Monday, November 30, 2009

it is time

I think it's time for another cartoon strip.

Maybe this week some time.

Today, I'm going to take pictures of some of the things kids have given me over the years, so they will probably be on here tomorrow.

Oh, and I'm going to be writing a piece for Scribblers Chronicle, a really cool new blog for writers, about where stories come from. I have a different theory than some (probably most) writers, which may explain my anti-brand philosophy, and why my books are so different from each other and from other things that are out there (which also explains why they've only been read by, like, three people).

[This paragraph, which I know would get me sent straight to hell, has been deleted]

This shouldn't seem as newsworthy... but, do I need to say I'm in a really bad mood?

Where's my iPhone?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

all suffering in one sunday

If you were one of the thousands of my fans jamming the switchboards at Facebook yesterday... yes, it's true, I was off Facebook from 11:55 a.m. until 12:07 p.m. California time.

That was twelve minutes. From now on, I'm going to try to not be on Facebook for at least one minute per month, so I figured I'd do a whole year's worth of suffering in one day.

It was difficult, but thanks to the support of my iPhone, I made it through.

See, I got this killer new app on my iPhone called The Doctor is In. It actually is a virtual therapist, but it doesn't charge you. And, exactly like a high-paid-oh-I-went-to-college-to-learn-how-to-solve-all-your-miserable-hangups therapist does, all it does is ask questions and provide no answers.

Here's a bit of the transcript:

TDII: How are you feeling today, Drew?

Drew (that's me): I can't seem to cope with anything.

TDII: Why do you suppose you can't cope with anything?

Drew: Because I'm burdened with guilt, a sense of self-loss, and intense episodes of doubt.

TDII: Tell me about your guilt, sense of self-loss, and intense episodes of doubt?

Isn't that AMAZING???

Who needs salvation when you have a fucking iPhone in your pocket?

Closest Thai food place? Want to know currency conversion for Tajikistan? Baby, we're all set.

I can't wait for the voice-activated version of The Doctor is In to come out, though, because when I was using it yesterday I accidentally crashed into a school.

Don't judge me.

It's a four-day weekend. The kids were all gone. Well, actually, they ran and hid as soon as I went through the chain link fence.

So what if I drove away?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

quick change

Two days ago, on Thanksgiving morning, I took this picture from the deck on my office. It was just a little past 6 a.m., I think, and the sun was just barely coming up.

Anyway, it was a remarkable day. And it was very warm compared to usual late-November days up here.

Well, in just two days, the weather has taken a pretty dramatic turn, and the tree has lost about half its leaves.

This morning, I did the usual routine: up early, working, coffee. At about 6, I took a break from my writing and went outside to feed the horses. There were flurries of snow blowing on the wind.

When I came back up to my office, I decided to take another picture of the tree, just as a kind of reminder about how quickly things can change.

It also reminded me that it's probably not a good idea to stand out on a deck in your socks when flurries of snow are falling.

So, I'm finishing this novel I've been writing for a while. Sometimes, I'll flip back (electronically -- I don't make a paper copy until it's completely finished and I need to "feel" its substance... weird, I know), and it's always remarkable how much change takes place from one chunk to the next... and how it's almost impossible to foresee when you just focus on a snapshot of the particular day your story is living in.

Friday, November 27, 2009

black friday

Here's your Black Friday Blog Special.

And it's all free.

First of all, it's pretty cool that people have actually used the suggestion box to ask questions. So, I am going to quickly answer one that was left for me yesterday: If you're trying to create a story, do you find yourself imagining how others will react to it?

Well... yes and no. I mean, for me, the only thing that matters is how I will react to it. I think I have pretty good taste in fiction, so I try to write for the toughest potential audience member I can think of: me.

That said, once I start something, and although I usually do have a general idea of how it ends in mind, the story and the characters frequently start going off in their own directions. As long as I see their direction as being steerable toward the ending I want to write, then I let them go.

Sometimes, though, they can do some pretty nasty things. Sometimes, they make me uncomfortable. And sometimes I have to rein them in just a little bit.

Okay, now for part 2 of your all-free Black Friday Blog special... here are three of my favorite lines from my recent (SEVENTH) novel (and, no, I am not going to say the title), that I am this close [holds up narrowly-gapped thumb and first finger] to finishing:

Cows don't listen very good.

In eighth grade, Physical Education was far less about fitness than it was about fitting.

"I drive at night. I blow things up."

Don't shop in anger.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

to grandmother's house

I have remarkably few family members who are genetically related to me (besides my son and daughter) that I ever see on holiday times. It's probably been a good ten years since that last happened.

But I realized this morning, when I was outside feeding the horses (and it is a perfectly beautiful morning here in the mountains) that I have several close friends that are making really long road trips today to have the big family experience.

