Monday, February 28, 2011

the middle road

I am back.

If there is a thread that weaves together some kind of unifying message through my books, it is this:

Probably the most compelling thing about writing books for young people and with young characters is that kids kind of experience the events occurring in their lives with a sort of detached ambivalence to all things good and bad.

Because kids really don't have any breadth of experience with which to compare their condition, they assume everything that happens to them is completely normal.

So, whether it's Troy (from Ghost Medicine) attempting to account the ledger of things he's given up in exchange for the dubious benefits of adulthood, Simon and Jonah (from In the Path of Falling Objects) getting into a car with a murderer, Jack (from The Marbury Lens) questioning his grip on reality and blaming himself for all the consequences of his ignored and unnoticed life, or Stark McClellan (from Stick) trying to be an obedient servant to all the weird rules and absence of love he and his brother have to contend with at home -- these kids, in their detached yet wide-eyed wonder at all the weird, magnificent, and frequently unjust things that happen, take their paths as being immutably and normally the course of life for everyone.

When adults read stories like these, because we have these grown-up filters that come with all the assumed calculations of good and evil, morality and a sense of balance -- of what life should be like -- it is often the case that the effect of the tale is greater on us than on kids.

That's exactly what I want to happen.

I've said it before: I don't write books for kids. I do not write children's books. I write books for readers. And I like to write about young characters for that exact reason: the ambivalent, wide-eyed, inexperienced wonder at things we adults just can't handle.

I had more than a few people who wanted to speak to me about this thread after my talk on Saturday night at the SCIBA dinner, so I thought I'd throw the idea out here on my blog this morning.

I'm glad it connected with the grownup readers in the audience.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

the next day

Okay, so the thing actually turned out very cool.

Well, except I had to be the last speaker of the evening, following the amazing Judy Blundell, Dr. Cuthbert Soup, and Brandon Mull. And those two guys were, like, professional stand-up comedians, so everyone in the room was, like, teary-eyed from laughter and felt all warm and glowy and stuff.

Okay, so, Cecil Castellucci, who was the emcee, gets up to introduce me, and she's all, like saying stuff like how "the media" describes me, like, Andrew Smith is depraved and dark. His books are truly disturbing. If you were trapped in an elevator with him for a prolonged time, you would probably lose your soul...

You know, stuff like that.

So it was kind of like me running around the room and spraying cat pee on everyone's desert.

[I just thought of "cat pee" because when I got back to my hotel room around midnight, I turned on the TV and there was this show on about hoarders. Why do hoarders always let cats pee on their stuff? If I had a lot of stuff like that, I wouldn't let cats pee on it.]

Anyway, here's a picture of me and Cecil before I cast a mournful pall on the room.

Cecil, getting in touch with her Indie-Rock self, even sang a song for us.

So, anyway, I did speak about my books and what my philosophy is about books for and about young people. And I used that as a kind of platform to talk about my latest book, The Marbury Lens and how it relates to the ideas in my forthcoming book, Stick.

So I talked a lot about Stick, and, in particular, about the young people who are making the live-action trailer for the book. But I didn't show the trailer at the event because I don't think I'm ready to do that yet, and there isn't a final approved cover for the book yet.

And what, I may ask you, is a trailer without a book cover in it?

But I did show pictures of all the kids, actors, and technical people who are making the trailer. Here's one of my favorites.

A couple friends from the Book 'em Danno book club showed up, looking terrific, as usual.

And, finally, my step-sister in agentdom, Shannon Messenger, was there. And I'll let you be the judge on this one. I told her, Shannon, why is it that every time we take a picture together, I look like a rapist?


Creepy rapist dude.

Off to Chino this morning for the Family Festival of Books at the Chino Fairgrounds. I'll be signing at noon. Hope to see you there.

Maybe we can take a picture together.

Maybe I won't look like a creepy rapist.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

day one

And so it begins.

I am sitting here, in the dark, watching it snow, wondering how long I can possibly delay until I get out of here, and if I can somehow squeeze another comma into this sentence.


So tonight I'm going to be speaking at the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association's Children's Literacy Dinner in Pasadena, at the Westin.

You should be there.

It starts at 6:00. Well, it actually starts when Mr. Happy shows up.

What am I going to speak about? You'll have to be there to find out, because I don't even know yet. All I can promise is that there will undoubtedly be an equal distribution of surprise and horror among the participants.

I am determined to take pictures this time and put them on my blog, but determination is a zero-calorie pill to swallow.

I may post again here later.

It's snowing really hard and I better get out of here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

five years time

So here goes the big scary weekend.

All I need now is to break out in zits, which, even at my age tends to happen on the exact day when I am scheduled to make an appearance.

So I will have zits and be homeless at the same time.

So, my apologies to Barry Lyga, whom, in my smugness, I invited to a barbecue at my home to taunt him about the nice weather in Southern California. Um... well... I live up in the mountains, and we're under a winter storm warning, expecting a foot of snow this weekend.

In most civilized parts of the planet (it's 20 miles from my home to the nearest traffic light), they do crazy things like plow streets after snowfalls. Not where I live, which will account for my acne-blemished homelessness.

I've been snowed out before.

It's lonely.

So I'm vowing to re-invent my zitty homeless self over my forthcoming lost and lonely weekend. I'm vowing to make the effort to fit in.

I'm making a list of things I'll need to do to accomplish my homeless/zitty/lonely re-creation, and it probably will begin with something whimsical, like using an emoticon on my next blog entry.

I'm not quite ready to do it yet.

I'll keep you posted from the zitty-homeless-lonely-but-trying-hard-to-fit-in laptop this weekend.

Have I ever told you how much I despise the alleged "high-speed" internet access at lonely hotels?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

the god of not working out


So, you look like you work out.

I do every day, but this isn't about pickup lines.

Although the great-big-giant-me works out, there are times when nothing else seems to. I've been going through this intense phase of things not-working-out and it was inadvertently (and benignly) pointed out to me by fellow Los Angeles-based YA author Katie Alender, to whom I am now inadvertently, consequentially, and benignly grateful.

Note to aspiring authors: It is probably unwise to use three successive adverbs.

[mindflash -- so, I was sitting here just now, thinking about what it would REALLY be like to drink Drano, and I remembered how I had this dream last night and in it I was drinking a peach margarita. Would I EVER drink a peach margarita? What does that even symbolize? I hereby grant anyone permission to kick me in the balls if I ever drink a peach margarita]

Anyway, so Katie pointed out that my website (I directed her to it for information regarding an appearance this weekend) was not updated with the information I told her would be there.

This is why, when doing things like updating your websites (assuming you've gotten beyond the task of not-using-three-adverbs in your prose), it's probably a good idea to check your work.

