Sunday, July 31, 2011

eden five needs you


So I figure I can't really post the question I received the other day without being a spoiler or assuming that everyone in the world has read The Marbury Lens, when, in fact, only twelve people have.

But the question was about the character of Henry Hewitt -- why he does what he does, whether or not he's real, how he acts as such a catalyst to events that seem out of everyone's control.

Generally, something like that.

So I have this recurring thought as I've written The Marbury Lens and also in writing things since then. And I think this idea plays a huge role in the novel, and especially in another novel that I have coming out next year, in 2012.

It goes like this:

[By the way, forgive me if you think this is totally insane. It probably is.]

Have you ever gone into a room, opened the door, stepped inside -- and the room is a totally familiar room to you, one that you've been in and out of countless times over years of your life -- and then you reach over to flick the light switch.

But you reach toward, say, the left side of the door without thinking about it. And you realize there is no switch there. There never has been a switch there. The switch has always been on the right side.

You might even rake your hand around on the wall trying to feel for the switch that has NEVER been there.

And you think, Wow. How crazy. How long have I lived here? Why was I trying to flip a switch that doesn't exist?

Well, what if the switch did pop up on the left, and, without noticing any difference, you turned it on and then went about your business and traveled through your universe as though everything had always been that way?

Would you ever know that things are messed up?

What if you never knew that things were now slightly different, and that the mere act of flipping that switch that wasn't supposed to be there but suddenly popped up on the wrong side of your door made everything - everything - in the universe, just a little bit changed?

That's what happens to Jack and the boys, every time they pop back and forth between here and all the not-heres where they end up. They just don't know it. Henry knows it. Jack kind of figures it out in The Marbury Lens, but everyone else is more or less along for the ride.

Here's another tidbit for you:

While I was sitting here this morning, working, writing something brand new and oh-so-shudderingly-strange, a fly buzzed between my face and the computer screen and dove, headfirst, into a large cup of very hot black coffee.

He buzzed around on the surface for a while.

Then he stopped.

I'm glad I noticed that slight change in my universe.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

taking drags

This is my version of In My Mailbox.

Yesterday, in my mailbox, I received two books sent to me from readers in Virginia and Nevada asking for signatures. They are both copies of The Marbury Lens. I usually slip some extra "stuff" in there when I send them back. We'll see what I have this time.

I got some stickers and a little ink drawing from a really talented artist named A.D. Puchalski. The ink drawing is a picture based on The Marbury Lens. Off to get a frame today, so I can hang it in my office. Thanks, A.D.

Of course, if you've read The Marbury Lens, you can totally tell that's a picture of Conner. (Observe closely). What a great piece of artwork.
I also got a copy of a new book called What Comes After by Steve Watkins. I read the book quite a while ago and I really enjoyed it. It's published by Candlewick Press, and in the picture below, I am holding it open because there is a blurb on the back of the dust jacket by... ME.


I also received an email from a reader of The Marbury Lens yesterday. The email begins:

I read Marbury Lens a few weeks ago now, but it is still rattling around in my head. It was a world I will not soon forget. I have never written an author with a question before, but it has been eating at me a bit. So here we go…

...and then she goes on to ask a really terrific question about The Marbury Lens -- one that I don't think anyone has ever asked before. I may actually use that question as the topic for an upcoming blog post.

So, that was some of the stuff in my mailbox yesterday. Um. Regarding the title of this post? I frequently pick random and often unrelated phrases to title posts on the blog. This just happens to be the last chapter title from the book I am currently writing.

Just guess what it's about...

Friday, July 29, 2011


Yesterday, I posted four lines from my first four novels that were examples of ME speaking through my characters. Today, I'm going to post four more, from my next four novels.

I'm only going to say the title of two of them, since there are some secrets here that I'm not allowed to talk about yet:

1. From a forthcoming novel. It's fairly self-explanatory, about memory:

This is it. You can't possibly believe things just end, dry up, go away, can you?

2. From Winger, coming out in 2013 from Simon & Schuster. In this, a kid named Seanie Flaherty is explaining something about handshakes to the main character, Ryan Dean West, after the two of them have gone through a fairly serious strain in their relationship:

Guys can just tell things about other guys with the pressure of a handshake. Too tight, and you’re a competitive asshole. Not tight enough, or cold and moist… you probably spend a lot of time looking at porn sites. 

3. From Once There Were Birds, coming out in 2014 from Simon & Schuster. In this, the main character, Barrett, answers a question about why he became a boxer (this is my explanation to why I became a writer, although I did used to box):

The alternatives were markedly less attractive.