And they're currently reading my book, in the path of falling objects, and taking it with them.

On the road.

For a long drive.

Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled that people are reading my book, but this book should have come with some kind of Road Trip Advisory label on the cover:

Warning: Not recommended to take this book over meadows and through woods.

Just saying.

Now, as far as today's private and quiet celebration is concerned... I would like to post a list of a few things for which I am thankful. I'd like to, but I'll keep them to myself.

Drive carefully.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

must make the whole "riding a bike" thing problematic

A reader writes that I should offer a blog entry on "Why schooling sucks and sucks the life beautiful out of all kids."

Well, okay. That's an interesting statement.

School doesn't just suck. It does worse things than that. In school, the teachers will actually cut your child's head open, remove their brain and personality with an ice cream scoop, and replace it with a quivering ball of lampreys, ticks, and leeches.

I've seen it happen.

School isn't indoctrination to the state, it's cooptation to averageness in disguise as achievement. We've averaged out and neutered our kids for the last thirty years. It's why college undergrads don't know the difference between their and there. It's why boys buy in to the idea that reading and writing are feminine pursuits. It's carried out five days per week as the institution of education bows down and sacrifices our youth on the bloody altar of Saint Jane Schaffer at the Church of the Immaculate Chunk Paragraph.

It's homework. Has there ever been anything less useful, and more destructive to a kid's development? Teachers assign it by the metric ton, expecting it to do something. But what it does is teach kids to get by. Yeah, that's what we want: the next generation, and the one after that, trained, programmed, in non-creative ways to just get by.

It started happening in the 1970s and hit its peak in the last ten years. The new Theology of of the Immaculate Chunk Paragraph stressed numbers, data, raw scores, and standardization, so not only would we leave No Child behind, we would compress the achievers into the mediocrity of the pack and tweak the scores of the stragglers so we could churn out this big, cohesive, and uniform blob of kids who had gotten by.

Is that what you mean?

Real teaching, genuine schooling, only requires two things, and nothing more: a teacher and a student. Maybe a tree for them to sit under.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

stupider than jupiter

Can we talk?


Let me tell you how stupid I am.

I am stupid. If stupid had a god, there would be churches built in my name.

If stupid was the size of Texas, I could pinch it between my cheek and gum and spit oceanic stupid spit blobs bigger than Jupiter.

If the universe consisted of only two things, an ass and a hole in the ground, my brain would be the vacuum in which they eternally floated, and I'd keep calling them both by the wrong names.

That's pretty dumb.

If rocks teased one another about their cognitive abilities, they'd use idioms like "Dumb as a box of Drew."

Let me explain.

Or not.

Monday, November 23, 2009

eyes will roll

I realize that I've written a couple times in the past about the ease with which I dismiss (especially) book bloggers who don't know how to write. My favorite blog opening line (I am not making this up): If your a author, than you better read this review."

I realize I have my shortcomings. I tried apologizing in advance for them, but many of you simply will not take a pay-it-forward approach toward excusing my transgressions.

Why the contrition? Well, over the weekend, I had a chance to look through the final copy edits for next year's The Marbury Lens. This is the last thing that happens to a manuscript before it goes off and gets typeset for galleys. [and, yes, the use of jargon there did kind of make me feel manly]

So, as I was looking through it (very carefully, I might add, because I want to be sure it is exactly what I sent off as my own "final"), I started thinking about what a copyeditor must think of dweebs like me:

This asshole doesn't even know the proper length of an em-dash.

[rolls eyes] Honestly, who isn't completely clear on when to write out numbers and when to use numerals?

[Aside: Was that even the proper use of the words "numbers" and "numerals"?]

The word is T-shirt, not "tee shirt," you fucking moron.

As a result, I have decided to start being nicer, to embrace each day and celebrate my body imbecile. I am throwing away the quiver of sharpened mental blue pencils I carry with me everywhere, replacing them with feathered, pink nerf-tipped arrows of tolerance and acceptance.

I think someone emptied a bottle of tequila into the coffee pot over night.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

hottest writing babes. ever.

Okay, yesterday I noticed this ridiculous piece on "She Knows Dot Com" that ranked the five sexiest (and one honorable mention) male authors alive.

All I can say is, man... good thing "She Knows Dot Com" did that, because those poor guys would probably never get laid if they didn't. Oh... and zen-like moment... when I logged in to the page, the first ad in the upper-right corner beside the story was an advertisement for toilet cleaner.

It was like saying, "Hey gals, after you're finished reading about the five (plus one honorable mention) sexiest male authors alive, you can get back to work and clean the fucking toilets."

Ah, marketing.

