Tuesday, January 31, 2012

the why chromosome

Way back in November of 2010, Laura Scholes published an interesting study in The International Journal of Learning, in which she critically examines the Boys-Are-Failing panic.

She says the gender gap panic has dominated educational policy agendas in western nations since the 1990s, and it is largely a result of simplistic projections cast on an entire homogenous population of all boys that label them as illiterate failures, and similar projections on a homogenous population of all girls that label them as successes.

She says, "This homogenizing of boys and girls as binary and oppositional groups distorts social justice principals that advocate supporting and valuing differences between students... The construction of boys as a disadvantaged group has tended to position all boys as educationally disadvantaged..."

And people buy into it.

Scholes' study is long. I'll be talking about it more, particularly because I have some speaking engagements this year dealing with the topic of boys, reading, and writing.

But one of the most compelling elements in her study identified what she called "Clandestine Readers" -- a group with a near 3-to-1 ratio of boys to girls, who were tested meeting or exceeding grade-level requirements for literacy, and who also were identified as having high levels of enjoyment in reading, but concealed their passion for reading because their peer groups tended to be unsupportive or had negative feelings about reading.


Do you know any Clandestine Readers?

I see them, dozens of them, every day.

More to follow.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

travis pope had also molted during the night

There are rules about used book stores.

You have to know them.

I wonder if it makes me a bad person as an author if I love used book stores.

There is almost nothing better than a good used book store.

Berkeley, California, where my son is a student at Cal, has some amazing used book stores.

A few weeks ago, when I took my son up there to deposit him back in the dorms for spring semester, we went into one of Berkeley's used book stores one afternoon.

I found a book that looked interesting. I had never heard of it before. I showed it to my son.

"Have you ever heard of this?" I said.

He said he'd heard of it, but had not read it.

I opened it and read the inside flap copy. It sounded good.

Inside the book, which was about 20 years old, was a stamp that said:


And, beneath that, in pencil, was written N-111

I wondered if it meant it was James's 111th novel.

Who knows?

Also, the stamp was crooked, like James was in a hurry to read the book, or maybe to place it on his bookshelf.

Somewhere around page 260, it looked as though James had spilled some blue fountain pen ink on the bottom of the book. The stain does not obscure any print, and I am certain it is fountain pen ink because I had always used fountain pens for most of my early writing.

My son and I both agreed the ink stain was very cool.

In the middle of the book was a bookmark, possibly from the bookstore where James originally purchased the book, in Livermore, California.

When my son saw the bookmark, he said that I now had to buy the book.

He said it is a rule that when you find a used book with that much extra stuff in it, you have to buy it.

That's a rule.

I try to always put as much extra stuff as possible in all my books.

Thanks for letting me find this one, Mr. Eddleman.

Friday, January 27, 2012

kimber drive

It has been an interesting week.

I saw some more artwork for Winger.

What a book!

I am most thrilled about my fourth novel, Stick, being named to the American Library Association's 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults.

I have been thinking about this quite a bit.

I stopped myself from saying a lot.

I like the name: Best Fiction for Young Adults. I like the name because it says "here is a novel that might make a special connection to a reader who happens to be Young and Mature."

It does not say: Here is a Young Adult Novel.

This is a good thing, because I do not write Young Adult Novels.

I am an American novelist.

I make that distinction, American, because there are some important characteristics which make American novels identifiable and unique. One day I may talk about that idea.

I am NOT a Young Adult Novelist.

A lot of people are [there, I said it], and there is nothing wrong with that at all. But not me.

I wish more grownups would read my books. I think a lot of grownups do not want to read my books because somebody keeps telling them I write Young Adult Novels, and that I am a Young Adult Novelist.

Believe me, I am not young, and I rarely exhibit adult behavior.

But I am a novelist.

So let's clear that up right now.

Here is what I think: There is absolutely nothing positive I can say about "suffering for one's art."

Suffering for your art is stupid.

Experiencing setbacks in order to come out on the other end with some sort of wholeness or redemption is also stupid.

That's what I think.

I worked very hard over these past four years. I am not conceited at all -- I can honestly say that -- but I can also honestly say that it is a hell of an accomplishment to write four published American novels over four consecutive years and have every one of them named to the Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

I have been told that I write too much.

And I am here, sitting on a few more novels that are not even out yet.

