Tuesday, November 30, 2010

you may see them drowning as you stroll along the beach

Okay. Finished.

I hate finishing stuff.

This, I think, is a week of finishes for me. I don't know if I'm happy about that or not.

Today, I am supposed to be receiving the final copy edits for Stick, which will be coming out in 2011.

I'm not worried at all about the deadline I've been given for going through the pages.

I've never met a deadline whose ass I didn't kick. As my son would say, deadlines are my bitch.

But I'm not going to say what the deadline actually is because I'd get all these well-intentioned and empathetic your-managing-editor-is-stalin emails, which may or may not be the case, but the deadline's ass will be kicked nevertheless.

From here, the words go directly into ARC form.

That's the part that will keep me from sleeping in between now and the arrival of the ARCs. Which, I'm just guessing, will be around March, 2011.

I'm super-sensitive about spaces and lines and stuff.

I know it's just a manifestation of my attention-overload disorder, but, last time, when The Marbury Lens was going from copy edits to unbound galley pages, there were all these missing spaces and it made me go insane.

I know I'm high-maintenance and stuff, and I don't think it's at all adorable or endearing, but that's just what I do to myself.

So, that's going to be finished.

And, last weekend I finished another book and sent it to my agent.

Yeah. Whatever.

I hate finishing things and sending them anywhere that isn't a fucking trash can. Really. I don't know why just about every writer I know is, like, hooray and yippee!!! I just finished something!!! I am sooooo excited!!!

Well, I hate it.

And, getting in touch with my inner Michael Grant, but on a ridiculously dwarfed scale, I'd been working on something else simultaneously, which, as I may have implied, is also finished, but I just don't want to send it away yet.

Because I don't want to be finished.

And Grant works on like a half-dozen things at once, anyway. During slow-down phases.

Besides, as yay!!! excited!!! as I can be, I don't think the world is ready for adult unicorn erotica.

But I did get a real nice email yesterday from someone who'd read The Marbury Lens. Seems like that's been happening quite a bit, which is nice right now.

Because I don't like finishing stuff.

And I'm finished with this post.

Monday, November 29, 2010

forty miles from atlanta, this is nowhere

On Friday, I wrote about my simple formula for what constitutes YA.

Y (Emotionally/Psychologically Immature) + A (Sexually Mature) = Young Adult

And this is also why I hate YA. Because these limited qualifying characteristics that I can come up with to unify the genre also split it apart; make it so broad that to give it a name is kind of pointless. You know there are people who definitely fit into the Y category (characters in books, and real ones) who may be pushing 30 years old, and we know that the A part kicks in around 14 or so.

Which speaks to my frustration about the whole genre-classification.

Oh, I'm not trying to "convert" anyone to this type of thinking, and please don't tell me it's all about location, location, location on the shelves of a bookstore.

None of that matters very much to me.

Oddly to me, some so-called "YA" books entertain us with remarkably mature (emotionally and psychologically) protagonists who happen to be in their teens (there are dozens of titles that come to mind -- admit it, you can name some, too), although they apparently have nothing going on in their southern provinces, if you know what I mean.

So here's the deal: there is sex in The Marbury Lens, as there is also sex in my first two novels, Ghost Medicine and In the Path of Falling Objects. You can't really help it if you're writing YA, especially with male protagonists, because sex is such a hugely powerful motivator and tormentor of adolescent male souls.

Sorry, but that's the truth.

I suppose that one day I will build a literary universe that is sexless, but one day, I also plan on writing an MG novel, just for the hell of it, and because I think it would be fun. And really really easy, too. [The following statement was only expressed to piss off my friends who write MG.]

And the thing is, too, the fact that there is sex in my books does piss some people off.

And all of them are grownups.

They get all angsty and nervous when they have to consider such unthinkable things as sexual pressure, curiosity, confusion, and identity in teens.

Teen readers don't care about it. They know what's going on. It's their parents (or frequently, adults who don't even have kids) who have a hard time confronting such issues.

Oh, and don't worry, I have been told things like, We all know about this stuff, so you don't need to put it in any books.

Well. Yes I do. Because most parents won't talk about "this stuff," not among each other, and definitely not to their kids. In fact, I'm pretty confident that the grownups who don't have any hangups talking to kids about sex, sexual pressure, curiosity, confusion, and sexual identity probably also don't have any problem with those issues appearing in books, either.

Just my guess.

I could be wrong.

And besides, the sexual "ideas" that exist as kinds of riptides beneath the currents of the characters' motivations in my three (and future) novels are expressed in a pretty tame (but definitely present) manner.

I know, for some people, "tame" means you shouldn't talk about it.

At all.

Still, unless you're talking about a species of Young Adult that I've never encountered, sex is going to be something that's always present, and sometimes very powerful, in their universe.

Now go talk to your kids.

And try listening, too.

Friday, November 26, 2010

we travel without seatbelts on

I would like to begin with a haiku, called, "What Boys Think About:"

Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex.

Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex.
Sex. Food

and Video Games.

The end.

Now, let me back up a little. About this whole "YA" thing.

And forgive my descent into philosophy.

If you've read my blog for a while, then you know how I bristle at the thought of "YA." In fact, I hate it. Not that I hate books that are called "YA," or that I hate writing what a lot of people call "YA." I just hate "YA."

YA is kind of like God.

Everyone who believes in it has a clear idea in mind of what YA is, does, and looks like. But everyone's YA God is different, and you're going to go to hell for not believing in the right one.

True story: One outraged reader [Side Note: It's funny to me how the handful of "outraged readers" of TML apparently have read the entire thing -- cover to cover -- WTF is up with that?] said something like, What is this? I don't know what this is. This is NOT YA. Because in YA, the main character, who is a teenager, has to undergo some kind of change.

I kid you not. That comment came to me. The same person, by the way, was outraged at the use of the "F word."

Also, the person behind that comment is probably legally insane.

Jack doesn't go through a change??? Holy shit. I don't know where this reader is coming from at all. Well, actually, I do. The change has to be satisfying.

A butterfly is supposed to emerge from the ugly pulsating thing that butterflies emerge from.

Now I get a picture of this particular YA God.

Now, let me tell you about mine:

If you held me down and put a gun to my head [I'm liking this scenario already], and forced me to give up a description of YA, here's what it would be:

Think about it. Young Adult. Young equals "Psychologically Immature." Plus Adult, which equals "Sexually Mature."

Here's the math:

Psychological Immaturity (Y)
+ Sexual Maturity             (A)
 = Young Adult (YA)

And that's all there is to it.

Simple as that.

It means that there is going to be the consideration of, or experience with, sex and sexual tension, otherwise there is no A following the Y.

Call me an infidel. Tell me I'm going to hell. No big deal. I've been ditched in Phoenix [I'm still bitter about that, can you tell?], so I can handle it.

