Tuesday, May 31, 2011

last one standing

You may remember a while back, there were a few authors (myself included) who took a kind of a stand against a publisher/editor of a forthcoming YA anthology over an editorial decision made to bar the inclusion of a story that included a male-male romantic theme.

So I said, no, I can't be part of a project that excludes, or, at the very least, ignores the reality of same-sex relationships.

And I destroyed the story I'd written for the anthology.

Well... I didn't actually destroy it, but it's not a story any more. The story became a novel, and the novel sold to a publisher (details will be posted soon).

Anyway, I like the novel. A lot. But I was also disappointed at having to extricate myself from this anthology over a very poorly-handled editorial decision.

The story of the anthology continued, though.

Sadly enough.

On April 29, I received an email from a new editor who was taking on the project (the original editor got... um... "replaced" due, no doubt, to the rather icky way an issue of rejecting content that hinted of same-sex attraction was handled). The editor wanted me to reconsider and submit my story.

At first, I thought the idea sounded good. The publisher was going to donate ALL royalties to the Ali Forney Center (a housing program for homeless LGBT kids in New York).

On May 4, I received a new contract. And that's about when I started having a lot of second thoughts about the project. Which were, technically third thoughts since I had originally pulled out.

Here's why:

1. Since I wrote the story into a (damn good) novel, it was just not going to be available to them. The assumption was that it would be the same story... but I just wasn't going to do that, considering I had agreed to a deal for the novel.

2. The more I thought about the donation of royalties, the worse I felt, for the following reasons: First, it was almost like I was working to benefit the PUBLISHER (who desperately needs to atone for some obviously disgusting behavior)... and not so much the Ali Forney Center. I didn't feel good about that. I kind of felt like I was being used to "make right" something that the publisher (or editor) did, and not to help this valuable and worthy program in New York City.

So, on May 26, I sent a very short email -- after struggling with this for a while -- saying, again, no... I'm not going to do this.

I didn't really go into reasons why... I just said the original story had been sold as a novel and I wouldn't be able to submit something new.

That's when I got a really nasty and threatening-sounding email from the new-and-improved editor.

First off... jeez! I took three weeks to make a final decision on the matter. Three weeks in publishing is like a nanosecond in puppy years.

I'm not going to cut and paste any of the thinly-veiled threats into my blog. I'd like to, but I won't. Just like I'd like to name names, but I won't.

The decision was mine. I didn't feel good about it. I said no.

Get over it.

But, and even though I have absolutely NOTHING to atone for, oh homophobic publishing house, here's what I am going to do (and I will provide photographic evidence of this):

1. When I receive my advance for this novel which I sold, I will make a donation to the Ali Forney Center equal to 100% of the advance you, oh homophobic publishing house, were going to pay me for contributing the story which I am now not going to contribute.

2. Not only that, but I will also make a donation OF THE SAME AMOUNT to Trevor Project, Los Angeles, since I am from Los Angeles and kids need help on this coast, too.

I don't have anything to make right.

You do.

YOU go do the right thing.

That said, my forthcoming novel, Stick does touch the issue of homelessness for gay street kids in Los Angeles. As far as I know, there are ONLY three signed copies of Stick in existence in the world.

I'm thinking of setting up an auction of a fourth copy of Stick to benefit a kids' homeless/LGBT program here in Los Angeles.

I'll let you know when that happens.

Monday, May 30, 2011

walls against the impalpable

On taking a day off...

Yesterday, I asked Catherine Ryan Hyde about taking a break from writing. She posted something about just coming off a break.

I'm looking forward to doing that. I think I need one because I'm afraid I've been too much of a workaholic since November of 2009.

I know that precise date, because that's when I wrote Stick, which will be coming out in October.

Since then, I've written three other novels whose titles will remain behind the wall.

That's a lot of work.

If you read back some distance through the archives of this blog, I did mention one I'd been working on that I was planning to finish last month -- at the end of April. Well, that one went a little overbudget in terms of work, words, and time, but it is finished now.


I'm just going back through it and taking out some words and making sure all the dates and time span references coordinate. Then it's done and I can take a holiday.

I hope.

I notice there are actually papers here on my desk in front of me from last May -- entirely a year ago -- and I should probably excavate through them so I create some surface area for next year's accumulation.

I know there are bound to be writers who'll disagree with this, but I don't consider the post-acquisition phase of work (editing, revisions, copy edits) to be actual "work," because they don't really empty me out like the real job -- actually writing something new -- all the stuff that actually goes into a manuscript BEFORE official eyes see it -- does.

Which is what I'm finishing now.

And hoping I don't start something new too soon.

Yesterday, I watched a documentary about a theory behind the past three decades of extreme weather (including events as recent as the terrible tornado in Missouri).

Yesterday morning I went out on a 7-mile run in the hills and there were flurries of snow falling.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

i carry you like an object from another age

It is 6:00 a.m. and I am sitting here writing.

This is what I do.

Outside the doors on the deck from my office, this is what it looks like at exactly this moment:

On the other side of the trees in my backyard, we have an enclosure for our horses. We took them down there yesterday afternoon and I shot these photographs.

Our horses were actually the horses that were kind-of characters in my first novel, Ghost Medicine. This is Arrow.

This is Dusty. Our older horse, Reno (the heroic horse in Ghost Medicine) died about a year ago.

Our dog waited patiently to be asked to bring the horses back home from playing out in the field.

And then he ran them along this ridge...

And down to the flat where they could get back through our gate.

For horses, it's always time to eat.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

the teachable moment

If you were to map out the dance steps followed by the main character in just about any novel, you'd eventually get to a point where the guy has danced his way onto a ledge and is either going to fall off or turn around.

As a writer, being at that particular place in your work can create some anxiety. It's why a lot of people who write can really benefit by having critique groups, or, at least, hanging with other writers who might act as sounding boards for the choices the writer must consider.

Well, I don't have a crit group, and I don't hang with anyone. So, when I got to that which-way-is-he-going-to-go moment in the last novel I wrote, I felt really torn. In fact, I started writing out different dance steps, but I kept going back and erasing them.

So I did something I'd never done before: I asked some of the kids in my writers' group, including my own son, what they thought would happen. I told them the entire story up to that crucial on-the-cliff (literally, in this book) moment and I laid out for them the choices my main character had at that point.

And, no, I'm not going to tell the story here. But I got some interesting perspectives -- some of them pretty mean -- on what these young writers thought might happen.

I ended up, admittedly, not taking any of the kids' advice, because I already knew deep down what had to happen. I was just stubbornly attached to prolonging the moment -- the universe of the story -- I think (which is something most writers probably experience, too).

But just being able to talk to other people -- writers -- about what was going on was tremendously insightful to me.


This post has nothing to do with that writing stuff.

It's about teaching and learning.

They're both verbs. Well, gerunds in this case, I guess.

