Tuesday, December 31, 2013

so... 100 things that kicked ass in 2013

1. I took my daughter with me to New York City for a week. It was the first time I ever brought a kid with me on book tour.
2. I had the best ever mini-tour in Chicago and Detroit, and made some true friends.
3. I bought my daughter the most amazing dog for her birthday.
4. Winger was published in May.
5. I held an actual ARC of Grasshopper Jungle.
6. I finished writing 100 Sideways Miles.
7. My son turned 19.
8. Winger was reviewed in the New York Times.
9. I sold an awful lot of foreign rights.
10. I ate kangaroo meat.
11. Went to dinner with Benjamin Alire Saenz.
12. Got lost in the rain.
13. Ran in a snowfall in Boston and California.
14. Had Syrian food with David Gale.
15. I attended a media luncheon for Grasshopper Jungle. MTV, People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and USA Today were there. For me.
16. Best school visit ever: Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, New Jersey.
17. Got to do readings with Ellen Hopkins and John Corey Whaley.
18. Took my daughter shopping at Tiffany.
19. Hung out with Stephen Chbosky.
20. Played golf with A.S. King.
21. Heather Brewer's "Less Than Three" conference.
22. My anniversary weekend on the beach.
23. My house didn't burn down.
24. I ran every day.
25. Hung out with Anne in New York.
26. Had some bourbon with Dave Barrett.
27. Had some bourbon with Michael Bourret.
28. Had some bourbon with Lauren Abramo.
29. Got to hang out with Gayle Forman. No bourbon was involved.
30. Had some scotch with Michael Grant.
31. The cab ride from hell in Miami with Bennett Madison.
32. TLA in Fort Worth.
33. Got to hang out with Julie Strauss-Gabel in the Penguin offices.
34. Met some of the best fans ever, all over the country.
35. Got to hang out with Liz Szabla and Jean Feiwel in the Flatiron.
36. I ate actual grasshoppers.
37. I ate an actual bacon macaron.
38. Hung out with Carrie Ryan. She convinced me to try Scrivener, so I bought it. I haven't made it through the tutorial, unfortunately.
39. Partied at the Simon & Schuster offices.
40. Signed books at some great American indies: Books of Wonder in New York, and Anderson's in Chicago.
41. Had dinner with Justin Chanda.
42. Met Lucy Ruth Cummins, the artist responsible for the cover of Winger.
43. Penguin sent me a box of UNSTOPPABLE CORN T-shirts.
44. I ate rattlesnake meat.
45. NCTE/ALAN in Boston.
46. Miami Book Fair International.
47. Starred reviews for Winger in Booklist, Shelf Awareness, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly.
48. Starred reviews for Grasshopper Jungle in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.
49. Interviewed by Kirkus.
50. Winger named a JLG selection, nominated for Quickpicks, Rainbow List, and BFYA, and so many "Best of 2013" lists.
51. Helped kick off the first Ontario Teen Book Festival.
52. I drank a jalapeno margarita in Texas.
53. I read some really great books.
54. Hung out with Brooks Sherman and Adam Silvera in New York.
55. Got to see the fantastic cover design for 100 Sideways Miles (also by Lucy Ruth Cummins).
56. I'm not going to lie--riding in limos is the shit.
57. The author party in South Beach.
58. Hanging out with Janet Tashjian.
59. Listening to audition tapes for the audio version of Grasshopper Jungle.
60. Working with Andrew Karre and A.S. King on the anthology Losing It, which came out in October.
61. Holding the British version of Grasshopper Jungle.
62. Making the cover of Bookseller magazine.
63. Being in the Los Angeles Times list of summer reads for 2013.
64. Writing the book I'm writing right now.
65. Meeting Holly Goldberg Sloan.
66. All the miles I ran in cities I had never been to before.
67. All the times I got TSA pre-checked.
68. Coming home after all those long trips.
69. The pre-party at TLA.
70. Hanging out with Bill Konigsberg in Los Angeles and Boston.
71. Oh yeah... the cover of Winger made a LOT of best book covers of 2013 lists, often as the only YA title on the list.
72. I took a lot of saunas this year. I have a sauna in my house. Saunas and distance running are probably the best things writers can do.
73. Oh yeah... so, not only did Winger come out in 2013, it also went into its second and third printings in 2013.
74. Got to participate in Revolution Day at Foothill Technology High School. They gave me the first Angel Potato Award.
75. My daughter turned 16.
76. The nicest hotels I stayed at were in Chicago, Boston, and New York City.
77. I got bumped off a flight coming home, but the airline gave me an extra free flight voucher. Score.
78. Visited two amazing high schools in Chicago.
79. Skyped with some terrific kids in Wisconsin.
80. Anderson's YA Summit.
81. I beat every deadline I had.
82. I edited with two methods--electronic and on paper. Still haven't decided which I prefer.
83. Saw two of my friends go from "aspiring" to getting their first publishing deals (Hooray for Helene and Adam).
84. Matthew and Amy drove up from Atlanta to hang out in St. Louis.
85. I went to the MOMA.
86. Stood right at the front of the pit for a Titus Andronicus gig. Patrick sweat on me and my daughter.
87. Did the Texas Tea at TLA. So fun.
88. I signed thousands of books for my readers.
89. I gave more than 100 books away to schools and libraries.
90. Most pleasant surprise location: New Jersey.
91. Hanging out with my S&S people--especially Venessa and David.
92. Getting a first edition of The Chocolate War as a gift from one of my publishers in England.
93. Hearing from booksellers overseas about their enthusiasm for my books.
94. All the love and support from librarians.
95. All the love and support from independent booksellers.
96. When Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster stopped fighting, and people could find my books there again.
97. All the people who sent photos of themselves with my books. My two favorites were the one in Australia with kangaroos in the background (thanks David) and the one from the Portland Airport Powell's Books.
98. Going to dinner tonight (New Year's Eve) with my wife and daughter.
99. Hearing such nice things about my work from agents and editors I don't even work with... really, publishing has some of the nicest people in the world.
100. Looking forward to all the great things that are going to happen in the year that will start tomorrow... and tomorrow I can say this: Grasshopper Jungle is coming out next