So I realized the old website was... well... the old website, and that none of the stuff I'd been putting on it for the past... oh... eight fucking months had been showing up.


So this explains why, when asked by a certain real and professional filmmaker about my upcoming novel, Stick, and I said, oh... I have a little something about it on my website.

And then the filmmaker said she couldn't find it, and I rolled my eyes and sent her an email explanation (thinking she was insane, when, in fact, it was the great-big-giant-ME who was delusional).

So, that's just the tip of a very unseaworthy iceberg that I've been floating on these past ten days or so.

Anyway, the website has been repaired (note the excessive use of the hyperlinks and adverbs)... and the link on the right column now works, but the URL is totally screwed up and I don't know how to fix it.

But, then again, I don't know how to fix most things, either.

Yesterday, I saw a rough cut of the live-action trailer for Stick, which I'm planning on debuting at the Southern California Independent Booksellers' Association Children's Literacy Dinner in Pasadena on Saturday.

Yeah. Right.

Well, the video is looking amazing. I can say that. But, then again, this is me, a servant of the patron saint of not working out.

It looks like it will be a while before I put it on the internet, though, because we're still holding off on a final cover reveal (even though there will be a not-so-final cover for the SCIBA folk on Saturday).

But that's it.


Because it's supposed to snow on Saturday in the mountains where I live.

Have I ever said how much I hate driving in the snow at night? So, no worries... I'm staying down there in Pasadena, anyway now because the next morning I have to head down to Chino for the Family Festival of Books at the Chino Fairgrounds, where I'll be signing copies of The Marbury Lens at noon.

And, this is all dependent on my ability to get things to work out.

As Rose might say, "Ha!"

(ooh... literary allusion)

Anyway, it might just be me. I'm wondering.

You can find out stuff about my upcoming gigs (I believe) on my new and improved website.

Please tell me it's really there.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

there is a light and it never goes out

So I was thinking about this thing called "Writer's Block" the other day.

I still do not believe in it.

I remember having a kind-of cool assignment one time, way back when I was an undergrad and was taking a course in expository writing. I liked the class a lot. I found the professor to be energetic and really attached to what she was trying to teach us, even if she and some of the other students in the course, as I recall, scowled over my use of the word "piss" to describe the flavor of a particular wine in one of our assignments.

Well, the wine wasn't in our assignment. I just wrote about it. Tasting like piss.

I also tended to use other words that the professor and my fellow students of expository writing... well... weren't used to seeing in college papers.

Anyway, this one assignment was about giving a personality and human characteristics to the monster that stops us from writing. You know, some people... well... probably a lot of people... feel like they can't sit down to write unless their house is clean, or until there are no dirty dishes in the sink.

Stuff like that.

So they let these really dumb and unimportant obsessions become monsters that need to be taken care of before they can sit down to write.

And once they slay all the monsters, it's, like, bedtime and they have to get up and do the same routine all over again the next day.

Maybe that's why I start writing at 3 a.m.

But I still don't let anything get in the way.

Trust me, I have enough monsters that won't go away to worry about the weaklings who try distracting me with things like dishes and dust bunnies.

So, anyway, if you're a writer and you actually believe in this unicorn called Writer's Block, maybe you should try turning it into a real, go-wash-the-dishes-and-pick-up-the-poop-in-the-yard monster.

And then write about it.

Beats the shit out of zombies and vampires, if you ask me.

Ooops... there was one of those words I got in trouble for.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

shaping young writers

So where was I?

Oh yeah... the man with the hook and how young writers' minds get shaped into burgeoning excavators of darkness.

And yes, this is true. So, we had this principal with a prosthetic chrome hook for a hand. Now, I have no doubt that the man lost his arm in defense of freedom, liberty, capitalism, and everything else sacred to us.

That still doesn't change the fact that when he spanked us boys (because boys were the only ones who seemed to ever get spanked at school... mysteriously enough) he would hold the paddle, locked in his hook.

If I told you that wasn't the bad part, you might think I was making this up.

But it wasn't.

When he did spank kids... er... boys, he would perform the ritual in the middle of the school's hallway, and they would make all the boys from all the classrooms come out and stand quietly and watch.

That's how it happened.

Nowadays, at schools, it's like you need to have your attorney file legal briefs with parents if you reprimand a student for texting in class.

But not back in the days when my generation used up all the world's supply of fun, fun, fun!!!

So, at my little school, if you were a boy, you tended to either grow up to become a sociopath or a novelist.

Go figure.

Monday, February 21, 2011

james buchanan's vast and lonely mattress

It's just another one of those stories I tell kids, to let them know how my generation used up the entire human civilization's store of fun and adventure and left them with nothing more than the sterile disconnect of social network apps.

The other day, a kid said something like, did you know the air we breathe is almost entirely nitrogen?

I said, yeah... that's because my generation used up all the oxygen.

One of the elementary schools I attended for a brief period in time (I looked it up online recently to see if it wasn't just a fabricated manifestation of childhood trauma. I found it on Facebook) was located outside a small town on the western edge of Puget Sound in Washington (where the novel Stick takes place).

In those days, too, it was completely acceptable for public school teachers and other school staff to spank kids for pretty much anything they deemed was a spankable offense.

I realize I could write a whole post on the notion of spanking -- my parents beat the living tar out of me when I was a kid, and, yes... um... I got spanked a few times at school, too. Of course, growing up like that (ooooh... made you flinch, kid), I had nothing to compare my lot in life to.

I considered it all to be entirely normal. The way of the world.

That, to me, is one of the most compelling things about writing what some people call YA (have I ever told you how much I fucking hate "YA"? Yes... I have. And it sure pissed off a lot of YA bloggers with ponies and magical leprechauns on their blog wallpaper, too) -- this whole idea that young people, who lack a broad base of experience, always tend to default toward the notion that whatever happens to them, no matter how fucked-up it is, is just a normal and acceptable part of life.

That's a really big part of the story of Stick.

I hate it when people say things like, oh... nobody ever mentions that in fiction, but... does anyone ever really talk about that idea in the vast septic seas of YA, or are they too wrapped up in their ponies and magical farting leprechauns?

(I just threw the word farting in there to see if you were paying attention)

Where was I?

Oh yeah, spanking.

I have never spanked my kids. They are teenagers, and they could run the world as far as I'm concerned.

But I got spanked. I got the shit beat out of me by just about every adult authority figure you could name. As far as I, or Stick, were concerned, that's just how kids got raised properly. There was nothing weird or necessarily bad about it.


Anyway, at my school in rural/coastal Washington... the principal, whose likeness and name are seared into my memory (and I will NOT name him), had a prosthetic hook for his hand. One of those chrome kind that could open and close. So it could hold things.

Like paddles.

I know you're cringing.

I can tell.

