Sunday, October 31, 2010

pseudole oculum

In honor of Halloween, a haunted post of sorts...

Here's a great question a friend recently asked about The Marbury Lens -- and it's a question that nobody else had ever come close to posing before.

He asked: If you were Jack or Conner, would you be able to resist going back to Marbury?

Well, and this relates entirely to the astronaut posting of a couple days ago... yes, of course I would go back. How could I stop myself? I go back every night when I'm lying in bed, trying to go to sleep. That's what the book is really all about. [Note: I do not have to "try" to go to sleep. I have no problem doing that at all, as a matter of fact.]

The Marbury Lens isn't a story about putting on some tripped-out glasses and stepping into an alternate universe. The novel is about the inability to let go of things, the compulsion to revisit the events from the past that screw you up, wondering how different things might be if you were born someone else. And all those discomforting issues are wrapped up nicely inside a thick coating of self-doubt, teenage rage about being ignored, the adolescent wondering about sexuality, if you're normal, being afraid of connecting with someone and exposing your vulnerabilities; and all of this while imagining yourself -- as teenagers naturally do -- as the center of the universe.

Yeah... welcome to Marbury, Jack. Save a seat for me.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

first string

I've written a few times this past week about all the people involved in putting out a book like The Marbury Lens, and I want to say just a couple more things about them. First, I am certain that I've neglected to mention everyone who works at Macmillan who had a hand in this project, and, for that, I apologize. And, second, (and I think this may be unique in the writing/publishing business), I have actually, personally, met these people, and they are fun to hang out with. It's an honor to know them.

But I have yet to mention the first string on Team Marbury, the ones who play an incredibly important (and understated) role in getting the book onto the shelf. They are my wife, Jocelyn, my son, Trevin, and my daughter, Chiara.

They really do have to endure a lot, and they're usually pretty understanding about my insistence they not bother me, walk near me, or make any attempt at talking to me when I am working, which is probably way too much of the time.

And this reminds me of something, too. Just the other day when I posted something about the people at Macmillan who send me books and stuff, I got a nice big box of new paperback copies of Ghost Medicine from Jessica Tedder at Square Fish. The books are going to be released on the same day as The Marbury Lens, and I do plan on posting something about how amazing these new paperback releases of mine look and feel. But that's coming up later...

So, okay... my wife picked up one of these new paperbacks of Ghost Medicine and began reading it. Remember if you will that I've mentioned numerous times on here that nobody ever reads my stuff until it's published, which means that although I'd written Ghost Medicine in 2004, my wife and kids didn't read it until it came out, in 2008.

Anyway, as she started reading it, she said something like Hey! It doesn't say this in the original version...

And I'm, like, say what?

And she goes, The original one doesn't say it's for me and the kids.

So, I'm like... woah... my wife never noticed that my first novel was dedicated to her and our children. I say, yes... it does say that.

And she grabbed a hardback copy of Ghost Medicine to confirm it.

So she's gone all this time not knowing that. I guess a lot of readers skip things like dedications, acknowledgments, and even prologues. I don't fault anyone for doing those things, but I read everything inside books.

I just can't help but wonder if she's been seething all this time about books that I've published and dedicated to non-wife, non-child human beings.

Oh well. Like I said, they put up with a lot.

Friday, October 29, 2010


There are two kinds of people in this world: People who believe there are two kinds of people, and people who don't.

Do you believe that?

And among those kinds of people are people who would willingly sit in a small capsule, strapped on top of a rocket ship, and blast off for space in spite of an awareness -- a likelihood -- that they may never come back.

If there is a thread that consistently runs through the things I write, a string theory that stitches my universe together, it probably has a lot to do with that idea.

There is something self-destructive in that compulsion.

My most reluctant astronaut, Troy, from Ghost Medicine, laments about his sacrifice, the trade-offs, giving up pieces of himself in exchange for an uncertain future. Jonah, the protagonist of In the Path of Falling Objects, a kind of wandering ascetic who knows he will never come back, is definitely more resigned to the lift-off, but is prepared to make the best of his trip.