I know.

This was a really long intro.

And I didn't even get to the naughty bits yet. But I needed to establish the "Calculus of YA" in order to explain the necessity of sexuality (in whatever degree) in YA literature.

With that, this will be continued.

[Additional Side Note: I received an interesting and articulate comment on the Tuesday, November 23 post called "and i am nothing of a builder (3)" this morning. And I'm just really wondering if I am insane or something. Maybe this is my Marbury. Oh yeah... I guess that's really what the book was all about. Sigh.]

Thursday, November 25, 2010

top ten of ten

I know it's only late November, but pretty much everything that's going to come out in 2010 has come out. So here, I offer my pick of the best ten albums released in 2010.

A couple points first: I'm really picky about the fact that these albums represent 2010 releases; that they do not include remastered or previously released material. Also, I don't claim to have listened to everything that came out in 2010. But I bought a hell of a lot of new albums. These albums that ended up on my list got here because they initially caught my attention with a single or some cut I heard somewhere, and when I went on to explore the depth of the full-length release, I was impressed enough to say... yeah, this is one of the best. Finally, the only albums on this list that are in any particular order are the top three -- they are my no-doubt-about-it one-two-three punches of fuck-yeah music that came out in a pretty spectacular year. The remaining seven, you could say, are all tied for fourth.

So, here goes:

1. Titus Andronicus -- The Monitor

The best album of 2010 by far. I saw Titus Andronicus play a live show this year, and I was blown the fuck away by their passion, energy, and the spirited enthusiasm of their very dedicated followers. So I got this album the following day.

I want to see them again. I want to slam in the mosh pit. "The Monitor" is not only a scathing Civil War depiction of political/social America today, it paints a picture rich in the disillusioned voice of a kid who's from nowhere and has nowhere to go, who can only observe with a kind of sneering and sarcastic detachment a country increasingly split between "us" and "them." No punches pulled here. I love this album.

2. The Books -- The Way Out

Okay. You know how sometimes you can go to an art gallery or a museum, and you see something really disturbing and weird, like maybe a dead chicken with a Barbie doll head on it balanced on the lap of a living nude model who's eating Saltine crackers, and you're like, I'm not sure if this is art or shit, but it's really kind of disturbingly cool?

You know how that happens?

Well, The Books are going to make some people feel that way. And I totally love this album. I hate to sound like a douchey, latte-drinking snob, but I totally dig this album's vibe (if I were a total douche, I'd say "architecture," and if I were a total douche who deserves to be punched in the fucking throat, I'd say "schema." In fact, I just stabbed a fucking Bic pen through my fucking palm for even using such a douchebag word as schema)... from the opening lull of the hypnotic "Group Autogenics I" through the stark, cyber-bullying paranoia of "A Cold Freezin' Night," and beyond, this album speaks to me. I don't smoke, but I would sit down and hookah with these guys. I don't do drugs, but I'd eat acid-laced cookies with them. I totally believe these guys are entirely capable of making the creepiest, most psychologically draining soundtrack imaginable to a The Marbury Lens movie.

Hey Books, let's talk.

3. Deerhunter -- Halcyon Digest

Where to begin? Okay... how about this: Attention, Bradford Cox... dude, eat something. You're wasting away. Cox is amazing, and I also love his solo project "Atlas Sound." But when I first heard "Revival," a popping, short, twangy single from this album, I remember writing down the band's name with a note to myself to buy the album. The cover photo was a clincher when I saw the vinyl in a record store. Like, super creepy. Then, when I heard "Helicopter," the mournful and pleading second single (and Cox's voice is superb on it), it was a done deal. Had to have this album. "Halcyon Digest" is a remarkable trip through our mind's filters, the personal way we make things better, and invokes recurring pleas for religious answers that seem out of Cox's reach. This. Album. Is. Amazing. Thank you for doing this, Bradford Cox and Deerhunter. Oh... and your website is super-trippy and maze-like. I love it.

Okay, now for the rest, in no particular order:

4. Wolf Parade -- Expo 86

Much edgier on stage than their slick and electronic production values convey, this album cranks the richly layered elements of everything that's good about Wolf Parade. And they're from Canada. I love Canada. Double win.

5. Broken Bells -- Broken Bells

It's hard to imagine anything can go wrong when you combine the front-man talents of James Mercer (formerly of the Shins), who writes some of the cleverest lyrics in modern music, and the production/aesthetic/just overall swelling presence of Brian Burton (Danger Mouse). Most satisfying was their live performance (I also saw these guys this year) with a full 7-piece band. Amazing musicianship, unafraid to close an encore round with a cover song, and a promising introduction of some new material -- particularly satisfying because I was a bit leery that this was going to be one of those extremely short-lived collaboration "projects." But Broken Bells is definitely for real.

6. Wavves -- King of the Beach

Okay. A couple things about Wavves (AKA Nathan Williams). Nathan, I feel that since you are apparently about the same age as my sixteen-year-old son, it's okay for me to give you some fatherly advice: First, keep your trousers on when you're on stage (my daughter was in the front row with me, dude), and, second, I really think you should break up with Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast). She's too whiny, accuses you of smoking all her pot, and you need an edgier, more challenging girlfriend who can punish you into extracting more great lyrics. But her drummer is better than yours (I also saw both of these acts live this year... and Best Coast does have an incredible sound, just whiny lyrics). Oh... one more thing: Are you serious? You did a Christmas recording with her for Target? Do you still have balls??? I heard their Christmas song one time. Fifteen seconds into it, I was, like, dude, if I ever hear this again I'm going to ball-peen my fucking skull. And, believe it or not, I can forgive all of this, ALL OF THIS, because that's just how good "King of the Beach" is. Wow. Awesome noise-punk low-fi stuff with a unique sound and biting, ripping lyrics. Nice job, Nathan. And they're from San Diego, which I love even more than Canada.

7. Cloud Nothings -- Turning On

This one almost squeezed into my top three, which, I suppose makes it better than these others, but I'm not ranking them, and this album is a little too short (in terms of play time, but definitely not in terms of appeal). Dylan Baldi, a youngster from Cleveland, recorded most of his stuff by himself, at home, on his computer, playing everything (if the web-hype is true). When we got a whiff of it, the demand for a live show forced him to pick up a band -- Cloud Nothings. But this kid has some of the slickest, sharpest lyrics written this year... and the tunes live up to the craft of his words. One thing: There's a great video floating around of Dylan Baldi doing an acoustic version of "Hey Cool Kid," and it is entirely captivating. He should think about breaking out the acoustic guitar for the next album. But "Turning On" stands as one of the truly remarkable post-punk efforts of 2010. Love it.