In any event, they don't operate on rechargeable lithium batteries.

It's why kids -- well, students of any age -- will always be intellectually shortchanged if they learn anything from a machine.

The directions a machine will take you -- however intricate they are -- will always be like those inkstamped black footprints in an Arthur Murray Dance Studio -- you have no choice but to follow them.

Machines can't capture the creative inspiration that is spontaneously generated by human interaction -- the teachable moment, where you don't necessarily HAVE to turn right or left, depending on how you look at things.

You might end up somewhere completely off the GPS.

Which is why -- literally -- (you can ask my son, he'll tell you) my car's GPS suggested I drive off a cliff last week when I refused to follow the course it had laid out to get us where we wanted to go.

This might have been a thrilling ending to our story, but it wasn't exactly the choice I had in mind at that moment.

Friday, May 27, 2011


How do you like your machines?

There's a place I've been going to quite a bit in the past few months.

I have it programmed into my car's GPS.

I honestly would not know how to get there if I didn't turn on my GPS every time.

I kind of feel guilty about that.

I got a really nasty, threatening email yesterday from someone who swears that one day horrible things will happen to me.

I hope it doesn't mean my GPS will steer me off a cliff.

I read a report today about a school district in Massachusetts that wants to buy iPads for kindergartners.


We are evolving and it's happening about two inches behind our eyes.

I've written dozens of times about the campaign to kill creative thought in our schools.

It starts with the obvious standardization and bubble-in measurements of kids' abilities and schools' effectiveness. It gets pushed along by slick gadgets like iPads.

When we get everyone totally on the same bubbled-in page, and everything is standardized, we won't even need human beings at all to teach our kids.

Steve Jobs will do it for us.

There's an app for that.

If you think that's not where all this is going, well... I think you're wrong.

And as long as the kids are okay with their deeply-inserted earbuds, glazed over expressions, number-2 pencils surgically affixed to their little hands, and every question they might ever encounter having only one correct answer among an alphabetized list of five choices, we'll be where we want to go.

Sometimes, though, when you get lost, you find cooler shit than what you set off to find.

I promise to turn off my GPS and find my secret place on my own next time.

If I get lost, don't look for me.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

school post-season

School isn't over everywhere.

Next week, I'll be heading up to Ventura County to visit the students at Newbury Park High School. This will be my third visit there, but it seems like such a long time since I was last there.

Anyway, it's one of my favorite schools because they actually have a Creative Writing class there (I know -- the "Math and Science" secret police probably haven't found out yet that valuable resources are being recklessly squandered on creative thought, placing future generations of standardized Americans in jeopardy of being inferior to Finns at bubbling in with a number-2 pencil).

Anyway, as always, looking forward to next Thursday, and sitting and talking with the great kids, teachers, and librarians at a very cool high school.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

mental crimes

A day ago I left a note for my wife:

Our son is graduating. How OLD are we??? FML

I know one thing for certain: She had to show the note to our 14-year-old daughter and ask her what FML means.

People who know me will tell you I never cuss, which is true. I can sure sling shit when I write, though. I guess I'm, like, living proof that thwarts the knee-jerkism that if you read those words, you'll end up saying them.

I hate people with jerky knees.

So, last night, our sixteen-year-old son graduated. I got to watch the ceremony from up on the stage, where all the graduates came to receive their diplomas.

I know thousands of people, but in that graduating class of 2011 I think there are some of the best people I've ever gotten to know. Despite all the crap we've done to them with standardized tests, stripping bare their curricular choices, de-emphasizing creativity and critical thinking in favor of conformist/follow-along mathandsciencemathandsciencemathandscience, and imposing on them for the most essential decade of their young development a gospel in which the rest of the world is our enemy, to be feared, walled-out, fought against... despite all that, these kids have stayed remarkably cool in ways I could never have imagined my generation being able to do.

Lots of these kids were writers that were part of my Young Writers Group. A lot of people out there already know how talented these writers are, and, if you're a reader, I can promise you'll be hearing from some of them in the future. Just wait.

During the ceremony, some kids tweeted with their cellphones. They do that. I tweeted back.

And, at the end, all 500-plus of these kids broke out in a choreographed flash mob dance. Unbelievable.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

how we got there

Some of my friends sit around every evening
And they worry about the times ahead...
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools...

Come on... you have to know what that little excerpt of incredibly insightful writing is from (written a full decade before the beginning of the end of the music business as it once was).

Lately, there have been a lot of apocalypse articles in just about every imaginable publication.

Not ones about the Rapture and the Mayan Calendar -- ones about publishing.

Whether or not the end is near is not something that I have any real opinion on. But I do know this: While the manner by which the written word arrives in the hands of readers has changed from time to time throughout human history, writers and readers have pretty much always done the same thing.

Nothing's going to change there.

We write. We read.

In fact, things are most likely going to get a lot better for writers and readers in the coming years -- once publishers figure out the anti-apocalypse will come about in the form of strengthening the connection between readers and the written word -- something the big retail corporations (which emphasize the connection between buyers and product) have been working against.

I have the strong sense that the big retailers have actually harmed readership and literacy in America since the 1990s, and they've done it in a couple notable ways. Sadly, a lot of people who call themselves writers have kind of become the mindless minions of the corporate/marketeer/chain-store hybridization (kind of like splicing a pig gene into a tomato) of literature.

If publishing dies, it will be killed by that invasive mutant.

But writers will still write.

Monday, May 23, 2011

miss candor sends her regrets



Deep breath.

First off, you were right.

Who would ever think a goddamned wiener dog would go viral?

I did this to myself.

I deserve it.

And, bro, you better have upgraded your voicemail, because if I get cut off after three minutes I’m deleting you from my contacts.

I’ve fucking had it.

Answer your goddamned phone.

Please tell me you and Stella are coming back from Brian’s wedding today, ‘cause, man, I think I’m losing it.

And if the cops get hold of you, or you saw anything on the news or shit, it’s not as bad as it sounds about Mikey getting lost and being all bloody and only in his underwear and one sock.

Fuck news people.

You know how your kid is.

And they found him anyway.

This is how it was, ever since you dropped Mikey off on Saturday.

Let me tell you. You know I’m not the best father figure for your kid, but hell, it was him that got Miss Candor to talk and then put that shit up on YouTube.

Gold fucking mine, all because a dachshund has a three-word vocabulary of biscuit, goddamnit, and please.

And I don’t give a shit about all those commenting assholes who say “please” sounds like “penis.”

Why would my dog ever say penis?

If you slow down audio enough, you can make anything sound like penis.

So, anyway, don’t freak out. Mikey’s okay. I’m on my way to the police station to pick him up right now.

Shit, I can’t drive when I’m on the phone.

As soon as you dropped the kid off and left, I’m sitting there, having a beer and calling the driver who’s supposed to pick us up to go to the airport. God, I love flying first class, even if I’m taking Miss Candor and your kid and trying my best not to look like some creepy child molester because how can a 22-year-old guy who only needs to shave, like, once a week, have a kid who’s nine?

