Tuesday, March 31, 2009

just keep telling yourself it's real

I realized today, after two more Drew, this book scared the shit out of me comments from (sorry, Kel) women, that I really do enjoy creeping people out.

That, and there was the life-size Barbie doll climbing up the stairway with a knife in her hand to greet my wife incident that one morning when she woke up (it's been a really quiet household since then... wondering when the hell she's ever going to get over it and just learn to forgive).

And then I thought, crap, if in the path of falling objects scares you, then the book I'm working on right now will deeply disturb you.


It's bothering me, and I'm the one who's making it up... or, I think I'm the one doing it. I can't be sure.

I realized something else about how I write, and it pertains to something I wrote down in a journal when I was a kid... traveling around Europe by train by myself one year. I used to do that a lot, but it wasn't such a big deal for me because I had all kinds of family and friends over there with places to stay... England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and France, among other home bases.

But I wrote that I preferred moving on a train to stopping, because when the train would stop and I'd have to get out, there would always be unexpected things I'd have to deal with... arrangements to be made.

My writing process is kind of like that, too. Things move along and everything is steady and predictable. But when a major turn happens, it's kind of like everybody getting off the train all at once, and all of these new weird things start happening.

That's where I am right now. Major shit happening. Again.

If that makes any sense.

And what I'm writing is kind of a fantasy, but I really do not like fantasy, so it's also not a fantasy at the same time... which is why I have to keep telling myself it's real, which, in turn, creeps me out even more.

Because it really is creepy.

But there's no magic, wizards, dragons, elves, vampires, or any goddamned character or place with a name you can only pronounce if you speak Icelandic.

Which is why it's real. But a fantasy. And really, really creepy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

the good weekend

It was a good weekend. The weather's been nice enough that I could clear a couple gardens where we plant summer crops. It's still too early to plant, because we sometimes get snow in winter, but it felt good to get blisters on my hands (I could have used machines, but chose not to).

It's amazing how soft and useless hands can get over the course of a winter.

Usually in March the snakes start coming out. I haven't seen any yet, though, but I think it's because we'd had so much snow this year and they haven't thawed out fully.

We have some California King Snakes that live down by our greenhouse. They're supposedly good because they eat rattlesnakes. I don't know about that, though, because most of the rattlesnakes I see around here are bigger than King Snakes.

I once caught a rattlesnake in my yard and kept it overnight for the kids to see. It was a small one, so the next day we drove the truck up into the hills on the other side of the lake and set it free. If I get big, mean rattlesnakes in my yard, which I usually do a couple times per year, I don't hesitate to kill them.

It was also a good weekend because I was able to get a lot of work done on my current project, despite the distractions of other writing-related things that are going on.

We'll see how this week goes.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

the southwest road trip

Over the years, I've taken dozens of road trips across New Mexico and Arizona. There's something about the countryside of those states that is more than just visual. It's why I chose to put the journey from in the path of falling objects there.

Some of the places in the novel are entirely made up, but some of them are real. I do remember, as a kid, on those long, hot, stretches of highway, the curio shops and signs advertising "Friendly Indians," businesses that don't exist any more -- like Stuckey's or Whiting Bros. Gas -- or places where you could simultaneously see Hitler's personal car and purchase pecan rolls.

I always wondered what made pecan rolls so attractive to interstate travelers... and where they grew pecans in the desert, too.

Anyway, I'm planning on recreating Jonah and Simon's road trip with my own kids this summer (less the terrible violence, that is), to give them an opportunity to see some of the most visually and spiritually striking scenery in America.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

off to see the wizard...

Yesterday, I had a most excellent conversation with a college student who got to read an advance copy of in the path of falling objects. Two things that struck me about our talk (well... you know, there may end up being more than two):

First, he said that he was entirely convinced that the only way I could think up such a story, and create a character like Mitch, was that I had to be completely insane.

I like that comment.

Okay, I just realized there are going to be more than two things here. Then he said he was lying awake at night (a recurring theme among comments from readers), and there was a particular line from the novel that convinced him that I was a genius. He read the line to me (and I won't quote it here)-- and asked, how do you think up things like that?

Okay. I like that, too.

Then, our conversation turned to The Wizard of Oz, which is a recurring allusion in in the path of falling objects. We talked about how the novel is kind of a demonically-possessed bastardization of The Wizard of Oz on so many levels... the travelers following a road, hoping for some kind of deliverance to a perfect world, the tin man who tags along for the ride, the character "Chief" (I can't say more about this guy), among so many other references to the Oz story.

But it doesn't end there, either. Because Oz also stands as a commentary on the political and economic failures of the Gilded Age (a period in history for which I have a minor obsession... don't even get me started about the election and presidency of James Garfield), and my college-student reader perceived a similar undercurrent to in the path of falling objects as well, especially in light of the "Gilded Age" America has just come out the dark end of, our current involvement in war, and the ubiquitous feeling of being lost all the time.

Then... he said, there's this whole Don Quixote thing going on with Lilly and Jonah, with Matthew's experiences in Vietnam... as well as the parallel disintegration of Mitch and Matthew at the same time.

Parallel disintegration.


College kids.

What, I ask you, do they know?

Friday, March 27, 2009

the boy book that girls will be tricked into reading

Unintentionally, I've been keeping track of the different reactions to in the path of falling objects based on gender. Of course, this isn't something I ever thought about when writing the book, but since it has been narrowly distributed as Advance Reader Copies, I've noticed (not very scientifically) a general trend based on the sexes.