And I am not making this shit up. It's how little writers get shaped.

I'll tell you more later.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

son of the servant of saint fillan

Which reminds me...

Of a couple things I'd been meaning to talk about.

Sorry for the late post. I wrote this really long thing about Stick, my next novel, and then I decided I couldn't post it.

A few weeks ago, I pasted in excerpts from stuff I'd written in the past year or so. Well, actually, I wrote Stick right at the very end of 2009, as a sort of see-if-I-could-do-NaNo thing. Which I did. And the product of that month of writing is going to be on the shelves this fall.

(and ARCs, which I am dying/dreading to see, will be out in a few weeks)

I think it was Matthew Rush who asked me about poetry. Like a lot of things (go figure...), I have strong opinions about poetry.

And Stick is written in a very weird way that some people are going to think is verse.

But it's not.

So don't go there.

Now, on the other hand, most of the chapters from In the Path of Falling Objects begin with verse, but nobody ever said anything about that to me. So, go figure.

Someone asked me about word count targets when I write. I don't really have them. Naturally, at the end of every day (and, believe me, I know when a writing day is ended) I do look at what I've done in relation to where the day began.

I'm never satisfied, though.

It took me about 5 weeks to write Stick. It's my shortest novel, too, at about 74,000 words. So, you can do the math as far as daily writing counts go.

And the book I am writing at the moment (which I will be finished with by April 22... among other reasons because I have a short-story deadline for an anthology I'm going to be in next year... and, besides that, I always know when I'll be finished with writing a novel), there are two sentences in particular, each of which I have rewritten more than 100 times now.

The first is 24 words, and the second is 34. They have nothing to do with one another and they occur at different points in the story arc. I'm definitely not going to post them, but I feel like they're perfect at this point and I can move on.

If pictures can contain 1000 words, then every novel has to have a few perfect sentences containing stories that vastly exceed the limits of a final punctuation mark.

Not every sentence.

That would be like death by chocolate.

But there needs to be some indeterminate number of them that you just want to read and taste over and over.

At least, that's what I believe.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

on sandwiches and children

Yesterday, Lisha Cauthen from the Kansas City SCBWI wrote a review on her blog about what she called my "sandwich book," In the Path of Falling Objects.

And today, over on Lady Reader's Bookstuff there is yet another post -- more sandwich love for that book.

(I'll link the blogs below)

Sometimes, I suppose, books can be kind of quiet and invisible, like being a middle child, I guess -- something that I know a little bit about. Not that In the Path of Falling Objects was necessarily invisible -- it did win a lot of awards and praise, but it was likely, as Lisha suggests, a bit overshadowed by its big brother, The Marbury Lens.

Jack, stop picking on your little brothers.

One of these days, I suppose I'll write something about how maybe it isn't a good idea to write so much stuff [I have one particular writer friend that I am absolutely confident is nodding at this very moment and assuming a sinister I-told-you-so-dumbshit expression].

And... here I am, sitting at my computer at 5 in the morning with exactly two programs running: this one, and the file I am working on for my eighth [I hate the way that word -- 8th -- is spelled] novel.

If my books were my children, I would tell them I love them all, even if I don't want to stop breeding. I'll admit, too, that I've been abusive toward The Marbury Lens -- all those terrible times I've told him I wished he was never born.

We're trying to work our way through that, I guess.

But I do love my sandwich baby, In the Path of Falling Objects, and it's really comforting to see he hasn't been completely forgotten by book bloggers. After all, he's barely a year old.

I've said it before: I really don't think I choose to write what I do. It chooses me, and that's all there is to it. It's the only way I can explain number eight as it gestates inside the womb of its mother's hard drive.

Anyway, (sighs) I have a lot of **stuff** that I'm doing this year, and lots of news to tell about things, too.

And more stuffing to squeeze into the sandwich.

You can read Lisha Cauthen's review of In the Path of Falling Objects here.

You can read Amy (Lady Reader)'s review of In the Path of Falling Objects here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

a moon for the misbegotten

So, here's the schedule.

Let's stick to it.

Which may have something to do with the title of the book, too, but maybe not really.

Have you ever not liked your name? I know the feeling. People who've known me since I was a little kid (those who still talk to me, that is) call me Andy.

I hate being called that as much as I hate misused apostrophes, emoticons, exclamation points, and fake words like fajita and squee.

No. I hate it even worse than that.

Please, never call me that name. I'll get really mad if you do, and Martin will tell you: when I get mad I sometimes don't say "please" before I tell you to fuck off.

So, Stick is actually a nickname for a kid who hates his real first name. His real name is Stark McClellan, but everyone calls him Stick. His brother's name is Bosten.

To be honest, I like both of those names. A hell of a lot more than the bastardized name I confessed to above that I will never mention again. I've actually known guys named Stark and Bosten, which is why I chose those names for characters in my book, too.

Want to know what the book's about?

I'll tell you later.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Saturday, I'll be speaking at the Southern California Independent Booksellers' Association Annual Children's Literacy Dinner, 6:00 p.m. at the Westin in Pasadena (the link is below). If everything works out as planned,

[wait... this is ME I'm talking about. Really??? Really???]

I will be debuting the live-action trailer for my next novel, Stick at the dinner. There's quite a cool story behind the making of the trailer, about the kids who were involved, and even about a ghostly apparition that was captured during the filming of one of the scenes (really).

Which is kind of a meta thing, because the story of Stick himself is kind of a cool story, too.

And, if all goes swimmingly, the amazing cover of Stick will be revealed on a few friends' book blogs on Monday, February 28 (pending final approval from Macmillan), and then everyone will get to see it (and a really nice blurb from Sara Zarr).

And that's when I may talk a little bit about the story, too.


The following day after the big debut (again, we are totally counting on me not fucking things up), I'll be out in Chino at the Fairgrounds signing and talking about The Marbury Lens at the Family Festival of Books, right at noon.

I'll remind you (assuming I can stick to the program) later on this week.

Information on the SCIBA dinner is here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

film school

Yesterday, the kids from Annex Footage finished the shooting of the live-action trailer for my upcoming novel, Stick, which I promise to talk about -- often -- in upcoming posts.

And -- ooh (Stephen King moment) -- I actually got to be in a part of the trailer, too. Not that I particularly wanted to. Just how things worked out.

It's kind of surprising how much time and work goes into the filming of something that is only going to be about 3 minutes long.

And there are a lot of young people involved in the project, too, besides the actors, and I will be giving them all props here when we get around to the final debut of the trailer (which we're hoping will be on February 27, pending final release of the novel's cover art).

I'm sure I mentioned it yesterday, too, but the cover design for Stick, crafted by Rich Deas (who also did the cover for The Marbury Lens) is really spectacular and dramatic. I can't wait to be able to show it off... but I'm not even going to reveal it here. I'm having some blogger friends reveal the cover on their sites.