And I am working as I sit here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

robby could have been a preacher

The American Library Association's YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) announced its list of the 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults books.

I am happy and flattered to say that my novel, Stick, made their list.

This makes four out of four on my novels, each of which has been added to the list: Ghost Medicine (2009), In the Path of Falling Objects (2010), The Marbury Lens (2011), and now, Stick.

In addition, The Marbury Lens was honored just yesterday to be named to YALSA's Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for 2012.

Monday, January 23, 2012

the brain room

This is where I write.

No, you can't see the stack of manuscripts here. They are in the other corner, beneath the Conor Oberst concert poster.

Last week, I got to have a look at some of the sketches illustrator Sam Bosma is doing for Winger.

I know.

I really hate it when authors say stuff like, "Oh, I adore the cover of my new book, but I am not allowed to show it yet. Squee."

I hate the word adore, nearly as much as I hate the word-thing Squee.

Winger is coming out in spring of 2013. That is a long time away, I realize, but artwork for something like this is quite a bit of work.

Let me tell you a little bit about the book.

This is from my website's description:

Fourteen-year-old Ryan Dean West may be the smartest 11th grader in school, but there are some things he just doesn't get. He's convinced that the woman living downstairs is a witch -- out to destroy his life; believes the girl he's in love with only sees him as some kind of pet; and wonders why his best friend -- the only voice of reason in Ryan Dean's life -- likes other boys more than girls. A funny, sometimes dark, part-graphic YA novel about fitting in, and the consequences that can occur when big deals are made over small differences.

So the book has illustrations in it. Ryan Dean West sees his life as a sort of self-deprecating comic, and he has an interesting interpretation of his reality. Ryan Dean likes to explain things through charts, graphs, notes, and other stuff that pops out of his head.

I can't imagine a cooler, more appropriate style for the illustrations than what I saw in Sam's sketches. If there is some way that line and shading can mesh with a narrator's voice, Sam has found it.

This really is going to be an amazing, one-of-a-kind book.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

considering the bison, and free will

Saturday morning brought a nice winter storm -- heavy rain and gusty winds.

I run every day, no matter what.

I enjoy running in the rain, the heat, snow, whatever. I do not like wind.

But I went out running, anyway. I have to.

There was nobody outside, no cars on our little streets; it was pouring.

At the end of the lake there is a trail that leads up into the mountains. I run this way nearly every day.

Just at this spot, there is also a junction box, or something like that, for the phone company. Yesterday, there was a worker there with his phone company truck doing something inside the box.

This is a true story.

It is my job to tell the truth.

When I ran past him, he smiled and said, "I guess I'm not the only one crazy enough to be out in this weather!"

(I added the exclamation point. I believe phone guy had "exclamation point" in his eyes.)

Oh yeah, Phone Guy. You. Me. Brothers.

This is what I was wearing: shorts, shoes, a cap, a vinyl windbreaker. I was already drenched, and I had about 6 more miles to cover.

And I said, "It isn't that bad."

In a flash, I considered the following: Why did I say that? What does "that bad" even mean? I would have probably said the same stupid thing if the ground were cleaving open and lava was burbling up at my feet.

Then Phone Guy said to me: "Yeah! But I'm getting PAID for being here!! Ha ha ha!!!"

What a jovial fellow.

And I said, "I have free will."

Last night, when I was lying awake in bed (I haven't been sleeping in the past 2 weeks), I was visited by my Psychotherapist In Glass.

We had an intense conversation.

I will tell you about it another time.

Psychotherapist In Glass is not a jovial practitioner.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

when their sons uncomfortably venture toward asking them questions

I came back.

I needed to go away for a while.

When I was a kid, my parents neither wanted nor encouraged me to write shit down on paper.

I was created during the Age of Paper.

I have a number of friends who are writers struggling to be published.

I have this question for them:

What do you expect?

I'll get back to that in a while, but I want you to keep thinking about it: What do you expect?

And then what?

I bet you guys aren't even thinking two moves ahead as you toil over the positioning of your exploratory pawn.

Remember that stack of manuscripts I have sitting here in my office?

It got even bigger this week. I found another one. A version of The Marbury Lens from a while ago. I can't remember.

My office is very clean and open now. I should post a picture of it. Maybe I will, too, when I get back to that question that I want my as-yet-unpublished writer friends to keep thinking about.

