that book that was named one of ALA's Best Books for Young Adults, 2009, Ghost Medicine.

Two things I need to do there:

Well, three, if you count NOT TAKING MY BADGE OFF:

1) Meet Katherine Applegate, author of Home of the Brave, a 2007 YA release that everyone in my family fell in love with. A remarkable book.

2) Have my picture taken with that little stuffed banana Lisa Yee carries everywhere.

Don't tell anyone.

Also, I heard yesterday that the ARCs for in the path of falling objects are due out March 1 - 7, with hints that the ARCs themselves have really cool covers designed by Rich Deas.

Of course, I can't wait to get my hands on one, too.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

the voya review

Sorry... that's a scan.

It's from a review of Ghost Medicine that was published in the February issue of VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates). It's a magazine for Young Adult librarians.

Their review codes at the top, taken from VOYA, mean this:

5Q Hard to imagine it being better written.
4P Broad general or genre YA appeal.
J Junior High (defined as grades 7-9).
S Senior High (defined as grades 10-12).

No need to say anything else there.

I am honored.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

energy crisis

I'm a Monster virgin.

I mean the energy drink stuff. Well, and zombies, too, but that's another story.

So I drank one just now. Well, about a half hour ago.

Not a zombie. A Monster. The coffee kind. It was sweet. But it tasted good.

When I woke up, the temperature outside was 28 degrees. Not Celsius. But right now I am sweating like the lone Mormon at a beer-bong party. Really.

My first Monster.

I see kids drinking these things all the time. Even the really big ones with the screw-off tops. Not kids with screw-off tops. Monsters. I had the smallest size can they make. But my stomach is knotted and I am gripped by paranoia... Yeah, the man is out to get me.

I don't bite my nails, but it seems like a pretty good idea at the moment.

That, and vacuuming.


At three in the morning. The rest of the house is going to love that. Maybe I should give them all a Monster. Perk them up.

I realize these are the shortest sentences I've ever written in my life.

It bugs me when people say, "You can't have sentences over 15 words long."

That last one was 14. So there.

Next person who says that, I'm punching them in the face. As long as they say it before I come down off this Monster. Like, in the next 15 minutes. Because I'm a pretty peaceful guy. That's what everyone says to me. Between my killing sprees.

It also bugs me when people say "hecka," or the edgier, more daring "hella."

Or when I'm at the grocery store and the cashier asks if I found everything okay.

And I say, "No. I had to beat the living crap out of your boxboy to make him tell me where the Monsters are."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

the big and the small: a blog about writing

I'm going to do something today that I usually only do in the most circuitous way: I am going to write a little bit about my writing.

I've already been asked a couple times, why do I insist on keeping the title in the path of falling objects written as all lower-case letters?

So now I'm going to say why, and, as usual, the answer will probably be lengthy and confusing. In a nutshell, though, it's because the whole book is about feeling small as we wander through the vastness of the universe.

In Ghost Medicine, everything was big: the mountains, the horses, the land, and the characters (especially Tom, Rose, Art, or even Clayton). But, in in the path of falling objects, I think we see a cast of characters who are overwhelmed by their smallness as they bounce off each other out there in the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona.

Some of them feel small because they're so powerless to change their paths (Mitch and Lilly). Jonah and Simon feel small because they've never really considered, or looked at, the world beyond the little shack where they grew up. And still other characters, I think, like Dalton, Arno, and Walker, are just impressed by the vast wonder and power of the things around them.

So that's why.

Okay. My favorite two lines from in the path of falling objects:

"Want to see something you'll never forget?"


"We have to be quiet."

Those two lines, which I won't explain, are the entire basis for the next video trailer for the book.