8. Harlem -- Hippies

Love. Peace. Austin, Texas. Holy shit. This band has a retro-70s flair, but their message is unmistakably now -- kind of a laughing, snide, and... existentialist? self-deprecating romp through pop-punk life. And suburban Texas. And being Hippies in 2010. What a scene. Listening to "Hippies" is like sitting in a steaming hot-boxed garage and not ever wanting to come out.

9. The Black Keys -- Brothers

You know what? I almost didn't put this album on my list -- not because it isn't one of the best albums of 2010, but because MTV started playing the Keys. Then their music popped up in Subaru commercials and in episodes of "House," whatever the fuck "House" is (honestly, I've never seen it, like every other television show out there). And, deep inside my head, I hear an accusing voice, screaming at me, "Die, hipster, die." So, I'm like, torn. But shit. "Brothers" is an incredible album. I can't deny it. So here it is on my list.

10. Foals -- Total Life Forever

My lone UK representative are Foals, and this, their second effort, is just so tasty, mature, and listenable. Seriously. From their singles "Spanish Sahara," "Miami," and "Total Life Forever," we hear a very well-rounded sample of some of the finest tunecrafting of the year. Get this album.

Okay. A note on who's NOT on this list. Arcade Fire. I'm not going to say anything bad about "The Suburbs." It would be an incredible album for any other band's debut, but it wasn't a debut. So, enough said on that. Also, Mumford and Sons. "Sigh No More" would be on the list, but I've been following these guys since I met them back in 2008, and too much of this album I purchased two years ago. Lose. Technicality, I know.

My Chemical Romance. Dudes. Shut up. No. Really. Shut the fuck up.

And finally, as I mentioned above, I have this particular lack of enthusiasm for bands whose music appears in commercials and on television shows. I don't know why this grates on my nerves, and I truly believe that bands -- like writers (ahem) -- need to make money. But, come on! This year I heard Vampire Weekend on a Honda commercial, and -- holy shit -- Modest Mouse on a commercial for GM's OnStar system.




Now, as far as Sleigh Bells is concerned (also on Honda commercials)... this is definitely a band that should really stick to doing commercials. And nothing else. And you should ask MCR to join you.


Tomorrow: The Marbury Lens and sex.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

and i am nothing of a builder (4)

So, I've been going through my list of advance apologies (it's like a reverse-countdown twelve-step) and warnings for people who are going to get irate, indignant, offended, and outraged at some of the issues that worm their way through The Marbury Lens (which just received another really nice accolade: a pick on the Winter 2010 - 2011 Kids' Indie Next List).

And I just finished talking a bit about Issue Number One: Relationships, which I didn't think would be such a big deal... but was apparently wrong. I thought I'd hear much more about issue number two.


Actually, I have.

So, here goes...

Issue Number Two: Language

As a writer, I have an almost religious reverence for language. Not just what people say, but the way they speak and write it. I truly believe that writers can still more accurately record the nuances of communication far more completely and with more detail than audio or video recordings, not that I presume to say I'm especially good at it.

But several years ago I was writing and researching a novel set in Gilded Age California (which for some puzzling reason has always been a period in history to which I am inescapably drawn. Maybe I am reincarnated from that time. Or something. But it's why I used it as a backdrop for Seth's story in The Marbury Lens).

In any event, in researching that particular novel, I read countless pages of unpublished letters and personal journals that spoke in amazingly rich voices from the people who lived through that period. And I'll say right here, too, that there were some terms used in innocent colloquial expression that could easily be misinterpreted as vulgar, cruel, bigoted, homophobic, and just plain crazy by today's sensibilities.

So, when I wrote that particular novel (and, one day, I will go back and revisit my efforts on it -- it really is a cool story), I couldn't help but immerse myself in the voice of the time. It was weird.

Okay. That said, when I write my novels -- my contemporary works -- one of my overriding concerns is that I apply myself as a recorder of the language of the time. This means talking the way that my characters talk, living their lives, breathing with their lungs, singing from their mouths.

And I'll admit that I had some personal struggles with capturing the language correctly and unashamedly -- the way that teenage boys from California speak to one another when their conversation has no "grownup" or "teacher" filters on it.

Again, it's the fish behind the glass concept. Because, quite obviously, contemporary teenage boys in and from California use an awful lot of swearwords when they speak with one another.

That's just how it is. I'm not going to guess how boys in Antarctica communicate, or boys being raised in Trappist monasteries, nor those attending standardized schools in the wilds of western Pennsylvania. I know what I know.

And the way Jack and Conner talk to each other is how teenage boys in California talk to each other.


You might also notice that they do speak differently when there are adults -- like Henry, Wynn, or Stella -- in their aquarium, and that's typical, too.

The thing that some people will have a hard time getting over is that the boys' frequent use of such words as... well... "fuck," has absolutely no underlying intent of shock or vulgarity. There are definitely vulgar ways to use the word "fuck," but in teen-boy-Cali-phonics, it almost never is applied in that context.

It's more commonly used as an adjective than a... um... verb, if you know what I mean. And if you don't know what I mean, then maybe you speak Antarctic-anian.

Or something.

Again, this kid Jack is a pretty complex character. He is consumed by doubt and self-hatred. He's convinced that his life has been an unceasing mistake, and that he should never have been born, so he blames himself -- first and immediately -- when bad things happen to him.

And he talks to himself a lot.

Well, not out loud. That would be insane. But in his head he does. And he keeps cussing himself out, saying "Fuck you, Jack," every time he wants to blame his current condition on his own helpless course in life.

So, one comment I received was from someone who just didn't get why Jack keeps saying that particular internalized admonishment. The commenter said it was too much... too many f-bombs... Jack cusses himself out too frequently.

Um. The kid actually -- very seriously -- considers suicide a number of times in the book.

And the commenter wanted him to just shut up, to stop being so angry, to stop cussing, and quit it.

Hmm... I have to say that it's almost sadder to think about the commenter than it is to think about Jack. No. Not really. I do care about Jack a hell of a lot more.

Maybe that's what happens when people read too much formulaic, cookie-cutter fantasy and YA, where everyone, genderless, ends up completely fulfilled (but NOT in a sexual way... more like chocolate eclairs or something), discovers their destiny, and claims their just birthrights.

I guess that's what makes "fantasy" really fantasy. And maybe that's why The Marbury Lens can be so unsettling to readers -- it sets you up for a fantasy-type experience, but it keeps assaulting you with fucking reality.

Like the way kids talk.

And how they think about, and are motivated by, sexuality and not chocolate eclairs (even if it is not acted upon). Get real, you know that's a motivator for teens -- especially boys.

But we'll look at that next time... on Friday.