4. And, in this forthcoming novel, one friend explains to another about the steady exodus of people away from their broken-down town as they stand behind an abandoned podiatrist's office:

Bad business plan, fixing people's feet in a town everyone's dying to run away from.


Hope you enjoyed these insights/outbursts.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Everyone knows there are few things that are actually truer or more revealing than fiction. My characters do a lot of editorializing on my part, I think.

I thought it would be interesting to pick a line from my books and say, this is actually ME talking here.

Today, I'm taking lines from my first four books. Maybe tomorrow, I'll pick lines (very different ones) from my next four.

Here goes:

Troy Stotts, in Ghost Medicine (2008), talking about his best friend Tom Buller:

He knew I didn’t really like getting gifts.

Jonah Vickers, in In the Path of Falling Objects (2009), talking about leaving home with his younger brother, Simon:

I believe we knew all along what we were trying to find wasn’t there.  

Jack Whitmore, from The Marbury Lens (2010), ranting about how awkward it was to be a teen: 

Being sixteen was never comfortable, cool, or even remotely humorous for me.  

Stark McClellan, from Stick (October, 2011), talking about hiding in his work:

I tried to stay busy, to make myself invisible if I could.  

...Maybe tomorrow I'll post four lines from my next four novels.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

one of these days

Today was kind of like Animal Kingdom's day to come out and look at me.

I did my ten-mile run this morning. I mark it off by seven hills. There are seven major uphill stretches on the run. Nobody who runs counts downhills.

The first five hills are the toughest. The last two are really easy because they're near the end.

Here's what I saw:

Going up Hill 1, I saw a big gopher snake. He was maybe about 3 feet long. Snakes don't scare me. I didn't see any rattlers today, though.

When I came over the top of Hill 2, I ran right up onto a nice, healthy looking coyote. He got scared and took off like crazy as soon as he saw me coming.

Going up Hill 4, which is the toughest hill, there were two deer right on the side of my trail. The closer of the two was a young buck, showing about 8 inches of antler. He was trying to stare me down, because the deer did not move off until I got to about 15 yards away from them.

That same hill, there were a pair of hunting hawks. These hawks seem to follow me when I run and hover above the updrafts on the crest of the hill (this is at a pretty high elevation). I think they watch out for small animals who get scared up when I run through.

Then, going up Hill 6, I saw a horned toad. I see them a lot, but I always like seeing those little guys.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

pop up people

So I do put a lot of elements from my real life and experiences into my books, but what I don't put are actual people.

Because nearly all the characters in my books are actually me.

I have named characters after people I know, though. I usually tell them about it ahead of time, or, most frequently I change their names just enough so that nobody really knows where the name came from.

I have a book called Winger coming out from Simon & Schuster. In the book, the main character is a rugby player. He plays Union rugby, which is the greatest sport ever created. A lot of the funny subplot stories in the book actually happened on and around the pitch to rugby players I know. You don't have to be a fan of the sport, or even know anything about it, to enjoy the story of the book, though, and you may learn a little about it and come to appreciate it after you do read the book (which you will want to do because... well... it is a pretty funny book).

As a matter of fact, the Rugby World Cup is being played in New Zealand this year, beginning in September. The Eagles (that's USA) are playing in Pool C, which includes Australia and Ireland. I absolutely love the way Ireland plays rugby, but Australia will probably take that pool.

You know who plays beautiful rugby? Argentina, in Pool B, where they'll be pitted against England and Scotland. I'll go out on a limb and pick Argentina in B over England. I also very much like the way Canada plays. They're in Pool A with New Zealand (everyone's favorite) and Tonga (look out for them).

Pool D has South Africa, Wales (love the way they play), and Fiji (unbelievable runners).

Of course I'm a fan of the USA, but if a dark horse were going to come from behind and take the Cup from either New Zealand, Australia, or South Africa, I'd like to see Ireland do it.

If you can possibly catch any of the games on television or the Internet, watch them.


Monday, July 25, 2011

pop up places

Since I've been on the subject of real things that pop up as elements in my books, I thought I'd mention a few of the places that serve as settings for me.

First of all, almost none of the places in In the Path of Falling Objects actually exist, although they are based on real areas in New Mexico and Arizona. My sister-in-law's family came from Farmington, New Mexico, and, like the boys in the book, I've driven there. It is very remote and isolated, but visually is one of the most impressive places on the planet.