And then there's Jack, from The Marbury Lens. He's terrified of the journey, but there's no reason he can come up with NOT to go. So he keeps climbing back onto that spaceship, never expecting things to get better, and finding an element of twisted, self-deprecating humor when his expectations are unfailingly met. Fuck you, Jack, he tells himself, time and again.

They ask me this with consistency: all these protagonists are me.

I am the type of person who would willingly get aboard that rocket ship, and I would do so with a certain degree of confidence that I won't ever make it back.

I think about this all the time; even more frequently now that The Marbury Lens is just days away from its release.

Like those three characters in my first novels -- and Stark McClellan, too, from Stick, my fourth -- I have spent all this personal currency, burned off a store of propellant that I'd kept locked away, and now I can't get it back. And I can't come home, either.

Writing is probably more like disappearing, evaporating, blasting off and never coming back to where you were, than anything else. That is a conservative estimate of the truth, I think.

And there is no room for regret on a rocket ship. Troy, Jonah, Jack, and Stark would all tell you that.

What did you always want to be when you grew up?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

sea and air

There are still some more members of Team Marbury who need to be mentioned here, and I know I'll end up neglecting to name others who were involved in bringing this incredibly taxing project onto the shelf.

Elizabeth Fithian, Jessica Tedder, and Ksenia Winnicki are my big go-to people when I need a favor and don't know who else to ask, like sending out some books to me or to deserving folks out there in the blogosphere and other alternate universes. And I know how hard they work, just based on the hour of the day when they send emails to me (we are on opposite ends of the country).

There is a name at the very back of the book that makes me feel a little sad and nostalgic: Allison Remcheck, who has moved away from New York and gotten married to some incredibly fortunate person. Allison will always be known as my "first fan." I think she was the first person in the Flatiron Building to read my debut novel, Ghost Medicine. But, more than that, any time I felt particularly crazed, like I do right now, I could send her an email and she'd know exactly how to talk me in from the ledge.

Then there is Dave Barrett, the managing editor, who is really funny and cool and should have no patience at all with people like me, but always manages to make me laugh about things in his limitless enthusiasm for letting people know exactly how he feels. He must be a real kick to work with.

Things wouldn't happen if you didn't have people like Nicole Liebowitz Moulaison, production manager, working on the team. And production also relies on the terrific contributions from Kathleen Breitenfeld and copy editor Anne Heausler (who occasionally comments here, and who, I like to think, finds copyediting my manuscripts to be as easy -- and thrilling -- as stumbling on an escalator).

I hate escalators.

And when I really need something, really fast, like revision pages or galley proofs and stuff like that, it always gets delivered to my door with Holly West's name on the package. Sometimes, when I panic about things not arriving on time (because I live in another century), Holly will look things up and make sure they're actually not lost in some great vacuum.

Phew. I'm not done yet.

See? People. It takes the entire seventh floor of a landmark Manhattan building... Which reminds me. The last time I visited, the security guard in the lobby told me and my wife to go to the Seventeenth floor. So, we got stranded on the wrong floor, in a lonely hallway with doors that only opened from the other side.

I could write a book about security guards, escalators, and underground parking facilities.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

the words and the pictures

Whenever I speak to kids, it seems they're fascinated with the cover art of my books. In fact, I am frequently asked questions about cover art. Usually, people want to know if I design my own covers, or if they don't ask that, they'll ask how much input do I have in cover art design.

These kinds of questions have come up even more than usual in regards to the cover art of The Marbury Lens, because the cover is so damned gripping.

I like to think that I had a LOT to do with the cover of The Marbury Lens. I hope the inspiration for the striking imagery that wraps around the book, including its inside jacket flaps, teaser page, title page, and even the composition of the section headings and typeface were all inspired by reading the book (which, I think they were). But beyond that, I didn't do anything, except write this book.

The cover, title pages, and jacket design were all principally the work of art director Rich Deas. Usually, along the way to publication, I receive drafts or sketches of cover art. But not this time. I think Rich locked himself in his artist cave and just went to work. So the first thing I ever saw was the finished cover that just magically appeared in my email in-box one day, and I was totally blown away by it (like most people are).

