Tuesday, May 29, 2012

the trap door

There has never been a shortage of questions from readers about Marbury and The Marbury Lens.

Some of those questions are answered in the book, but you have to figure them out without being told. Others will be answered in the sequel, Passenger, which is coming out on October 2. And, still others will be answered before then -- in a short story I've written that I will be telling you more about very soon.

In any event, like all my books, I didn't just make everything up in The Marbury Lens, or in Passenger, for that matter. And as far as the physics of Jack and Conner's popping in and out of different realities, I did actually do quite a bit of research.

I'll leave the sciencey stuff alone for now, but there is a lot to be said for the probability that someone actually could move from here to some entirely different -- and real -- alternate reality (like Marbury) simply based on the architecture of the component structures of what we perceive to be real.

For Jack and Conner, their tripping in and out of here (or not-here) and Marbury (or not-Marbury) is entirely dependent upon what the lenses present before them.

The ideas of Quantum Reality suggest this: If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody is there to witness it, it is a very safe bet that the forest doesn't exist in the first place.

Welcome back to Marbury.

More soon...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

the littlest confusedest bookshelf, part 2

So yesterday's topic dealt with what I wrote about.

I have, in earlier posts, identified whom I write for.


I write for me.

Some people read it, too.

I will take issue with Matthew's comment about Maurice Sendak saying it better. If someone tells me who my audience is, and they are incorrect, I will tell them they are wrong. Nobody needs to tell me who my work is for. I already know that.

So, the other day I was speaking to yet another adult reader who also happens to be a fan of my books. This reader has teenage kids, but feels my books are too mature for them.

I have absolutely no problem with that.

Parents are supposed to make those calls.

Kids are kids.

But I told that particular parent that my daughter (who was 14 years old at the time) did a book project about my novel Stick in her 9th-grade Honors English class.

I could see the parent (who -- let me repeat -- is a very nice person, a great parent, and a terrific fan of my books) became visibly embarrassed. It was like my reader friend felt embarrassed for me because I was in the position of having my daughter read something that I'd written which was (in my opinion) brutally honest and touched on some pretty deep issues that everyday normal adolescent boys have to deal with.

I could specify what those issues are if you need me to.

It's not too big of a mystery and it's certainly not a big deal to me, and I'm totally okay with my daughter reading about these things in my book. I didn't tell her to read the book, either. She chose it for her class. Stick was the first of my novels that she read, too.

My son was 14 when he read The Marbury Lens.

I'm glad my kids like my books, but I'm happier that they are readers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the littlest confusedest bookshelf

I admit it: I have written a number of books about young adults.

I write books about young adults because that pivotal phase in life is often the most important in terms of its resonating effect on the evolution of a person's path. There are things that happened to me in my teens that I still haven't fully sorted out; and decisions I made at that time of my life which ultimately pointed me to where I am today.

I am NOT a YA author.

I am an (a)YA author.

There is a huge difference when you emphasize that preposition -- about --  because it means 1) that I am not a kid, and 2) that I do not write down to an audience who can't (or shouldn't be allowed to) handle particular concepts.

I also do not preach, nor do my books offer any salvation.

Someone needs to straighten out that confused little (very little) bookshelf, and it will stop an awful lot of hand-wringers out there who can't make the distinction between books that are written FOR young adults -- (f)YA -- and books that are written ABOUT them.

Here is an amazing book that was written about young adults -- one of the best books ever written, in my opinion -- The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy. Go tell McCarthy he's a YA author and he'll probably put one of those slaughterhouse cow-skull-pressure-blaster things up to your temple.

When I was a young adult, I confronted all those same horrible things that the majority of the characters in my books have to deal with. It was a confusing and frightening time. It was also the most important period in my life, which is why I write ABOUT it now. It took me a really long time to be able to process most of those things, and some of them are still churning around.

Anyway, I apologize for the rant. This came up just the other day when a reader of my books (an adult, by the way) said something to me like this: I tell my friends to read your books, but they think they're written for kids. Why don't more adults read the stuff you write?

Because they do not know there's a vast difference between (f)YA and (a)YA.

Monday, May 21, 2012

on being angelic, and simultaneously, edible and tuber-like

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been getting the greatest emails from kids -- mostly thanks to Kristen Pelfrey's Angel Potato kids.