Monday, December 30, 2013

my facebook confession for 2013

See that picture up there?

It's a fitting image to begin today's post, because the great people at Simon & Schuster just sent these books--right off the third printing of Winger--to congratulate me for having had such a good year.

Big thanks are due to Simon & Schuster, and especially all the readers who love this book so much.

Thank you.

Okay, so since it's the end of the year and all, I've been feeling like it's time to come clean about something that's been bugging me for a long time.

It's about Facebook--my Facebook, in particular.

I am a failure at it.

I'm a failure at it because I never post about being sick or having all this pent-up internal anguish. I never talk about what I'm eating, cooking, favorite recipes, or what my unidentified and unphotographed children and wives are succeeding or failing at.

I don't even take photos of my dashboard's outside-temperature display.

As a matter of fact, you don't even know what kinds of fucking cars I drive.

See what a failure I am?

I do not want to post updates about insomnia, which I don't ever get.


In fact, pretty much all I ever post about on Facebook is stuff about my books, or the writing business, which are undoubtedly the only two topics I actually want to post about in a wide-open, unregulated forum.

I'm just a really private person. My real-world friends know this about me, so they don't hook into Facebook to find out things about my wife or kids, or what I'm eating, because they know if I'm posting something along those lines, I'm probably making it up.

But in a sit-down, face-to-face conversation, I'm pretty open about pretty much any topic, although I will admit that there have been a significant number of times I've told people that I didn't want to answer certain questions or address particular topics that were uncomfortably personal.

People want to know so much sometimes. It kind of creeps me out.

So, please don't think I'm stuck-up, or that I'm trying to sell my books. I am NOT trying to sell books via Facebook or Twitter, because I just don't do that.

It's just that my books are the only thing I want to talk about online. Sometimes my dogs or horses; rarely my incredibly ugly cats. But that's about it. Never my cars, meals, or sleeping routines.

Oh, I also don't want to talk about drug testing welfare recipients. What a stupid thing to suggest on Facebook! But, if you really want to know, I think we ought to drug test anyone in the US making more than $200,000 per year (for prescription meds, too), and if their pee comes back dirty, we should charge them double taxes--with no write-offs--because they're obviously taking advantage of our economic security to support organized crime. That would get us out of debt by next April.

And I don't want to talk about how "your generation" grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance in class every day, but now nobody says it because they're too afraid to offend anyone.


But I don't want to say things like that on Facebook, because... you know how easily people will change their opinions when someone like me expresses MINE, and then America would transform overnight into a rainbow-flag-waving-same-sex-marriage-supporting-anti-war-liberal-freaking-hippie-free-love-commune.

And nobody wants that, right?

Last night, I cooked Lasagna for my wife and kids.

It was good.

Friday, December 27, 2013

tying up 2013

What's this? I know. A second blog entry in less than a week.

But in less than one week, it will be 2014. And once it is officially 2014, I will have a new novel coming out in a month (Grasshopper Jungle, February 11 from Dutton/Penguin), and another one coming out in the fall (100 Sideways Miles, September 2 from Simon & Schuster).