I have a couple things I am obligated to turn in this year.

I have never, never, never written anything on assignment -- except for the stuff I had to do when I was a journalist.

I hated being a journalist.

I quit putting shit on paper and became a sort of bum with wanderlust because of it.

Someone -- harmlessly, I might add -- remarked something like Look at all those trees you killed! when I posted the picture of my original manuscripts (which is now bigger).

What can I say? I came out of the Age of Paper.

So, I am thinking I am going to write my next book by hand on the backs of the pages of my original manuscripts.

Somewhere out there, an agent and an editor just got a stomach ache.

My handwriting looks like it was done by a sleep-deprived seven-year-old boy on a tilt-a-whirl.


My dear friend, the copy editor who is working on Passenger, said something like this: Next time you write a book, you should provide a list of words you choose to freakishly mutate ahead of time, so your editors' heads do not become troubled.

Well. She didn't say it exactly like that, but I probably should do that because I do derive some sick satisfaction creating lexical centipedes.

Are you guys still thinking about that question?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

a good question for the books, i thought

If you have read my blog for a while, then you know that I almost never talk about other authors and their books.

It is not my job to talk about other authors and their books.

But I am going to deviate from my ethical constraints and do that in the coming weeks.

I am going to do that because I have been fortunate enough to read some books which are not yet published, and I want to say a few things about them because they are good.

I would never say anything about bad books because I can't get to the end of bad books.

Included in those not-yet-released books that I'd like to say a few things about because they are so good are BZRK, by Michael Grant (February, 2012), and The Raft, by S.A. Bodeen (August, 2012).

I admit that it is a rare occasion when I read Middle Grade books, but I will throw something out there -- go out on a tender limb -- about the YA titles I've read from 2011.

This is a prediction: You will see these three books in the Michael L. Printz Award corral for 2012: How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr, Brooklyn, Burning, by Steve Brezenoff, and Everybody Sees the Ants, by A.S. King.

Let's see if I'm not right about at least one of those.

Monday, January 16, 2012

the ealing registry of historical homes

I am home again.


While I was away, Lori Strongin, who lives in Florida, won a signed copy of Stick from Jen Bigheart's "Best Books of 2011" giveaway. Jen is a librarian and member of Texas Library Association who also manages a very cool blog about books.

It is my goal to go to Austin this year.

I just have to warn Lori that I have not been lucky with shipping stuff to Florida. It took SIX WEEKS for my pages from Passenger to get to my friend Ian. Rest assured, the book is on its way.

Duct-taped to the back of the hindmost animal in a caravan of trained delivery kittens.

I have this thing in my head that fails to recognize the beginning of a new year until Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

I don't know why that is, but to me, the year doesn't officially begin until this week.

I have a lot of work to do in 2012.

Damn. I said it again.

I don't even know where to begin.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

my foot got stuck between the passenger seat and the console

If The Marbury Lens is about heat and desert, Passenger is more about water.

Here is something else I want to tell you about Passenger:

The pages I sent Ian made his head explode, according to him.

I suppose I should apologize to Ian's mother.

In Passenger, the kids get stuck inside this lightless maze of flood control channels beneath Marbury, called the Under. Nobody likes getting stuck in the dark. Especially with the things you know you'll find in a place like Marbury.

But here is some news: Around the same time that Passenger comes out (possibly just before), I am going to publish a short story that goes with the novel, as a kind of companion appendix. It will be something that will also make heads explode.

The story will be on the Tor Books website. Tor is a publisher of fantasy/science fiction, and is an imprint of Macmillan, the publisher of The Marbury Lens and Passenger.

I am excited about the story. I think you're going to be surprised.

I'll let you know more details as the date for the unveiling nears.

Friday, January 13, 2012

a repository of cast-off consonants

I have been cleaning my office this week.

Well, not today, because I am up in Berkeley.

By Tuesday of next week, my goal is to have an office that is so clean and spacious, it will say to you, "This would be a nice place to commit suicide."

To me, that is the number-one quality I look for in an office.

After all, writers have suicidal impulses in their blood.

It is like hemoglobin, or shit like that, to regular people.

This is a stack of original manuscripts that were scattered around the floor of my office. I piled them up and took a picture of them. I have not thrown them away yet.