Tomorrow, on Thanksgiving, I am going to do something completely different, and I anticipate it's going to piss off a few of my friends who have really great taste in music. I am going to list my "Top Ten of 10" -- the ten best albums that came out in 2010. The rules are simple -- the recordings have to have been done (originally and not remastered) in 2010.

[Most of my friends only listen to stuff that old people listen to]

And I'll also talk a little bit about why I chose those albums and artists and who I am intentionally leaving off my list.

But the apologies for The Marbury Lens will continue on Friday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

and i am nothing of a builder (3)

Okay. So where were we?

Oh yeah... relationships and teen boys.

And aquariums.

I don't trust aquariums. Fish always behave when you watch them through the glass, just like teenage boys. But I think my fish get out and fuck with my iTunes library and move stuff around in my house when nobody's looking.

In The Marbury Lens, best friends Jack and Conner have an exceedingly typical male-male relationship.

It's a typical relationship.

Typical. Normal. Healthy.

These kids would do anything for one another. Their love and trust is unquestionable. But the relationship between Jack and Conner also causes some readers to get very upset -- angry and offended -- about the way it's portrayed and the way the boys interact with one another.

They are teenage boys. Remember that.

Teenage boys, like fish in the aquarium, behave a lot differently when nobody's watching them. Recently, one irate reader jumped to a conclusion that Conner is somehow preoccupied -- obsessed -- with Jack's sexual orientation, and that he masks homophobic tendencies, albeit not too well.


Boys talk about that kind of stuff -- and test each other on it -- regularly.

It's what we do when we're kids.

It's normal boy stuff.

There's nothing malicious, bullying, obsessive, or homophobic about it. In fact, it's just the opposite: it's how boys neutralize confusing situations that may otherwise force them to honestly confront feelings -- in this case friendship and sexuality (which is something teenage boys think about constantly). And boys tend to resist being honest and open about their feelings, especially when it comes to things like sex. So there's a lot of game-playing going on, testing one another as a means of diffusing the situation.

Here's a true story from my own life: When I was a teenager, I was backpacking through Europe and I met up with two other guy friends there -- also teenagers -- from the States. We got a place in a guest house together for a few nights, but it was three boys in one room with two beds.

They were big beds.

I don't even know why I felt like I had to say that (about the size of the beds, that is). But what do teenage boys do in that situation? They either have one of them sleep on the floor (I know... ridiculous, isn't it?) or they make jokes about sex, being gay, experimenting, whatever, out of the uncomfortable reality of having to figure out something as stupidly simple as who sleeps where.

Dumb, aren't we?

But that's what we do. How we act. No big deal.

In fact it would be a big deal -- far worse and more stressful -- if we didn't say anything, or didn't make a joke out of it.

So, when Conner and Jack are (like happened to me more than once) confronted with the situation of having to share the one large (there, I said it again) bed in their hotel room in London, they both agree the situation is "super-gay."

This is how boys talk.

It's not hatespeak. It's not homophobic. It's boys being boys.

But one reader told me that the "super-gay" comment about their sleeping arrangement was a deal breaker as far as ever allowing a kid to read The Marbury Lens, which that particular responder was crossing off their "To Be Read" list just because of the "gay" comments Jack and Conner make to one another.

Two things about that: First of all, whether Jack is gay or not clearly would not matter in the least to his best friend. Conner just kind of wants to know. He wonders about Jack, and they're always competing, getting near all kinds of edges with one another.

It's what boys do.

Second, remember, I am a fish. I have been a teenage boy. This is how we talk to one another. You can politicize it, try to neutralize it, rant and rave about it, but it isn't going to change. Getting angry with me or crying foul at my book because of the very non-bigoted way the boys relate to one another is... well... it's the same thing that people do when they try to keep books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Crank or a thousand others I could name out of kids' hands.

It's just the way things are.

One person went so far as to suggest I include a kind of Public Service Announcement along the lines of "kids, don't do this at home..."

But it's the same kind of irate protests I got over kids chewing tobacco in Ghost Medicine and a fourteen-year-old kid (Simon) smoking pot in In the Path of Falling Objects.

Do you really think boys don't do that?

And what planet, exactly, do you live on?

Look, in The Marbury Lens Conner Kirk is an over-the-top kind of jerk, and his pressure on Jack is elemental to the story. But Conner is definitely not homophobic. Tactless? Definitely. Alpha Male personality? No doubt.

But he’s just a regular kid with regular kinds of flaws and misjudgments.


Deal with it.

While few people will be confused as to the degree of love Jack and Conner have for one another – as best friends rightfully should have – the pressure to be cool and hip that some friends put on one another (and Conner lays it on pretty thick) can significantly contribute to self doubt, and, in Jack’s case, self-hatred. Conner doesn't mean to stress his friend out, though. It's just what happens to teenage boys when they have close relationships with other teenage boys.

The sexual themes – gay and straight – in The Marbury Lens are necessary. Boys test one another; they question their own masculinity and orientation through internal dialogue (like Jack does), and others, like Conner, project this inquisitiveness outward upon others – not in a malicious way, even though his best friend, Jack, does suffer the consequences of Conner’s poorly-executed gamesmanship.

It's part of a normal relationship between boys.

Not an obsession.

Not a preoccupation.

It's the way boys just happen to be.


I know this stuff.

And how we talk is another thing entirely.

Next up: language.

Monday, November 22, 2010

and i am nothing of a builder (2)

Okay. So, a couple days ago I warned about how this week I'd be confronting some literary demons.

If you haven't been following along, then here's the gist:

Basically, I knew a long time ago that The Marbury Lens wasn’t going to be a book for everyone, and I certainly expected there to be more than a few outraged readers, too. And, yes, I have already gotten my share of mean-spirited email, here within the first week or so of its publication.

Oh well.

So I'm going to be up-front right here and now about the things I'm afraid will bother people, make them angry, and inspire them to say nasty things about me and about The Marbury Lens.

In other words, I'm saying it ahead of time for them, so you can save yourself the time it takes to complain. Or... you can cut-and-paste this blog post into the body of your email. I don't really care... so let's have at it.

Issue Number One: Relationships

I'm starting off with this one -- the one that I thought would be least toxic -- but it's the one that has... well... surprised me. In fact, I hardly know where to begin.

Jack is a really complex character. He resents the fact that he has no relationship with his mother and father, and, as a result, is completely ambivalent toward his grandparents, who raise, care for, and definitely love him. People have complained about that. They tell me Jack should be nicer, more appreciative toward Wynn and Stella (his grandparents).

Oh... By the way, I don't get that complaint from guys who've read the book. And I don't mean for this to be misinterpreted, but Jack is a teenage boy. And he's hurt and angry about not having the kind of parental relationships that other teenage boys have. He's not mean to his grandparents; he just doesn't really allow himself to bond with them. There's a good reason for that, too: he doesn't want to be discarded by adults again. Boys do act like that sometimes. It's just how we are.