Jack's home town in The Marbury Lens, a place called Glenbrook, also does not exist, although it is described as being near places like Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, both of which are in Central California. I have relatives in Paso Robles, and have spent quite a bit of time in that area, which is why I wanted to use it as a setting for the book.

Also, some of the scarier scenes (like where Jack and Conner are driving Freddy in Conner's truck) really freaked out a cousin of mine, who feels certain she knows the exact dark road the boys were on.

In the England parts of The Marbury Lens, almost all the locations are places where I'd spent a great deal of time. Although the last time I was in Blackpool I was just a kid (and I understand the scene there has changed somewhat), the London and North Yorkshire places are very familiar to me. My brother lived for years in the town of Harrogate (where the character Rachel lives), and I can't begin to count the number of times I'd taken the train from Harrogate to Leeds to switch trains and catch a connection down to King's Cross in London, just like Conner and Jack do near the end of the book.

Friday, July 22, 2011

wheels of steel

And, to go with yesterday's post about Don Quixote and his appearance in my novel In the Path of Falling Objects, there's also a story about the car.

If you've seen the original hardback copy of  In the Path of Falling Objects, and you know your American cars, then you'll know the car on the cover is NOT a 1940 Lincoln Cabriolet convertible. Rich, the art director in charge of the cover, just felt like the image of that particular car wouldn't work. Marketing was afraid it would make the novel look like it happened much earlier in history than it actually did.

Well, the car showed up in the book because I always meant to write about it. The car actually belonged to my father-in-law, and then passed down to my wife and her brother when he passed away. They still have the car. It's sitting in a garage on blocks. It's a very rare automobile for a number of reasons, not the least of which that it was actually used in a parade appearance for Wendell Wilkie when he ran against FDR in the 1940 presidential election.

Also, American automakers just weren't making cars at all during the 1940s. They were all retooled to make tanks and planes and stuff that killed people on a much grander scale than mere head-on collisions.

In any event, here is the car:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

man of steel

Eighty-one days isn't such a long time. That's the day Stick will be coming out.

One of the nice benefits of having a book like The Marbury Lens, that's received a decent amount of attention is that I'm finding now that I'm being contacted with a lot of readers all of a sudden who are seeking out and connecting with some of my earlier books.

This is a very nice thing, as a matter of fact.

I've received a number of emails this week alone about my second book, In the Path of Falling Objects, which is a kind of psycho road-trip set during the time of the Vietnam War, when there were plenty of Americans who had fairly good reasons to question everything that was happening around them.

An awful lot of that book is based on true experiences, too.

There were plenty of times during my life when I told myself, "One of these days, I'm going to write about this." (For example, I spent an awful lot of time alone in the former Yugoslavia. I was even there during the fighting of the civil war. One of these days...)

In any event, several (yikes) decades ago, I took a road trip with two great friends of mine. We drove down into Mexico. It was one of those trips where I kept telling myself, One of these days, I'm going to write about this

Some things about the trip I won't write about, but one of the stranger (and more publishable) realities was that for much of the trip I had to sit in the back seat of my friend Mike's car with a life-size tin statue of Don Quixote.

Mike didn't steal it or anything. He saw it down in Mexico, and for whatever reasons he just had to have that statue.

And, since I was the most compliant of the three of us, I was elected to sit in the backseat and keep Don company all the way through Mexico and back home. Don, as you may know, became a character in In the Path of Falling Objects, and yesterday I was asked about him.

Well. When Rich Deas was designing the cover for the book, he wanted to know what that statue may have looked like, in case it could be an element on the cover. I knew that even after all these years my friend Mike would still have Don. Don became quite a friend of ours. He was perfect company, and didn't drink to excess.

Anyway, I contacted Mike, who lives in Texas, and asked if he knew whatever happened to Don. Mike said that he still had Don with him, but that he creeped his wife out so much she made Mike keep him up in the attic. I asked if he'd be willing to send me some pictures for the art department at Macmillan, and Mike went up to the attic and snapped some for us.

Ah... memories of Don Quixote in the backseat.

Here's the real man of steel:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

things that make you go...

So, on yesterday's blog, I posted the time for the upcoming chat over on Evil Editor's blog regarding this month's book selection: The Marbury Lens.

The weekend of the chat also happens to coincide with a big conference in Los Angeles, SCBWI-LA.

So, I may pop down to Los Angeles around then, not to attend the conference, just to say hello to friends from all over the place, and ogle the creepy dangerous people who stalk agents and editors inside toilets, who all will happen to be congealing around the fun-filled event.