And as great as 2013 was for me, given all the love people have for Winger, this coming year promises to be just as terrific.

So, as I often do, here's a list of things to wrap up 2013:

1. The connection between these two books:

Not many people know this. My second novel, In the Path of Falling Objects, and my forthcoming seventh novel, Grasshopper Jungle, share a character. The same guy pops up in both stories--to a very small and quirky extent in the earlier novel, but in a very major role in Grasshopper Jungle. That character is a guy named Charles R. Hoofard, most frequently referred to as Hungry Jack.

2. I realize I haven't said much at all about this book:

Even my friends don't know anything about this book. I haven't let anyone read it yet, either. It's called 100 Sideways Miles, and it's coming in September. In April, Simon & Schuster will be revealing the cover, which was designed by Lucy Ruth Cummins, who also designed the back photograph, as well as the cover for Winger, which was one of the most celebrated book covers (of any genre) of 2013. Just knowing that is a hint that the cover for 100 Sideways Miles is stunning, breathtaking, and spectacular. Another knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark for Lucy Ruth.

3.  So allow me to say something:

Like all my books, I invent almost everything that takes place in 100 Sideways Miles, but a good portion of the book is set in this Southern California canyon, and tells the history of an incredibly terrible event that took place there about 85 years ago.

But the rest is totally made up.

Also, right when 100 Sideways Miles comes out, Simon & Schuster will be releasing the paperback of Winger, which also has a very cool cover--and no, the front photograph is not changed, they've just added some features inside the front cover.

4. Conquering the world:

This is the gigantic stand-up of Winger that Simon & Schuster sent me, which is occupying a good bit of space in my living room.

In 2013, this book, and my next book, Grasshopper Jungle, got so much enthusiastic attention that between the two of them my work is now being read all over the world, with publishing deals coming in from England, Australia, Brazil, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.

There are still about 195 countries to go before full world domination takes effect, however.

Yeah... I'm talking to you, Antarctica.

5. Shirts and stuff:

Penguin has made these T-shirts for Grasshopper Jungle. They've been sending them out to people like crazy, too.

They are very cool shirts.

The people who got them are lucky and happy. I'm lucky and happy that I got one for myself, too.

Also, the book will finally be in bookstores in just 46 days.

Yes... it always seems to take so long. Especially for this book, which I am very excited about.

6. The year in review:

What can I say? It's been an incredible year for me and my books, with so much critical acclaim being heaped on Winger and Grasshopper Jungle.

People often ask me why I seem so surprised by what's been happening with my books. I suppose there's always an inner voice that most artists have that is hypercritical and tells us we are not good enough, and maybe that's the fuel that drives our engines. I don't know. But I like feeling that surprise when it comes along.

Monday, December 23, 2013

the ten best albums of 2013 that were not made by vampire weekend, daft punk, or arcade fire

Just because everyone else is going to have those three somewhere on their lists.

Okay. Here's the thing: 2013 was largely a failed attempt at #ThrowbackThirteen.

What was all this 80s nonsense being churned out? I mean, some acts did it good (Daft Punk), some did it... um... interestingly (I have to say I like the sound James Murphy added to Arcade Fire's Reflektor), but most simply should not have done it at all.

And speaking of not doing it, I don't really do the Pop thing, but if I did I would give props to CHVRCHES, who did it well and handled themselves most nobly in the face of stupid and vile misogynistic internet attacks. Also to the local Los Angeles women Haim, your producer had hands of concrete and ears of pig iron. I heard Haim live and they were very good, but the album is entirely over-produced. Too bad.

But I don't do Pop, anyway.

So, here you go. And, as always, this list is not in any particular order outside of the first two listings, which are my picks for Best Albums of 2013. All the others tied for second.

1. 6 Feet Beneath the Moon (King Krule) Okay. So this guy sings like Ian Dury, has a strong jazz/blues feel to his music, and lyrics that are structurally influenced by hip hop but with a deep poetic feel. The album is incredible. I once heard him lament the lack of anger and passion in modern music, and this offering doesn't fall short on either account. Take this, from Cementality:

See, the cement has never meant so much

My hot head cools to the stone cold touch

I look to settle my seat with dust

Brain, leave me be, can't you see that these eyes are shut?

2. Blowout (So So Glos) Purely American, uplifting, chaotic, and fun. The So So Glos are reminiscent of the Clash, both in terms of music and content. The album was a long time coming with a first early glimpse of what was to come when the So So Glos offered Son of An American in support of the Occupy Wall Street protest. Just such a very good album.