The stack is higher by two manuscripts now.

Well, actually, by about one-and-one-half manuscripts.

When I cleaned out my car to prepare for the road trip of driving my son up here for his spring semester at Cal, I found a complete manuscript for Stick (my novel that invisibly came out in October), and about the middle-half of Passenger, the sequel to The Marbury Lens that will be coming out this October.

So, yes... those manuscripts, for the most part, are not in order, and there are some "chunks" floating around inside the jumbled stack. But there it is.

I have two news updates on Passenger, too:

The first one, I cannot tell you yet, because I am not finished thinking about it and I have other shit to do this morning.

The second one is that the package of pages (which happened to be my favorite part of the book) that I MAILED to Ian on the other side of the country on December 7, finally got to him. It took more than one month, and Ian ended up getting two packages from me -- the second of which I shipped via UPS which included a different set of pages and a handwritten (in seven-year-old's script) letter and poster, and was delivered to him in just a few days.

I am happy the kid scored twice, and relieved that the US Postal Service did not lose those pages and proved that I always do what I say I'll do for the kids who deserve good things.

Like Ian.

Who now has about 20 original pages from the manuscript for Passenger.

The rest of it is in that stack up there.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

the silo

I am leaving this morning very early.

I am driving up to San Francisco for 5 days, taking my son back to begin his second semester at UC Berkeley.

Next year, in early 2013, my book Winger will finally be published (by David Gale at Simon and Schuster).

When I wrote the book, I did a lot... er... a number of drawings and diagrams right in the middle of the story. It was my intent to have the book be a kind of hybridized graphic novel/analytical experiment in storytelling.

The narrator is quite a creative guy. He likes to draw comic book panels and charts and shit like that to explain what's going on inside his head.

He kind of reminds me of someone I know, but I can't think of who, exactly.

Anyway, I never intended my artwork to be used in the published version of the book, because, well... you see I'm not really an "in-the-lines" kind of artist, and I just thought that a real artist could do it better.

Thankfully, Simon and Schuster agreed.

Meet Sam Bosma.

Sam is the guy who is set to illustrate Winger.

Take a look at his work, it's pretty amazing.

Sam Bosma is an illustrator.

By the way, I might be gone for a while if you need me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"did you actually just say prostitute?" "um... i can't be certain."

[As always, click on the images to see them more gloriously clearly]

Monday, January 9, 2012

a real dynamo

I should make a FAQ page on my website.

The FAQs I get are not FAed to most other authors I know.

If I kept track of such things, the Q I am most FAed is this:

When do you sleep?

I told you before:

I sleep when I achieve a state of reversible (thank God for reversibility! thank God!) unconsciousness, during which time my pulse and respiration slow, and my brain enters a wave-pattern known as delta.

That is when I sleep.

But I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about how I sleep, and I thought it was kind of telling about how I write, too.

By the way, it is Monday, January 9, 2012. God help me, I started writing today.

I haven't really written since mid-ish October. I've just been reading, re-reading, and editing in the last three months.

I guess it is appropriate to get working about now.

Every night, without fail, I sleep like this:

I go to sleep for an hour or two. It's a meaningless, black, sleep in which I think about nothing, possibly the likelihood of non-reversibility.

Then I wake up and lie there, conscious.

Usually, I am awake for an hour or so. Maybe 90 minutes. During that time, I think about things. Lots of things.

Then I go back to sleep.

The second time I sleep is when I have intense, vivid, colorful dreams.

This always happens.

Last night, I had four separate dreams during that time. They were really cool dreams, too. Especially the last one, where I had a big boat in the harbor and there was a ladder floating in the ocean that had fallen off the upper deck of my boat. I won't tell you the whole dream, but I do remember that it cost exactly $400 per month to rent the slip where I kept the boat in the marina.

I keep a pad of paper and a pen on the nightstand beside my bed. On that nightstand, there are also 6 books, the framed copy of Exile on Main Street my son gave me, and a statue of Ganesha.

I used to train myself to wake up and write down my dreams.

I wrote a lot of the narratives to In the Path of Falling Objects and The Marbury Lens this way.

In fact, just about everything that happens to Jack and Conner in Marbury happened first in the delta waves of the reversible (thank God!) unconsciousness of my sleep, which I wrote down (in red pen, by the way. I don't know why I have a particular fondness for writing in red ink).