You know, I really despise stuff like this. But someone's got to do it. Who, if not me -- the REAL Andrew Smith -- will stand up on behalf of the hottie chicks who write? Unlike "She Knows Dot Com," though, my list spans the ages of smokin'-hotness. I don't care if they're alive or not. I'm a guy, after all. We like pictures.

So here, without further discourse, is my list of the five (with one honorable mention) all-time hottest babes who ever strained themselves putting pen to paper:

Number 5: Carson McCullers

Half-empty, or half-full? Hmm...

Number 4: George Eliot

George also appears on another list: "Authors who wear their own body weight in clothing."

Number 3: Harriet Beecher Stowe

That is one. serious. part.

Number 2: Gertrude Stein

I've finally found my definitive answer to Facebook's "Which celebrity do you look like?" poll.

Number 1: Sarah Palin

Are you kidding me? Pure. Smokin'. Hotness. Until she talks, that is.

Honorable Mention: Virginia Woolf

I had a dream about her the other night. Seriously.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

bad things - good people

Something must be in the air. This topic seems to be coming up from everywhere around me lately. We discussed it at the book club meeting I attended on Wednesday, I heard a remark about it from a college professor, and I've received a couple email messages about it, as well.

It's this: Why do bad things happen to good people in all of your books?

Well, I'm no theologian, and I'm not a psychologist, either, but I'll try to answer this in as soothing a manner as possible, for those of you who always expect good to chase good and bad to consume bad.

I never knew a good person in my life who didn't suffer through some bad events. Sometimes, those things are even horrifying.

In my own life, I probably have enough of those experiences stored up for a dozen or more books, not that I'm necessarily claiming to be a "good" person.

It would be comforting to know, to really know, that there is some great cosmic scorekeeper out there, whose job it was to make sure that good things are tallied up for the good, and bad things cumulate upon evil people, but I haven't seen any evidence of that on this trip around the planet; and I have to write about what I know (or think I know).

That's also why I don't have bad guys with absolutely no human qualities, or good guys without flaws and weaknesses in my books, either.

Which brings us back to a topic that came up earlier this week: writing for kids. Not to overestimate my contribution, but writing for Young Adults is particularly rewarding because it gives us the opportunity to set down everything we want succeeding generations to know about. My own belief is that we have an ultimate responsibility to tell the truth, which is a task that can definitely be accomplished in the context of fiction.

It's what I want my own kids to know, even after I'm not around to tell them.

Oh... and there is always the opportunity for redemption in my books, so don't think that I am completely and hopelessly pessimistic about the human experience.

A couple of months ago, though, I was accused by one (aspiring) writer of being a "bad parent," because of some of the situations that occur in my books (both those that are current releases and those soon-to-be-released). There are sexual situations, underage drinking, smoking, occasionally some drug use, and in The Marbury Lens there is some pretty adult language, too.

If you grew up or live in a place where teens don't do all of that stuff, let me know. I'd love to visit.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Yesterday, I received a link to a story on the Examiner website about last Friday's appearance at Books Inc in San Francisco.

I was surprised at how coherent and sane the article makes me appear. Whenever I do these things, I kind of black out, and if there is no record of what transpired, who knows what the hell I said or did?

This can be particularly unnerving if I "come to" and am covered in blood and my clothing is tattered.

In any event, I have to say that yesterday I was so exhausted that I could hardly squeeze out any words at all. This is not a good thing, and even though I may force myself to do it, working under those kinds of conditions is not a good way to extract quality.

Well, the weekend is here.

And here is the link to the Examiner story. It really is very nice, and thank you, Barbara Bell.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

driven to

Last night, which rapidly became this morning, I attended a meeting of a nameless but impressive book club, all of the members of which had read in the path of falling objects.

Now this is a club who does it right, with many of the attendees dressed as characters from the book, mini statues of Don Quixote, meteorites, and scorpions under glass on display. So... big thanks for having me.

We had a great time, and a very lively discussion of the book... and I got to sign lots of copies, which is always fun.

We also talked a bit about my next books, and I was kind of disappointed because I had gotten too busy during the day to swing around my home and pick up a copy of The Marbury Lens. I had planned on reading them the opening few pages, just so they could start thinking about one of their 2010 club selections (They hosted me for Ghost Medicine last year).

It's kind of remarkable how quickly time goes by. Today, I am going to be receiving the final version of The Marbury Lens before the galley pages get run, and I understand that an actual cover is being designed, too (right???).

So, here, just for the nameless book club, I offer a teaser, the first few paragraphs from The Marbury Lens:

I guess in the old days, in other places, boys like me usually ended up twisting and kicking in the empty air beneath gallows.

It’s no wonder I became a monster, too.

I mean, what would you expect, anyway?