I've already mentioned one complaint I received about Conner's shallow relationships with girls -- how, in one scene, Jack walks in on Conner having sex at a party where kids are drinking. Well, there are a lot of important elements in that event, as well as in the other sexual themes in the book, but I'm saving "Sexual Content" for Issue Number Three... so I'll come back to that target (a whopper) for complaints later.

A big relationships-based complaint about The Marbury Lens that sparked a veritable conflagration on another blog (that I will not identify) last week has to do with Jack and Conner's relationship.

Okay. Look, these are teenage boys -- best friends. I think I know quite a lot about teenage boys, having been one. In fact, I think I know a hell of a lot more about being a teenage boy than anyone who's never been one could possibly know. Ever. Period.

You know there are a lot of people who'll say that white male novelists have done some serious harm to others by writing stories from the perspectives of minorities -- Blacks and Native Americans, in particular. That is definitely a reasonable claim, especially in light of the titles we can name that fit into this category. So bear with me when I say the following...

Attention Shocked and Outraged Readers: You're going to have to suck it up and put up with certain things when I write about teenage boys and how they relate to one another -- ESPECIALLY if you have never been a teenage boy yourself. I don't care who you know, the gender of your children, or how much time you spent with your brothers or changing your nephew's diapers.

That just doesn't cut it. It's like looking at fish from the other side of the glass on an aquarium.

Remember: I am the fish.

That's just how it works.

Want to argue with me about it?

Bring it.

More on teen boys and how they relate with one another in the next installment.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

and i am nothing of a builder

When I was a graduate student, one day I realized that I sounded exactly like my professors.

And when I was a kid, I tried my hardest not to sound exactly like my father.

I think the big get-groped-and-have-people-see-you-naked plane ride for most writers is probably a long trip (I dreamed about flying on an uncomfortable airplane last night) to finding some kind of voice.

Voice is one of the hardest things to talk about with the young writers I coach. It's like that Zen parable about fish: some of them have to explain to the others what water is. Not that I'm saying I know what kind of fish I am.

But people who've read all of my books... they frequently tell me things like, oh... these are all so different, but I can tell it's you who wrote them.

Whatever that means.

Yeah... and if they were fish, they'd be the ones trying to tell me what all this wet stuff is I keep bumping into.

So I thought it was about time -- for a number of reasons -- for me to just come clean and talk about a few things that need to be talked about because they've already begun rearing their ugly toothy heads.


Is it normal, I ask, for a grown man to have an unreasonable fear of lampreys?

But I digress.

It has to do with this book called The Marbury Lens.

Look, I knew coming into this trip that The Marbury Lens wasn’t going to be a book for everyone, and I certainly expected there to be more than a few outraged readers, too. And, yes, I have already gotten my share of mean-spirited email. Probably tweets, too, if I ever looked at my Twitter account.





Like Jack, the most-of-the-time narrator in The Marbury Lens, I frequently have internalized arguments (that even involve one side of my fish-brain calling the other side some fairly unpleasant names). The reasonable and mature, Mister Spock side of my brain tries to soothe the other, emotional, hand-wringing, distraught side by saying: Look, your stupid little novel was named to Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2010 issue, it's a Booklist Editor's Choice for 2010, a BFYA nominee; it's gotten starred reviews in Booklist and PW... so you don't have to flail yourself, Arthur Dimmesdale, every time someone gets offended by something you've written.

Go figure. I am 1) like my main characters, and 2) prone to making allusions to works by Hawthorne. (The latter is due to my goddamned graduate professors, no doubt).

I hate myself.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. I was talking about offending people... the things that are going to bother some readers about me and engender nastiness. That's what I'm going to talk about.


It's a long list.

Very long.

After you complete the security screening, buckle in. That's where we'll be flying to this week (but there may be an in-flight entertainment selection featuring a particularly offensive three-legged sheep and his yet-to-be-revealed sidekick).

Gah! Where did I leave that flail?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

while we're on the subject

Well. While we're on the subject of blog surprises, I just (within the last few minutes -- literally) received notice from my editor that The Marbury Lens has been named to Booklist's Editor's Choice list for the best books of 2010.

I wish I had a link to share, but this is brand new fresh news that just went public. I'm sure I'll be seeing a link for it soon.

Maybe I'm going to need to use a smaller font on the index page of my website.

But, again, I am totally blown away by the reactions I've gotten to this book. I actually have been receiving fan mail from young people around the country -- and I'm, like, holy shit! I mean, I've gotten nice emails from readers on all my books (even just got one from a first-time reader of Ghost Medicine a few days ago), but they've never come so quickly after a book's release. I'm blown away because I never thought I'd put this book out, and then I kind of assumed that if I did, people would think I'm creepy and insane.

Which I may be.


Thank you, Booklist.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

we'll leave our tracks untraceable now

Well, to say that I didn't expect the overwhelmingly positive reaction to The Marbury Lens is a bit of an understatement. And more pleasant and surprising bits of news about it are on the way as well.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that The Marbury Lens has been nominated for YALSA/ALA's "Best Fiction for Young Adults" Award for 2011.

This has the potential of being a bit of a three-peat for me. The BFYA is a re-branding of the former BBYA. Now YALSA has a separate category, rightly enough, for nonfiction books for Young Adults.

Ghost Medicine, my first novel, was named a BBYA ("Best Books for Young Adults") in 2009. The following year, In the Path of Falling Objects, my second novel, earned a BBYA for 2010. Now, The Marbury Lens is up for the new BFYA designation for 2011.

Three-peat or no, it's an honor to be on the list, to have been nominated by somebody out there, and to be in the company of such great books and fellow authors. Thank you, ALA and YALSA.

You can see the final nomination list for the 2011 BFYA here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

i am going to build something big for you

Here we are, halfway through NaNoWriMo.

Are you at the 25K mark?

Personally, I am really looking forward to my pending National Not-Writing Month. But I don't know when that will be happening.

I had hoped to already be at the 25,000 words-not-written mark, but people and things kept getting in the way of two projects I am finishing (and have been finishing for a few weeks now). So, leave me alone. I need to quit.

Really bad.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

saint fillan's room

I made it home.

I need to say thank you to all the people at Mrs. Nelson's for hosting my first The Marbury Lens book signing. It was a great night, with lots of really cool questions from the audience (I'm just wondering... would you ever kill anyone?).

After a traumatic near-miss on getting to San Francisco after a broken-down plane, a flight cancellation, and no available seats anywhere, I finally did end up making it (however late), but in time to enjoy a most enjoyable dinner with my editor Liz and Lewis Buzbee before going off to the reading and signing event at A Great Good Place for Books.