Carrying a wiener dog.


So, I’m on the phone with the limo people and he’s, like, “Want to see my loose tooth?”


“Want to see my loose tooth?”


“Want to see my loose tooth?”


Benny – why do I not remember acting like that when I was nine?

Why do I not remember my teeth falling out?

You know how repulsive that shit looks?

No, of course you don’t know, because your only kid decided it was time to jettison his first-ever tooth at the age of nine in my goddamned house the night before we were supposed to fly first fucking class to be on nationwide TV with my talking wiener dog.

Who does not say penis.

I’m losing it.

Get the fuck out of the way.

Fucking ambulances.

And five seconds later: “Look at my loose tooth, Uncle Evan.”

“No. It’s disgusting. Get away from me.”

“Look at my loose tooth.”


I shit you not, Benny.

That is my night, right there: I am stuck here inside the innermost ring of hell, which is ruled over by your kid, Mikey.

Lord of the eternal fucking loose-tooth underworld.

And I’m, like, “Go show Miss Candor. Teach her how to say ‘tooth.’”

“I tried. When she says it, it sounds like ‘penis.’”

“Go away.”


Then, I scream.

Can you believe it?

I fucking scream.

When do I scream? Never.

But Mikey pushes the thing out with his tongue, and his goddamned tooth is, like, pointing at my eye.

Did I ever do that?

It was like the worst thing I ever seen in my life.

“Don’t do that,” I say.

“My tooth is loose.”

“Go see if you can find a gun, then come back and shoot me in the forehead.”

“Ha ha ha, Uncle Evan, you’re so funny.”

I try to be responsible.

I try not to drink so much when I have to watch Mikey.

But it’s hard, Benny.

So then Miss Candor’s agent calls, just to make sure everything’s set for the trip. She says all this blurry number shit. I don’t know what she’s talking about, ever, but I’m afraid of seeming dumb. So I just nod and say “uh huh” like I’m taking voice cues from whether or not the number shit sounds like a happy shitty number or a sad shitty number.

Hits are up on YouTube.

A half-million ‘likes’ on Facebook.

Can Mikey make another Miss Candor video?

That’s all she talks about. She could care less about me.

How’s Miss Candor’s weight?

She’s a goddamned wiener dog, not some heroin-addicted underwear model, for Christ’s sake.


You can guess the next part.

Mikey’s filming the dog. You know how he teases her with a Milano cookie and squeezes her intestines to get her to talk?


I just ran a fucking red light.

I hate those fucking camera things.

Did I tell you I’m borrowing your Audi?

So, he’s, like, “It came out! It came out! Uncle Evan, my tooth came out!”

Holy shit.

I tell my agent I have to call her back and I go in there where the kid’s playing with the video equipment and Miss Candor.

Mikey looks like Hannibal fucking Lecter after a binge meal.

He’s got blood all down the front of his face, all over his T-shirt, and he’s holding this little bloody thing in his fingers.

I almost threw up.

There was some skin stuck to it.

I’m like, shit, I can’t deal with this right now. I don’t know what to do with a tooth.

What do you do with a goddamned tooth?

I mean, like, I know what to do with a tooth, but what I really want is to just throw the thing in the garbage.

Mikey’s, like, “My tooth! My tooth!”

Yeah. Whatever.

Tell me the truth: you let that kid drink coffee, don’t you?

I’ve seen his eyes get all glazed over like a crack fiend in Pacoima when we drive past Starbucks, Benny.

Don’t lie and pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

“My tooth! Uncle Evan, my tooth!”

Then he says he wants a Baggie to put it in.

I’m, like, what do I look like? Someone who actually owns Baggies?

“I don’t have any Baggies, Mikey.”

But I can’t stand looking at the thing, and your kid is just sitting there, covered in blood, in my media room which now looks like a fucking mosh pit for hemophiliacs.

So I tell him to take his sock off and stick the thing inside.

And, while I’m not paying attention, Miss Candor’s eating the whole goddamned bag of Milanos. Even the paper.


So I get the cookies away from her and Mikey starts whining about how he has to go home and put the tooth under his pillow. He says you and Stella told him that’s what you need to do with bloody teeth.

But it takes me an hour to get the kid calmed down enough to go to bed.

I’m, like, “Mikey, you just put it under your pillow here. It will be fine. The Tooth Fairy will find you here.”

And he’s, like, “The Tooth Fairy knows no kids live here, Uncle Evan.”

“The Tooth Fairy doesn’t keep addresses, Mikey. She just zeroes in… on… um… blood.”

Which, I admit, was a big mistake for me to say to him, because the kid insists on wearing his bloody shirt in bed.


Long story short – the reason he was in his underwear when they found him is because I set his pants on fire in the dry cycle of the dishwasher.

Get out of the way, you douche.

Sorry. Slow asshole in the canyon.

Well, his pants were not, like totally on fire. But pretty fucking charcoaly.

I don’t do laundry.

You know that.

And the kid was going to bed, anyway. I just didn’t want him to be all bloody on the plane.

So, Mikey’s in bed, Miss Candor’s looking a little stoned out off pure Pepperidge Fucking Chronic Farm, and I’m thinking, great… now I have to take care of the whole Tooth Fairy lie or I will destroy my nephew’s childhood.

I don’t know what a Tooth Fairy is supposed to leave these days.

Do you?

No. Of course not, because your son lost his first goddamned tooth in my house.

Have you ever looked that shit up on Google?

There’s, like, 800,000 advice pages about how much money to leave.

But I got no small cash. Hello! We’re supposed to be getting picked up to fly to New York in the morning. Why would I be carrying small bills? And, sorry, but I’m not giving the kid a hundred for bleeding all over himself.

So I want you to know it’s your fault, Benny.

I did this for you.

I did this for Mikey.

I was gone for, what, maybe five minutes. Twenty tops.

And, later, when I go into the spare room to slip a fiver under his pillow, that’s when I see Mikey’s gone.

So, I swear to you, that’s the truth about what happened.

Why don’t you pick up your goddamned calls?

Okay, well, to be honest, I didn’t go into his room until the limo driver showed up, and by then it was too late to deal with this shit.

Mikey was gone.

The driver was waiting.

We were going to miss our flight.

I freaked the shit out and called the cops.

I mean, he had to be at home, right? I figured the cops would pop over, pick him up, no problem.

But it doesn’t work that way when you’ve got local TV news reports coming in about a bloody kid wandering around after midnight in nothing but his underwear and one sock.

Have you ever been to the police station?

I have never been to the police station.

Why does the parking lot look so fucking creepy?

Seriously, it looks like somewhere Stalinist thugs would take you and stick an ice pick in your throat or something.

Hang on, I’m parking.