And all the guys I know – all the guys I ever knew – can look at their lives and point to the one defining moment that made them who they were, no question about it. Usually those moments involved things like hitting baseballs, or their dads showing them how to gap sparkplugs or bait a hook. Stuff like that.

My defining moment came last summer, when I was sixteen.

That’s when I got kidnapped.

When we were working on the edits, right here, on the page, my editor wrote, "I dare anyone to put this down after that."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

three a.m.

Sartre said that three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.

So I was asked, as I frequently am, what advice I would give to young people who want to grow up, evolve, attain the splendor that is... well... ME, and become writers.

I said, "Get up at three in the morning."

If you can't get up at three in the morning and start writing, then you're a puss and you should give up on all your dreams immediately.

I think you should consider what is implicit in the preceding admonition.

I think the human soul has the loosest attachment to the body at three in the morning. That's why so many people seem to die right around that time. That, and all those goddamned drunks on the roads in California.

Today, about fifteen minutes ago, I stood outside in my back yard and watched meteors.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

my audience

Okay. So the thing is, I don't write books for Young Adults.

I don't write books for anyone. I write them for me. If that sounds selfish or egotistical, I can handle that. But I think if I spend any amount of time pre-considering things like who, other than myself, is going to want to read my next story, then it follows that I'll be thinking about which part of the bookstore my book will end up in, and then a trip to the local big-chain national retailer is in order, then I start concocting a scheme to weave vampires and magic into my book, since this, apparently, is what "Young Adults" want, and then I am no longer a writer, but something more along the lines of... well... a whore.

I don't mean that in a necessarily bad way, but that's how it is.

So, when that kid asked about my credentials for writing for Young Adults, I think he was expressing his own confused ability to distinguish between the two professions mentioned above.

I just write books. I never intended any of them to be "for" any narrow segment of readership. In fact, I don't think I really even knew there was such a thing as "Young Adult Fiction" when I wrote -- and sold -- my first novel. I just wrote a book.

There are lots of people who've said to me that in the path of falling objects is not YA. Okay. It doesn't matter to me what you want to call it. It's just a book.

Just wait until the next one, The Marbury Lens. My friend Yvonne tells me she is living for the letters I'm going to get about it. I'd say why, but I don't really want to start getting those letters until after the book comes out. And I truly do not know what I'd call it... other than a book.

Monday, November 16, 2009

to go home

There are few things more turn-offy to me than when I stumble upon a book blog where the author is ranting (usually effusive crap about how much they love some new book about a fairy who falls in love with a vampire), and the author of the blog obviously can't distinguish between there and their, or then and than.

Does it matter?

Um. Well, "inventive spelling" is all well and good, I suppose. It allows today's hyper-uptight and rigidly conservative (oh, they think they are so clever and classless and free... and that's another topic entirely) young folk to get in touch with their vampire-loving-fairy selves, but, yes, it does matter.

When teachers, mentors, adults, etc. make allowances for "inventive" uses of spelling and grammar... well, it's kind of frightening to imagine what we'd tolerate as "inventiveness" in other disciplines.

How about "inventive" cooking. Just because it's hot and comes from a pan, you should eat it, right? Or "inventive" gall-bladder surgery. Well, as long as we know what the surgeon or the chef were intending to mean.

When I was in San Francisco, a very bright young man asked a question to the panel of authors that kind of (no... effusively) contained some back-door jabs at us, and, I have to say that the authors who tried to address his question ahead of me seemed to have entirely missed his not-so-subtle agenda. He proposed, among other things, that

1) You shouldn't write books for Young Adults if you are old enough to have voted in the last election, and

2) The youth of today, with whom authors who are currently old enough to have voted in the last election are completely out of touch, are very progressive, open-minded, liberal, free-thinkers who refuse to be constrained by the rigid conventions of the older generation's expectations.

Of course, he didn't say it as brilliantly as I just did, but, then again, he doesn't realize who within that panel of five he was trying to fuck with, either.

So, I'm going to get to his assertion, the there and their, then and than debate, and other "target audience" issues coming up this week.

Old fuckers, take note.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

sunday in san francisco

Yesterday was one of those perfect days in San Francisco.

I got to hang out with my good friend, jdh, whom I've known for decades, and I even got to talk to his sister who lives down in the LA area, and I haven't seen in, like, almost 20 years.

So, Megan, I am bringing a book for you.

And we will do coffee.

Last night, I took a cab back to my hotel. I stayed out way too late for the second night in a row. The cab driver got lost. He was an idiot.

Oh well, that's what I get for falling asleep in the back seat of a cab after midnight in San Francisco.

The nice thing is, after I complained, the cab company promised they'd send my shirt and pants back to me by Fed Ex if they ever find them.