Females are really creeped out and scared by the book, expressing a general opinion that reading it alone at nighttime isn't a good idea. Males think it's a fun ride -- like being stuck on top of a Ferris Wheel -- and especially like the first page.

I think the reactions have been consistently powerful and very positive, though. I surmise the differences are largely due to the fact that most YA fiction is written for girls, with a bias toward that audience. [Comment button below] There is a general, very unscientific, and skewed belief in publishing, writing, and bookselling, that only girls read... that only girls spend money in book stores.

And that's merely because, if you go to a bookstore, most of the books there




Go to the YA section and see for yourself. "Most" -- as in, more than half... eh, what the hell, a good 75% on the average, I'd say.

Did I mention the comment button is below? I'm not trying to piss anyone off, and don't presume I am being sexist, either. I am not saying anything that disparages females.

It's easier to market for girls. Females are -- apparently -- mere putty in the hands of advertisers, which is why so much marketing revenue targets them. Don't tell the girls that, though... they don't know it. When advertisers and marketers find out effective strategies for marketing to boys (they haven't really done that yet... probably due to the assumptions that boys don't read, and -- if they did -- they would be more like girls ,therefore no need to design specific marketing geared toward boys), they will soon realize there is an untapped market out there.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

it's not me... it's you

Now that that's out of my system.

Sort of.

I think I live a cursed life sometimes, and other times I feel so incredibly average. I don't know what it was about the network connection yesterday, but it seemed to miraculously heal itself. I don't know why... it just did.

Well... it did unless the date on this post is March 25, in which case I am publishing it from my iPhone again and will undoubtedly follow it up with another rant from the good professor.

I will admit that I've been a miser with the Advance Copies of in the path of falling objects... very selective in which people I've been allowing to read it. As reactions have been coming in, I am whelmed over by some of the things people are saying. [ASIDE:"Whelmed over" is perfectly acceptable] Some people have been totally freaked-out by the creepiness of the book, in particular, by the OCD, homicidal Mitch.

I didn't realize that some readers would react this way when I was writing the book... because so much of the story hits close to home for me, too. But that's the case with everything I write... most of the things the characters experience and go through... well, let's just say I have some pretty similar memories.

But this unanticipated reaction makes me realize that if in the path of falling objects really creeps some readers out, then The Marbury Lens, the book I am finishing up right now, might just push some readers off the edge. Again, though, my apologies... been there, done that.

At least sort of.

But I wanted to say that some of the kindest and most generous praise for in the path of falling objects came from my dear friend, author Kelly Milner Halls. I want to preface these quote snippets with the following qualifier, though: although Kelly is one of my best and truest friends, she is known for her hyper-critical eye when it comes to YA fiction, and would never ever falsely praise something.


That said, Kelly had these comments about in the path of falling objects:

"I felt like I got to know the characters so much better in this book. And you hit the ground running -- there was action that started from the first page. It reached out to my imagination from the very beginning and gripped it, which is really great. I can't wait to see how it does. This one should do really well for you. Can't wait to see the librarian reactions. Great job!

You have nothing to worry about from the kids who will read it. They'll keep turning the pages as if they're watching a thriller at the movie theater."

Thanks, Kel.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

the rant continues

I am not going to cuss. I am not going to cuss.

Okay. So I wake up this morning... embark on the daily routine, go to post up the Professor Bignuts blog rant, and my freekin internet connection doesn't work. I think it's my wireless router, but crap. So I have to post my last night's draft of it (that's how Professor Bignuts rolls -- now you know something TRUE about me), which explains the wrong freekin date on the Prof BN post... and I have to do all this from my iPhone (including this very clarifying post).

All this while my agent is doing some new deals for me... no freekin internet, no Facebook at home... and I am extremely tempted to tweet a 140-character rant via iPhone on Twitter.


So... if the posts are spotty in the next couple days, you know why.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

professor bignuts on a rant



Okay... a few things: First off, I was going to blog about something pleasant and happy today... but then (second thing) something really pissed me off yesterday (is pissed a cuss-word, because if it is...), (third thing) so excuse me in advance because I need to rant today and I feel an obscenity or two forming at the tips of my fingers.

So yesterday, I'm working on my thing and my phone buzzes... email coming in... from my editor, who says something like oh, we saw the article about you in... (name of shitty newspaper deleted... oh, which ticks me off even more because why is it that GOOD newspapers are going out of print and literary pus stains like this keep cranking out the copy?) and I'm, like, oh, they run stories about me all the time... and they never even talk to me... it's like I don't even know anything about it, but, thanks, I'll look it up and then I look it up... [ASIDE: I really really HATE reading articles about me... almost as much -- no, more than -- I hate wearing "hello! my name is fucking idiot" name tags][SECOND ASIDE: Which reminds me, on the news channel I watch, there is this terrifying Volvo commercial with this couple in the backseat of a Volvo and this guy in the driver seat turns around, and, with this ultra-creepy Swedish accent, says "HELLO!!! I'm going to crash this fucking car with you in it!!!" and I'm, like, holy shit!!! if I was ever in a car with a guy that turned around and looked at me and said "HELLO!!!" like that guy I'd piss myself] and it's like an article about me that is totally wrong and made up in every conceivable way, and so I'm thinking who the fuck got this shit so screwed up? because it's like modern interpretive dance, but only with ME, and I don't understand modern interpretive dance at all, so I'm thinking, I know... I know... it's that fucker Casey who lost his MAN CARD to me when he used the word "bliss" in spoken commentary, just trying to get even or something, because the article doesn't even quote me at all... it sounds like it's made up from speculation based on my blog entries... and -- Damn! -- my blog??? as a SOURCE??? and I'm, like, puking in the back of my throat as I read it because through the whole goddamned article the writer (identified only as "staff") continually refers to me as "Andy" and nobody... NOBODY calls me "Andy" and gets away with it, because I'm, like "Andy" -- give me a fucking break -- I haven't been called "Andy" since I wore tighty whities with Batman on them (the original one, with Adam West... well, okay, so maybe I did wear some last week, but NOBODY is EVER allowed to call me that) and so I'm, like, shit! where did they get this shit from in the first place, because I have friends... oh yeah... friends... and they will not stand for this at all... because they are the same friends who, for reasons I WILL NOT explain, used to (and sometimes still do) call me "Professor Bignuts," which is a nickname that kicks ass on "Andy" any goddamned day.