Now, even though I keep paper and (red) pen nearby, I do not need to write down my dreams. I always remember them. Every day.

At least, every day I wake up I do.

I am not sure if other writers use their dreams in what they write, or if other writers even dream.

In my case, the majority of my dreams have almost no connection to the "real" waking world. I have never owned a boat (with the exception of my kayaks), and I probably wouldn't jump in the ocean to retrieve a floating ladder if given the opportunity.

And, to answer FAQ at the top of the list, that is exactly how I sleep.

Every night.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

the blue light was my baby

So I was going to write this post a while ago about how disappointed I was in the Postal Service.

Eh... whatever.

It's kind of a non-issue, like when people who want to be President of the United States of America talk about amending the Constitution of the United States of America in order to "protect" marriage against gay human beings.

That's probably the dumbest thing anyone who wants to be President of the United States could ever talk about in 2012. It is dumber than talking about the current season of Doctor Who, which, I am told, is a television program that I have never seen.

One time I told somebody that I had never seen Doctor Who.

You know what he said to me?

He said this:

That is really sad.

I did not know my life was really sad because I had not ever seen Doctor Who.

I thought all the sadness in my life was due to other things.

See how stupid and misled you can be when you do not watch television?

Anyway, that same guy -- the one who shook his head woefully and said That's really sad when I said I have never watched Doctor Who -- you know what I did to him?

I made him a character in a book I wrote and killed him.

I do that kind of shit a lot.

Oh yeah? You think it is "sad" that I do not watch Doctor Who?

Well, take that, motherfucker.

I was angry at the US Postal Service because of this important stuff I had sent to this important kid on the other side of the country, and the US Postal Service never delivered it.

There ought to be a Constitutional Amendment banning lost packages. It could come right after the one that forces me to stop killing people in my books who judge me harshly and find happiness by watching Doctor Who.

Are the Doctor Who fans getting pissed off at me?

Yesterday, I think I pissed off everyone in "Hollywood," as well as Andrea Bocelli fans, and possibly the Republics of Italy and North Korea, too.

I failed to mention that the movie I had watched had James Franco in it.

I think James Franco should run for President.

Or, maybe, he should be appointed Postmaster General.

James could do it.

I think those might be the last two things on James Franco's to-do list.

Me? I need to clean my office.

Remember the 12-year-old kid named Ian, who was solely responsible for bringing me out to Miami in November for the Miami Book Fair International?

Ian's a big fan of all things Marbury.

Well, it was probably the best thing I have ever participated in as a writer. So, before I left Miami, I got to spend some time with Ian, and I told him I would send him some original manuscript pages from Passenger, which is the sequel to The Marbury Lens, as well as a poster for The Marbury Lens.

So, I packed all that stuff up in one of those unstoppable cardboard tube things at the beginning of December and sent it off to Ian -- via the un-James-Franco administered US Postal Service.

It never got there.

I was bummed.

Ian was bummed. I know what it's like, being 12 and waiting for something to come in the mail. It is like a black hole.

Worse, I think Ian may have entertained the thought that I didn't do what I told him I was going to do.

I can't stand people who break promises to kids.

Now THAT should be a Constitutional Amendment, you stupid idiots who want to be President of the United States of America: There will be no breaking promises to kids.

Also, the pages I sent him were my FAVORITE pages -- from an original manuscript -- that no longer, apparently, exist in this universe. I sent him about 10 pages of this really creepy scene that takes place in the middle of the wasteland of the Marbury desert.

Part of that scene is on my Writing page on my website.

Some people who have read that short excerpt have guessed that it has something to do with Seth, the ghost from The Marbury Lens. I am not going to tell them if they are right or not. I will only say it is a very creepy scene.

So, anyway... I packaged up a new set of pages (from three different parts of Passenger), another The Marbury Lens poster, and a handwritten (well, printed, actually, since I can not handwrite) letter to Ian and shipped them all off -- again. But this time, it was with UPS.

I think it's cool to send handwritten letters to people, even if my writing looks like a nervous seven-year-old who needs to pee really bad and cannot write on horizontal parallels.

I have heard that James Franco has very nice penmanship.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

breakout session 4.1: optioning your book for film


That was a bit caffeinated.

And, as usual, I forgot what I actually wanted to say.