I'll definitely run a list of blogger links (these are really good blogs, worth reading) and the date for the "reveal" as soon as all the plans are finalized.

In the mean time, here are some photos (taken by the Annex photographer, Kaija) that were shot during the various film shoots -- on and off set:

Stick (James Marino) hiding on Willie's houseboat, where something terrible happens.

Bosten (Derek Deakins) before the fight scene.

Bosten and the guy who wrote the script. I think he was hungry or something.

The kid has good taste in books (Um... it's The Marbury Lens). What can I say? Reading during lighting set-up.

Ricky (Demetri Belardinelli) got punched at least a dozen times that day.

On the houseboat.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

to the kid from canada

Yesterday, on Amy's blog, a reader asked a question about my son's impression after reading The Marbury Lens.

I think I explained that nobody ever reads my work until it's actually out in ARC (Advance Reader Copy) form, and, in this case, my son was the first real person to read The Marbury Lens.

My boy reads an awful lot, and he is very critical of the books he reads, too. I'm not going to list the ones that he read this year that he genuinely disliked. You can always just ask him and see what he says.

In any case, the kid is honest with me about everything, especially books.

Still, The Marbury Lens is a really personal and difficult story for me to have written, so it was tough for me to just hand it over to my boy and say, "Here. Read this."

To be honest, ever since I handed The Marbury Lens over as a manuscript there hasn't been a single day when I haven't spent a good bit of time regretting that I allowed the book to be read by anyone.



Now I know better than to do that with some of the other books on my hard drive that nobody has ever read, and I've never talked about. Which is kind of meta because here I am talking about things I've written that I have absolutely no intention of ever allowing anyone to read.

So my son read the book in one day. The next morning, we were alone, and I asked him what he thought about the book. I was kind of nervous, not just because of the questions I knew he was going to ask me, but also because of the content.

Anyway, he started off by saying, "Dad, I think that was the best book I've ever read."

And this kind of opened the floodgate for a long conversation about a whole lot of things.

Okay. About a week ago, I received a really nice email from a mother of multiple teen boys, and she thanked me for posting that video about boys and YA literature. She told me about her eldest son, who's about 15 years old, and how she's been having a difficult time finding books that he might find some kind of connection to.

So, after explaining very honestly to the mom about content issues in two of my books, In the Path of Falling Objects, and The Marbury Lens (because I think these are very good books for reluctant boy readers), I made an offer to the boy that if he'd give a try at reading one of them, he could have his pick, and I'd send him the book of his choice.

Mom and he decided on The Marbury Lens, so I sent off an autographed copy for the boy last Monday.

He lives in Canada, too, which is a long way and substantial postage/customs hassle from where I live.

Okay kid, now the whole world is watching to see if you'll give reading a shot.

I think you're going to do it, and I'm waiting to hear back from you.

I have a feeling you (like my son) will tear through the book.

We'll see.

As an author, I get an ample supply of copies of my books when they come out. And I never give them to friends or people in my family.

Mostly, the reason I don't give books away to friends and family is that my books are really personal to me, and I never really did want anyone reading them. Well... especially not people I know.

What I end up doing with all my books is giving them away to kids.

Actually, I've shipped out my author copies of books to kids all over the world. Well... at least kids who want to read them and send me emails and stuff about books and reading, so far in Europe, Australia, China, of course the US, and now, I've sent a few copies of my books up to Canada.

I'm nearly all out of them now, too.


The ARCs for Stick are due to come out next month -- on March 15. I want to talk a little bit about that book and the stuff that's in it coming up soon.

It's another one that is going to make me very uncomfortable when my son reads it, and not just because I'll have to wait for his opinion of the writing.

And I saw the cover for Stick yesterday. It's spectacular. I can't wait to be able to show it publicly. Should happen in a few days now, and I've decided to do a "cover reveal" with some of my book blogger friends (you know who you are) out there, so they'll all show the cover on their blogs the day before I do it here or on facebook.

But we have to wait till I get the okay.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

someone else's door

Okay. And with that, Matthew from The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment asked a few interesting questions and was kind enough to post up an interview with me on his blog (which I'll link below, too).

I realize that practically every time I'm asked questions, my answers change. In fact, I think just about every one of my answers to Matthew's questions would be different if I did the interview again right now, or four hours from now.

Oh well.

This seems like the year for stopping things. In music, a lot of great bands have broken up. I could list some of the more shocking (to me) breakups, but you'd only know who I was talking about if you were a hipster.

And if you were a hipster, you wouldn't be listening to me anyway.

That said, I am proclaiming my interview on Matthew's blog to be my **last**.

My apologies to those of you who have been waiting patiently in line to ask questions of the great big giant me.

Everything you think you need to know about Drew is in my books, anyway.

I have some work to do.

Tomorrow I'll be meeting with the kids -- the young writers. We'll start filming the documentary then (really). And the kids will also be interviewed away from me, so they can say whatever they want to say.

They can anyway. They know that.

I was thinking about them last night (not in a creepy way), and I kept wondering about this whole notion of "pride" and being "proud" of what you do.

I'm not proud of them or what I do.

In my never-to-be-understood universe, pride is something you feel about the things you choose: like a model of car, or a new house, or a freshly-mowed lawn.

I never chose anything I've ever done.

I'm pretty sure it chose me.

Just ask Jack.

So, anyway, I've got another guest-blog gig coming up this week at Macmillan's website -- on Friday, I think.

I'll most likely disappear from here for a while -- until we post the video about the kids. We'll see.

Tautology for Tuesday: I'll either be here, or I won't. Either way, it won't necessarily be my choice.

You can read my **final** interview with Matthew Rush here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

the valentine's lens

So, among the interactions on the comments' pages of the recent posts, I talked a little about the group of young writers I've been working with.

I also mention them a little bit in an interview that was just published on a blog called Lady Reader's Bookstuff (linked below).

So I'm asking the kids to submit to being the subjects of a web-documentary about what they do and what they think about writing. I'm sure they'll have some interesting -- and possibly surprising -- things to say. And it will undoubtedly shock a lot of YA phonies out there to see that there are just as many boys in the group as there are girls. [YA phonies adhere to the unwavering philosophy that "Young Adult" equals "girl," especially as it pertains to reading, plot line, and writing]

Anyway, this should be cool. Give us a couple weeks or so to get it filmed and edited.

I'll tell you a few things about what we do and don't do in the group.

First off, we don't censor. This means that the kids write about whatever they want to write about. Sometimes, they'll even say shit. I can't remember if any of them said fuck yet. Oh, wait... they're teenagers.

Of course they have.

What was I thinking?