Maybe tomorrow I'll be nice again.

this is not a perverted male fantasy

No. This is a true story. Like all of mine are.

It's a story of redemption and the invisible hand that swats cruel-minded bus drivers and delivers the pure of heart to a better place.

Here goes:

I am a streak runner. That doesn't mean I run around with no clothes on, it means that I haven't taken a day off from running since some time last century (that would be ten years or so). I run in any conditions: snow, rain, heat, wind... it doesn't matter. I have also completed 30 marathons (26.2 miles) since the 1990s.

The nicest marathon in the world runs along the coast of California on Highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel: the Big Sur Marathon. I've run that one four or five times, I guess.

If you haven't ever run a marathon, I think it would be kind of difficult to imagine just how agonized your body feels at the finish line. So, usually, race events take really good care of runners at the end. In Big Sur, there are all kinds of great treats, especially the locally-grown strawberries. But the best thing, at least for me, is the free beer.

You know, nothing quite says "I've just run my fastest marathon ever" (which I did last time at Big Sur... sub-4) like downing a couple gallons of free draft Heineken.

So... here's the deal: the race at Big Sur is a one-way marathon. So, at the finish line, I was 26.2 miles away from where I was staying (in Big Sur). Like most of the runners, that meant we had to catch locally-sponsored buses to drive us back to the starting line.

My bus was a definite party bus. One of the guys on it came in fourth in my age division, and the bus driver let us drink beer and wine while she drove the slow, winding course back to Big Sur. Problem was that, as I said, I already drank at least a gallon of beer at the finish line party.

So, about half-way back to Big Sur, I needed to pee.




And there was nothing, no receptacle in the bus besides 16-ounce Solo Cups with beer and wine residue in them. What could I do? I begged and pleaded with the driver to pull over so I could pee. In the back, some of the runners began chanting "Out the window! Out the window!"

No freekin way.

I was about to explode in torrents of beer and piss.

On the verge of crying, I begged the driver again.

She said, "I'll pull over for you, but I'm not going to wait."

Now see, this was a real conundrum. But, in my state, I had to pee so bad that I was actually willing to go the distance on foot -- 10 miles -- back to Big Sur (this, after running 26.2 miles and drinking a bathtub of beer).

The driver pulled over, I got out, she pulled away, and there was a chorus of boos from all the runners on the bus for what she did.

But -- sweet mother of God -- that was the best pee I've ever had in my life. I peed. I watched the bus pull away in a cloud of exhaust. I limped out along Highway 1. Ten more miles to go.

So I hitch hiked.


Sorry I never listened to what Mom and Dad told me. Because they always told me that if I hitch hiked, I'd get picked up by murderous psychos like what happens to Jonah and Simon in in the path of falling objects.

But you know what happened to me that day out on the road north of Big Sur?

Almost immediately, I got picked up by a smokin-hot blond in a convertible Mustang, out for an afternoon drive.

Urinary karma.

We passed the bus just down the highway. I noticed all these sweaty faces of the other runners pressed against their windows. I gave them the hand greeting alluded to in the closing lines of yesterday's post.

Monday, March 23, 2009

a handshake instead of a kiss

I'm back.

Sort of.

The other day my wife asked me a question that inspired me to explain one of the tenets of The Code of Boy.

She asked, "When I shake hands with a man, am I supposed to squeeze?"

I chuckled to myself, and then wondered if she was waging some sinister espionage ruse to try to ferret out the secrets of the code. She explained that her boss, a sorry excuse for a man, squeezes her hand really hard whenever he shakes hands... and it pisses her off... so the last time he did it, she squeezed back and it freaked him out.

Okay. This guy's an idiot who was probably raised in a cave.

Code of Boy: There are several basic hand-hand contact scenarios when initiating or acknowledging a greeting. The basic two: shaking and holding. Males shake hands with males, applying a calculated degree of pressure that says, "Don't fuck with me or I'll stab you in the eye," or, "If your wife was hotter, I'd be all over that." Males hold hands with females and don't let go until the female initiates the withdrawal.

There. No brainer. Guys who shake with women are borderline abusers, at worst, or are gender-confused in the broadest sense. Likewise, males who greet and hold with other males usually have clammy skin and... ewww....