Now that's what I call customer service.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

bay area

Last night, as the picture at the bottom will show, we had a terrific turnout for "Not Your Mother's Book Club" at Books Inc. in San Francisco.

All told, it was a remarkable evening/overall experience, particularly the after-event dinner party because I got to connect with new friends, and with a terrific and close friend whom I hadn't seen in nearly 20 years. Amazing.

And I was, as I promised, prepared.

But not to follow Barry Lyga.

Barry started off the evening with a reading from his newest Goth Girl Rising, and it's, like, really funny, so the crowd was all warmed up and chuckly and stuff. And so I'm sitting there, thinking, like, holy crap... how can I do a reading from my intense psycho book after that??? The only thing that could have possibly been worse is if Barry actually gave out Legos.


He did.

At least he didn't have a shopping cart full of free Chihuahua puppies.

Luckily, we managed to go boy-girl-boy-girl, etc. and Sara Zarr braved the podium to face the all-smiles-and-laughter crowd with a bit from her Once Was Lost.

All I can say is, thanks for being the set-up-man, Sara... and you write incredibly beautiful prose.

So, yeah... I got to read. And I seriously believe I freaked some people out with my shotgun here's-a-bit-there's-a-bit reading style, not to mention the ultra-creepy content. Oh well... it was fun. I got to sign lots of books, received a free choking-hazard Lego toy from Barry, and got to meet and listen to Allen Zadoff (whose very funny Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have has recently been released), and L.K. Madigan, who read from her Flash Burnout and her forthcoming fantasy (sans title) about surfing and mermaids.

Thank you so much, Books Inc.

Friday, November 13, 2009


I never feel like I'm ready.

Today, I am flying up to San Francisco for a few days.


Be there.

I will be at Books Inc. on Van Ness in Opera Plaza (take the California Street Cable Car to Van Ness and go that way).

At 7:00 p.m.

With L.K. Madigan, Allen Zadoff, Barry Lyga, and Sara Zarr.

Yes, they are real writers, who, for whatever reasons, are likely obligated to fulfill some probation-related community service and appear in public with a moron.

My friend, Yvonne, said something last night about me "reading." And I'm, like, holy shit! I have to read???

So I stayed up.

All night.

Worrying about what I would read.

Now I have some stuff.

Stuff from in the path of falling objects... surprise stuff, too.

That, and a fistful of No-Doz.

Bring it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

the world series

Yesterday, I had a terrific online back-and-forth with author Lia Keyes about series novels. One of the things that triggered the discussion was a comment Lia made about structure, and, in particular, the first book in a series.

Lia said that pulling off a suspenseful story and a satisfying ending for the first in a series is not an easy feat to pull off.

And this is exactly the problem that most series have. Why? Well, to me the answer is most likely that unsatisfying endings and awkward timing, story arc, and resolution of conflict are usually due to the fact that the author of the LAME-ASS series in question started off with this preconceived notion in the author's mind: Oh, I am going to write a series, and make a fabulous amount of money, just like that wizard and vampire chick did.

So, they start with the goal: series, as opposed to simply having a good, well-constructed story in their heads.

This is why I am generally anti-series, and it has to be REALLY GOOD to get me to first even consider picking up the initial installment, and, second, to pick up the next ones after that.

(Michael Grant, I am NOT baiting you... see concluding paragraphs)

The key, unavoidable, inescapable, is that the author has to develop a heroic protagonist -- warts and all -- one that the author obviously loves; and one who readers will fall in love with, too.

I will admit, openly, that I had in mind a sequel to The Marbury Lens when I wrote that novel. The funny thing is that I wrote about half of a "second installment" to that book, but then got entirely waylaid when the novel that I am currently writing just started coming out of my hands during October. And this is the one. So, no big deal. And I don't know if I will go back to that follow-up to Jack's story, and what really happens in Marbury or not, because I don't need to if I don't want to.

Because the book has a goddamned ending.

The hardest time I had with The Marbury Lens was that the protagonist, Jack, is so wounded and he is -- rightfully -- very angry. Anger is a turn-off to readers, so I had to make sure that they, and I, would be totally in Jack's camp for this rather lengthy book. I think I pulled it off, but, because of what happens to Jack, readers truly get to see his weaknesses, flaws, and ugly side. Deep down, he's a good guy, and a genuine friend.. but he's pretty messed-up by what happens to him.

Most importantly, series novels have to stand on their own. They have to have real endings that give the reader some sense of completion of each stage of the journey. I recently read a series opener that had the trifecta of crappiness:

1.) I didn't care about the hero.

2.) The ending wasn't an ending... it was a "see you next year, kiddies."

3.) I didn't care about the hero.

Did I mention I didn't care about the hero?

Just checking.