And why do cops think it’s okay to have mustaches and no beard? Having only a mustache and no beard is like shaving only one armpit.

Who does that?

So when the cops show up, I guess it didn’t help anything that Mikey’s blood is all over the floor and I have a burned pair of little kid pants cooling off in my kitchen sink.

That can all be explained, I say.

Then officer mustache says hey, aren’t you that guy with the wiener dog who says shit?

So I’m like, whew, a fan. Maybe I’m not going to get arrested for child murder after all.

And I say, yeah, and then he’s, like, he takes out his cell phone so he can film it and says, “Let me see Miss Candor talk! I want her to say ‘penis.’”

“She doesn’t say ‘penis.’” I say, “And Mikey’s the only one who knows how to squeeze her intestines to make her talk, and he’s not here because you’re not looking for him.”

But, I’m a good sport, right? What if Mikey doesn’t show in time, I’m thinking. What if it’s just me and Miss Candor on Letterman tonight? So I grab the sack of Milanos and get Miss Candor.

So, yeah, that’s when everything got impossibly bad, Benny.

Like I said, she wasn’t looking too good, and when I squeezed her, the only thing that came out of her was a little turd.

The cop starts laughing, saying how he’s going to YouTube it. And I’m, like, fumbling around for one of my agent’s cards and trying to tell him how that shit’s copyrighted and shit.

But Miss Candor shuts her little black eyes and stops breathing.

Right there in my goddamned hands.

My life is over.

She’s dead.

What am I supposed to tell Letterman?

Oh… Miss Candor regrets she will be unable to appear…


I’m going inside to pick up Mikey.

Your kid, bro.

And why don’t you answer your goddamned phone?


Miss Candor’s agent is on the other line.

I’ll have to call you back.

Important Links:

Miss Candor the Talking Wiener Dog on Facebook

Catherine Ryan Hyde's Story

Kimberly Pauley's Story

Brian Farrey's Blog

Sunday, May 22, 2011

the big day #thebet

So, tomorrow, May 23, is the day when the three short stories that are the product of our collective misfortunes will be revealed on our blogs.

A quick recap of the evolution of this project for those of you who have not been following The Bet:

The idea came from novelist Brian Farrey, who suggested making some kind of sporting wager where the loser would receive a title from the winner, and then be required to write a short story.

The participants included Brian Farrey, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Kimberly Pauley, and me.

We each chose horses in the Kentucky Derby.

Brian won the bet. So he made up a title for me. I assigned a title to Catherine, and she, in turn, created a title for Kimberly.

So, three short stories will be unveiled tomorrow.

And Brian will dance and mock us as losers.

So... tomorrow's blog entry will be titled by Brian Farrey, and the.. ahem... undeniably twisted post will be the story I wrote.

There will also be a kind of twisted addition at the end (you'll see).

I am thoroughly embarrassed and I apologize in advance.

I will also re-post the essential links, but you might get your browsers set right now by bookmarking the following:

Catherine Ryan Hyde's Blog

Kimberly Pauley's Blog

Brian Farrey's Dance Dance Mania!

See you around 9:00 AM, California time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

the monday reveal #thebet


I wrote a book (that will be coming out --gads!-- in 2014), and there's a character in it who says that quite often.


That word says a lot, but, like most of the things I write, you kind of have to fill in the blanks.

Well, we are all getting set for the Monday Big Reveal of the short stories written by Catherine Ryan Hyde, Kimberly Pauley, and myself, as the penalty for losing THE BET to author and modern interpretive dance master Brian Farrey.

TIME: Monday morning, which will be Monday at 5 p.m. in the UK, where Kimberly is located, and early lunchtime where Brian dances.

All blogs will link, share, and bask in the creative babblings that come out of such things as loserdom.

Look for it here on May 23. We fully expect everyone who is looking for something to "buzz" (I hate that verb) about at BEA to be madly "buzzing" about three FREE short stories that came about through the painful flails at the cutting lash-end of taskmaster (and dancer) Brian Farrey.

Friday, May 20, 2011

cover jack

Well, here are a couple timely developments.

I had no idea this would be so conveniently unfolded, too.

First, I appreciate the comments here (and in other places) about Dystopian fiction. Actually, I wasn't surprised by the consensus as much as... well... kind of relieved.

I was secretly hoping that nobody would make the claim The Marbury Lens is Dystopian YA -- even though I've heard the connection in the past.

There are lots of reasons why I bristled at the labeling of The Marbury Lens as Dystopian fiction, and here are some of them:

1. You know I hate being boxed in. To me, the whole Dystopian trend creates a set of pre-established conventions and elements that constrain reader expectations and, unfortunately make a lot of people roll their eyes.

Are there such things as hipster readers? I think there are, but it's secret and most of them violate some of the key tenets of hipsterdom (and I do have a blog post written all about what hipster readers are -- and what they should be). Coming soon.

That's also why I hate the whole concept of YA as a label (my H8 YA posts started a cyber explosion last year), and why I've already thrown out the future-wrench-in-the-works concept of Stick being a Middle Grade novel with YA issues that's written, really, for adults.

2. Bigger than the boxed-in by expectation notion, to me, is the more important idea that, not only do I NOT want to be a part of something that's trending, no matter how cool it may be (sorry -- an obvious personality defect), but I always want to write stuff that makes people scratch their collective noggins, argue, and say what the heck IS this?

So, back when I was writing The Marbury Lens, whenever I was asked about what I was working on, I told some of my friends the following:

I'm writing a fantasy that isn't really a fantasy.

And, they were consistently, like, what?

But that was the only way I could explain what The Marbury Lens was to me.

So, on to the synchronously timely development.

Yesterday, a librarian friend of mine in Texas [Attention, Texas: I owe you. I do have so many terrific fans and supporters in that great state.] sent me a note, asking if I'd seen this most recent edition of Booklist.

I had not.

Well, not only does Jack and The Marbury Lens grace THE ENTIRE COVER of Booklist, but the magazine lists The Marbury Lens in its listing of the "Top 10 SF/Fantasy for Youth 2011."



And, to be honest, if the trapezoidality of The Marbury Lens must be slipped into a very round hole, I'm pretty much okay with it being the SF/Fantasy hole.

Especially as opposed to the one labeled with the made-up "D" word.

You can see Booklist (and Jack) here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

the earth is on fire

O England!

If you were heroin, I'd be a junkie.

But I'll write more about that in another post. Operating on two hours' sleep here, and not going to get back to bed until tomorrow morning, too.

That's how I roll.

Especially when I'm in a bad mood, it helps me get into my Byronesque, existential main characters. I love writing on days like this.

So I actually wanted to talk a little about this Dystopia thing I keep hearing about.

Apparently, it's, like, pretty big.

PW says it's still the big thing in upcoming releases, too.