I learned something the other day: For a film to make lots of money, it should be rated PG-13.

And for a film to be rated PG-13, you are allowed to say fuck one time only.



Obviously, that's how you make a book as long as The Marbury Lens fit into 100 minutes: make it PG-13.

I won't tell you how many "fucks" have to be cut to get The Marbury Lens down to the magic number.

It is a lot.

I realize, too, that I have not been very effective at reducing the number of times I use the vague quantifier "a lot," which has kind of been a New Year's Resolution of mine.

I should make a magic number:

I am only allowed to say a lot three times per day.

Three times seems like a lot.

When you have magic numbers, which are a lot like frosted raspberry cupcakes, exceeding them is, by definition, excessive in any quantity.

breakout session four: optioning your book for film

I don't know whether this is actually Breakout Session 4 or not. I have lost track.

Look at all the free shit I give you.

Well, kind of free.

I realize that a while back I started talking about the movie option for The Marbury Lens, and then I got sidetracked.

That happens.

I know a lot of people don't really know what it means when a book gets optioned for film, but here's the simplified version:

It is like selling your child to your next-door neighbor for a year or two.

If you are okay with selling your child to your next-door neighbor for a year or two, then you have to be willing to shrug off certain things -- like blood curdling pleas for help in the middle of the night, bad hygiene, and poor fashion choices, like Crocs or hairstyles evocative of Kim Jong Il.

Hmmm... is next-door supposed to be hyphenated?

How about blood curdling?

This is why we have copy editors.

Copy editors are like invisible angels that poop frosted raspberry cupcakes from the heavens.

Did I just hear a scream?

No matter.

I'll just crank up the Andrea Bocelli.

[If you knew me, you would laugh at that. I would rather die than crank up Andrea Bocelli. I do not like to get screamed at in Italian. It creeps me out.]

You can get a haircut when you come home. Now quit complaining.

There is a script.

I have it.

If you have read The Marbury Lens, then you know it is a huge story, with stories inside stories that go back as far as the late 1800s.

I realize that the only possible way you could make that child into a 100-minute movie is by rearranging some of the furniture in the playground.

Do playgrounds have furniture?

This is precisely why my childhood wasn't very fun.

Go outside and play on the coffee table, Drew... Or we'll sell you to the creepy man next door for a few years.

I am not complaining.

Don't get me wrong.

I am explaining, in my usual whimsy-infused manner.

I write books, not movies.

I watched a movie the other night with my family.

This is the truth.

As I sat there watching it (the part I did not sleep through), I thought the following quietly to myself:

If I wanted to write a movie like this, I would have to have a portion of my brain surgically removed, blended with margarine and candy corn, heated to a boil, and then injected back into my skull.

That did not sound like a good idea.

Listen: I am pretty much okay with anything anyone wants to do in movieland once I sign the paper.

It just has to be that way.

I write books.

But I do believe two things:

I believe The Marbury Lens will be a very good movie.

I also believe I would like a cupcake.

Friday, January 6, 2012

ingrid's bakery

I blog a lot.

It is practice.

But my philosophy is this: blogging is not writing.

Blogging is not-writing.

When people use language to communicate (whether written or spoken), there are actually two things going on: The words and the thoughts behind the words.

The words are like clothing; the thought is the nude form beneath.

Sometimes the clothing is so... um... form-fitting, that the thought and the outer layer -- the word -- are indistinguishable.

This is real concrete writing.

It can be bad writing at the wrong times, and it can uppercut you in the guts at others.

You have no idea what I am thinking about when I type these words.

Hint: Among other things, I am thinking about keystrokes. I am a bad typist who grew up using manual typewriters and carbon paper.

When I say carbon paper, I am thinking about sex.

My first typewriter was a Smith-Corona that came in its own black vinyl suitcase. Half of the ribbon was red.

I was thinking (not while typing) about practice and how it works.

To be a good pole-vaulter, you have to practice.

I have never pole-vaulted in my life.

Pole-vaulters do not only pole-vault all day long. If they want to be good, they do other things.

This is why standardization in education is going to destroy humanity and result in a massive economic/social/class catastrophe.

You can never practice at being creative if your path in life is reduced, without possible deviation, to the following:

( ) A.

( ) B.

( ) C.

( ) D.

Creativity solves problems.

The world has a lot of problems.