Also thanks to author Yvonne Prinz for throwing a quite incredible The Marbury Lens party at her home. She has probably the coolest friends on the planet -- great food, music, and conversation.

Friday, November 12, 2010

we were never here

First of all, let me apologize in advance for not being here for the next couple days.

I am flying to San Francisco today.

Hopefully, I'll be landing there, too.

But I am bringing almost nothing at all with me -- living like a homeless man.

No laptop, no nothing. So you know what's going to happen if my house burns down.


Everything is gone, and tomorrow will be like being born again.

Tonight, I am going to be reading and talking about The Marbury Lens and stuff at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, California, at 7 PM. I am so looking forward to seeing my good friend Lewis Buzbee, who will also be reading from his fabulous new book, The Haunting of Charles Dickens.

If that weren't enough to make me absolutely... whimsical...or something, my amazing editor Liz will be there, along with my agent, the incomparable Laura Rennert. And I'm also going to be hanging with my very good friend and co-corruptor of youth, Yvonne Prinz and my Bay Area homies Josh H. and Gail W.

A most promising weekend lies ahead...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

today is kumran

I'll be honest. I didn't think anyone would get it.

Apparently, I bet wrong. In the last few weeks, The Marbury Lens has received starred reviews in Booklist and Publishers Weekly. Then, on Monday, it was named to Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2010 Issue (Something I am still reeling over). I'm already getting email from readers, and the book just came out Tuesday.

And then, yesterday, Jennifer Brown wrote one of the most careful and specific reviews of the book I've seen -- in the industry publication Shelf Awareness.

This is a true story.

When I was writing The Marbury Lens, I was writing only for ME. I do that a lot -- write with no intention of ever showing my work to anyone, much less seek widespread publication. Is that stupid? Egotistical? I don't know. It's what I do.

[Side Note: Last night -- it's been getting down to freezing here in the mountains -- we had a chimney fire. We'd -- no, I -- neglected our (my) responsibility to have an annual chimney sweep out, so a fire started inside our stove pipe near the roof. We had to have the fire department out. Our house nearly burned down. I thought about all the thousands (THOUSANDS) of pages of stuff I'd written on my computer. I even have a very small external hard drive that's about the size of a pack of cigarettes. I could have easily put it into my pocket. Easily. But I left it there. I thought, if the house burned down, then I would have a reasonable excuse to not show up at the book signings today and tomorrow. I know, that's pretty sick, but that's what I thought. And I also thought it would be cool, a relief, emancipating, to have everything (everything) I'd ever written that nobody had ever seen just destroyed, too. Is there something wrong with that? The only thing I took from my house was my wallet and my meteorite. Well, the house didn't burn down. The firefighters were nice guys. They talked about books. Today, we're calling a chimney sweep.]

So, anyway... where was I? Okay. Well, I was writing this beast a couple summers ago, and Liz asked me what I was working on at the time. We'd actually been speaking on the phone when I tried to describe the story I'd been writing. [Side Note 2: Is it just me? I have a hell of a time describing anything that I write. I think I have a tendency to picture the entire universe -- kind of like Jack does -- instead of the parts inside it that are the objects of our attention.]

I tried to tell her about it. She asked a lot of questions, trying to get me to explain the fundamental laws that governed Jack's reality. She asked if I'd send it to her. I said I wasn't finished, but I'd send her the first 130 or so pages. Still, I didn't have a problem about doing this. Liz isn't just an editor, after all, and I truly believed two things: 1. That the work would never be published, and 2. That the work never COULD be published (I thought it was too crazy, that it pushed things too far).

So, like I said, I felt kind of safe and insulated in my conviction that this was only going to be something that would disintegrate to ashes if my house ever caught fire.

I guess I turned out to be wrong about that, too.

Today is Kumran.

You can read Jennifer Brown's review of The Marbury Lens here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

your darkness is shining, my darkness is shining

Okay. Well, I have a long story to tell.

After having three books published, you can come to expect certain predictable things.

But not really.

This last one, it seems like the whole thing has been so unendurably long. The ARCs for The Marbury Lens came out about 8 months ago, I guess. And I'd decided at that time that I wasn't going to give them out to people I knew, in particular, to personal friends and relatives.

No big deal.

But, you know what happened? A few of my friends who did get a chance to read The Marbury Lens started treating me differently... like WAY differently. Or they stopped talking to me altogether.

You know who you are.

Maybe the change was in me, too. I don't know. But things have definitely changed between me and some people now, and I don't like that.

Here's the other thing -- and I have a hard time trying to phrase this in a diplomatic way -- there's this particular librarian. The librarian in question is an old-school librarian, too. Trust me... since I published my first novel in 2008, I've met hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of librarians across the country and I do confidently believe that, as a group, they are probably the hippest, most open-minded people on the planet.

Back to OSL (Old-School Librarian):

I gave OSL an ARC of Ghost Medicine when it came out in 2008. OSL really liked it. I think it totally surprised OSL, and, I have to say I feel a particular fondness for that book. Honestly, stepping back and looking at it, I think I can say that it is pretty decent writing.

So... when In the Path of Falling Objects came out, I was excited about giving an ARC to OSL. After all, I figured OSL "got" the way I write, was -- ugh -- a fan. So... OSL read In the Path of Falling Objects.

Afterward, OSL kind of frowned, looked disappointed and shook OSL's head.

Here's what happened:

ME: What did you think?

OSL: Well, I think you're a very good writer. It's just reading about people like Mitch really bothers me. I really do not like books that have characters who are disturbed. I enjoyed Ghost Medicine, but I really do not like books about people like Mitch. But I think you're a good writer.

Okay. Good enough. So... fast forward to March of 2010. The ARCs of The Marbury Lens are coming out. Of course, OSL wants one, but I had already decided... I told OSL that I'm really not going to give any ARCs to people who I know... that I had my own reasons for not doing it this go-round.

OSL kept mentioning the request to me.

For months.

And, I'm like, "But, OSL, I really don't think you're going to like the book. Really. This book makes In the Path of Falling Objects look like a Quilting Bee."

But OSL would have none of that. OSL's argument was that, as a librarian, OSL could handle reading anything.

OSL kept asking for the book.

When The Marbury Lens became available online for libraries to purchase, OSL procured some for OSL's library. And OSL kept asking me for an ARC, too. OSL explained that OSL would not be able to read the library copies because they would be checked out as soon as they came in, so would I PLEASE let OSL read an ARC.

This was a couple weeks ago.

And, after repeating my admonition: "If you were uncomfortable reading about Mitch in In the Path of Falling Objects, you are not going to make it through this book.

OSL persisted.

I caved.

Loaned OSL an ARC -- my one and only ARC of The Marbury Lens.

A few days later, I ran into OSL.

Here's what happened:

OSL: So, I want to talk to you about The Marbury Lens.