When I went to New York last spring, I visited Rich and I heard a little bit about how the photograph was taken, and who the boy who modeled for "Jack" on the cover is, and these are still more fascinating backstories about how the cover came to life.

To be honest, even if this wasn't MY book, I'd have to say it's one of the coolest looking book designs I have ever seen.

Rich is quietly amazing, and he keeps getting better and better.

I can't wait to see what the team comes up with for next year's Stick.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

twin star

I have a few more names to talk about on Team Marbury, but I wanted to share some nice news here that I posted on Facebook yesterday.

In yesterday morning's edition of Publishers Weekly, The Marbury Lens received its second starred review. Naturally, coming from PW, and with two weeks left before the book arrives, crashing into bookstores, a second pre-publication starred review from a well-respected source like PW (the other came from Booklist) is huge.

Here's the text of the review from yesterday's Publishers Weekly:

Thank you very much, Publishers Weekly.

Monday, October 25, 2010

last look

One last thing about some names mentioned in The Marbury Lens.

The first two names listed in my acknowledgments are Craig Morton and Dean Shauger, guys I've known for a few years now. When I started writing The Marbury Lens, I knew I was getting into unfamiliar territory for me as a writer.

I really wanted to accomplish two things: I wanted to write something that was really scary, and I wanted it to be a kind of psycho-speculative work that was different from everything out there in fantasy/horror/science fiction. Avid readers of speculative fiction/sci fi are a tough lot to convince, so I needed to talk about Jack's universe, how it's built and held together -- Jack's laws of physics, as it were -- with smart young guys like Craig and Dean who really know this stuff.

So I talked to them for a couple hours one day while I was writing the book, laying out all the mechanics of Jack's layer-upon-layer universe, and just talking out the story and the structure helped me see that what I was imagining could be possible, and could be pulled off under the scrutiny of a couple guys who are very well-read in the broader genres into which The Marbury Lens overlaps, and they're smarter than I am when it comes to physics, too.

Research is the backbone for any believable story. It isn't only a necessity for nonfiction writers. It's also a pretty fun thing to do for fiction, especially when it involves travel and getting into the worlds of your work -- like spending time in London and Blackpool, or riding around on British Rail, for example.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

team marbury

I wrote an acknowledgments page in two of my books: In the Path of Falling Objects and this one, The Marbury Lens, the one that's coming out in a short two weeks.

I guess the books with no acknowledgments pages are all because of the great big giant me.

The truth is, there is quite a team involved in producing a book, but for this one, especially, I had to ask friends for advice, because I didn't know if I was doing the right thing.

I can say now that I never intended anyone to read The Marbury Lens. Like a lot of things I have written, I started out writing the book for a limited audience of one -- me. My editor asked to see what I was working on, though, and I sent her (I think) around 130 pages or something, and then she wanted more... and I was, like, okay, well I guess some people are going to read this now.

But I didn't know how anyone would react to it. To tell the story I needed to tell required some sexual content and a good bit of cussing. It's easy to put sex and swearing into books as attractors to fringe or "edgy" (I hate that word) elements, but when a writer does that, those content inclusions are -- by definition -- gratuitous, unnecessary to move the story along.

That was my quandary. The sexual content, the language, and the violence in The Marbury Lens (which... YES... is a fantasy/horror/psychological thriller kind of thing) were absolutely integral to the story.

So I asked a group of people who I think are pretty dang smart what they thought about such content issues in YA fiction -- how far is "too far"? And they helped me. A lot. And for that, I am very grateful, because, like I said, I really did not know if I should let anyone read this book.

The group came from a variety of backgrounds: teens, bloggers, librarians, teachers, booksellers, editors, and published authors, too. And their names are listed in the book (but NOT yours, Taco Bell). Here they are, again:

Michael Grant, Brian James, Bill Konigsberg, Yvonne Prinz, Kelly Milner Halls, Adam DeCamp, Nora Rawn, Andrea Vuleta, Nevin Mays, and Lucia Lemieux.