Like, what to do with all the carbon paper we did not use up in the 1980s.

Two years ago, I wrote a series of blog posts about why I hate YA.

People got mad at me.

They said, If you hate YA, why do you write it?

I do not write YA. That is just the clothing that you see. You need to call it something, so you call it YA.

I have published 4 novels. My 5th, 6th, and 7th are already on the calendar for publication at Macmillan and Simon and Schuster.

I never wrote a single one of those novels as YA.

I don't think I really know what YA is.

But I do know I hate it.

I never even heard of YA until I thought about publishing my first novel, and a good friend said, Oh, that's YA. 

And I was, like, Yay?

Yay for me.

Now I know what I write.

I have found the bridge between the clothing and the body.

Thank God.

I can live.

I do not read YA.

Is that an offensive shock? I mean, I read some books that people call YA, but I only read them because they are good. Not because they are YA.

And... um... to be honest, almost nothing that people call YA will get me past page five.


I am practicing.

Look: If you want to be a writer of any category or genre and that's all you read, you will never be a good writer.

Sorry, but that is the truth.

If you want to be a writer and you never read, um... you should quit now.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

eden five needs you

I frequently get lost.


NOW I remember why I started off on yesterday's post about writing after a pitch, as opposed to pitching after a write.

Because series writers have to do that.

It was not too long ago when I was finally able to talk about Passenger, which is my forthcoming novel, a sequel to The Marbury Lens.

When I made the announcement, my friend, the affable Michael Grant, said something like this:

Welcome to series hell, buddy.



This is it.

Isn't it?

I absolutely never intended to write another book about Jack, Conner, and Marbury. It just happened.

Like poop or something.

I could not help it.

There will be nothing more on the subject of Marbury and Jack and Conner and the rest of them after this.

At least, I think so.

But then again, being a middle child, I have very poor impulse control.

I have a spastic impulse sphincter.

Anyway, the reason that I was thinking about series books is something that is purely personal and anecdotal on my part, so it may very likely be as wrong as discussing poop on a blog for two consecutive days, but it is this:

It seems that more and more young readers (and I am talking primarily about older teens), and YA librarians are looking for new reads which are not part of series.

I don't know. Maybe it's just the kids I hang around with.

That sounds creepy, doesn't it?

So, yesterday, I stumbled onto this website -- a nice looking website, by the way -- run by a business that produces generic-type covers for self-pubbed/indie/e-books. I'd really like to share the site, but I would probably get a bag of flaming poop on my doorstep.

The covers are very well-done.

In fact, they look like just about every cover out there nowadays.

You know what I mean.

I hope.

In fact, I started to laugh until I cried thinking up titles to their "Paranormal" collection.

Do this:

Look at the latest Paranormal/Romance/YA book cover.

Pick any one you'd like, and open it in another tab, right alongside this post.

Do it.

Go ahead, I'll wait.


Are you looking at the cover?

Good, my friends.


Now say aloud the following:

I just took an upper-decker in your toilet.


I am a bad person.

You might have to look upper-decker up in the urban dictionary, or something.

A two-day streak of nonstop poop references.

Why do YA Dysto/Para/Rom covers have to be so lame and generic?

Whatever happened to the days when publishers made covers like this:


Now here is an author who probably started with a title.

And a cover.

"Stand back! I've got a clarinet, and I'm not afraid to use it!"


And... Satan? Who knew Satan played tambourine?


And I'm not sure, but maybe "lesbian" meant something different in the 1950s than "lesbian" means today.

I also like this cover:



On second thought, "It hurts when I poop!" is also a very funny thing to say aloud when you look at the current slew of covers for Dysto/Para/Rom YA, too.

I believe I am now finished talking about poop.

Who knows?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the pulse-o-matic

Last year, in 2011, I sold three books for publication.

Nothing ever seems really good enough for me, but then again I was a middle child.

This year, I will sell some books, too.

I only mention that because the books I sold last year are already written.


That's why I can put quotes from them on my website.

I've said it before: I don't see how writers can pitch an idea about something they intend to write, but haven't yet written.

I mean... I would give it a shot, but the pressure must be pure hell.

It would be like pooping on command.

With an audience.

"You! Poop now!"

Even if I had a gun to my head, I don't think I could break routine.

Am I finished talking about pooping?