ME: Oh. Did you read it?

OSL: I have a problem with it. In the beginning of the book, Conner is having casual sex with a girl at a party.

ME: Yeah?

OSL: If I put that out, it's almost as though I'm endorsing casual sex.

(Okay. I shit you not. OSL said that to me.)

ME: Have you read the whole thing yet?

OSL: No.

ME: Well, when you do, I'd be happy to talk to you about the sexual content. Teenage boys do have casual sex, you know?

OSL: I know that. But I just wonder why you would include a scene where there is drinking and casual sex.

ME: Please. After you read the entire thing, I'll talk to you about it. I don't put things into books just to throw them out there. If I did, the content would be gratuitous, and I really do not like gratuitous content in any book. I feel strongly about that. The sexual issues in The Marbury Lens are important to the whole story. Read the whole thing, then we can talk about Conner, and Jack, and things like sexual pressure and growing up. Your putting a book on the shelves of your library is not an endorsement of anything. I'm certain you have books about genocide, slavery, and a whole lot of other horrible things in there.

So... I have not heard one more word from OSL.

OSL still has my one-and-only ARC, too.

I'm an idiot.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

come on over, we're having a party for you

Party time.

It's a boy.

Named Jack.

The Marbury Lens is born today, and nothing will ever be the same. I don't mean that in an egotistical way, either. It just won't be the same. Wait and see.

So, yesterday, I just got back from San Diego and hanging out with the most terrific Independent Booksellers EVER... and I was, like, all blissed out because I got to meet and hang with Pseudonymous Bosch (and I will honestly -- not egotistically -- say that we both gave two of the most brilliant and captivating speeches in the history of writer speeches -- back me up on this SCIBA people... you know it's true). And then... THEN... we got to listen to a rare and beautiful speech from Patricia Polacco. Trust me. Truly. This woman is a gift, and it was such an honor to spend some one-on-one quality time with her, learning about life.

She is just all kinds of awesome brilliance.

Okay. Where was I? Sleep deprived... too much traveling... a zombie-man... and I get an email showing that Publishers Weekly has named The Marbury Lens as one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2010. Holy crap!!!

Yesterday, too, I received one hell of a nice comment from author Shaun David Hutchinson, too, who had just read The Marbury Lens (and apparently re-read the last page a few times). And he blogged about it too. A published author with some really flattering words about this book that's been trying to kill me for a couple years now.

All I can say is thank you Shaun; thank you Publishers Weekly, and thank you to everyone out there who is apparently all up for a little 368-page vacation in hell.

On Thursday, November 11, please feel free to come out to Mrs. Nelson's Book Shop in La Verne, at 7 PM for the official launch party of The Marbury Lens.

You can read Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2010 list here.

Shaun David Hutchinson's terrific blog is here.

Mrs. Nelson's Launch Party Information is here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

we hide in bunkers from animals set loose

Nice award. Thank you Children's Literature Council.

Tough part was I had to give a speech. Easy part was you have plenty to talk about when you seem to have a natural talent for throwing every planet in the goddamned universe out of alignment.

But I got to listen to Jacqueline Woodson speak and read. She is totally amazing.

You know what else I got to listen to? About a dozen people throughout the day saying how they were looking forward to seeing me speak at an event today in San Diego. But I kind of like shrugged it off, trying to be all diplomatic and stuff, like they had mistaken me for someone else -- like someone who had actually been invited to the party where it turns out I am scheduled to be speaking.


In San Diego.

So I'm out the door again.

I just don't know what it is with me these days, but everything has been getting so incredibly, colossally, screwed up in my life. And it is totally (I almost said the F-word) messing with the work I'm doing, not to mention my head and my unwaveringly sunny disposition.

But that's stuff for another blog post.

Probably not tomorrow morning. And you know why? Because I'll undoubtedly still be stuck in a fucking (there I said it) traffic jam on the Golden State Freeway coming back from San Diego.

Ahh... I can see it now: I'll nudge my son and say, "Hey, look! Big concrete boobs!" (you have to be from SoCal to know what I'm talking about)

But that's not going to happen.

You know why?

Because I will be alone.

In a fucking traffic jam.

Next to giant concrete boobs.

You know how long Google Maps said it would take to get to the event from my house if there was traffic? [Side note: Hello!!! Google Maps... It's the Golden State Fucking Freeway. There is no IF.]

Five hours and forty minutes.

I could fly to New York City and have a beer finished in five hours and forty minutes.

Okay. No more cussing.

Let me share some pictures:

This is me (on the right) and Mary Pearson yesterday at the Skirball Cultural Center. Note the name badges. They add a nice touch. Mary is so cool, and she's such a tremendously talented writer. And guess what, Mary Pearson fans? There IS a Jenna Fox sequel coming out...

And this is me (the highly reflective one on the left) and Hope Anita Smith, who I am totally in love with. We love her books, and she is so talented and remarkable. And I'll be honest -- she read a poem yesterday that brought the entire room to tears.

Okay. Out the door now.

I have things to do, planetary orbits to dislodge, universes to disassemble -- and the day is hungry for me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

without game men prey on each other

I struggle with simple decisions like what to wear these days.

Today, I am heading down to the Skirball Center in Los Angeles to receive the Children's Literature Council's 2010 Distinguished Work of Fiction Award for my last novel, In the Path of Falling Objects.

Well, clearly it is not my last novel. The Marbury Lens comes out on Tuesday, and Stick will be coming out in 2011.

I have more, too.

But I'll be honest -- I have thought about stopping. When I was a kid, there were times when I would just disappear for long stretches of time. Go away.

Three days. You know the first thing I'm going to do when The Marbury Lens comes out? Well, after I send off a personalized copy of the hardback with a note inside for the winner of the Goodreads contest, I am going to vanish from the Goodreads universe.

That site can really depress me. It makes me feel like I've accidentally wandered into some room where there are all these people who've assembled to do some ambush intervention and I've never met any of them, and they don't care about that, and I'm just, like, am I in the wrong fucking place, or what? but I'm not allowed to interrupt my interventionists.

And they know everything about me.

Sounds like a terrible nightmare, or the plot of another excavation into darkness.

I'll post stuff about the award ceremony today or tomorrow, depending.

But I'm out the door right now.

Friday, November 5, 2010

if i could only get to oceanside

So, coincidentally enough (and, like Jung, I believe all things are coincidentally linked), yesterday I mentioned a blogger named Brent Taylor for whom I had been answering a list of [very good] interview questions -- and then, in the afternoon, I received a particularly amused email from my editor in New York telling me I had to check out this linked review on The Marbury Lens.

The review appears on a blog Brent Taylor writes, and it has to be my absolute favorite review that my forthcoming book has received so far.