But that's not all on Team Marbury. More to come...

Friday, October 22, 2010

real people

Taco Bell, I still have not heard from you. Look, if you want me to dedicate my next book to you, all you need to do is give me a $500 gift certificate. I know... I don't even eat Taco Bell food, but I will make my kids eat there if you give me a gift certificate.

And dedicate a book to you.

The same offer goes out to Starbucks and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

I will use the Starbucks gift certificate. I'm not really sure about what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does.

I don't think anyone knows.

I want to talk about some real people whose names are mentioned in The Marbury Lens.

First, you can't really look at any of my first three books without seeing this one name: Jean Feiwel.

Jean Feiwel is my publisher. I know... everyone in publishing knows who she is. That's all there is to it. People know who she is because she has this energy-vibe for all things written that isn't just infectious... it's viral, nuclear. And Ms. Feiwel totally, without a doubt or any wavering, believes in her writers and everything we do as part of her team. I don't know first-hand how other publishers work, but most of us who write for Jean Feiwel agree that being part of her imprint is kind of like literary nirvana.

Second, when you flip the title page of The Marbury Lens, you'll see a dedication written there: for Liz Szabla. Now Liz, I have mentioned before on this blog, but rarely. She likes to play it low-key. She's my editor.

You don't just throw out freebie dedications in your books. Well, there is that whole extending-my-hand-of-friendship-to-Taco-Bell-or-Starbucks-or-the-U.S.-Chamber-of-Commerce thing.

But, other than that... Liz is, well... without getting too wordy about it, I'll just say I need to put her name there on one of my books. Need to.

There are some other people whose names are in The Marbury Lens that I'll be talking about, too... coming up.

But not YOU, Taco Bell.

But, two quick things before I go:

One) A name in the back of the book: Dave Barrett, the managing editor. Terrific guy. He runs, like me, which makes him extra cool, and he has a wicked sense of humor coupled with a discerning taste in music. Congratulations on your impending wedding, Mr. Barrett, and to your beautiful, intelligent, and creative bride, as well. I am sending a six-pack of Miller Lite (attention Miller Brewing Company: my Taco Bell offer extends to you, as well) in the mail.

Two) Tomorrow, I am going to be speaking in Hollywood with some really cool people: Michael Grant, who is departing on a book tour to Australia (attention entire freaking nation of Australia: see above Taco Bell offer), and Ellen Hopkins, with whom I had a most amusing email conversation the other evening.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

it is here.

It is here.

And today is a very Kafka-meets-Seinfeld day for me.

I'll be honest. I live by two mottos:

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

(I think only three people in the world know what that means)

2. Vini, Vidi, Caca -- which means, "I came, I saw, I made shit up about it on my blog."

I never tell real-time truth about myself, so why would I begin to explain the Kafka-meets-Seinfeld reality of my journey through life today?

Truth is something that needs to percolate. That's why I write books. It takes me years to get to the truth, and, by then, it is nothing more than what Bradford Cox would call a "Halcyon Digest" of biased, interpreted images.

Anyway, I digress.

It is here.

Last night, a package came for me. Yeah... I could write paragraphs at the moment about the way we get mail and other deliveries where I live -- like, for example, how we have to wait for the "great thaw" to get anything when there's a snowfall.

Where was I?

Oh. The package.

It contained the FIRST hardback copy of The Marbury Lens.

Sorry everyone else. This is true. The truth. Unpercolated. No Halcyon Digest here. This is the most beautiful hardback book I have ever seen.

I realize this morning that hardback books are not good to sleep with.

That could potentially be a third motto.

And I am still waiting for the Taco Bell people to contact me or my agent, by the way.

I need to say a few things about people in this book, The Marbury Lens, but I'm about to turn into a bug, and will have to continue this tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

psychic city

There are less than three weeks to go until the release of The Marbury Lens, and this book has felt more like a pregnancy than any other book I've written. I'll be relieved when it comes out kicking and screaming.