But yesterday's post wasn't one that you'd naturally read reader comments. I did get one that was kind of... well... sad, I guess. And I'm having a hard time figuring it out.

Do you think it's real? And, if so, what would you tell the kid?

Here's what it said:

So I just wanted to say that I really love your blog and your books Andrew, but my mom found my copy of The Marbury Lens, so I can't follow it anymore :( She read the first few pages and was shocked by the "explicit sex". Now she's questioning me about every single book on my shelf and assuming that they are all "rated R". This whole situation is completely ridiculous because I'm 18 years old and not once has she mentioned what I could and couldn't read before this...Anyway, The Marbury Lens is my 3rd favorite book, not because I enjoy explicit and graphic writing, but because I enjoy good writing. Just wanted to say that.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the marbury book chat

So, here's an update on the book chat that will be taking place over on Evil Editor's Blog:

We'll be chatting about The Marbury Lens coming up on Saturday, August 6, beginning at noon Eastern Time (NY, USA).

I'm sure it will be interesting, and hopefully I'll be able to tell about some things that haven't been "chatted up" yet.

Stop by if you can.

Here's a link to Evil Editor's Book Chats.

Monday, July 18, 2011

the ghost in tommy's room

I realized this morning that I have quite a backlog of questions from readers that I should answer.

By the way, I always answer my email.

Some questions are good for the blog. They reduce my planning.

This morning, I got an email from my friend Matthew, who just recently read my first novel, Ghost Medicine. Coincidentally, I've received quite a few emails from people who just picked up that book in the past week.

Meghan, there are no f-bombs in Ghost Medicine. No cannibalism or decapitation, either. Just a kid who has to deal with the death of his mother and brother. Maybe the Wall Street Journal should tell people about what a horrible thing that is to write about, because no kids should have to read shit like that.

I think massive corporations that hack into cell phones to get dirt on normal people's lives should have more of a say in what we expose our children to.

Anyway, Matthew asked a question about Ghost Medicine. He asked if the ghost that appears in Tommy's room was Seth - the ghost character from The Marbury Lens.

Well, I answered Matthew's email, but here's a longer and more detailed response:


Just kidding. There is a ghost character in one passage in Ghost Medicine. The description of the ghost and what happened in Tommy's room is pretty much exactly as it happened to me, when I was a kid. When I was very young, we lived in an honest-to-God haunted house. I slept in my own bedroom, which was below ground in a partially-finished basement.

Coincidentally, that basement room setting is the same basement room Stark McClellan sleeps in in the novel Stick. So, yes... autobiography pops up in everything I write.

So, anyway, I had this ghost of a boy that would pop up in my bedroom and just stand there watching me. I saw him a lot. I can still remember what he looked like. I know it wasn't a dream.

I also never told anybody about the boy. Well, actually, I did tell people about the boy in Ghost Medicine, and, also, a few years after moving out of that very creepy haunted house, for some reason the topic came up in conversation. I told my mother about seeing the ghost of the boy. I was probably about 12 years old when I told her this. I went into detail about what he did and how many times I'd seen him. I never saw anyone else, ghost-wise, that is, in that house. Only that boy, and only down in the basement.

Anyway, when I told her that, my mother said she'd seen all kinds of ghosts in that house.

So there you go. It's a true story. And you didn't even have to hack into my phone to get it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

sunday sample #sundaysample

Well, I didn't post anything yesterday.

It was my birthday.

And beyond that I am writing another book. It looks as though this one will be finished very quickly. The thing about writing pace is that you can always expect to hit the wall at some point, just like marathoning.

And that's when progress becomes labored and painful. I'm not there yet, but when it happens, and it will, I'll be sure and post my bit about hitting the wall (as a runner of some 30 marathons and a novelist, I can speak from experience).

In any event, to get back in the post-birthday swing of things, I thought I'd attach myself to a Twitter topic that comes up once per week: Sunday Sample. I have books lined up for publication in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. I thought I'd post a few paragraphs from one of them.

No explanation or set-up for the paragraphs. The excerpt comes from Once There Were Birds.

Here's a brief description of the novel: Once There Were Birds A Western, set in Arizona and California, two hundred years in the future.

Barrett Woods, a boxer from a prison school for boys called Oconee, makes a “break,” and jumps a picking train sent west. He’s followed by a talkative younger boy named Eliot Plum, who is stubbornly determined to stick with Barrett, despite the dangers they encounter. Eliot is hiding a secret from the boxer, and it may cost both boys their lives.