And, of course, The Code of Boy does go on in specific detail regarding the techniques for other hand-hand greeting rituals, including: High Five (there are minimum decibel requirements for male-male H5), Knuckle Punching (it must hurt, just a little), and even the universal Good and Bad "Fuck You" finger salute.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

the iBlog

First of all, I'm not in jail or anything, but I am "out of the house" unexpectedly with very few resources at my disposal.

So I decided I'd blog via my iPhone.

Painful, at best. For the same reasons I realized the mandolin was not the best musical instrument for me, my clumsy, flat-tipped fingers are agonizing their way drunkenly over this unforgiving keyboard. But I managed, and I found it was probably a good thing that I got a day's distance between myself and my work-in-progress.

I feel sane for a bit.

Now, I'm going out for a run and some breakfast. Home later tonight.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

the road trip from hell

in the path of falling objects has been briefly described as the story of two brothers on a road trip from hell.

That's kind of a catchy tag line, I guess, but, to me, the story is really more like a road trip through hell.

Without revealing too much here, I will say you'll see plenty of allusions to The Wizard of Oz in the book, and my thought, in plotting out the novel's arc, was what if you were following the golden pathway with the intention of getting to the innermost center of hell? What if Dorothy and crew were messed-up, self-destructive derelicts who destroyed everything they encountered along the way?

You get the gist.

Yesterday, I heard from the first kid to read the book (besides my own son, Trevin, who has been spending a couple days silently "processing" the book). Tommy, who's 17 and begged me to loan him a galley, doesn't say much. He finished the book in three days, though, and he told me he loved it... he said it was better that Ghost Medicine, and when would he be able to read my next one?

Damn. I write fast... but not at that pace.

Friday, March 20, 2009

when i'm writing

-- I find it difficult to get anything else accomplished. Actually, I intentionally neglect things.

-- The office where I write is about 8 feet away from my bed. Bed... computer... coffee.

-- If I'm away, sometimes I will write by email and send chunks back to my office computer, even if by cell phone.

-- I probably shouldn't try to cross streets.

-- That's why I can get things finished so quickly.

-- That's where I'm at right now. The days start like this, at 3:00 AM, and I don't get much sleep.

I don't know if that's a good thing right now, either. I have these huge things hanging over me and they're the kinds of things that I have no power to resolve and all I can do is wait, but I suck at that.

Especially when I'm writing.

And the thing I'm writing is pretty dark, even by my standards; and if I admit that, then that's pretty scary because it is making me particularly crazy right now.

A friend of mine read a blurb on in the path of falling objects, and he said, "You kind of have issues, don't you Drew? Not the cheery fellow, are you?"

I didn't get it.

In any event, if it helps my avoidance of any type of brand, the next book I have coming out is pretty goddamned funny.

But the one I'm working on now...

what a trip.

Back to work.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

things to do today

I have so much that I need to post in this blog, but not enough time. So I won't pick up where I trailed off yesterday (yet).

I still don't tweet. I'm going to put one on today, though, just to see what it feels like to shed the last tattered remnants of my life's significance.

I wonder if it's a relief to most people that life has a passing 140-character limit.

If I made a list of things I'd have to do today if I knew it was my last day on earth, Twittering would be tied on that list with chewing a mouthful of paperclips.

But there is some sick part of me that is devising a plan to tweet my experiences at ALA in Chicago coming up this July. I plan on twittering about all the urinals there. I wonder if they have cool ones. God knows, there probably won't be crowds around them.

The coolest urinal I ever saw was at a pizza restaurant near Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. It was like a stone sarcophagus and you could literally stand inside it. It stood as high as my shoulders. In fact, when I came out of the pissoir, I was smiling so broadly, and my friends asked me, "Drew, what's up?"

"Dudes, you have to see the urinal in there. It's like a freekin shrine."

Yeah... even took the ladies in there, who took pictures with their cell cameras.

They were jealous.

They wanted to use it, too.

I was trying to think up a list of the cool things humankind has invented, but only for women.

Styrofoam wig heads?

Look out, Twitterville. After today, I'm getting ready for ALA.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

more on the man card and code of boy

According to the Code of Boy, you know when the time has come, and you've been called on it, and you have to surrender your man card.

I took my buddy, Casey's, away from him last week for using the word "bliss" out loud, in a statement. Seriously. Lots of people heard him, too. He could just have easily lost it for the way he gushes when he talks to his wife on his cell phone and refuses to cut his conversation short in the presence of other men.

What could he do? He knew it was a fair cop.

He tried to take my MAN CARD from me a few days after that, and he could have justifiably done it. I was wearing a pink Oxford dress shirt. But noooooo, I already lost my MAN CARD before that.

And the Code of Boy is very specific about the only ways you can ever get your man card back:

The person who takes away the MAN CARD cannot give it back. The person who has forfeited his MAN CARD must perform one of many and various testosto-tasks.

Although blogging, in and of itself, is probably as valid a reason as any for the forfeiture of one's MAN CARD, blogging about things like Whiskey, fine hand-rolled cigars, urinal strategy, Hemingway, and even The Code of Boy itself, have magically protective charms.

[Smith has posted those topics]

Oops, I used the word magically.

Let's just pretend I didn't just say that.

How did I get my MAN CARD back? Duh... I played rugby last weekend.

Rugby is the manliest of pursuits, the absolutely perfect sport that Americans just don't "get," even though it's played in every country in the goddamned world that laughs at us for our devotion to gridiron football.

So... ugh... I'm late, and here I am trying to finish this blog while having a back-and-forth session with a North Korean friend about how to make North Koreans laugh.