Every time we meet, the kids read a couple pages from what they're working on. Sometimes, it's poetry, but it's most often prose (short stories and novels).

At first, most of the kids were shy about reading their own stuff out loud, but they got over that really fast. I think, for the most part, they really enjoy reading to their peers.

After each kid reads, we make comments about what works or what needs to be clarified -- sometimes we suggest fixes. You'll see.

You know what we don't do?

Read stuff that I write.

I'm really jealous, too, because I wish I had a group of fellow writers like these kids do. But, oh well...

I'll talk more about them in future posts.

Also, coming up this week, I believe I have an interview on Matthew Rush's very cool blog for writers. He and his readers asked some different, not-too-expected kinds of questions.

And here is a link to a brand-new interview I did at Lady Reader's Bookstuff.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

the quiet of the morning

Last night, my teenage son and I went to a concert together.

This is something my dad and I would never have done. Even if he had lived long enough to do such things, my dad just wasn't that type of dad.

Anyway, my kid and I go to lots of concerts together. While we were standing in line, we talked about past shows we'd seen and ones we'd like to go to this year (Cloud Nothings is touring with Toro Y Moi, for example... And my son also totally agrees with me that the label signing of Dylan Baldi took him out of the purity of his home recording environment and has produced an upcoming album that has a sterile and disappointing flavor... so sad).

In any event, we were fortunate enough last night to see a nice, no-messing-around performance by the Decemberists, one of my favorite bands.

A couple noteworthy things, because this is far less a review of the performance by Colin Meloy and company than an observation of the event itself:

My son and I both agreed that there must be some connection between eye damage and being a Decemberists fan. Either that, or a large percentage the thousands and thousands of pairs of hipster-style narrow horn-rimmed glasses worn by the audience had to have been faux-horns.

I have never seen so many scruffy-bearded, skinny-jeans-wearing guys with vision problems in my life.

If there is such a thing as a hipster Mecca, a Decemberists concert is like a Ramadan Hajj.

This is Los Angeles, after all.

And, speaking of which, Meloy was not shy at all about giving the crowd what they were there for, right up front -- the show opened with "Los Angeles, I'm Yours," in which a dutiful roadie carried Meloy's harmonica out on a cloth-decked altar, just in time for the interlude.

And Meloy, in all his brilliance, eloquence, and humor, ceaselessly assailed the crowd, Los Angeles, and California, with an expected and irreverent dose of we-don't-need-no-stinking-deodorant Portland, Oregon snobbery.

Don't get me wrong. I love the Decemberists, but bashing Los Angeles and California (as the opening song does so scathingly well) always makes me feel... well... a little dirty.

Because I do love Los Angeles.

And I just kept feeling that the crowd, in all their hipped-out glory, just didn't get it.

Okay. Now, more about the show.

Let me apologize to all my faux-horn wearing friends up front. They played too many songs from their latest "The King is Dead."

Sorry. That's just how it is. I don't even think Meloy likes "Down by the Water" any more. We got tired of it, like, the first week it came out. So the band just went through the motions on that one.

But a few of the other cuts from the album, notably "Don't Carry it All" and "June Hymn" (the final, final encore) were just gorgeous.

Still, it's hard... no, impossible, to outdo the impact of the real Decemberists we came to see. And maybe that was the problem for me... with the Decemberists, you come to expect a cohesive story line, something that pulls you along with them and the richness of their vision. The cuts from "The King is Dead" almost felt like commercial breaks in the middle of a Sam Shepard play.


Holy shit moments:

Won't Want For Love (Margaret In the Taiga) -- absolutely fucking gorgeous and brilliant.

The Rake's Song -- Meloy on guitar, Nate Query on fuzz-bass, and all 4 other members playing drums... unbelievably wicked. Infanticide never sounded so holy.

Red Right Ankle -- there is something just so... nice... when Meloy comes out, alone, with just his voice and acoustic guitar.

The Crane Wife 3 -- I just love this song, the story, and the sound of Meloy's voice and the band. So tight, so beautiful.

...and, of course, the massive, joyous, crowd-participation, never to be outdone, absolute celebrations of musical genius:

16 Military Wives

The Mariner's Revenge Song
(the best, funniest performance of this song in HISTORY took place last night at the Wiltern).

A most wonderful event. Meloy was charmingly wicked. A one-man ass-kicking on Los Angeles. I feel thoroughly trounced.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

dance round the room to accordion keys

The other day, Martin, one of my writing students asked me:

Have you ever had an epiphany?

I was so relieved he said epiphany. I mean, think of all the possible nouns a question like that from a teenager could possibly end with.

So, in my manliest of voices (but I had to think about it for a while -- is it manly to admit to epiphanies, and, if so, what would be the acceptable frequency of epiphanization that wouldn't compromise my veneer of impermeability?), I said:

Um. Sure. I have them all the time.

Then I looked around to see if any mouths hung agape or eyes widened in horror.


I have so many things I want to say about comments I've received on my Boys and YA video (especially the things sent to me off the board, via email), but a comment to yesterday's post about blogging made me think about something sad.

Sadder than my horrible dream about the white hearse and who/what was inside it.

Back when I went to school, kids who wanted to become writers were encouraged to pursue that course. There was lots of support, and very rigorous expectations for kids who got into that word-filled track.

It was tough.

But, back in those days, I believe, kids who wanted to write became little monsters of mechanics.

I've spent some time popping in and out of various writers' boards and community websites, and I've noticed in the past ten years or so, there are an awful lot of people out there who have this intense desire to write, but admit they lack the fundamentals of grammar, spelling, and mechanics.

How could that happen?

It's kind of like wanting to be an Olympic swimmer, but you've never been in water before.

And we did it to all these poor people.

It happened at schools, where no child would be left behind, because we focused only on the minimal survival/performance levels of 4th- and 8th-graders. We did it by lumping every imaginable type of kid together in huge classrooms that taught them to sing the recited hymns of math-and-science-math-and-science and treating them all as one, homogenized, standardized child who wasn't being left behind.

And not getting left behind meant ignoring the child and pushing them along in huge, impersonal, standardized groups that could collectively achieve minimal marks on key tests given to 4th- and 8th-graders.

So we get this huge population of people who never were encouraged to cultivate their innately creative inclinations, and we've basically doomed them to permanent frustration and mediocrity.

I don't know what to tell you.

I do get emails from writers very frequently that voice that frustration -- I need to write, but I have a problem with grammar and spelling, and I never read great or inspirational books when I was a kid.


What can I tell you, other than you've been left behind?

The frustration is exacerbated, too, by the money-seeking organizers of "Writers' Conferences" and such, who'll take ANYONE's non-bouncing and misspelled check and tell them everything they need to know to break into the business.

Providing they haven't already been left behind.