I saw a blog post today where someone had commented on looking forward to getting their hands on The Marbury Lens (and thank you), because, they said, they were attracted by the cover, the synopsis sounded exciting (trust me, the synopsis barely scratches the surface), and an added attractor was the book takes place in the U.K.

All of my books are set in places I've lived in or am very familiar with. I mean... come on! can you write a book about growing up in Nepal unless you really know Nepal?

But some writers do that kind of stuff. It usually sticks out like a two-man vaudeville horse costume.

So, in case you ever do wonder: I have spent a great deal of time over the decades in the U.K., and most of the places described in The Marbury Lens are places I'm pretty familiar with -- from Jack and Conner's strange hotel room near Regent's Park (which is actually a very nice place that shall not be named), to the pub called The Prince of Wales (there are lots of similarly-named establishments in England, but the description of the interior and atmosphere of the one in the book comes from another, real-life pub which is not so-named, but near the same streets and Tube stations mentioned in the book), to the other, secondary locations: Blackpool, Kent, Leeds, and Harrogate.

As for the other locations in the book -- Marbury -- well, you probably haven't ever been there. But you'll go.

After November 9.

Monday, October 18, 2010

cherry chapstick

I am tired.

I have been working too much and I am still not finished.

I am not one of those people who posts things about the title and plot details of something, or the three or four things, I am working on. The only times I have ever done that is once the thing in question is set to be published.

So even my wife and kids don't know anything about what I do.

In fact, the only time they ever read anything of mine is after it's been actually published.

Most writers I know think that's crazy.

Oh well.

You know what I think is crazy?


I can say this because I am reasonably confident that my daughter does not read my blog, but she is a chronic sleep-denier.

If I ever wake her up and say something like, "honey, you were asleep," or, "did you have a nice nap?" you know what she says?

"I was never asleep."

Every time.

She has this major problem with being okay with sleeping.

Not me.

Ask me if I was asleep.

I'll tell the truth.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

teen (reluctant) read week

I think we frequently label kids -- especially boys -- as "hating to read."

It's kind of like assuming a kid "hates to eat" because he doesn't like brussels sprouts.

Kids naturally do love to read. Remember how exciting it was when you first started reading words and turning pages on your own? Remember the thrill of those three-word-long sentences?

If you're a parent, chances are, you can also remember how your own kids came home from school -- thrilled to be carrying a little, frayed, Golden Book (or some such thing) that they could read on their own; and how proud they were to show off the rickety first words they could scrawl?

Kids do love reading (and writing).

So why do kids (boys, especially) come to "hate" reading and writing when they get into their teens?

Here's why:


Ah... variety.

But brussels sprouts are good for you. And we know what kinds of things are "good for you" to read, too.

There are no more choices for kids in schools. We've taken them away. We're even beginning to take away choices for kids at universities (yes, I'm talking about YOU, SUNY).

There are lots of reasons why this is happening, prominent among them financial concerns, but the result is that we end up compressing all our brilliant young minds into the center -- creating a mass of uncreative, uninspired mediocrity.

Kids do love to read, and write, and be creative. And I can prove it.

But it's a secret that schools don't want anyone to talk about.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

teen read week

So tell me.

Teens: What are YOU reading?

Teen Read Week begins tomorrow, October 17, and it runs through next Saturday, October 23, when I will be speaking, and offering an unfortunate smattering of performance art, at the Southern California Independent Bookseller's Association's Authors Feast and Trade Show.

I know. That's a really long title for an event.

And I will be speaking about teens and what they read, believe it or not. It's an easy talk, since I know hundreds of teens and work with them in vast drooling quantities on a daily basis.

And I've prepared a little flow-chart organizational graphic to prepare the participants at next week's event for what to expect:

Friday, October 15, 2010

too young to burn

Okay, well, The Marbury Lens is coming out in a few weeks and something has happened to my brain. I think I'm dreading it. I don't know.

A year ago, I was working on revisions on the manuscript.

Now, it's coming out.

A year ago, I wrote a piece about the Five Stages of Revision.