More on Clown College, Rugby, the MAN CARD, and The Code of Boy to follow...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

everyone always gets it wrong

I hate it when kids make statements beginning with the words everyone or contain the terms always and never.

Because no one is always right about what everyone always does.

So, I had a few days of angst and panic this past weekend, during which time I couldn't sleep very well. I know... I obsess about things too much.

I always obsess.

But this was not about the MAN CARD incident... and, I still have to tell you about the process by which that essential male possession may be reclaimed. But not yet. I have a little venting to do (again).

I always vent.

I'm feeling like I need to kick my own ass.

Again, we go back to these oh-Drew-you-are-not-allowed-to-write-sentences-with-106-words-in-them proclamations that so many writers embrace.

Although I am not in any particular writers' group, I do help out a few writer acquaintances here and there (besides those really really good writers who read my stuff, if nothing else, to convince themselves of the validity of the no-106-word-sentence maxim); and I find that they are so adherent to formula that they can't effectively free their constrained faculties when it comes to doing the basics -- like writing a query letter, or determining the length of a chapter, tagging quotes, or when to show a section break.

[Good God! That preceding sentence contains 92 words...]

So... what happened was that my agent asked me to write a synopsis of in the path of falling objects for film rights purposes.

[ASIDE] This book WILL be a movie. I'll bet my house on it.

But I'm, like, WTF? I don't know how to write a synopsis for that purpose.





That, and, as previously stated, I need to kick my own ass.

The problem was that I had a hard time getting in touch with my agent (Weekends off? Are you kidding me?). So, I asked a whole bunch of other people that I know, including authors, editors, agents, and even a screenwriter.

Guess what?

Everyone had a different formula. And all the suggestions were good. I finally hammered one out, and it was remarkably similar in structure to what my agent ended up telling me to do.

The point is, that in writing, I've noticed that there are more unsuccessful people who keep telling each other "That's not how you do it," than there are successful people who admit "That's not how I did it, but what do I know?"

Just my observation about the formula-watchers.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I guess every writer is looking for a sort of connection to his readers. It's probably one of the most satisfying results you can get from your work.

So I have a little story. As usual.

My father was one of ten children. I probably met only half of them at different times in my life, but haven't seen any of his brothers or sisters since I was a kid. Now, there are only four surviving: three brothers and a sister.

Yesterday, I got an email from my father's sister. She found me through my book, Ghost Medicine, and she asked me if I was the same Andrew Smith whose father and mother were named... Then she went on to tell me who she was, and if I was her nephew, she'd like to get me to autograph her book... but if I wasn't, then I could just ignore her email and not respond.

Thing is, I do remember Helen very well, even if the last time I saw her I was probably in Junior High School.

I'll be sending the book.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

if this were actually happening to me, i wouldn't know what to do

You know how when you don't know what to do about something, and it's an interestingly distressing dilemma, but you can't put it on your blog because even if you asked the uninvolved people in your life they'd either say, "Yeah... that sounds like something they'd do to you," or, "Why do you actually lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling, stressing about things like that, you moron, Drew?"

Yeah... well that's not happening to me.

I was just...


It's just a hypothetical situation.

Now I'll go see how many Ambien I can swallow at once with a couple straight shots of Maker's.

So I can get to sleep.


But there is good news.

I got my MAN CARD back.

I'll tell you about it later.

Friday, March 13, 2009

a matter of consistency

Okay. Now, a few people have read in the path of falling objects, and I am detecting a trend being established in the comments I've been receiving.

But let me begin with a story.

When I handed my original manuscript for in the path of falling objects over to my editor, it was like, "Here. Read this." Um... that was last year at ALA, I think, or BEA or something. Basically, not too long ago. But it wasn't like my editor was expecting it, either, so she let her assistant, Allison read it first.

(I think this is how the story goes)

Well, Allison is, like, probably the sweetest girl on the planet, and every time I see her I feel like buying her a Shetland pony or something. But, when Allison got in the path of falling objects, she had just moved into her own New York apartment.

By herself.

With no Shetland pony.

And she read the book alone.

And so she got really really scared.

And couldn't sleep.

Awww. I owe you a pony.

That's my story. And, so far, I've been hearing similar remarks from just about everyone who's read it.

[Note -- why am I suddenly paranoid about using apostrophes?]

So... want to see something you'll never forget? Well, you're going to have to wait. But a friend of mine, an amazingly talented photographer and cinematographer named Taggart Lee, asked me if he could borrow my ARC to read.

Then he read it.

And he sent me an email that ended with these words:

"...tired as I am. I was up until 1 am reading some clown's new book. Jesus, it is so damn good."

And, now Taggart is going to be filming the next book trailer for in the path of falling objects. And, it's not just going to be a book trailer... it's going to be like something you've never seen before.

So, hope you're looking forward to it. It will be out soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

three things...

Well, knowing me, it may actually be four things.

Or five.

Okay. Advice to new writers: always always always read your galleys and your books. There will be hidden satanic messages and winning lottery sequences in them if you don't.

When I read my first ARC of in the path of falling objects, I caught three things... but only one of them was a mistake. That's pretty damn perfect for a book, much less a galley.

So you don't need to tell me about the mistake. And it definitely wasn't mine. I can prove it.