Yes. Yes, I am.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

searching for her invisible silo

I did it.

The bio is finished.

It is vague and thin-shelled, because it does not tell about all these other things I have done in my life and where I went to school and stuff like that. I am not going to put it here, and it is not on my website, either, because I do not like that kind of stuff.

I have been restless.

I am not a good person when I am restless.

I am about ready to begin something new, but it isn't there yet. I know when things are there, and this is not.


So, out of restlessness and my intense avoidance toward completing such tasks as taking author photos and crafting vague, thin-shelled bios which make me sound neither heroic nor accomplished by any stretch of the imagination, I decided to re-read through the last beast of a novel I'd finished writing this past October.

I still think it is good.

But I found about four typos in it.

Typos make me insane.

How can typos remain invisible through so many sessions of reading, rewriting, and editing?

Typos are like ghosts.

Here is one that made me want to break something: I typed od in a sentence where I had intended to type of.

How the hell can you do that and not even see the little bastard for months?

I hate typos.

Sure, you think, I am finished writing... now I will just do a quick read-through for spelling errors. And you read a few hundred pages a day and a misspelled, two-letter preposition camouflages itself amongst multisyllabic vessels of presumed significance.

And then I cringe, what if THEY think I really am an idiot who uses words like "od"?

This is what happens when I don't have enough to do.

Monday, January 2, 2012

the dragon parade

The ordeal is over.

I am not talking about 2011, which was not really the terrible year all the newspapers I've been looking at have claimed it to be.

I am talking about the author photo mission.

Now all I have to do is make up that damned biography and I'll be off the hook.

When my first book, Ghost Medicine, came out, I was greatly relieved that there would be no author photo on the dust jacket. But I also did not want any biographical info on it, either.

I believe I actually suggested something like this:

Andrew Smith is the guy who wrote this book.

For some reason, that suggestion did not fly with the higher-ups.

Oh well.

We took the author photos inside some old abandoned clubhouse buildings near the lake where I live. Over the years, kids have converted these old shacks into sex dens or something. I think they look cool, but then again, I like the art that can be found in destruction.

In fact, a very important scene in my book Winger, which is coming out early next year from Simon and Schuster, takes place inside a building very much like the one in our photographs.

Just so you know what it looks like there.

About one mile from my house, if you follow footpaths through the hills (there are no roads here), there is also a small family graveyard, where we took some of the pictures.

They just don't let people bury family members on their property these days.

Well... I mean, you know... if you do bury your family members in your yard, nowadays you usually don't let people know about it. It's got to impact resale value and shit like that.

Anyway, in the graveyard, the most recent headstone (there are only five of them) is dated 1933. You can't help but wonder how tough it must have been to bury a family member on your own property during the Great Depression.

Three of the graves are for children. One of them -- a kid named Eddie -- died in 1919.

On New Year's Eve, when we took the photos, I had a dream about Eddie. Actually, I have been thinking about that kid for two nights in a row now. I am probably going to go back to the grave today, but I am a little creeped out about it.

I know Eddie's there. I guess that's a weird thing to say, but... he is.

Eddie is a cool name for a kid from 1919. Not Edward. Eddie.

In 1860, the population of the planet Earth was about 1.3 billion. I mention that because one of the people in the graveyard was born in 1860. I think it was Eddie's grandfather.

In the 1860s, people sometimes named their kid Phineas.

P.T. Barnum's first name was Phineas.

P.T. Barnum was alive in 1860.

He is falsely credited with devising the calculus that There is a sucker born every minute.

If I extract out the math, given the world's current population, there is now a sucker being born about every 14 seconds.

That is real progress, and it makes me want to breed.

I hear kids frequently moan about how boring their lives are.

I think, as I sit here at the beginning of 2012, that boredom and discouragement piled up invisibly as we invented more and more shit to entertain ourselves -- like iPods and Xboxes and smart phones -- shit like that, which really build isolating technological igloos around human beings.

It's too late for a lot of kids. They will never dig their way out of all that isolation and boredom and discouragement.

I know. Not very cheerful.

I bet the kids who lived by Eddie, on the side of a lake where people raised cattle and horses and grew cherries in 1919 never complained about being bored.

Anyway, here are two pictures we took on New Year's Eve. The Black and White photo was taken in the graveyard.

Sunday, January 1, 2012