An example of a good series that really has great characters -- warts and all -- is Michael Grant's Gone, Hunger, and I am looking forward to Lies. I really like the characters, and they all definitely have flaws, even the "good guys," and, most importantly, the books stand up on their own. They do not leave you hanging, but they do want you to stick around to see what happens next.

Lesson to authors: Tell the story first. Worry about spending the royalties later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

another drive-by random oops

My son is downstairs listening to a live Clash LP.

Our water heater broke yesterday.

I do not do things like replace water heaters or garbage disposals (which broke a while ago, but if you can't live without a garbage disposal, there is something seriously wrong with you).

I don't expect my plumber to write novels, either.

If you saw how much I paid to get a new water heater and garbage disposal, you'd probably tell me I should give up writing and take up water heaters and garbage disposals.

Yesterday, I received a strangely random email. I responded to the sender about why he chose to ask these particular questions to me (if it had something to do with my blog, my website, books, if he had seen me speak in public, if, maybe, he was a former cellmate) -- because I didn't recognize his name, either (maybe, he is yet another card-carrying member of the mass of humanity who thinks I am the real Andrew Smith)...

Anyway, I haven't received anything in the way of a response from him, so I'm going to take this opportunity to paste in a portion of his email with my response.

His email subject line was "Neglected Male Readership."

Here's what he asked,

Are publishers, editors, and agents in the children's lit field less receptive to male narrators (and male subject matter) where there is a science/science fiction focus? Perhaps the preponderance of non-males in this field has something to do with it.

First, the first part (conveniently enough): No. I think publishers, editors, and agents are simply not receptive to bad writing, whether or not the work has any male voice, science, or sci-fi content. That said, I do believe that it is common in any business firm to project future sales on current trends, and this may have something to do with the stacks and stacks of vampire books and watered-down chick lit in the YA section of booksellers. It has sold in the past, sells currently, so why make room for titles that offer different content? That's just business.

I do see a new trend emerging, though, and I've run into so many librarians, teachers, readers, and even booksellers in the last year who are eagerly seeking out books for boys, particularly, books for teen boys... so, look out. We will be seeing a changing landscape in the YA section of chain booksellers, but it's going to take a long time for that to happen.

Now, for the second part: What do you mean by "non-male?" There are lots of things I can think of that are non-male.

Electric toasters, for example.

Definitely non-male.

If you mean "women," then you should say it. Yeah, there are lots of chicks in the writing/publishing industry. I'm good with that. But, I don't agree with the non-male statement. How about, for example, Scott Westerfeld, D.J. MacHale, Michael Grant, Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, Brian James, Neil Gaiman (whoever that is) and...

ME, the real Andrew Smith?

Just to name a scant few (guys who wouldn't let me was their cars). I love working with women... in publishing, editing, marketing, and as fellow authors. And I've (personally) never had any trouble at all having my male-narrated, male-oriented work picked up.

Keep plugging away, dude. You'll get there, too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

the head on the door

Here's another thing.

Every time I make an appearance, or sit on a panel with other authors, we invariably are asked to talk about our writing processes -- the wheres, whens, and hows.

In fact, recently, another author who was sitting on a panel with me called me insane. I like that. I do my best writing before 6 AM. It's hard to explain it, but at that time of day, when I've just woken up and have a cup of coffee with me, and everyone is totally asleep, the words just kind of write themselves. Many times, I'll write things that I totally didn't foresee writing at all, and then I'll look back on those words later on in the day and think, damn, where did this come from?

I can write in the afternoon, too, but around 4 PM is the cutoff. At 4 PM the words are a struggle and I feel like I really have to try to get content out. 4 PM is only good for spell-checking and editing stuff that I've done earlier in the day.

I know a lot of writers who write at night. I even know one who closes himself behind a curtain like the Wizard of Oz.

Me... I like 3 AM.

Monday, November 9, 2009

week of many weekends

This week is, in my opinion, structured correctly:

It began with a weekend. A good, unwind-y sort of weekend because I got to stay home. I almost forgot how much I like staying home and unwinding. So I got a lot done. Wrote a lot. Played a "word war" with a couple other writers that helped me write even more, and I unwound.

Some writers like to unwind by doing self-destructive things. Not me. Not this weekend.

Here was my calculus for weekend unwinding:

Remote-controlled indoor micro-helicopter with flashing lights and machine gun sound effects

plus uptight cats

equals relaxation.

So, I'm wondering if I really need to be honest when my daughter asks me, "Daddy, why won't the cat come out from under the washing machine?"

Then, on Wednesday, we have another weekend as we celebrate Veterans (Armistice) Day. All weeks should be like this. Especially because on Friday, I will be flying up to San Francisco for the third weekend of the week.