[smith inflates chest and pumps fist -- after all, he had to surrender his man card last night when he received a righteous ass-kicking regarding a recent whine sesh]

It's (zen-like beginning to this sentence for reasons that will become rapidly illuminated) a misused apostrophe on a possessive pronoun (ewww... did I actually just say that? Now I'm probably NEVER going to get my man card back), and those things make me... well, if I could, I'd turn into the Hulk over the misuse




I'm a loser.

A loser who can't turn into the Hulk because a certain editor from Random House who shall be nameless has confiscated his man card. I think I'd need one to turn into Ann Coulter, too... so all I could possibly do is maybe turn into a pissed-off ex-member of Menudo who has a nasty rash.

So. Don't bother telling me. I caught it first. Before anyone. Because I am just that... ugh... lame.

Then, the other two things were:

1) (Here's where I may redeem a veneer of masculinity) I took an adjective out of a sentence. Woo-hoo! What a stud! Adjectives are for




I hate myself.

2) I changed a punctuation mark.

That's it.

Three things.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

a review from a reader

Here's a review of in the path of falling objects that was recently sent out to a very large group of teachers (and... thanks!):

While writing a book in and of itself is a feat that deserves recognition and praise, writing in the path of falling objects deserves a lot more than that. This is one of the most phenomenal, readable, gripping and original books I've ever read. Not only could it be a primer for a college-level creative writing class, but it could also be a casual read for someone who HATES READING! It's that good.

Smith's narrative style is NOT that of a new author's second attempt at writing. It's like he's been writing for years and has really honed his craft. I can not say this enough. It is very rare to find a book so original (I've never read anything like it), so readable and so well-written all at the same time. You know how some books are easy to read but the writing is so lame you think, "They paid someone for this?" Or a book's narrative is so complex that it makes your brain hurt to read it? Smith's writing made me say, "I wish I were smart enough to write something like this."

The book comes out in the fall and you AND your kids AND your students will love it. Even if you hate to read, you will like this book.

This isn't a book snob writing this, it's a reader who was absolutely floored at how good this book is.

Nice words.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the order

So anyway.

My daughter, Chiara, was totally stoked on meeting Lisa Yee and getting her copy of Absolutely Maybe autographed. She was also totally stoked about buying EVERY Lisa Yee title in the store as well as getting the last copy of Robin Benway's Audrey, Wait!. So, the girl is all booked up for a while.

My son, predictably enough, was drooling all over the copy of Watchmen I got him, but I also tucked a copy of In Our Time in the bag, too.

And my wife got Christopher Moore's Fool. She's a huge Christopher Moore fan... has every one of his books.

What did I get?

Well, it's like this, cats:

This is a picture of Chiara and Jay Asher talking to Lisa. I paid a guy to go in and take the shot.

Notice the background:

Yeah... so my wife and kids loaded up on the free food and books on my tab, and I got an official court order from a little armless bunny.

Monday, March 9, 2009

unfortunate son


I wonder sometimes if I am a bad person.

Yesterday, I was kind of catapulted into a black-nano universe... like, the opposite of Drew Smith reality.

First of all, we had planned for quite some time to take my daughter, Chiara (who I am bent on marrying off to Jake from Stupid Blog Name), out to Pasadena so she could meet author Lisa Yee and get her copy of Absolutely Maybe signed.

You know... the yin to my yang bit... it's the whole girl book thing... and anything I can do to get her excited about reading is a done deal, even if it means playing pretend princesses and wearing pink wigs once in a while.

Okay... a little back story: The day before the Pasadena event, I was gone all day because I drove down to Santa Monica to watch some rugby matches (which is an incredibly manly thing to do on a Saturday). My son, who is fourteen (and not betrothed to anyone at the moment, although I have found myself thinking more and more frequently that a) he's about 6-foot-three; and b) wow... he really is going to need to find a bigger place to live pretty soon), hasn't bothered to change out of his pajamas since Friday night.

I wonder what that would be like.

No... wait... it is, after all, an integral commandment in The Code of Boy to do that kind of stuff. Ahhh... okay, I have decided that I, too, will NOT GET DRESSED for two days beginning tomorrow morning.

Anyway, my son, Trevin, was frantically typing away at a research paper about 2 hours before our departure to Pasadena. Oh yeah... still in pajamas.

Drew: Do you have to finish an entire essay?

Trevin: No. A research paper.

Drew: How long?

Trevin: Three to four pages, double-spaced.

Drew: Oh. That's nothing. What's the topic?

(Were this, indeed, a screenplay, there would be some very cryptic and tense music at this moment)

Trevin: It's about what women think, and what they would say about the world if they could see it today. We had to pick a famous dead woman from a long time ago and write about what they'd think about the world today.

Drew: Anthropomorphism with chicks??? For a fourteen-year-old boy??? GAH!!!

Trevin: Are you choking, Dad?

Drew: What class is that literary bowel movement for?

Trevin: English.

Drew: Does your teacher ever have you write about famous and dead men?

Trevin: (laughs) Um... no. Why? Did men ever contribute anything to literature?

Drew: Finish that paper, son. Even if you're still in your boxers, I'm dragging your ass down to Vroman's Books and getting you some Hemingway. GAH!!!

[exeunt omnes]

Sunday, March 8, 2009

measuring up

When I woke up this morning, it was really freekin cold outside. What's freekin cold for California? Probably around 26 degrees.

Fahrenheit, in case you're living somewhere that quantifies measurements in a snobbishly logical base-ten system.

And it's an hour earlier than it was at this time yesterday.

Unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii.

Or hell, where clocks undoubtedly stand still.