If you really want to do it, I can give you some advice. But it's not going to be easy.

So, yeah... I sometimes have epiphanies.

I have nightmares more frequently, though.

Friday, February 11, 2011

#follow friday

I've said it dozens of times, and I still believe it is true: Blogging is NOT writing.

Maybe I spend too much time even thinking about book bloggers and what they write about. I'll admit that if I had to quantify the amount of time spent doing that, I probably think of lots of other things more often -- like what I'm going to have for dinner or colorful talking ponies.

Which reminds me. I had a dream about a hearse last night. I've never dreamed about a hearse before. It was white. I was following it in my dream, and the passenger door was open. The dream even gets creepier, about who and what was inside the hearse, but I'm not going to say it. I just mention this because of my preoccupation with superstition, and I figure if I die today or something, people will think I'm really cool.

But I'd be bummed because I'm going to see the Decemberists in concert tomorrow.

Anyway, about blogging and bloggers...

I thought about posting this because there's been a pretty intense and dramatic blog-o-battle going on this week, and I've been voyeuristically enjoying it.

I suppose it's a self-evident truth that anyone can have a blog.

So I always consider the source whenever I read a blog.

Some blogs are very good. They have voice and attitude and are obviously not the parroted blather that comes from the mouths of the blogger's network of friends.

I immediately write a blog off entirely if the person behind it can't spell and misuses apostrophes... or especially if they can't articulate the correct use of their, they're, and there; its and it's or your and you're. Which means I discount about 75% of all blogs as being vapid, meaningless, and... well, stupid.

A blogger has one chance and one chance only on the above list of words. That's it.

I try not to ever listen to stupid people, and if you're going to try and sell yourself as having a qualified opinion about books and writing, which, after all, are inextricably embedded in the English language, then get your tools right.

So the blogs I enjoy reading... they have something to say and they articulate their message well. They aren't merely friend-networks of like-minded shut-ins (hyphenation-gasm), which, unfortunately, too many blogs happen to be.

But then again, too many blogs are overly-adorned with colorful ponies or give book ratings based on pictures of one-through-five quantities of leprechauns and stuff like that.

If you want me to read you, and, more importantly, believe that you have something to say, then say something with your own voice and own it.

Is that a mean thing for me to say?

I'm not in a mean mood.

Even considering the weird dream about the hearse in the road.

Maybe I should put pictures of ponies on my blog.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

two headed boy

So here is something that frequently isn't written about on writers' blogs. It's about the technical process of getting a book out.

For you up-and-coming types out there.

This happens after the writing, the editorial letter, the revisions, the copy-edits. And, the way things have happened with the production of my books may be different from the steps toward actual release for other authors, too, so, as usual, don't take me overly seriously.

Yesterday, my editor let me know that she had seen the final pages for my next novel, Stick, which is going to be released this fall, with ARCs coming out next month, in March.

The final pages are the unbound, print-ready pages with cut marks on them. They are pretty much exactly the way the pages are going to look for the final products -- the ARC, and, afterward, the released publication.

And this is the first time I haven't actually held those pages in my hand [Note -- this is not a passive-aggressive plea for some kind of delivery of the goods]. We were going to go direct from the copy-edits to the ARC, but my editor and I both felt that a look at the final, typeset pages for this novel would be necessary because a significant part of the story has to do with the way the words are actually formatted on the printed page.


I am fortunate to have a few writer friends. They range across the spectrum of nice to mean, but they all have one thing in common: they are wickedly talented. Anyway, I told my friend Sara Zarr about the process, and she was, like, wow... that would freak me out to go straight from copy edits directly to the ARC.

Well, that wasn't exactly what she said, but it was the gist of it.

By the way, Sara is one of the very few people who has read Stick (whose final pages and concepts for its mysterious cover I have not laid eyes upon -- just sayin'), and she wrote a very, very nice blurb about it.

So, anyway, my editor expressed, I think, some relief that the final pages turned out beautifully... and if we need to make any changes to it, we can still do it after the ARCs come out.

Which makes me kind of nervously sick, just thinking about it.

My opinion only: Even though they say things like "Uncorrected Proof" on them, ARCs should be perfect.


Why am I a two-headed boy?

Well, for one thing, not only do I get torn up about the technical stuff (the typeset pages for The Marbury Lens made me go absolutely insane -- lose sleep and everything -- because some line breaks were omitted), but I've been praying for a break from writing for maybe a year now and it hasn't come.

Part of me knows I really should take a break. I'm killing myself. But I haven't been able to stop. I am writing another novel right now.

I usually can predict fairly accurately my completion date for a novel well ahead of time (barring any distractions like copy editing or revising another project). I'm predicting April 22 on this one.

We'll see if the two-headed boy is using his brains on that calculation.

Here are some pictures of what final pages look like, from The Marbury Lens:

Notice the trim-marks on the pages.

The Post-It note on top is from my amazing editor (awww....). The notes inside are mistakes and other assorted WTF moments.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

the book club king for a day

The comments to yesterday's post about books for boys were outstanding. I'm going to have to write an entire post just about the things people had to say.

I think there is an understated bias, though, in the way we present books, literacy, the arts, and writing as a profession that discourages boys from reading, tells them they are unwelcome and should cultivate other interests, and, whether you're a blogger, a novelist, a publisher, teacher, librarian, or bookseller -- like the title of the video post said, If you're not part of the solution...

Shrugging your shoulders and saying it's not my fault or I don't have a responsibility to affect change only weakens your ability to help kids succeed and grow, and demonstrates either a lack of compassion or an overt willingness to do harm.

So suck it up and grow.

I will point fingers in the future.


That said, my son's high school book club (which in the past 2 years has read Ghost Medicine and In the Path of Falling Objects) is now reading The Marbury Lens.

(New, young, hip librarian)

Yesterday, I found out from him and one of the other boys in the book club [oh... yeah... this book club has boys in it. Um... I think there are more boys than girls, in fact... And it's high school, for all the anecdotal pushers of the "boys don't read" lie...] that, in their discussion of The Marbury Lens, it came out that the honorary "favorite character" of the club was...


My son was, like, I can't believe they all like Conner more than Jack.

I just shrugged and said it's not my fault. I don't have a responsibility to affect change.

No. Honestly, I think that's kind of cool. Conner is a good and heroic guy, despite all his obvious flaws and, at times, the excessive pressure with which he assails his best friend.

There have definitely been Conner detractors out there in the blogosphere, but yesterday, it was nice to see him made book club king for a day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

mao and me


So we fixed the upload problem with the video yesterday. Well, I didn't, because I don't know how to do those things, but the video is here.


No commercials.

Me. Chairman Mao. My couch and some books.

I'll let it speak for itself.

So, here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

find the hidden ike reilly quote

It is here.