I don't think I really know what it is, though, and I'm hoping people will comment (which reminds me... those were great comments on yesterday's post -- which still seems like today considering I haven't had any sleep to turn the mental calendar page) about what Dystopian fiction is.


What is it?

Because I had an idea that the word implied anything that was more or less the opposite of perfect -- a universe in which things break down and fall apart. In that case, the broadest sense of the made-up word, just about everything qualifies as Dystopian. Right?

So I have this idea that the narrower definition seems to include some evil society ruled over by an impersonal and heartless order, against which heroic protagonists rally their comrades to wake up and smell the coffee.

Mmmm... coffee.

Am I right?

Because I seriously want to know.

The reason I ask is that I've been thinking a lot about The Marbury Lens, and trying to decide if I should be hipster-indignant if someone refers to it as "Dystopian."

Because there is no order, and the coffee turns out to be piss.

Which is really Dystopian, if you ask me.

So, help me out.

I'm really looking for someone to tell me what Dystopian means.


Now back to my work.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

apart of the family

Yesterday, a discussion was raised about piracy of such things as electronic copies of books on one of my favorite blogs, The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment.

I was really -- sadly -- surprised at how many people commented with a general laissez-faire attitude along the lines of oh well, everybody does it... if it's going to happen, make the best of it, or (the saddest), if I do it and like the book, I'll go out and buy a REAL copy anyway (cue the CGI halo and vaseline on the lens special effect).

Yeah... well, I commented, too.

But I'd like to channel my inner-Paul-Krugman and gaze through my economist's spectacles for just a moment to provide, maybe, some sober perspective on the macro-effects of piracy as it relates to artistic expression and the evolution of human creative intellect.


I know.

But I love economic discussions.

I know, and have been told numerous times, that my books are out there on P2P, torrent sites, getting pirated by people.

Ahhh.... expanding literacy, one criminal at a time.

My adoring fans.

(does a princess wave)

Fuck you.

First, on the micro- and personal scale, which doesn't amount to much given the prevailing baa-baa-baa-ing of "everybody ELSE is doing it" sheep in society: My books nearly killed me to write them. I have a family to support.

A couple weeks ago, Robin Pecknold said in an interview (I think I read it in a British paper) that piracy helped develop better artists.

Robin, I really liked you before you said that -- hopefully you were misquoted.

In the interview, Robin seemed to be flaunting the fact that he's satisfied with the amount of money he's already made, which is a kind of screw-all-you-struggling-newcomers pronouncement that stinks of elitism and a lack of compassion.

Yeah, the world isn't perfect, but piracy, P2P filesharing, whatever you want to call it, just ends up making it more difficult for new, fresh, vital, and critical ideas to take hold.

If new voices in music, writing, whatever, are preemptively squeezed out of the free market of expression simply because they can't survive in a capitalist economy where it doesn't matter if people like Robin or Amanda Hocking or Stephen King can shrug off a few thousand rip-offs... well, collectively we all lose.

In the long run macroeconomic perspective, unchecked piracy will ultimately lead to uniformity and the absence of diverse perspectives.

It's simple supply and demand: when the price is very low, only the giant producers can afford to stock their shelves. One brand rules all. This may not be undesirable for such extravagances as electricity or drinking water, but when it comes to art... well, I have some concerns about that.

There are some really important reasons why humanity needs endowments and sponsorships for arts. But they are going away. We all know that.

And piracy will kill off the rest of the small, colorful fish in the sea.

Art will become McDonalds-ized and Googled and Microsofted and Wal-Marted; consolidated and churned out for the restricted, uniformed, shove-it-down-your-throat diets of the "everybody's doing it and I want to be a part of the great big giant everybody" masses.

Everything gets reduced to sameness.

Think about it.

Piracy kills the evolution of artistic expression.

Especially when "everybody" decides it's okay to do it.

Now go download, little sheep.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

for kids who think it still exists

I always answer my email.

Well... except for the ones trying to sell me augers and stuff.

So, several months back I got an email from a fan of The Marbury Lens that was very nice and flattering, asking a lot of the questions I get from readers of the book (like, I'm dying to know if what I think happens next is right... will there be a sequel? -- and, yes, there IS going to be another book about Jack, Conner, and Marbury, but I'm not going to tell you about it yet).

Anyway... about this email. The sender of the email, the reader/fan of The Marbury Lens, claimed to be eleven years old. Now, I'm definitely not saying that the content of The Marbury Lens is necessarily inappropriate for kids that young -- that's something that has to be weighed on an individual basis.

But you probably can imagine the two things that did occur to me. First, I thought, this is just a tough book to comprehend at all for an eleven-year-old; and, second, I thought I was just being pranked by someone.

Yeah... I do have friends who do stuff like that to me.

But, as I opened with: I always answer my non-auger, non-Viagra emails.

So, the reader and I exchanged a few nice emails about ideas and concepts in The Marbury Lens. I like doing that kind of stuff with readers, anyway, and the kid was really cool about asking questions.

Then the kid mentioned that kid's mom was one of the organizers for the Miami Book Festival, and would I be interested in going to Miami this fall to be part of their YA authors group.

So, I still considered the possibility that someone was just messing with me. Until I got an email from The Marbury Lens kid's mom, asking if I'd be willing to come to Miami this fall for the festival.

Of course, I said yes, especially since the fair is just in time for the release of Stick (and I'm going to Chicago for NCTE that same week, too), and it was arranged with Macmillan to have me come out to Miami this fall.

So, always be nice to non-auger emails.

Unless you need to dig a really nice hole.

By the way, the same kid -- somehow -- got a hold of an Advance Copy of Stick (which is, like, impossible to do), and has already sent me an email asking questions about that book, too.

I said we can talk at the book festival.

Monday, May 16, 2011

how old are you, anyway?

Among things that were lost in Blogger's Black Hole last week were some comments on the Afterglow blog about the idea of Stick being YA or MG.

Well, if you've read many of the posts on this blog, then you're probably very well-versed in my disregard for the whole "YA" thing, but MG (Middle Grade) is something else entirely.

So I thought I'd spend a few words here about the idea of Stick being MG. After all, as my good friend Shannon proclaims -- this is (as always) Middle Grade Monday.

I suppose one of the key features (and... oh! I could be so totally wrong about this, although I have read a fair share of what are called MG books) of MG is that the protagonist happens to be middle-school-ish age... like, grades 6 thru 8, I guess.

In that case, Stick could be considered MG, since the main character, Stark McClellan, is in 8th grade and has all the typical 8th-grade boy kinds of issues (not the least of which include things like competition and worrying about high school) as well as some pretty significant "other" problems to deal with as well.

This is where the lines get blurred again, as is typical with the things I write, because the boy's brother, Bosten, has some pretty grown-up problems, and there are an awful lot of full-blown adult characters in this book, too (more than any other book I've written, I think).

Could Stick be considered an MG novel? I think so. But I don't really care what people call it.