As a pretty routine-oriented guy, these jet lag days piss me off. There was an hour there yesterday, and it's not there today... and don't try to placate me by saying you're giving it back in October. Or November. Or whenever it is now. I hate that too.

So today, at an hour that would have been later if it happened yesterday, I am taking my daughter to Pasadena so she can see Lisa Yee and get her copy of Absolutely Maybe autographed.

She loved that book.

Prep the bunny, Lisa... I don't want to traumatize it again.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

from a "real" person

Okay. I separate readers into two categories. One of them, I call "real people."

I haven't thought of a name for the other one yet.

Real people are people who have absolutely no connection to writing, bookselling, or the publishing industry. Oh... and their last name can't be Smith. That doesn't make those of us in the other category fake, but maybe it serves to explain why I don't write reviews of books for general consumption.

(Oh... and as hypocritical as this may sound, I love it when people in the non-real people category review my books... just in case you wanted to... um... Stephen King or some dude like that. Heck... I'd even settle for the guy who wrote Gone.)

Anyway, I got an email yesterday from a real person who'd just read in the path of falling objects. So here's a bit of my first real review:

It isn't often that you get a read that is EASY, interesting, engaging (actually...enthralling, really) AND shows amazing writing ability. You know what I mean?

What you've done is make quality writing accessible. So many books are easy to read but the writing is truly horrendous (or sub par at best). in the path is going to be read by all ages and appreciated for a LOT of different reasons. This book could be used as a primer in a college creative writing class AND as a lit circle book for high school kids! And...it's gender neutral.

I need to gather my thoughts before I talk to you about the actual characters. I have a lot of questions.

This book feels like more than just a book.

Okay. I'll take that. From a "real" person.

Another real review should be up next week.

Friday, March 6, 2009

who it's for

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Susan Patron, the Newbery-winning author of The Higher Power of Lucky, at a dinner in Pasadena.

I’ve kind of been mulling over some of the comments Susan made in her inspiring speech that night, and now that the first galleys of in the path of falling objects are out, I’d like to talk a little bit about what she said.

Sorry if I get any of this wrong, Susan.

One of the things she spoke about was self-censorship… not just for the librarian who may be afraid to stock books that contain certain taboo subjects, or one who may hide Young Adult fiction in the adult shelves (don’t get me started on the whole YA thing), but also, to a broader extent, self-censorship and the writer.

Susan talked about why she writes… well, more specifically, who she writes for: Not her editor or the marketplace… she writes for herself. So I realized through her speech that writers who write for themselves frequently are also plagued by intense feelings of self-doubt.

Did I get the gist right, Susan?

At least, it made me feel real good to hear an author of her accomplishments say something like that. I was, like, wow… even she knows how I feel.

I thought about this because on a recent comment thread, I said that when I wrote in the path of falling objects, I didn’t think anyone would like it. I wrote it anyway. I had to. Couldn’t stop myself.

So, when initial reactions began coming in from people in the publishing industry, I was totally blown away. I was, like… really? and… why? And now that the first trickles of readers have gotten through the galleys and I’m hearing reactions from them… well, all I can say is I am totally blown away.

But I do mean that in a good way.

Sorry for the near-self-deprecation, and I'll shut up as soon as I say that I... well, forget it.

My favorite character from in the path of falling objects? Well, it's not Don (he doesn't say enough), and it's not the one most people would probably think... it's the kid who struggles with being good.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

the allusion illusion



One of the things I do in all my books is I throw some props out to great writers and great works of fiction and literature. Sometimes, I do this subtly... and sometimes it's right out there on display.

I guess English teacher or Lit professor types call this "literary allusion."

If you've read Ghost Medicine and in the path of falling objects, you probably picked these up (the former makes much more overt allusions than the latter). Obviously enough, here they are (in case you were wondering):

From Ghost Medicine: Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot and Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure, both of which I read -- on my own -- when I was about 16, just like Troy, the main character in Ghost Medicine, does.

I won't go into why, exactly, the protagonists and story arcs of these novels are important to my work, but they are both books I think boys should read.

Now, in both those books, there are some very understated allusions to Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano. You'd have to be quite a fan of Lowry's and read my books very closely, but I do give props to that novel in both my first works. It may not be such a widely-read work, but it did make a big impact on me when I read it as a teen.

From in the path of falling objects, there are lots of literary allusions... and most of them are pretty obvious. Here they are (I think I'm putting them in their order of appearance):

Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn... obviously enough, as is Cervantes' Don Quixote, and L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. And, near the end, there is a reference to my favorite all-time poem, The Emperor of Ice Cream, by Wallace Stevens.

If you've read in the path of falling objects, I bet you could go back and find that little bit.

I love that poem.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

the hard sell

It's time.

I have to have "the talk" with my son.

Yeah... I know, he's fourteen. But next year, in his Advance Placement English class, they're going to make him read Kate Chopin's The Awakening.

So... to prepare him for the castrating effects of state-run literacy programs, I've decided to get him some summer reading for his edification. I'm stocking up on the following, which he has not read yet, and I'm sure he'll love:

The Crossing -- Cormac McCarthy

Under the Volcano -- Malcolm Lowry

Light in August -- William Faulkner

Carry On, Jeeves -- P.G. Wodehouse

Those should keep his manhood fairly well protected.

I know. Weird list.

I love those books, though.