So, as I've been promising, I did this video about Young Adult Fiction about boys, written for boys and by boys... with a bunch of other kind of interrelated stuff thrown in (kind of like special effects for a crappy movie).

And here we are, February 7, the day the video was scheduled to be broadcast.

But it is not uploaded yet.

I'm sure of two things: One, that it will be uploaded sometime today, and, Two, that this (being that it's Monday and all -- and I am just that superstitious) is a telling indication of what the rest of the week is going to be like for me.

Oh. And I am now, officially, in big trouble for running my Young Writers' Group. God knows, nobody should ever do something like encourage kids to write.

And finally, a kind of cosmic, synchronous, coincidence happened. I don't exactly know how to say this -- I will try -- without making some people outraged, offended, and mad at me. That is not my intent.

You can usually tell when I'm trying to piss people off (like yesterday, for example).

And I really do, truly, like and respect the people involved in this thing I'm going to talk about here, too. But, here goes.

Over the last couple days, and continuing through tomorrow, I think, there is a kind of online forum (live) taking place. It's being hyped as a kind of "Ask a YA Author" type thing. And there are 19 authors taking place, to offer their wisdom and input to people who want to ask YA authors anything.

And there are 19 authors participating.

And every one of them is a woman.

Is there something wrong with that?


Do you want me to say it again?

There is nothing wrong with that.

But... there are young people of the male persuasion who happen to dream of one day being a writer (some of them want to write YA, too). There are also adult guys who are working at becoming YA authors.

A hell of a lot of them, in fact.

And the bottom line is that what guys go through, how they have to balance their lives (whether it's dealing with an asshole football coach, their jobs, their spouses and families) is an entirely different set of experiences than what women usually encounter. Everything is different for guys who write -- especially the things they write about, their voice, and the way they connect with audience (which is what this author crap is all about).

I don't know. I just hate seeing stuff like this. I know it's not intentionally condescending and exclusionary. But sometimes the unintentional stuff makes a louder statement than the all-caps "NO BOYS ALLOWED" sign on the lawn of the country club.

Bottom line: YA means both genders.

Or, you should just call it YCL.

That is all.

Where's my goddamned medicine?

VIDEO UPDATE: The film has been fixed. Look for it on tomorrow's post. Cheers.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

the jack of clubs

So you want to be a writer.

Before you start writing anything, you need to have a website. With a really cool nameplate. And a logo.

You need to have your own logo, or nobody will ever take you or anything you ever write seriously.

Once you have a logo and a website, you should probably get a sidekick.

You don't need to begin the writing process unless you have a sidekick.

Your sidekick could be human, but most people will find it more endearing if your sidekick is a dog or a cat. Your dog would curl up around your feet while you gaze at your website and logo, and your cat would do something adorable like put its paws on your keyboard, which is a definite YouTube moment.

If your sidekick is something low-maintenance and inanimate, like, say, the Jack of Clubs or a cigar box stuffed with newspaper clippings about beheadings, people might think you're insane.

Well, actually, my cigar box ran out of room, so I'm looking for a new sidekick.


If you have a website, logo, and sidekick, you're on your way to an exciting life as a writer.

But you're still not ready yet.

You need "issues."

Drug dependency is so played out. So is alcoholism. It's okay to have a family that hates you because you live on the couch, you're nearing middle age, and all you have is a website, a logo, and a mysterious cigar box, but you can do better than that.


Okay. So, you've got a website, a logo, a sidekick, videos of your cat on YouTube, you still live with your mom and you're thirty-five years old, and you pee in the bed (or couch) nightly.

Sounds like you're almost ready to start writing.

There's just one more thing...

I always forget that one thing...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

lifeguard -- the magical quote roulette

Okay. Well, the discussions the last couple of days have been really great. I do have the best people commenting on this blog lately.

But I'm only going to say one preparatory comment about the upcoming video on Monday. It has to do with book covers and studies that show why boys choose to read what they read. My filmmaker friend, David, asked me yesterday, oh, did you see blogger XX's post?

Me: No.

Because I thought you must have tipped her off about what you said about YA book covers. It seems like every one she showed was exactly what you described.

Me: I didn't tip her off at all. That's just how it is on any YA book blog.


So, that's it.

It's Saturday. I have a lot of work to do. So I thought I'd just play the game called Magical Quote Roulette (which I just made up because I didn't know what I wanted to blog about today).

Here's how it goes: I wrote four THINGS in the past year. I'm not saying what they are, but they're long and have lots of things called "words" in them. I'm going to randomly select a passage from each one and paste them below, which makes you an advance reader before advance readers get to read them.

Here you go. Spin the wheel:

You cuss like that regular?

When I’m choking I do

You done run all the way from Oconee School, and ain’t got nothing but a gun


And pissed-in britches

She walked on my left side, never said anything about that habit. We headed north, away from the pier, the black, sawtoothed water of the Puget Sound pushing me toward her whenever I had to escape the occasional wash of the sea.

And with just one glance, I thought I had him sized up pretty good. He stood there, sucking in his stomach with his hands on his hips. He was one of those edgy grownups who’d played football in high school and bragged to his friends about how he goes to the gym every morning, and he probably did part-time coaching for a youth program just so he could yell at kids and tell them what pieces of shit they were.

You see guys like that everywhere in California.

I kept my head down.

The walk seemed to take forever.

How far away did I park my goddamned truck?

But I knew he was going to say something to me.

“How’s it going?”

I stopped.


I said a silent prayer.

Actually, silent is probably the only type of prayer a guy should attempt when his head’s in a toilet.

And, in my prayer, I made sure to include specific thanks for the fact that the school year hadn’t started yet; so the porcelain was impeccably white – as soothing to the eye as freshly fallen snow – and the water smelled like lemons and a heated swimming pool in summertime, all rolled into one.

Friday, February 4, 2011

in which i decry drug use

So yesterday we filmed the majority of my upcoming video post about Boys and YA.

Save me, oh gods of film editing.

Actually, it went pretty well because the cameraman listened to me whenever I said cut.

Anyway, the film will be uploaded and linked here on Monday, February 7.

As I mentioned a week or so ago, this came about after I posted a response to a YA book blogger's video plea for "Warning Labels" on Young Adult literature. I didn't actually nail down a definitive answer as to how I feel about that (which is oh-so douchebaggy of me), because as an author as well as a parent of two teens of diverse genders, I can empathize with the easy-way-out attraction of warning labels, even if my kids choose to read whatever they want for themselves.

And I'm totally okay with that.

So, I thought the whole video-exchange thing was cool, and suggested we do something similar on the topic of boy-oriented YA that is written by guys (which most so-called YA bloggers either do not read, or they don't know exists).