At the moment, I'm currently revising something for my agent, who really is very smart. As despondent as I've become over the release, this current revision, the copy edits for Stick, and another entirely different fourth project I'm working on, too, work gets pretty difficult and there's just no breathing space. This is why I've hoped to shape November into National NOT WRITING Month, at least for me.

I'll probably fail at this, anyway.

So, I thought I would revisit this bit about revising, from 2009 (note the use of the great-big-giant ME):

I realize that with every book I've written so far, I have gone through a similar process in dealing with editorial revisions... a kind of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 5-step process in coming to terms with working with my agent/editor and revising my work. If you are unfamiliar with Kubler-Ross, she is responsible for identifying "The Five Steps of Grief" -- Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I think these steps have a lot in common with the revision process, so here I submit MY Five Stages of Revising:

Stage One: "Skimming"

Skimming is the first thing that happens with an editorial letter. During this event, the subject refuses to sit down and actually read the entirety of the letter, choosing instead to skim through it for words like "perfection" and "brilliant." Very much like Kubler-Ross' Denial, during this stage, the subject may also internally vocalize such statements as... Gee, why is this letter so long when it only takes a few words to express how brilliant and flawless my work is?

Stage Two: "I am a Douchebag. I Can't Do This. I Quit."

During Stage Two, the subject has actually taken the time to read the letter. This is when he will usually realize that the editorial diagnosis was correct, a second opinion from the buddy who still owes him a six-pack of Coors Light for kicking his ass at Polish Horseshoes is unwarranted, and the editor/agent has made some keen observations -- leaving a trail of Zen-like, unanswerable questions that frequently result in thoughts of suicide, cutting off one's typing fingers and running away to become "Flipper Boy" in the circus, or any number of self-destructive and career-ending missteps.

Stage Three: "Postponing the Deadline"

"If only I can buy more time," the subject bargains with himself during Stage Three, "then maybe I can do something truly significant with my life -- like organizing my iTunes library." It is while in Stage Three that the subject will attempt to devise a deadline date that is either unreasonably impossible to meet, or falls during a time when the editor/agent is on vacation in a location where there are no cell phones or internet access.

Stage Four: "Commencing the Operation"

During this stage, the subject has resigned himself to the inevitable: it's not going to write itself, douchebag. As Kubler-Ross suggests occurs during step 4 of grief, there's no sense trying to cheer the author up at this point, he is going to be a miserable, foul-mouthed, impossible-to-live-with sonofabitch once he actually begins the work and admits to himself, "Gee! I'm on page one of 412. I hate myself."

And then, several hours later: "Yippee! Now I'm halfway through the first sentence on page one of 412."

Stage Five: "The Revelation"

It all boils down to this: At Stage Five, the subject finally realizes that only now can words like "perfection" and "brilliant" be applied to the work. Or at least "pretty good." He has gone through the first four steps, struggled with understanding his directions, and allowed himself to be guided into producing something far better in quality than he might have done on his own.

Unfortunately, he may revert to Stage Two as a result of this revelation.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

the good student

On Tuesday evening, I got to participate in an MFA class discussion at Western Connecticut University. This is a class of graduate students who are finishing their advanced degrees and stepping out into the world as writers.

They don't know how lucky they are.

Well, probably not.

At the very least, they likely underestimate how nice it is being brand new and unproven, to be in the position where everything they possibly do propels -- or inches -- them forward, and there really is no such thing as failure.

That's an enviable place to be.

It gets different later. You'll see.

Another thing that struck me about them is their sense of "community" with their classmates and faculty. I really envied them for what they had going on there. One of the students asked me about my writing "community."


I have two horses and a long, empty, and silent commute between me and anywhere.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

star for a starless sky

Well, someone gets it. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing for Mr. Chipman. Booklist released its November 1 review for The Marbury Lens today. They gave my book a starred review, which, as writers know, coming from Booklist is... well...