It's funny, though, because I think her kids have been under the impression that if you write to a writer, the writer will not write you back.

I'm sure there are plenty of writers out there who are "too busy" to write a letter back to a kid. But writing to a kid is kind of like planting a future garden, or something like that. How can it not have a positive impact on the people who will be ruling the world when we are all dead?

Anyway, I always write back to kids.

One of them said this about his teacher: I am one of the Awesome Angel Potatoes of Kristen Pelfrey. She tells me that you are head-explodingly busy and stressed, but she says I should write to you anyway. I just read one of your books, Stick, and I thought it was very amazing and I wanted to tell you that. I loved the whole book, and it had my interest the whole time(which is quite amazing, its hard to keep my interest for long), and I had to read it whenever I could. 

And, from another:  I am a student of Kristen Pelfrey's Education in the Digital Age class. I just finished reading your excellent book, Stick. I am an avid reader, but I have to say this is one of the best books I have ever read. As soon as I started reading, every detail was so vivid in my mind, I felt as if I was actually there witnessing all of the events.

And, from Angel Potato 3: I am a student of Kristen Pelfrey and I also am one of her Angel Potatoes. I am in her Education in the Digital Age class at my high school. I read your book, Ghost Medicine and I was incredibly moved by such an amazing piece of literature. It was a really spectacular novel! I loved the characters, and was moved by their actions and the outcome of the story.

And, finally, one of my favorite exchanges came from a kid who surfs, who knows all the places I described in Stick, the places where I used to surf. I told him about how I was recently speaking to a group of adults who'd read the novel, and they were all so fascinated and repulsed -- and wanted to know if it was really true -- that surfers pee in their wetsuits.

It doesn't get much better than that.

He said this: I am in Kristen's class.  She gave me your book Stick at first I didn't believe I would like it very much but when I got home and started reading I couldn't put it down.  I read and read throughout the afternoon and in to the night.  I finally was yelled at to come to the dinner table by my mom.

Ease up, Mom!

And, finally, speaking of moms, my friend, author Lisa Yee, has a son who is 1) exactly one day older than my daughter, and 2) a big fan of all things Marbury. So I arranged for the kid to receive a special present of an ARC of Passenger, the forthcoming sequel to The Marbury Lens.

Lisa was so kind to send me a photo of the kid -- all smiles -- holding up his copy of the book.

It's such an amazing thing to see, when we can actually make kids happy about reading.

Thanks, Lisa, and happy birthday, kid.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

never name a pizza joint stan's

I realize I have been away for a week.

It has been the week from hell, and I have yet to navigate out of it.

I managed to beat yet another deadline, which involved slogging through what was beyond any doubt the most over-the-top, horrendously executed copy edit job in my miserable life.

I can say this now because both my editor and my editor's assistant concurred with my assessment of the "laying on of hands" by this rock-pulverizer with a red pencil.

I should have taken photographs of some of the pages and comments I made, but it was all I could do to sit on my hands and not hurl the 400-plus-page manuscript across the room.

Let me say this: No.

Easily 95 percent of the medical-dictionary-trained copy editor's ideas will never taste wet ink on paper.

Look: I apologize, dear hardworking copy editor.

But no.

Not but-comma-no.

Just no.

I will share one triumphant moment with you: I came to a page... somewhere near the middle-thirdish (No, that is not a fucking word and I am fully aware of it, so you do not need to point it out. If I didn't want to put it on the page, it would not be there) of the manuscript and I put this on it:

Oh! A page without a Post-It Note on it! Let me fix that!

(written on a Post-It Note).

How do I get out of this hell?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

what we do

I have a couple new things coming up that I'm pretty excited about.

First, I'm really stoked about ALA, but I've posted on that before, and I've got some more stuff I'll be saying about that coming up soon.

This summer, I'm going to be a "Guest Writer" for a session of the Santa Monica Public Library's Write On! 2012: A Teen Writer's Workshop, which is a creative writing workshop for teens. That will be really cool.

Also, I've been invited to speak and present at the League of Utah Writers' Annual Conference this September in Park City, Utah.

I am totally looking forward to both of these events, and will post lots more about them as they approach.

Now, back to work.

Monday, May 7, 2012

when winning is losing

So the ponies ran on Saturday.

Who would've thought my horse -- the long shot -- would not only beat the other three authors' horses, but also come in to win the whole race?