And that's the gist of the origin of the upcoming video, in which I discuss certain things I would prefer to erase from the universe (and if you've been a reader of this blog for any time, you can probably guess them). And I call out President Obama, too, for just flat out getting it wrong on something I feel very strongly about (even though I love President Obama -- as is clearly demonstrated by my offer to him in the video Hint: it involves going out and getting tattooed together -- squee!!!).

I thoroughly hate myself.

About a year ago, I wrote a series of posts I called the why chromosome, about why we seem to have collectively bought into this absolute lie that boys do not like to read, they suck at reading, that reading is a feminine pursuit, and that boys can't write, either. So I introduce some stats from a couple of the academic studies about boys and literacy that I cited in those posts.

Sometimes I am convinced there is an anti-male brainwashing agenda taking place while we sit and do nothing. Every day, they shove down our throats their mantra, a myth about the XY crew which they base on the following intertwined diagnoses:

1. When we're young, we boys can neither read nor write, and...

2. When we get older, we require prescription medications to make our penises function properly.




Who the fuck believes this shit?

I don't know what universe the insane assholes behind all that crap came from.

Hmmm... maybe I really am an alien, but, holy shit... pass me my book and keep your damned drugs away from my penis.

In any event, I wrap up the video by naming a selection of very-recent works of Young Adult fiction written by guys, aimed at issues that are essentially boy-oriented, and targeted to all kinds of different boy readers.

What could be better than shit like that?

Gets real.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

me and the kids

One of the few things that I really, truly look forward to every week is sitting down and listening to the Young Writers' Group I coach every Wednesday afternoon.

On Twitter, they have a thing called #WriterWednesday, where people list the writers they follow, or something like that, but the real Writer Wednesday is here with these kids.

They are simultaneously funny, smart, way more observant than I am, and they treat each other with respect and kindness. They really help each other to develop their skills as writers, and especially to cultivate a level of comfort with creativity and feedback (which is something I'll be talking about on the upcoming Boys and YA video next week).

So, yesterday the topic of character names came up. One of the boys mentioned how he'd changed the name of a character in his project because he knew a girl with the same name, and it felt like the character name came with all this real-world baggage.

I remember how I used to worry about stuff like that, too. A long time ago.

Maybe that's why so many people want to write fantasy: you get to make up totally bizarre names that you'd never hear in the real world.

I explained that the bottom line is you'll never be able to write for any length of time and NOT have a character name that isn't attached in some way to a real flesh-and-bone person that you've known in your life.

Unless you're a hermit.

Which I'd really like to be.

The catch is to not have characters that ARE real people (or, to make them just different enough that only you will know for sure who they are).

My bad guys in my books... they all are really people that I knew.

That's right, assholes.

Come and get me.

Other than that, there are so many characters in my books whose names I've "borrowed" from people I know that it would be pointless to list them all. In fact, sometimes, I'll write a scene, give a character a name that just doesn't sound right to me, then I'll change it to the name of one of the first people I talk to that day.

That happens in my writing process a lot of times.

I know people who use baby name books or websites for their character names, and I'm sure that works. But most of my real-world names have come from the real-world people I talk to every day.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

buried in ice

Among the many good things I can think of when it comes to February is that spring begins next month.

Along with that, there are a couple of really cool events coming up toward the end of the month.

On Saturday, February 26, I will be speaking at and attending the SCIBA (Southern California Independent Booksellers Association) Children's Literacy Dinner at the Westin in Pasadena. This is one of my favorite book events, because it's really relaxed and comfortable, you get a lot of books, and there are some very cool authors present for speaking and signing.

You should go.

This year's event features Cecil Castellucci as emcee, and along with myself as one of the speakers, there will be authors Judy Blundell, Brandon Mull, and Dr. Cuthbert Soup.

Afterward, I will be signing copies of The Marbury Lens.

I'll be speaking about my upcoming novel, Stick, which will be published by Feiwel and Friends in fall 2011. I don't think there will be any ARCs available until next month, and I have no idea what the final cover design looks like, either.

But I will be showing the live-action trailer produced for the novel for the first time anywhere. After the event, the trailer will be viewable on a number of websites (I'll provide links here).

The following morning, I'll be heading out to Chino, California, for the Family Festival of Books. The event is located at Brinderson Hall in the Chino Fairgrounds. I'll be meeting readers and signing my books at 12:00 noon.

You should go there, too.

I hope to see lots of you at one or both of these February happenings.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

yes this is a fine promotion

So, more about this whole Boys and YA thing I started talking about yesterday.

I was really surprised by the comments received. I thought that people would, like, not care, or get pissed off and insist I'm insane and out-of-touch for even bringing the issue up.

Which I may be.

Again, thank you all for contributing to this discussion.

My video about Boys and YA will be broadcast next week, beginning on February 7, and it will only briefly touch on some of the things I mentioned yesterday. Most of it is going to be different, and for fans of empirical data-based findings, I will offer some of that as well.

Along with an actual animation sequence hand-drawn by me (one simply must showcase one's diverse talents when one is unemployed).

Yes. Exciting.

Or something.

So, I've had this bit of a writer's quandary in the past couple weeks, and I've heard very differing responses about it from my friends. I don't see any reason not to tell the story here.

After all, what's the worst thing that could happen to me that doesn't already happen on a daily basis?

So, I was contracted to write this short story for a YA anthology that's going to come out in 2012. I was excited to say yes to the offer, especially because there are some really huge authors on the list of contributors.

Well, I mean, they're actually mostly regular-sized people.

Well, Michael Grant does have really big feet.

Anyway, so I wrote this story that fit the bill on the contract (but, of course, it was weird and kind of twisted), called Once there were Birds, and then, I was, like, damn. This is too good to be a short story buried in a forest of huge people (okay, some of them are kind of chubby), so I decided not to end it at the required short-story cutoff length and turn it into a novel.

And give the book a different short story of mine.

Does that make me a bad unemployed person?

Well, I'm actually good at being unemployed, but, I mean, is there anything ethically wrong with not selling that work as a shortie?

I started the thing maybe a year ago, but stopped when I got involved in writing a different novel. So I pulled up the file when I decided to agree to sub the story for the book. And, after looking through it, tweaking a few things, I thought there was no way I was going to feel good about wrapping it up and packing it off in 10,000 words.

10,000 words is about 1/8 or so of a novel (short novel for me... for some people it could be about 1/5). Anyway, it was hard to just give this thing up at that point, and I figure I can always write a bang-up short story for the book in plenty of time to beat my deadline.

So this is my quandary. I could take the easy way out and let the thing go, but that's kind of hard for me to do.

And, at the same time, let me say how much I so totally despise myself for getting into another novel just a week or so after finishing off the last one.

I don't know... maybe I'll just cut and quit.