Here's what they have to say:

The Marbury Lens.
Smith, Andrew (Author)

Nov 2010. 368 p. Feiwel and Friends, hardcover, $17.99. (9780312613426).
Smith follows his last excavation of darkness, In the Path of Falling Objects (2009), with a read that is as disorienting as it is daring. Jack is abducted, drugged, and tied by an ankle to the bed of a sexual predator named Freddie for days before escaping. He tells only his best friend, Connor, but shared secrets can come laced with poison. During a summer trip to London, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses that peer into a corpse-strewn wasteland called Marbury, where Jack is on the run from a horde of men turned beasts led by Connor. As Jack flips between worlds, the sickening draw of Marbury becomes like a drug, hollowing him out as an inner voice screams: “Freddie Horvath did something to your brain and you better get help, Jack.” A love interest tries to help Jack weather the onslaught of guilt and loathing, and yet another narrative layer comes from the story of a boy who was hung more than a century ago and whose ghost is now either haunting or helping Jack in both worlds. Mixing a trauma reckoning with dark, apocalyptic fantasy and notes of psychological horror, this commandeering novel’s multiplicity is elusively complex yet never complicated: although the many gut-quivering story elements are not clearly defined, they always speak to each other, and Smith wisely leaves much up to the reader. People will talk about this book and try to figure it out and maybe try to shake it off. But they won’t be able to.
— Ian Chipman

Thank you very much, Mr. Chipman, and Booklist.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

coming attractions

Next week is Teen Read Week, and I have some special stuff planned. I may not be including it on the blog, though -- I'll have to see -- because I'm going to be speaking about this "stuff" at the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Author Feast and Trade Show on Saturday, October 23, at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel.

There will be visuals. That's all I'm saying for now.

Anyway, the event should be really cool, because there are books. Need I say more? There are also going to be some of my favorite authors in the entire freaking world there, too.

Then, coming up in November, which is scarcely more than a week later, I will be attending the Children's Literature Council Fall Event on November 6 at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, where I will be very proud to receive the 2010 Distinguished Work of Fiction Award for my novel In the Path of Falling Objects.

If that wasn't enough, three days later, on November 9, The Marbury Lens hits the stores, and at the end of that week, on Friday, November 12, I will don my San Francisco Giants cap and head up to the Bay Area for a reading and signing of my latest novel at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland.

Rumor has it, some of my best (and only) friends in the writing business will be there, including my pal Lewis Buzbee, who will be reading from and signing his newest, The Haunting of Charles Dickens.

Lots more stuff coming up, too.

You can read more about the SCIBA Authors Feast and Trade Show here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

thoughts on nanowrimo

As preoccupied as I've been lately with dreams and nightmares and such, I realize -- thanks to a couple of friends who will be doing this -- that NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, will be coming up in November.

Most people reading this blog probably know that NaNoWriMo is a way to inspire and discipline people who've always wanted to write a novel to actually produce 50,000 words in novel form over the month of November.

It's free to enroll, and there are lots of resources and support structures to actually get the participants to remain on track. It's definitely a challenge, but it can be done.

As a matter of fact, last year I participated in NaNoWriMo. I figured that if lots of other people could do it, I would try for myself. I will qualify this with a couple clarifying points, though. First, I did NOT upload my work. I have a lot of reasons for not doing that, but primarily, my intent was to write something that I actually would sell for publication.

Second, 50,000 words is too short for me. I don't like books that are so short, so I intended to write beyond that goal.

So, the bottom line is that, yes, in 2009 I participated in NaNoWriMo. But I finished the novel I started that month in December -- so I went a bit overtime. The novel that I wrote ended up being about 75,000 words (which is also very short for me).

And the novel that I wrote is going to be published in 2011.

It's called Stick.

Is NaNoWriMo worth the effort?

Hell yes.

You can find out more, and sign up for, National Novel Writing Month here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

this writer's life 4

The lost leprechaun turd of power.

That is all.

Friday, October 8, 2010

twelve-hour coma

Don't you hate it when people tell you they have some really exciting news, but they're not allowed to tell you what it is?

So do I.

Next week, I am happy to be participating in an online class discussion with a group of MFA students at Western Connecticut University. This will be really cool, and I'm certain the students are going to be wayyyyy smarter than me.