If more reviewers wrote with the straightforward candor of young dudes like Brent, I think stony faces would break everywhere across the country.

He also included a cool picture of me and Jack at the bottom of his post. Yeah, we're from California. Deal with it. I'm proud of how the rest of the nation views California as some kind of free-sex-flower-child-running-around-naked-anachronistic-commune from the late 60s. Jack and I do support the Trevor Project and Human Rights Campaign, and if marriage rights, fairness, and human equality total up to liberal in the simplified calculus of political selection, then you can slap us both and call me Trotsky.

You can read Brent Taylor's review of The Marbury Lens here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

the kids are all write

More housecleaning today.

I am excited.

Can you tell?

I wanted to clear something up about yesterday's post. I am afraid I may have made some people feel bad who've worked very hard and are very supportive. That wasn't my intention, and I do apologize. But let me be more specific: I don't get excited when my books come out because I find the whole thing to be terrifying. Especially this one. I could be more specific about why, but I'm not going to. It's like being the only kid on the carnival ride who's terror-stricken to the point of death when everyone around him is having a blast.

That's all.

The blogger Brent Taylor asked me some really good interview questions this week, and I've been spending some time answering them. I'll send them off later today, and I'll post a link here when he puts them on his blog.

One of the things he asked was what was the best part of being a published author (and my answer was obviously not "release week").

But I didn't have to think about that one. I know the best part of being a published author.

The BEST thing: talking to young people who love to read and want to become writers.


That is the BEST thing.

It’s not about hero-worship, it’s about letting kids know that it’s totally okay to want to write, to love doing it, to embrace books and wonder at the magnificence of written human expression. There aren’t too many of us believers left in this country, and the educational system is succeeding at killing the attraction toward creativity, inquisitiveness, and human ingenuity in young people today.

But that's another topic entirely.

Kids: It is okay to want to write, to be creative, to be un-standardized.

Actually, it's better than okay. If the world is going to be saved, it will be the creative, un-standardized young people of today who'll keep our ship from sinking. You may not believe me, but I know this is true.

I coach a group of teen writers. I'm not in charge of them. We sit in a circle and listen to things the kids write, and then we talk about them. Some kids don't want their stuff read aloud (let me tell you how much I can empathize with that feeling), so they'll give it to me to look at away from the group.

I have a lot of reading to do.

But it's a really cool obligation.

One of the problems I had with Teen Read Week, and a lot of the outreach types of programs that well-intentioned writers and publishing professionals do (and all for good reasons, keep in mind) is that they're so prescriptive. They like to tell kids what's good for them. Make lists of what kids should read. Tell schools and libraries how to get kids involved in reading. Tell teachers what kids like. Have grownups come to classrooms and read THEIR books to kids.

I don't like that stuff. Kids have had an awful lot of people telling them "shoulds" and "good for yous" and expecting them to sit quietly and listen to what grownups want kids to want to read and think.

Personally, I'd rather let them show me what they've got.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

all king horse

The Marbury Lens comes out on Tuesday.

Yesterday, someone asked me if I was excited.

I said no.

They said, really?

I said really.

They said, well, did you get excited when your first book came out?

I said no.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

mom was right, your face will get stuck like that

This is the last Tuesday in the world before The Marbury Lens comes out.

So, the other day, Jessica Tedder from Square Fish sent me a box of brand-new paperback copies of my first book, Ghost Medicine. They are set to come out on the same day as The Marbury Lens, which is kind of interesting and weird to me.

Even though Ghost Medicine came out in 2008, just two years ago, looking through the book is kind of like looking at class pictures from when I was a kid. I was thinking about this the other day: how all the books I've written (more than a few) are kind of like snapshots of me from different times.

It's like when you go see a band like the Stones, or U2, and they sing Satisfaction or I Will Follow. I wonder if people like Mick Jagger or Bono feel weird -- like, after all, they are definitely NOT the same people who came up with those songs. They're kind of like parodies of themselves now, who they were -- likely opposites of who they imagined would be singing those words.

Maybe I over-think things. I have a hard time remembering the stuff I wrote in the past, so when I look through the words of something like Ghost Medicine, it really is like I'm hearing someone else talking.

Maybe I should just write the same stuff over and over.

Maybe I should use more exclamation points.


That's it.

I need to get in touch with my whimsical self.

Whimsy is easily maintained, and doesn't shock you when it revisits in a paper binding two years after you've let it out.

Kind of like kookiness.

I need to find that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

ante luctus

    Here it is, the Day of the Dead, and there are a few things I need to brush off the plate of October.

    • First, good luck to all the people I know who have already started cranking out the words for NaNoWriMo. Here's a tip, for free, to up your word count and get that 50,000-word brass ring by November 30: adverbs and adjectives. When you're going to use one, try using them in a string of, say, three or four. Trust me, it's a remarkably, obscenely, and oft-overlooked [and who can overlook the use of the prefix oft ?] method to vastly, easily, and descriptively enhance your manuscript.
    • I have a few things coming up, the details of which you can read on my website. First, on Saturday, I will be at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, where In the Path of Falling Objects will be receiving the Children's Literature Council's 2010 "Distinguished Work of Fiction Award." The following week includes LAUNCH DAY, a reading (ooooh!) and signing at Mrs. Nelson's in La Verne, a trip up to (I hope a post-series, sedated, tranquil, and kind-hearted toward Los Angelenos -- woo-hoo! three adjectives!!!) San Francisco for another reading and signing at A Great Good Place for Books. This last event will be amazing. Not only will I get to hang with my great (and hopefully sedate, tranquil, and kind-hearted) friends Lewis Buzbee and Yvonne Prinz, but my super-amazing, talented, and gracious editor will also be there.
    • How's my word count?
    • Sorry. I'm not picking on my NaNo peeps. I'm a little insane from overwork. Still haunted by the ghost of multiple, simultaneous, concurrent, oppressive projects. (Four!!! I am a pro, after all...) Hear that sound? Somewhere, in New York City, someone is ripping up my contract. That happens when you're three-fourths in to a blog post and you've used more than a dozen adjective/adverbs.
    •  One last thing: Last week I wrote a few posts about Team Marbury, all the people who had a hand in getting a book like The Marbury Lens onto shelves and into people's hands. I didn't neglect to mention one very important team member -- a kind of offensive coordinator whom I'd been saving for last. My agent. I realize that I must be one of the most challenging clients a literary agent can ever have, and everyone in this business will tell you that getting an agent -- a super one at that -- is more difficult than getting published. Well, nothing I've ever done would ever have gotten anywhere if not for my agent. I never forget this, too. She is mentioned in the two lists of acknowledgments I have in my last two books, and (he reveals this now for the first time) is also the person to whom my 2011 novel, Stick, is dedicated.