More on the week of many weekends to follow...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

something new

I finally figured out what was going wrong in uploading changes to the website. Seems like every time I do, there's some kind of all-new compatibility issue.

And, after a couple hours of work, I found the simplest and most efficient means for changing the content... and I was like, duh, I should have done this months ago.

That said, the Ghost Medicine Website has been updated with new content, reviews, and some great pictures, too. Now that I've got it down, I'll be doing it a lot more frequently in the future, so you can look for some uploads from San Francisco next weekend (or, perhaps, from a jail in San Francisco).

So, by all means, visit Ghost Medicine now.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

something completely different

A couple things today:

First, I am incredibly honored to find my latest novel (last month's release), in the path of falling objects, appearing on the YALSA/ALA list of nominees for 2010 "Best Books for Young Adults."

I am also very happy for all my friends whose works also are showing up on that list.

I believe this calls for a party of some kind.

The other day, an acquaintance finished reading in the path of falling objects (she had read Ghost Medicine last year, when it came out). She said something like, "Wow, this is completely different than your first book."

Well... yeah.

What do you expect?

I just can't write the same thing with the same characters and problems, but only different names and locations over and over. I know a lot of writers who do, and I suppose it's one way to cultivate dedicated followers. But its BORING.

To me, that's when writing becomes something of an assembly line job.

So, yeah, in the path of falling objects IS completely different. All of my books are, and it's one of the reasons why I freak out so much when they're finished and I send them in to my agent and editor (two of the best people in the world, I might add). I mean, if the last one was "good" (Ghost Medicine was named a BBYA for 2009), and this one is different... well, what's "different" from "good?"

That's why I freak out and lose sleep every time I send something in. I never know how people will take it.

So, if you think in the path of falling objects is "different" ... well, holy shit... just wait till you get a copy of The Marbury Lens next fall. In fact, I think quotes like "holy shit" appeared in several communications I received back from New York City after I subbed that book a few months ago.

You have Ghost Medicine that's kind of a poetic fable, in the path of falling objects that's kind of a thrill ride with a psychopath, and, coming up, The Marbury Lens that will scare the shit out of you and make you wonder whether or not our world is actually real, if there actually is any balance between guilt and innocence, good and evil, and also, after that, Winger, part comic book, funny, introspective, angsty, and, ultimately very sad... and THEN, to top it all off, what I am writing at the moment, which, I needn't say, is completely different from all those previous trips.

Finally, I'd really like to say that in the last year since Ghost Medicine was released, I've gotten to go to so many libraries and meet and spend time with librarians all over the country. I think there is a vast underappreciation for what librarians really do. They don't just put books in order, check them out, and scowl at noisemakers... they connect living souls of all ages to written words, and I've seen some damn good ones in action this past year, and it blows me away.

Librarians... you rock. And to those responsible for taking the time to nominate in the path of falling objects for the 2010 ALA/YALSA BBYA, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Remember, the Ghost Medicine Website is going to have some cool changes and updates added on this weekend, so check in every once in a while.

You can see the complete current list of BBYA 2010 nominated titles here.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Well, this time, I think, I avoided the crash. Having totally, completely finished work on next year's The Marbury Lens, I am now deeply involved in another project -- my NaNo novel, so to speak, even though I have no intention whatsoever of participating in NaNoWriMo. Oh, and when I get like this, I also know pretty much to the day when I will have a finished and deliverable manuscript. And although I will exceed the NaNo goal of 50,000 words by the end of November (50,000 words is a blog post, in my opinion), I believe this latest project will be finished in December.

Here's why I don't sleep much: Because during the hours when I'm supposed to sleep, I will usually wake up with a sudden scene-view of something that hasn't yet happened in my manuscript. And then I'll lie there and think about it, detail after detail, until I get out of bed, make the coffee, and start working again.

What can I do?

When I was a kid, I attended a couple elementary school grades in Northwestern Washington state, on the banks of the Puget Sound. It's a really good place to set a book.

Oh... and, by the way, since I get to be home this weekend, I promise promise promise to put some new stuff on the Ghost Medicine Website by Sunday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

number 313

Today is the 309th day of 2009. And this is my 313th blog entry for the year, more than one per day, with just 56 more days left until 2010, the year in which my third novel, The Marbury Lens is to be released.

That's a lot of numbers. And I fully intend to get beyond the 365 post mark by December 31.

By the way, I have a particular fondness for the number 313. I'm kind of into numbers, but not in an especially creepy way like Mitch, the bad guy from in the path of falling objects.

In Italy, where I spent a lot of time growing up, the number 13 is a lucky number. In fact, my aunt Fernanda gave me a silver 13 charm on my 18th birthday, which I spent, obviously enough, in Italy.