Last year, Brian Farrey was the winner. He said then that winning THE BET worked out just fine for him because he was under so much deadline pressure the month of the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

That's pretty much where I am right now, too, although I was really looking forward to writing a short story for this year's THE BET.

To be honest, I am under so much pressure right now that I am probably this close (holds up thumb and index finger) to blowing up. And I'm not even going to talk about it.

I'm not even talking to anyone, as a matter of fact. Devices have been disconnected at El Rancho de Drew.

At the end of this week, my son will become a 17-year-old sophomore at UC Berkeley, as his first year there comes to an end on Friday afternoon. He has until 10 in the morning on Saturday to be moved out of the dorms. I am supposed to help him move out -- which will be a three-day job counting the horrendous drive up there with the trusty pickup truck.

Guess what?

I can't do it.

Surprise!!! I have work I must get back to the hands of an editor in New York, so I can't afford to spend three days off-task.

Attention Aspiring Authors: this is how it is. They don't tell you going into this gig that you will actually find yourselves on honeymoon cruises, family reunions, and maybe even on the operating table having a C-section while working to meet a suddenly surprising deadline.

Just thought I'd let you know.

Suddenly Surprising sounds like one of those trashy brooding-dark-haired-girls-on-the-cover YAs.

Anyway, it's not like my son will be the first Smith in the family to find himself homeless and on the streets.

Suck it up, crybaby!

Where was I?

Oh... so THE BET:

My horse, I'll Have Another (I really thought this guy was a pig with long legs... I was so certain I'd get to write a shortie in honor of his expected trouncing), came in first fucking place in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Maybe the horse will go up to Berkeley to move my son out.

God knows I can't.

So, I get to give author Kimberly Pauley a title for a short story.

Her title is this:

The Flat-Tire Man

In turn, Kimberly gets to give author Catherine Ryan Hyde a title.

Catherine's title is:

Uncle Mo Holds a Grudge

And Catherine gets to give author Brian Farrey a title.

Brian's title is:

All of Nature Abhors a Vacuum

What terrific titles!

And deadlines? The stories will be ready for the world on June 1. They will all be linked here. I can't wait. These are three of my favorite writers/co-conspirators on the planet.

Don't worry. I will be back next year for THE BET 3. I'll be picking the most-likely-to-be-turned-into-kibble contender.

And I better lose, dammit.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

second running

So yesterday I was on strike.

I was on such a deep strike that I was also on strike from clashing with authorities, which is something I do on a daily basis.

How liberating it was to be on strike from clashing with authorities.

This is a true story: Once, in order to hide myself from the police, who for whatever reason wanted to clash with me, I hid inside a trash dumpster.

It worked!

Clash avoided.

Those were the days.

Now it's all work, work, work, and clash, clash, clash, which is also what makes America great.

You know what else makes America great? Drinking single-batch Kentucky bourbon and watching horses race, which is going to be happening on Saturday. Saturday is also Cinco de Mayo in California, which gives white people with no understanding of history the excuse to make "Seven Layer Dip" and play beer pong in their garages with canned Tecate beer.

I once asked a kid why he found using a "beer bong" so enjoyable. I have never used a "beer bong."

A "beer bong" is a plastic tube that teenagers and unemployed perverts insert into their esophagus, so they can wrong-way-enema their digestive tracts with quart after quart of beer.

Fun, fun, fun!

Once again, American ingenuity trumps all.

So here's what's happening: On Saturday/Cinco de Mayo/Beer bong day/Kentucky Derby, four authors have agreed to a second running of last year's THE BET.

The authors are myself, Brian Farrey, Kimberly Pauley, and Catherine Ryan Hyde.

We are the brave writers who are NOT AFRAID TO WRITE.

Writing is our way of Clashing With Authorities, of beer bonging without the whole shove-this-tube-down-your-esophagus discomfort.

THE BET works like this: Each of us has chosen a horse in the Kentucky Derby field. The author whose horse comes in ahead of the other three gets to make up a title and the second place author/horse combo must write a short story WITH THAT TITLE. Second place makes up a title for third, and third place creates a title for fourth.

First place writes no story, and fourth place makes up no title.

The three stories, when written, will all be posted on the same day, absolutely free of charge (which is as anti-American as you can get) on our author blogs.

We did it last year.

We are back.

This is what we do.

Where did I leave that beer bong?