Speaking of which, my pregnant friend Sarah -- who doesn't read this blog, otherwise she would have had some choice zingers for me yesterday -- sent an email to me and two of my friends, John and Casey, in which she gave my first unsolicited review of in the path of falling objects:

(That bastard Smith) hit the money with this book. I know you're jealous that he's letting me read it first. (Prick), I know you tried to cover it up by implying that my being pregnant had something to do with it. Don't really get it, though. Implying that I'm hormonal? I'm sure that wasn't your intent.

Regardless....I am FEELING this book. I actually don't like it when books are made into movies, but this is a movie-friendly book for sure. I totally dig the characters and the narrative style. I'm almost halfway done, so I'm really hoping the ending doesn't piss me off.

Oh yeah... I'd NEVER write a book with an ending that would piss you off.

Glad you like it, Sarah.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

if it's tuesday, sarah must be pregnant

Randomness continues:

is expecting.

She's also not reading anything at the moment.

She begged me for my only copy of in the path of falling objects.

I caved.


That was my only copy.

But Sarah needs a good boy book. She teaches English. She's having a boy, and has the unsavory habit of recommending books like The Joy Luck Club and Like Water for Chocolate to teenage boys.

I am not kidding.


It's her first kid.

Welcome to boy.

NOTE: The books mentioned above are great books -- don't misunderstand me. They're just not always a good fit for teenage boys.

Update your reading list, SARAH.

SIDE NOTE: This is a first for me. Yesterday, the FedEx guy stopped by my house with a large envelope from Random House. It contained a very thoughtful handwritten fan letter from a listener of the audio version of Ghost Medicine.

I was totally blown away.

Also by the nice little note from Nevin Mays, the editor at Random House. Very thoughtful of both of them to actually take the time to get that into my hands. Of course, I keep things like this forever.

Thank you so much, Nevin and Rita for brightening my day.

ONE MORE THING... about my visit to the kids in Sandra Rayl's Creative Writing class. This comes up a lot, and it's one of my pet peeves. Formulas. Kids get them shoved down their throats all the time. How to write an essay: formulas (formulae?) for paragraphs... what kinds of sentences to use, and in which order. concretedetailcommentarycommentaryconcretedetail


Get over it. This stuff hurts our kids.

The one I hear most frequently, that bugs me the most, is the commandment-like belief among the vast majority of writers today that sentences have to be short and punchy... nothing beyond subject/verb... and an occasional object... but that's it. Or an editor will HATE YOU.

Well... guess what?

You're full of crap.

Guess what else?

There's a sentence in in the path of falling objects that has 106 words in it. You may want to read it twice. You'll probably want to close your eyes and have someone read it aloud. I meant this book to be read aloud... which is why I am really looking forward to the audio.

Guess what (times three)?

There's an ENTIRE CHAPTER in that book with only 13 words in it, too.

And it's three sentences long.

CALCULATE THAT, literary Einsteins.

It can be done.

Monday, March 2, 2009

random mondayness

My eyes are blurry.

I've been reading so much. I spent Saturday and Sunday reading my advance copy of in the path of falling objects. Interesting experience. First of all, while having one book of mine on the bookshelf was cool, having TWO, in less than a year, is really something else.

And I enjoyed reading it, too. I felt detached -- like a reader, and not the author. But I did find three minor things I wanted to change: one, a typo (God! I hate typos); the second, a word I'd like to leave out; and third, a change in a punctuation mark. But that's it. Pretty clean.

And, like I said, I liked the book, too. I almost felt like I didn't know how it was going to end. Maybe I've been doing too much other stuff in between writing this one and finally reading it for the first time.

When I visited the kids at Newbury Park last week, one of them asked me if it was difficult to write my own stuff while I was reading something else. My answer was that reading is the second half of writing -- that writers have to read constantly. So, no, I said, I have no problem with reading a good book while I'm working on my writing.

But I'll qualify that. I can't write something new if I'm reading a project I've completed. There's not enough distance between myself and the voices in my own books, if that makes any sense. I kind of mentioned that in an earlier post about reading a manuscript I'd sent off to Kelly... and so now that I was reading in the path of falling objects over the weekend, I had to table my current project for a couple days.


Oh. And speaking of the weekend, this has happened to me now for two Saturdays in a row. I thought there was some catastrophic recession on. So, being the rational self-maximizer that I am, on each of the past two Saturdays I tried to take my wife out to dinner to some really nice (and pricey) places.

I figured I'd get a table.

No luck.

What's up with that? Every time I read the papers or catch a news broadcast, it's all economic doom-and-gloom, but just TRY getting a table in a nice restaurant on a Saturday evening and it's like the freekin Gilded Age or something.

And yeah... I have a background in economics, so this observation is purely anecdotal, but... jeez! I actually had to tip just to get a table the other night.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

two weeks before the ides

Really, this is the part of the book journey that is the most fun: between the arrival of the first galleys and the release date.

There's something especially exciting about seeing a book you've worked on actually published and bound in its first incarnation... as an advance reader copy. But, as you can see, this ARC is particularly eye-grabbing, thanks to the edgy artistic styling of Rich Deas. That sounds like something you'd say about a lounge bar piano player, but... cool-looking design in any event, Rich.

Wait till you see his cover.

This is the second post of the day, and I'm keeping it short so I can proof the galley. So far, halfway through, I found one error and one word I want to strike out. So, pretty clean, I'd say.

The earlier post was a promo poster we had made for when I do author visits. We did a couple of them. I'm going to leave you with the one I like best:

in like a lion