And here's a little excerpt:

There were memories, I think. They would flash like mute pictures on the rotting pages of books when I’d lie with my eyes closed, not asleep, not awake, just waiting for something. We slept, nearly forty of us in a single concrete-floored building which before the war had been an office for a company that manufactured ice. In the winter, the older boys would marvel that there had ever been a need for such a ridiculous venture.

We would wake with ice beneath our beds. The ghosts of the old factory still labored at their meaningless task. More ice, more ice. When winter smothered the school in its worst, even we older boys, our recalcitrant masculinity compromised, found ourselves compelled to sleep embracing one another just to stay alive through the night. The small boys regularly slept two or three to a bed, simply as a consequence of the economy of both space and compassion.

It was school.

There was never anything else to compare to our lot.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I do not, as a habit, read other books while I am writing. This means that during the abbreviated periods during the year when I'm not working on something, I devour books.

Now, though, I am doing something uncustomary. I am reading books, and I am simultaneously deep into yet another novel of my own.

Last night, before I went to bed, I stopped by my son's room (as I always do) to tell him goodnight.

I've been reading a particular book and he's been waiting for me to finish it and pass it along.

I had to tell him that I've been reading the book very slowly on purpose. In fact, I'm on the last chapter, but I don't want to finish it because I think it is among my top three brilliant American novels of all time.

I can't wait to pass it on to him.

This is how you market books for boys.

I had an email conversation with a friend a week or so ago. My friend said, "It's difficult to market books to boys."

I wondered if anyone had yet tried to market books to boys.

I'm not convinced that has happened.

I think that books have been marketed, but the marketing strategies are geared toward a particular spending demographic. It's easier that way.

But, for me, it's not difficult at all to market books to boys. It's easy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the author man cave

I want to establish my own Author Man Cave.

It would be cool.

It would be different than what you might think, though, because the presence of things like HDTV and X-boxes and stuff like that would not be necessary.

Foosball or a pool table could work, but nothing that plugs in.

That way, we could even have it inside a yurt.

There is nothing cooler than the thought of having the first genuine Author Man Cave in a yurt.

There would be fire. And food. And whatever kind of drinks.

And we could all really sit around and talk about shit that has to do with writing and the business of writing. You know, shit like that.

I'd invite at least one of the following (some categories, there'd be multiples): authors, readers, editors, agents, teachers, librarians, bloggers, aspiring writers.

And they'd all be guys.

Believe it or not, I do know guys who do all those things. A lot of times, people like to pretend that guys don't do those things, or, if a guy shows up at a meeting of one of those things, he must have got lost finding Conference Room A versus The Tally-Ho! Sports Bar and Wing Joint.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, there is no consideration of straight, gay, something in-between, transgender, or anything else.

Because being a guy has nothing to do with sexual identity.

I know all those kinds of guys, anyway, and I also know plenty of males whom I do not consider to be worthy of entering the first genuine Author Man Cave to talk about writing because they're sellouts and covered in a glimmering sheen of preachy phoniness and staged sincerity, which makes them undeniably not guys, in my opinion.

It would be cool.

You can't get much cooler than a yurt with a fire and Foosball table inside.


Yes you can.

What would make it even cooler is that there would be no audience of onlookers who've paid a hundred and fifty dollars to raise their hand and participate in "Audience Q & A" for the final fifteen minutes, because the yurt would be closed after all the guys show up.

And, anyway, the session might last a very long time.

I will put the yurt down by the cottonwoods and willows next to the horse paddock.

I will send your invites out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

query, the peacock

Never the one to take random occurrences as being signs from the universe, I easily shrugged off the arrival of a large male peacock on my roof yesterday evening.

I was home alone, writing a new book (yes... another one), when it happened.

The house was quiet until the peacock showed up. He landed directly over my head, where I sat in my office.

At first, I thought it was a Flamenco dancer with a vuvuzela up there.

That happens to me all the time.

But not a peacock.

He scared the dogs. They refused to come down from the lower deck.

The horses were terrified of him. They ran around in circles, snorting and kicking up dust clouds.

This is what he looked like:

So I said, "You! I am trying to write! What do you think you are doing up there?"

The peacock looked down at me and said, "If you squeeze me gently, a query letter and some gumballs will come out of my ass."

It all made perfect sense.

I was supposed to write a post today about query letters, and the peacock, definitely not anything in the manner of a universal beacon, was there to help me wrap my head around the idea.

"What flavor gumballs?" I asked.