I said yesterday (and it's the absolute truth), that I buy a lot of books based on reviews I read from certain sources which I will not reveal. To be totally honest, I think if I only read the flap copy for Stick, I probably wouldn't pick the book up. On the other hand, if I read a review (like the one last week, and Adam's from Roof Beam Reader) that mentioned the experimental structure of some of the prose in the book -- well, that would probably get me interested enough to pick the book up.

And once I did, ugh... there I'd be, reading an MG book.

Or, maybe it's YA.

Or maybe it's just a book.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

let's try this again (2)

There's another thing I forgot to say.

But first, let me just say this: When I write about things -- general things I question -- I really hope people don't take my statements personally. The only things you should ever take personally is if I name you, um... personally, by name.

For example, I like crayfish. They are yummy. I refuse to eat the guts part, though. That part is disgusting. Some people will be offended by my disdain for the gut-half. I don't care. You are a gut-sucker. Not me.

So, here's another thing that makes me cringe about certain reviews. And this, like yesterday's mention, is something that I truly believe readers can see through and will discount automatically as being bullshit.

And here it is:

When a professional author publishes a review or serves as a reviewer on a website, or works in any content or editorial capacity for a publication that reviews books -- all, I might qualify -- under the author's public name.

The ones who do it under assumed names are just sneaky creeps who have their own twisted motives.

It's only a question of ethics and reliability -- honesty -- which are things that some people don't care about anyway.

And I'm not talking about the collegial "Hey, this book is really great" comments that people use as blurbs, or shoot across the internet via Facebook and Twitter -- I'm talking about full-fledged reviews for review sites or periodicals.

Don't do it.

If a published author writes a "review" for a book published within his own megacorp, praise is suspiciously motivated; if he publishes a review of a competitor's product, criticism has an automatic taste of impudence and self-aggrandizement.

It's kind of like a Ford Motors spokesperson bashing the ugly design elements of Toyotas.

I don't think actual "reviews" are done among filmmakers (again, outside the general "admire and respect his work" kinds of comments), and they would probably result in fistfights in the music business (and the class acts in music frequently talk about artists they admire, but they don't review them), because people in those entertainment industries generally know not to go there.

But not some of us in publishing.

I love reading a good book review, and there are some review sites and publications I regularly enjoy. To be honest, reviews definitely DO lead me to buy books I'd never heard about.

But I always look at the byline of the review, so I'll know whether or not the publication/website is handing me a handful of crap.

Finally, if you happen to enjoy reading essay-length book reviews written by professional authors, there's nothing wrong with that at all.

I'm just wondering if there's an underlying question of ethics that is being swept under the obscuring carpet of the author's copy.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

let's try this again

A few days ago, a very nice review of Stick appeared on a book review blog called Afterglow Book Reviews.

That blog, like this one, is hosted by Blogger, which promptly melted down for about 2 days, losing all kinds of content and comments (which is why I didn't post yesterday, and why comments from earlier posts have -- poof!).

And, very much in the Troy Stotts tradition (he's the protagonist in my first novel, Ghost Medicine), I take pretty much everything that happens to me as some kind of personal message, or sign.

I've been getting a lot of "do not enter, wrong way" signs lately.

Anyway, the review of Stick has been restored. I'll link to it below. But I wanted to say a few things about reviews in general, and this one in particular.

I like the Afterglow Review of Stick, not just because it's very flattering; the review hits on some of the key components of elemental features in a novel without giving up important story elements that a reader will enjoy discovering independently of a smug I-got-to-read-this-before-you-did-so-neener-neener-neener book reviewer.

I know.

I now want to punch myself in the face for saying that.

But knowing what NOT to say in a review (good or bad, by the way) is a more highly developed skill than blathering on and on (which is something I know A LOT about... believe me).

You want to know some things I've read in book reviews that have made me absolutely cringe?

And they're not reviews about my books, either...

Here's what is the worst, in my opinion, (paraphrased, so I won't get tweeted at in ALL CAPS):

Because they all sound pretty much the same, too.

About a month ago, a book reviewer (of some significant and unarguable prominence, I might add) was reviewing a recent YA/MG release, and the reviewer used the phrase "best book of the decade" in praise of this title.

And, I'm like, really? April. 2011. A scant 15 months of a 120-month decade have gone by and you can shut your doors until 2020 and start watching "Dog Whisperer" marathons after you read these 200 pages, because it's already over. Done.

If you can't tell, it kind of bugs me when reviewers with massive followings (as evidenced by re-tweets and facebook shares) post hyped-up proclamations like this. It kind of smells suspicious, too.

There are a few books coming out this year (still unreleased) that clusters of reviewers have been "buzzing" [and -- forgive me my darker sensibilities, but that verb makes me think of flies, a rotting corpse, and wriggling maggots] about since last year's (fill in the name of the appropriate national convention, trade show, or conference here).

They use the phrase like -- The ONE book to read in 2011 (I saw that singular admonition on a review of a not-yet-released book today. The same review used the verb "buzzing" and mentioned a conference last year. Just sayin'.)

Maybe it's just me, but it bothers me when notable reviewers start using words like "best" and "one" as though they have some infallible Ouija board in front of them. Even after the fact, "Bests" lists imply that the reader hasn't possibly missed one that might have been "better" -- or maybe wasn't "buzzed" about while we were all still fetuses.

And besides, we all know that stuff, don't we? We're not so susceptible to hype and falsely prescient hyperbole, are we?

'Cause, anyway, if you were only going to read ONE book in 2011, it won't be out until October 11. And I wrote it. Believe me. I have a literary Ouija board app on my iPhone.

You can read Afterglow Book Reviews' review of Stick here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

waiting room

Welcome to the waiting room, kid.

Do you like to wait?

Do you like vinyl upholstery?

The way it smells like cigarettes, even though it's been against the law to smoke in here for over ten years?

How about the backrests on the seats?

How they form perfect right angles to the linoleum floor and only go up about three inches higher than your kidneys?

In the waiting room, sitting up straight hurts worse than slouching.

Are you comfy?

Do you like sharing armrests?

Even ones with cracked vinyl?

Why is that person across from you staring?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Five months is not such a long time.

Have you seen this?

It is five months until Stick comes out: October 11, 2011. So, every month on the eleventh, I am going to post some things about the book. A kind of countdown, with five random facts today, four on June 11th, three on July 11, and so on...

So, in honor of the negative-five-months birthday for Stick, here are five things about the book:

1. There really is a place in Washington named Point No Point. I went salmon fishing there when I was a boy. And there is also a town called Kingston. Although the specific locations in Stick are totally fictionalized, the descriptions of the areas come from places I am familiar with in the beautiful state of Washington.

2. I once lived in a house where my bedroom was down in the basement -- like Stark's. And the walk to the bus stop was just like it's described in Stick, with my good friend's house on the other side of the road (where she kept some cows, too).