Next Friday (Friday the 13th), I will be appearing at the Opera Plaza location of Books Inc. in San Francisco for their fall 2009 Not Your Mother's Book Club, at 7:00, along with all those incredibly notable authors listed on the poster at the top of this blog (number 313).

I'll also be flying on an airplane to San Francisco that morning. Which is better, I am convinced, than flying on anything else. Except, maybe, a pterodactyl. That would be cool. That would make me feel confident and capable.

And I'll be downing a fistful of tranks, too... but not because of the flight, nor because of the date, but because appearing with REAL authors always makes me nervous. It's a certainty that I will be immeasurably dorky in their presence.

I have lots of friends in San Francisco.

Or, maybe I'm deluding myself into thinking that and they actually are friends with other Andrew Smiths whom I happen to resemble, but are all fully capable of behaving with a certain ineffable and suave maturity when they are in the presence of REAL authors.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

identity crisis

Okay. This one goes out to any of the other, impostor Andrew Smiths out there.

You're going to have to change your names.

Just about once every-other-week, I'll receive some kind of email, Facebook message, or friend request from someone who thinks I am a different Andrew Smith. I have a couple thoughts on this:

1.) Really? You just look up a name like Andrew Smith on some web-based directory and bam! the first one that comes up has to be your guy? Really?

2.) Oh, and I've been told that I "look like Andrew Smith," too. I am not shitting you, I have really been told that. Well, guess what? There's a reason why I look like Andrew Smith.

3.) This is the tough one -- Considering my tentative grasp on reality, sometimes I really do wonder if the person sending me the email in question, spilling their guts out about people I "know" and things we "did" -- sometimes I really begin to wonder if I really do know those people and really did do those things. Really.

This has been a particular annoyance because I've spent so much time recently writing a book about a guy who doesn't know if a) the things that are happening to him are really happening, and b) the people that he knows are actually real people.

So you can see my dilemma.

I'm going to have to contact "my people" and start proceedings against the fraudulent Andrew Smiths out there. This is my final warning: change your names.

Unless you actually do happen to be me.

As a mater of fact, here's a picture of a message I received just yesterday (I blotted out the ID of the sender). By the way, I still wonder if, maybe, I really do know what the hell this person is talking about:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

head popping

There is a term in writing, often used as criticism, called "head popping." It refers to passages that are written where the point of view keeps popping from one character to another. Obviously, this is particularly bad writing if the author doesn't realize it, if it's unintentional.

Of course, this is intentional and necessary in my novel in the path of falling objects, and the POV shifts are completely obvious because other elements such as voice and tense change as well.

So let me tell you what's making me crazy right now: it's happening to me. Popping head syndrome. Here's the lowdown... we are currently finishing the final manuscript of The Marbury Lens, but I have a few pages of work to insert into the final copy this week.

Normally, that would be no problem, but I am also totally wrapped up in writing this other novel at the same time. Since my books are so intensely personal and character-driven, the head popping that's going on between Jack, the brooding, self-destructive, and wounded protagonist of The Marbury Lens (who I totally love, by the way) and the more innocent and wonder-struck protagonist of the novel that is currently taking over my life (and head) (and, by the way, I will not talk about the title or any of the elements of this book yet) is totally, totally, totally making me lose sleep and go completely insane.

And the only way I can keep both of these voices alive is to work constantly and try to shake my head empty every time I jump the track from one ride to the other.

In the end, I will win.

I swear I will update the Ghost Medicine Website with new schedule information and pictures this weekend, after this head condition clears up.

Monday, November 2, 2009

sweating a confession

I am back.

Kind of.

At least in my case, being away from home for a number of days always makes me feel totally overwhelmed by work when I come back. And probably for a good reason, too. I need some days off to recover from my days off.

And I know there is a priority of things that need to be addressed, but there is




that I can't get away from. It just happened now, as a matter of fact. I wish there was some kind of interactive software that would allow for electric shocks to be sent through office chairs if you click on the icon of the



that is getting in the way of your other work.

I will toil through. I have no choice. The time change is still messing up my brain.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

time change

Okay. So as you can see, just a little thing like [insert additional hour here] can really throw off my rhythms.

I do not like spring-ahead-fall-back at all. I could care less about the origins of the practice, or any justification for its continuation. All I know is that when human beings screw around with time, which is undoubtedly the glue that holds together the universe together, you're asking for trouble.

So, quit it.

Now. [which would have been an hour later if this was yesterday]

So, not only do time changes throw me off, but when you combine a time change with having been tasered to sleep and then waking up in jail, well, all I can say is my whole productive day (which is one hellish hour longer than it should be) has been shot to hell.

I will regroup.

I will be back.

But it will probably be a hell of a lot earlier than I was planning.