About this query letter thing:

My friend, Matthew, runs a very interesting blog for emergent authors called The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment (A clumsy attempt at making some sense of the sinister submission process). I frequently pop over there and take a look at what's going on.

It's smart and entertaining.

Sometimes I'll offer a comment, too. Not that I know the first thing about crafting a query letter, and I've made that clear.

Because, honestly, query letters really are like peacocks on the roof.



Nice to look at.

Dispensation of gumballs from their ass when you squeeze them.

But they don't really tell you anything about the contents of the house they're sitting on.

And my opinion (and this is only mine) is that too many emergent writers spend inordinate quantities of  time and energy perfecting a 250-word (I'm guessing) query letter, when they never spent nearly the equivalent amount of thought or energy on any one 250-word passage of the house their gumball cannons are sitting on.

I say this, as I admitted to Matthew, because my first (and... ahem... only) query letter was total crap. No gumballs there. It was everything you're NOT supposed to do in a query (except there were no spelling errors, that is).

Among other things, it was 550 words in length, and ran its scattered drivel over two pages.

Structurally, it ignored the prevailing hook-blurb-closer architecture of the modern gospel of querydom.

Definitely not a peacock.

I wonder if agents out there are willing to 'fess up that they really can see through the gumballs and plumage and noise, and that (again, this is only my opinion) the most important things are that you FOLLOW THEIR GUIDELINES for querying, sit patiently, and have a nice house under your peacock.

Look, if you wrote a really great book, it doesn't matter if you send over a herpetic albatross (but don't), somebody will be dying to get their hands on it.

Why do I find myself wanting a gumball suddenly?

You can find The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

within reach

Well, I've been dragging today. But I'm playing a game where we're going to post five random things that are in reach from where I am sitting right at the moment.

In no particular order, and this may give you some idea of the eclectic clutter of my office:

1. Wonder Woman

Let me answer your question right now: I do not know why.

2. A medal from the Big Sur International Marathon 2004

I've run something like 30 marathons in my life (finished them all... yes, 26.2 miles long). I've done Big Sur maybe 5 times. It's the nicest marathon in the world, but very tough.

3. An ARC of In The Path Of Falling Objects

What can I say? I like all my books. This one's a psycho trip.

4. A Mandolin

...that happens to be sitting beside a copy of the audiobook of Ghost Medicine.

5. And a very old clock

...from my grandfather's house, dating back to the 1920s, I think.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Well, here it is, three months to the day until Stick is released.

October 11, 2011, in case you were wondering.

And, as I've been doing on the eleventh day of every month for a while now, today I will post THREE (for 3 months) random things about Stick.

Here goes:

1. This is C Street, the place where Stark, Bosten, and their friends, Evan and Kim, go surfing. The point is located near the fairgrounds in Ventura, California.

You can see some surfers in the photo, which I took while on a bike ride with my wife and daughter, and you can also see how uniform and predictable the break is there, which makes it a really forgiving place to learn how to surf. And yes, the waves were very small that day when we were there.

2. This is a view down the Ventura Pier. C Street is off to the right, and down the beach a few miles to the left is where the Strand is, where Dahlia lives.

3. No animals are harmed in any way in Stick. There is a cow-riding episode, however. Consequentially, Stark realizes Cows don’t listen very good.

And, in case you have not yet seen it, here is the book trailer:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

stuff you find in books

Sometimes, you just can't help it, you have to wonder about messages and connections and wampeters and stuff like that.

That's probably one of the most important questions in Troy's mind in my early novel Ghost Medicine. I think it's a unifying thread through all my novels, and it's certainly the most preoccupying obsession that I've had ever since I was a kid.

So, earlier this week I had a most brilliant and lengthy phone conversation with my editor at Feiwel & Friends. We talked about all kinds of things, and I mentioned to her that I'd recently found myself on a real reading bender -- tearing my way through all kinds of books. We talked about one of my favorite authors, too, a man whose brilliance and bravery -- to be honest -- give me chills and make me feel pointless.

Maybe all effective writing serves to remind us of our pointlessness.

In any event, and you know this, I really don't talk about writers or writeresses and their books on my blog, and I'm not really going to today, either, because those are secret topics that really should only occur in the audible atmosphere that connects critical minds.

But, I remarked to Liz how I had -- while cleaning my room (see recent posts) -- discovered an old first edition copy of one of this brilliant man's novels, and so I was reading it again, which, inevitably, was making me feel pointless and chilly.

I had never really opened this particular copy of the book before. It belonged to my brother, who died when I was quite young (he was a collector of books).