3. And someone who shall be nameless once brought home a green smoke grenade and a flare from the Army. Although we talked about the possibility of lighting them off... well... I better just stop right there.

4. I recently drove through downtown Los Angeles with my son and his girlfriend (both of whom have read Stick), and I pointed out to him the places where some of the final scenes in the book take place, including the carniceria and the church front where Stark watches a wedding procession.

5. I have surfed countless times at C Street. It is much different now because the area around it is so developed -- paved and stuff -- but the break is still perfect and forgiving -- and there's lots of seaweed, too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

concrete screens -- the real zombie apocalypse

So the other day, I was talking to SMIK about something that I've noticed in the evolution of human perception, and I wanted to know if I was crazy, or if SMIK observed a similarly developing pattern.

It seems, I said, that younger people (just about everyone in the world is younger than SMIK and I, who are both nearly dead) have become so concrete in their thinking -- that they only perceive what is directly laid out for them and have no recognition or time for subtlety.

SMIK gave me one of his "perhaps" nods.

He said that it was a result of the screening-off that people choose to do. Sure, the world is more crowded with people, but they're people who walk out in front of oncoming traffic because they're fixated by staring at little screens and have plugged up the holes in their heads with earbuds.

Everything they want or need is fed to them, right in front of their inattentive faces.

"I have a word for that condition," SMIK said.

"It's called ipodsolation."

I wonder if there's any merit in breaking through the hypnosis of ipodsolated man. It is kind of frustrating, and sad, too, in many ways.

I wonder who the new mutants are.

Do you have kids who don't have earbuds inserted into their relevant holes throughout the day? Or kids who don't stare into tiny Nintendo DS screens for hours on end? That don't play video games or watch the same Blu-Ray movie over and over?

(I still -- sigh -- have never watched a Blu-Ray movie... in fact, had to Google it just now to see how to spell it.)

Or -- God help you -- do your kids read BOOKS?

I asked SMIK if he thought this was all a sign of the real Zombie Apocalypse.

But he didn't know what I was talking about.

Monday, May 9, 2011

if you see one of these

If you see one of these:

...then you're at Cannes.

The last time I was in Cannes, I was a teenage kid. I have some strange memories of that place, too.

All I can say is, I hope Jack behaves himself.

If you do see one of these, which means you're in Cannes, then you know that what's inside it is pretty amazing. Wish I could show that, too.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

the tale of the bet

All things have been accomplished, to quote Uncle Teddy.

Well, it's not exactly over yet, but we do know the results of The Bet.

The authors came in as follows:

Brian Farrey


Catherine Ryan Hyde

Kimberly Pauley

This means that I will be writing a story with a title supplied by Brian Farrey. Catherine gets a title from me, and Kimberly's title comes from Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Catherine suggested a deadline of 30 days to complete our stories. That works for me. I'm in the idea-mill mode at the moment, playing around with some thoughts.

Each of us has to publish our stories on our blogs, but I have a feeling that someone will make a web-anthology site for all of them.

I have to say thanks to Brian for getting this going. It was probably the coolest thing I've ever done on Twitter. And I am really looking forward to reading the stories produced by The Bet.

This isn't like a slouchy high school assignment. I believe the writers involved are taking their tasks very seriously. If you haven't followed #TheBet on Twitter, here are the titles of the forthcoming stories:

Miss Candor Sends Her Regrets -- Andrew Smith

The Art of Being Stuck Here -- Catherine Ryan Hyde

Uncle Mo's Gastrointestinal System -- Kimberly Pauley

... and we're off.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

derby day

Soon enough, we'll know the outcome of the bet.

Kimberly Pauley's horse, Uncle Mo, scratched, so she'll be tying her fate to another runner (I haven't heard who it will be, but there is a horse named Stay Thirsty that I am strangely attracted to).

Because of the name.

My horse, Pants On Fire, came in yesterday at 20:1. Catherine Ryan Hyde's Archarcharch was listed at 10:1, and Brian Farrey's pick, Dialed In, showed an impressive 4:1 favoring.

Looks like I'll be writing.

Yesterday, I was talking to SMIK (Smartest Man I Know) about #TheBet. SMIK is quite a fan of all things literary, and pulls no punches when giving advice or commentary (if you think I'm abrasive, you should sit down with SMIK sometime).

Quote from yesterday's conversation:

Sometimes, in an effort to make the situation better, you just have to say 'fuck it.'

That's why I like talking to SMIK.

Anyway, SMIK has been following #TheBet. He's a devoted reader to The Atlantic, and thoroughly enjoyed the Stephen King story and related piece that were elemental in the genesis of #TheBet, and he's read the relative authors' blog posts on the subject, too.

(Not mine. No.... SMIK would never read my blog. I wouldn't ever own up to this rag existing in the presence of SMIK -- who has, I might add, read three of my books. Not Stick, though. I don't let anyone read that.)

But SMIK gives a nod of acerbic approval to #TheBet.

"I like the idea," he said. "Sometimes, to do great work, all you need is a starting point."

I have more stuff about SMIK coming up, and we'll see about the results of the big race, as well as the cliffhanger of Kimberly's missing pony, too.

Today, I am dashing down to Mrs. Nelson's at 1:00 for their Young Writers Contest Awards. My son, Trevin, won first place (yay, kid), and his girlfriend, Kaija, won honorable mention.

I hope it doesn't seem suspicious to anyone. The only help I gave them was listening to them read aloud in our Writers' Group, nodding acerbic approval (I model myself after SMIK), and maybe... just MAYBE... correcting a grammatical mistake or two.

I'm not sure, though, because Trevin and Kaija are both SKIKs.

We found out yesterday that Trevin also came in Second in Anne Mazer's and Ellen Potter's "Spilling Ink" writing contest for 16-years-old and under.

UPDATE: Kimberly Pauley has selected the horse Comma To The Top as her entry. Comma To The Top comes in as a 30:1 long shot. Yikes. I have a feeling Uncle Mo could stay in bed and beat that slug.

Happy race day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

may the best horse... #TheBet


I promised I would do this.

It's intended only to inflict some psychological stress on Catherine Ryan Hyde, Brian Farrey, and Kimberly Pauley in preparation for tomorrow's bet on the Kentucky Derby.

So I went out in my backyard and took a couple pictures of my horses yesterday afternoon, just because it's all springtimey in California. I usually don't like to take pictures of them when they're eating because they can be so uncooperative.

Well... they are, anyway. But they perked up when I told them about the bet.

The white one (she's a silver buckskin) is named Dusty, and the moose-faced mare on the right is named Arrow. They're grounded because Dusty just broke three of my wife's ribs.


Dusty feels bad, but not bad enough to lose her appetite.

I hung a photo of Pants on Fire in her stall. Also, a photo of Justin Bieber.

I can't tell which she prefers.

Race. Tomorrow.