By the way... Students of Western Connecticut University: I am a writer, not a typist. This is perhaps the singular reason why I do not participate in chats, twitchats, whatever those things are -- I obsess over words on screens, punctuation, and such.... and this makes me agonizingly slow in doing these things.

Just saying.

I suppose they're all going to think I'm drunk or on heroin.


It's also why I don't text message. Well, if I do, I'm the guy who actually spells out EVERYTHING, uses upper- and lower-case letters and... yes, punctuates, too (but I don't think I've ever used an exclamation point in a text message).

I mean, what's the point in using an exclamation point in a text? Text has to be the least-emotional form of communication on the planet.

Mr. Spock would probably be a good texter.

WTF, Captain Kirk? :/


See? That does nothing for me.

I also never use emoticons.

So Western Conn, prepare yourselves.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

my big excuse

Last night was another of those go-to-a-concert-and-get-only-an-hour-of-sleep-before-I-have-to-wake-up nights.

So please excuse my lack of posting yesterday. I know there were more than a few people who were looking forward to the next installment of my this writer's life comics. Well, I have more on the way... but I got too busy and eye-blurred yesterday.

I was reading through an edited version of next year's offering: Stick, which, I have to say, is a beautiful book. And not like me at all in its... er... optimism?

Actually, the book was made more beautiful through the guidance of my editor. Last week, my friend Brian James wrote a post on his blog about the importance of the editor's contribution to fiction, so I can't really add to what he expressed. But, let me tell you... it makes all the difference -- having a real editor who is not so much concerned about merely printing legible pages of paper as opposed to extracting the best possible work out of a writer.

I don't know... probably the only people in the world who really understand the true value and contribution of editors are editors themselves or writers. In any event, editors are generally unsung heroes in my estimation.

So I was caught up reading.

Which reminds me, too... I got caught up reading an Advance Copy of a novel that is going to be released by Candlewick Press (a publishing house I am not associated with) next year. I was contacted by the editor and a literary agent to see if I'd be interested in potentially writing a blurb for this book.

And, I'm, like, me?

I thought, what a cool thing to be asked. So, anyway... I'm not going to say anything about the book, or its title and author. But, I really really like it a lot.

And I'm nearly finished reading it, so I will send my blurb in to Candlewick when I close the book on the book, and I'll even talk about it here, too.

Cool story.


How I like 'em.

One other thing, and then I'll start drooling from lack of sleep: I never listen to music when I write. When I write, I need absolute quiet. Just the sounds of nature. No TV on downstairs, no talking in the house, just the sound of the wind outside and the animals, maybe one of the neighbors chopping up corpses... I don't know... (there are no traffic noises where I live).

However... I did listen to a lot of one particular artist when I wrote Stick last winter. You know who? Neil Young. Lots of Neil Young. There's even a quoted line from a Neil Young song in the novel.

I don't know why, but for some reason, I've really been dwelling on that line lately.

Anyway, I am delirious. Must go.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

banned books week #5

For the final day of reading with the kids, a little bit of The Catcher in the Rye, everyone's favorite banned book.

In a couple weeks, we have ALA's Teen Read Week coming up, too. That's a cool week where I get to do some fun stuff with the kids. You might want to check in here on those schooldays (Monday, October 18 to Friday, October 22) where you'll get to actually hear from the kids, which is what this week is all about -- NOT us telling them what they should or should not be reading, them telling us.

So, without saying too much more, you might want to mark your ever-present blog calendar for that.

My dogs hate the UPS guy. I don't know why, but they have particularly shrill, dripping with hatred barks when he shows up at my house.

Yesterday, a surprise came: A box of the soon-to-be-released paperback versions of In the Path of Falling Objects.

They seem big.

And I love the cover.

Oh, by the way, I am donating most of them to a high school reading program today.

I noticed that, in the back of the book, there is an excerpt from The Marbury Lens (which is coming out in 38 days), and there is also a photograph -- yuck -- of me, along with an interview, a Q & A session with me.

I couldn't bring myself to read it, so I have no idea what it says.

I am banning it from my house, though.