While reading it, I noticed that somebody had not only highlighted and underlined passages (I'm certain that was my brother's doing), but someone had been using, as a bookmark, an entire boarding pass for a flight from Los Angeles to St. Louis.

My belief is that the boarding pass belonged to the book's original owner. Since the book was published in 1973, I'm assuming it might be from that year. I'm certain my brother, as with most of his books, bought this one at a used book store.

Anyway, this is one of those old boarding passes that the gate-checker is supposed to tear in half, but it was not torn, so I can't help but wonder if the person named on the pass actually boarded the plane.

There is a handwritten initial on the pass: "V," which tells me the guy actually did check in, but this was way before TSA security procedures.

In those days, you didn't even have to show ID to get on a plane.

The pass is for a TWA flight, and TWA no longer exists.

The passenger was named Mr. B. Slocum.

None of this means anything to me, so, of course I have no clue as to whether Mr. Slocum was going home to St. Louis, or trying to leave Los Angeles.

He was supposed to sit in seat 22-D, which was designated both as "Coach" and the "Smoking" section of the plane.

(Side note: I hope that one day, maybe my grandchildren will react with the same degree of absurd consternation to the idea of prohibition on same-sex marriages that YOU probably just felt when you thought about airplanes that allowed people to smoke).

And the trip was flight 76 and scheduled on July 17.

There is no year or time of flight on the pass.

It's just kind of weird to me because July 17 is next week. It's also the day after my birthday.

I wonder if maybe my brother knew Mr. Slocum, the smoker going to Missouri.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

in which i respond to an email rather than a dream

And sometimes things just happen.

Like this morning, for example.

Well, I have some (what is in my opinion) tremendous news about something that's going to be happening very soon, but, unfortunately as these things go in the publishing business, I can't say anything publicly about it until after the first official gate opens.

So, I know those types of vague mentions are kind of meaningless to the point of frustration, but I am confident I'll splatter the internet with gushes of good news very soon.

But, yeah... sometimes things just happen.

Like last night, I had a dream about teaching a writing class, and in my dream I came to a realization about writing that (again, in my opinion) I thought was kind of epiphan-o-gasmic.

Don't look that word up.

And I thought to myself (which is really the only way I've ever been able to think) that I would blog about this insight today.

But I'm not going to.

Because an author friend (I do have a few of those) sent me an email, and, in it asked a kind of cool and rather scholarly question:

I'm curious, you seem to have come into the YA world fully formed. Did you just hit it with your first book, or were you writing prior to that? And why/when did you get started?

So I have an answer to that:

If there is such a thing as the YA world, then I imagine I arrived on it naked and lost, not speaking the language, ejected from a mother ship from some other galaxy. 

Because I never knew what YA was. It didn't exist at all when I was a "YA," and I certainly didn't shop in kids' sections of bookstores when they started sprouting their tumor-like "Teen" or "Young Adult" shelves. I'm pretty sure those shelves didn't exist when books like Where the Red Fern Grows, or even the more recent Hatchet were written.

But I did read those books. 

I just didn't have a special name for them. 

I just liked them.
I also liked books by Stephen King. Remember the book 'Salem's Lot

I so loved that book when I was a YA. But I bought it in a bookstore.

In the "books" section.

So, anyway... yeah... it was all an alien world to me when I wrote my first book.

Well, the first book I actually tried to get published.

I just wrote a book. One that I thought fit the following three requirements:

1. It would have to be a good book. Sorry to sound all conceited and shit, but it would have to be well written. I am a total snob when it comes to words, and I believe there is a huge difference between being a good storyteller and being a good writer.

2. It would have to be the kind of book that I'd like to read; one that I would buy if I picked it up in a bookstore.

3. It would have to be a book that my son (who's a great reader of books) would think is "good."

And that was it.

I'd written lots of book-length things before, but I never had any desire to publish them. As I mentioned in a comment response yesterday, there haven't been many times in my life when I wasn't writing. I wrote all through school and college, and my first jobs were in writing for newspapers and radio stations (news and PSAs -- stuff like that).

So I did decide to give it a shot (I was kind of goaded into it by my lifelong friend, author Kelly Milner Halls) when I wrote my first book, Ghost Medicine.

Well, again, it wasn't my first book. It was the first one that I thought fit those three requirements above, and one that I took seriously enough to see what I could do with it in the real world.

And I still didn't know the name of the planet I had been stranded on.