Also, tomorrow is the Awards Presentation for Mrs. Nelson's Young Writers Competition. I have a stake in that, too, since my son, Trevin, won first place overall, and another of my Writer's Group kids -- Kaija -- won honorable mention.

So we're all going down there for the festivities.

It really is a cool competition, and this year Mrs. Nelson's received entries from all over the country. The winner kids actually get published in a book, and they get cool prizes from one of the coolest indie booksellers in Southern California.

So, if you're looking for something to do before THE BET, come down to Mrs. Nelson's, 1030 Bonita Avenue, La Verne, CA 91750 at 1:00 p.m. and join the fun. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

from the reverend leland nickels

This is about the big bang.

Back on to my advicey, esteem-bashing theories about writing.

And there is another question that I hear asked an awful lot: What comes first, characters or plot?

This one's kind of interesting to me, for a number of reasons. First, I hear a lot of authors who answer this seem to fall into the "characters" Venn circle. I don't hear as many writers who fall into the "plot" Venn circle.

I think I'm in the middle -- the overlap of the two -- in an area where the big bang happens. Maybe it's because all my characters are really me, and all my plots have really happened.

That's life in the big bang.

Aside from the frantic excitement of #TheBet on Saturday, I'll also be heading out to La Verne, California, to visit one of my favorite indie booksellers, Mrs. Nelson's, for the awards presentation of their 2011 Young Writers Competition.

Should be a most eventful Saturday.

I'll have more about that coming up.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

walking the walk

Three days to the big bet.

I figure at the very least I'll have to come up with a title. Just playing the odds. So I am prepared.

A title has been created.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

a little wager on the ponies

On Saturday, what will your horses be doing?

Mine won't be watching television.

They're grounded, and I took their PS3 away from them, too.

Which reminds me... I should put a picture of my horses on the blog this week, since it's all springy and stuff here in California.

But just because I keep horses doesn't mean I have any kind of edge on what's going on Saturday. To be honest, I hope I lose.

If you haven't heard, here's what's happening: There's this little race called The Kentucky Derby. I know... few people care about that. What they really are dying to see is how theses horse named Uncle Mo, Archarcharch, Dialed In, and Pants On Fire finish up overall.

Advance Warning to my Neighbors: If you hear me screaming PantsOnFire!PantsOnFire!PantsOnFire! Saturday... don't call the cops on me like last time.

There's this little wager going on between four writers, who, as one of them said, should probably know better. The thing was brought up initially by author Brian Farrey (author of With You or Without You), in a blog entry of his about the genesis of a short story by Stephen King.

On Twitter, Brian asked if anyone would like to make a similar bet with him, and he got three takers: me, Catherine Ryan Hyde (Pay It Forward, among others), and Kimberly Pauley (Sucks To Be Me).

The bet goes like this: Each of us has a horse racing in the Kentucky Derby (I checked the stats on mine... ugh). Whoever has the horse among the four that finishes ahead of the rest gets to tell writer number 2 a title for a short story. That writer then has to write a story and post it on their blog. Writer 2 does the same for number 3, who also lavishes the assignment on number 4.

The result should be interesting... and our readers will get three brand new short stories from our collective losses.

Like Catherine, I'm kind of hoping I lose.

Big time.

Stuff is showing up on Twitter under the hash tag #TheBet.

You can read more about the bet on Catherine Ryan Hyde's blog here.

Kimberly Pauley's website is here.

And the genius behind this event, Brian Farrey, has his website here.

You can also read some stats on our horses here.

Go Pants On Fire!!! Have a big meal and jog it in.

Monday, May 2, 2011

brain ghosts

So, I wanted to mention two things that came up over the course of the weekend at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, because they're kind of like these ghosts that haunt my head as far as writing is concerned.

And I'm pretty sure my ghosts speak in a different language than the ghosts in other writers' skulls.

1. Writers get asked this question so much. Sorry, but it's a real yawner. So are most of the responses I hear. They're like robocalls or something. I need to hang up on them when they start. I need to get on the national "do not ever ask me this... and, worse yet, do not ever make me listen to the same answer again" list. It's the "advice for aspiring young writers" question.

My response: Don't suck.

Honestly. Why don't people tell you that more often, as opposed to robo-answering about revisions, crit partners, joining supportive organizations, or becoming an alcoholic?

Just don't suck.

Also, you should probably listen to your teachers and professors. All the way to the end of your MFA program, if that's how far you're going to go. They do not necessarily know everything, but their tormenting constraints on your unbridled desperation to do things your own way will force you to be a better writer once you are free of their oppressive demands.

And then you won't suck.

2. Second question we get asked all the time: the "writing for teens/young adults" question.

My response: I don't write for Young Adults. I just write books.

When I said that, people applauded.

I'm like, what? Hasn't anyone told you that before?

I realized that I'd never willingly read a book that was intentionally written for kids. I am not a kid. But there are lots of books out there that young adults like -- not because they were written "for" them, but because they are good books.

Some of them are called "YA." I just call them books.

And they're the ones that I'd read.

I don't mind that things that I write are called "YA," if it makes people feel all comfortable and stuff.

I just call them "books."

There isn't anything that you'd find in an "OA" book that you would not find in my books.

Now go forth and don't suck.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

festival of books (2)

Too bad for all the rain and snow in Los Angeles this weekend.

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC was pretty much a complete wash-out.

We muddled through, somehow.

I was actually amazed by the masses of book lovers who braved the fierce Southern California elements to show up for the event.

The day began with a panel of YA Authors discussing their work.

Here we are:

That's me, reading from The Marbury Lens, Ally Condie, Laura McNeal, and Tom McNeal, and the moderator is Aaron Hartzler.

The panel was actually really good. All the authors read passages from our work.

At the end, Aaron opened it up to audience questions. A young writer asked for tips for aspiring authors. My response was two words:

Don't suck.

Afterward, it was really nice to see all the fans who braved the hellish winter conditions to get copies of my books signed. This may have been one of the few events where people actually showed up (under umbrellas, trash bags, and anything else that could protect them from the lingering winter) carrying all three of my books: Ghost Medicine, In the Path of Falling Objects, and The Marbury Lens.

There were even more than a few eager questions about Stick, which I carried around (my one and only copy) to taunt people with.

One of the two kickass moments of the day: A girl, while waiting in line for autographs, downloaded The Marbury Lens onto her Kindle, and then asked me to sign the back of her Kindle.

With a black Sharpie.

I was scared.

But I got over it.

Then I sat under a tree with my daughter, trying to get away from the stinging brutal sleet that began hammering us that afternoon.

That poor girl... I'm so proud of her. She gave her only coat to a lonely lost girl who was shivering in the cold.

Second kickass moment: When author Kami Garcia got a copy of The Marbury Lens and asked me to sign it (she even used an f-bomb to describe how much she liked the book).

I'll take f-bombs over red stars any day.