In fact, when I told Kelly about the novel, and asked her advicey kinds of things about stuff like getting an agent and writing (ugh) a query letter, Kelly said to me, "Oh, that novel sounds like YA."

And I was, like, what the fuck is that?

I didn't know then. 

And I'm not so sure I know much about this planet now.

But I guess I did the right stuff when I set my mind to it: I did the agent thing, the query thing, and, yes, to answer the question, my first book was picked up and published, and so were lots more that I've written since that time.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

my "experimental" phase

Well, if you were hoping to see the next panels from Dystopia, U.S.A. -- sorry to disappoint.

There is more. Lots more.

Just not today.

Because the comics are kind of disturbing.

Sometimes, the most normal things can instigate the severest discomfort. But I think that's the whole point (I may not be expressing in the most elegant way) about "dark" literature.

Remember all those corny sci-fi movies from the 50s -- when small town America was shivering in paroxysms of terror over Communism? Nothing like blood-sucking aliens or giant ants to sooth the nerves -- you know, something you could easily identify and kill.

And that little "experiment" of mine I started about two weeks ago -- the one where I wasn't going to start working on anything new?

As Stark McClellan reasons to his brother, Bosten, in Stick (coming in October), "That experiment didn't last long, did it?"

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

disturbing comics: dystopia, u.s.a. #2

(click image to enlarge)
To be continued...

Monday, July 4, 2011

disturbing comics: dystopia, u.s.a.

(Click image to enlarge)

This is our journey to the small town of Dystopia, U.S.A. (located very near Waterloo, Iowa).

Part 2 may be posted tomorrow.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

six a.m.

This is six in the morning at my house today.

My office is on the upper floor of the house, with a deck that looks out across the horse enclosure and up to the hills. Every morning, crows sit on this one bare branch at eye level to where I am sitting.

Well, you can't expect too much on a Saturday morning of a three-day weekend.

I may have a disturbing comic to run tomorrow, because... well... it's the right time for one.

Friday, July 1, 2011

friday five

Well, it's too hard to top the brilliant discussion generated by yesterday's post, but as I said on one of my comments, it was a fitting way to cap off a month that gave rise to such awful, ridiculous, and poorly-reasoned attacks on YA literature.

So, for that, I am grateful to everyone who participated (and those who didn't say anything, but read along).

And, because this is a holiday weekend and everyone's going to be taking off, or, at least diverting themselves with lighter thoughts, I thought I'd do something I've never done before that other bloggers do: a Friday Five post.

Here goes:

1. Finally got this in my hands.

It's Booklist magazine -- the May 15 (BEA) edition, with The Marbury Lens as the cover, and listed inside as one of the Top Ten SF/Fantasy Novels. I never saw this (although people taunted me with having seen it) until I received the mail yesterday (and don't get me started on mail where I live -- it doesn't happen). I begged, I pleaded... but never got one until finally! the lovely Andrea Brown herself (of Andrea Brown Literary Agency) packaged one up with a nice note and sent it off to me.

Thank you, Andrea!

2. The family vacation. I was abandoned. Everyone in my family went on a vacation. Without me. Before leaving, my wife bought a box of those big heavy-duty garbage bags and left them with instructions I was to clean out my room. I'd been meaning to do this. Honestly. I mean, who doesn't get a gut-wrenching feeling of good-god-that's-me whenever you accidentally catch a glimpse of Hoarders?

Anyway, I did it. My room has been transformed.

It began as a scene from an episode of Hoarders, transitioned through Dirty Jobs, and ended up as a bad week of Deadliest Catch.

Yes, don't ask me how, but there are fucking King Crabs living under my bed.

Quick -- someone melt me some butter.

3. Don't think I can keep it up?

Okay. One more picture. This is breakfast. In summer, I pick my breakfast off the trees at my house. Currently, that means cherries. Next in will be plums, I think.

4. Gah! Okay. One. More. Picture.

A movie-making friend (wasn't that douchey of me to say?) asked what I was reading most recently. Here are my two latest reads.



Vice President in Charge of Volcanoes.

5. The Department of Sneaky Tricks: (no photo)

I was chatting with a friend this week about my forthcoming novel Once There Were Birds. At that point, this friend was the only human being in the known universe who had read the book. I told her that I always sneak in little tricks in all my books. I didn't think it was a big deal, really. All authors do, I'm pretty sure. Anyway, I pointed out that in this book, there is one chapter section -- just one sentence in length -- that is a haiku in a sentence. Ha! I love doing shit like that.

Happy holiday weekend.