3. Light Up Gold + Tally All The Things That You Broke (Parquet Courts) I have a sneaking suspicion that Parquet Courts smoke the marijuana. Maybe it's their song, Stoned and Starving:

I was reading ingredients / asking myself “should I eat this?” / I was so stoned and starving.

And I love that song as much as Parquet Courts apparently love feedback and noise, which I also love. Originally released as the LP Light Up Gold, PC released an EP late in 2013 (Tally All The Things That You Broke), and then put them both together on this big, grand, fun, rocking noisefest of an album. Get it. Which also reminds me... Parquet Courts are from Brooklyn, which has produced some of the leading-edge music in the past few years but has (in #ThrowbackThirteen) taken a turn toward the mediocre.

C'mon, Brooklyn. Your originals have done nothing but copy themselves over and over and now it's time for something fresh and alive, like Parquet Courts.

4. Floating Coffin (Thee Oh Sees) Cosmic, feel-good, trippy fuzzmusic. This is what makes Thee Oh Sees original and tasty. Great, ripping album here.

5. Wondrous Bughouse (Youth Lagoon) I was afraid Youth Lagoon's second LP would be a continuation rip-off of his amazing freshman offering The Year of Hibernation, but not so. Bravo. This is big, chunky, noisy, and grown-up some. Nice job.

6. Fade (Yo La Tengo) I will never get tired of Yo La Tengo, no matter how much they evolve. And Fade is a very evolved, slicker-than-usual, and toned down iteration of the Hoboken indie kids.

7. Monomania (Deerhunter) Deerhunter is one of the most original, innovative bands in America. This album is angry and powerful, much less-produced than the earlier, brilliant, Halcyon Digest, and much more in line with the way the band sounds live, which is something I always appreciate in recording artists.

And poor, troubled Bradford Cox with his haunting apocalyptic visions of the ending of all things, here, in Leather Jacket II laments his position in the music industry:

i was a goldmine
i was cult
i was too kind
i was too kind
i was a goldmine

8. WeAre the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Foxygen) These guys probably take something much stronger than Parquet Courts. But they are boundlessly fun, quirky, and cool--and you gotta love that, especially because they came from Westlake Village, California, where I spent an awful lot of my high school years.

9. Hummingbird (Local Natives) Musically, this may be one of the most brilliant and original offerings on this list. Haunting and deep, sad and uplifting... and so very listenable. I love this album.

10. Muchacho (Phosphorescent) Another Brooklyn offering with a simple sound and some of the best, most personal songwriting Matthew Houck has produced in his significant career. The album has a sad, wandering, sometimes lost feel to it, but it--along with Hummingbird--are perfect backgrounds to quiet evenings at home.


Monday, November 11, 2013

puzzled pieces

If you are a bookseller or book reviewer in the UK, you may have received these strange postcards with even stranger excerpts of prose printed on their reverse sides. The postcards make a puzzle, and that's it in the photo.

They were sent out by the people at Egmont UK, whose imprint, Electric Monkey, is publishing Grasshopper Jungle in February.

They sent these to me last week while I was away in New York and New Jersey.

Oh, by the way--yes, it has been more than one month since I posted a blog.


So here's some stuff:

1. New Jersey: I visited Montclair Kimberley Academy and spoke to the entire high school student body. It is easily the nicest high school I have ever seen in my life, and I've been in a heck of a lot of high schools. Their auditorium has a balcony. That's not what makes the school so nice, though. The kids wear ties. And they read like fiends.

Here I am talking to the kids about Winger:

And here I am standing in front of a greatly diminished stack of my books. I think just about everyone at the school bought a copy.

I felt awkward because I was the ONLY GUY not wearing a tie. So the MKA people gave me one of their school ties, which is, like the coolest gift ever.

So I have to again say a huge thank you to Montclair Kimberley Academy, Scholastic Book Fairs (especially the lovely Carol Levine), and Simon & Schuster (especially Venessa Carson and David Gale), and Shanta Newlin and Julie Strauss-Gabel from Penguin for making this trip so amazing.

2. While I was in New York City: Lots of stuff happened. Notably, more recognition for Winger.

The book made two very distinguished Best of 2013 lists last week. So, besides the stars from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness, Winger has found its way onto these:

  • ALA/YALSA Nomination for Quick Picks 2014
  • Junior Library Guild Selection, 2013

That's quite a CV for Ryan Dean West.

3. There was Lots More: But I'll tell you about it later.

In less than a month, I promise.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


In which I blog about book stuff and the month of October.

1. I know someone who has TWO books coming out in October

It's A.S. King, my friend Amy.

Okay. You know how sometimes when you hear an awful lot about someone and it seems that their name keeps coming up over and over and you think to yourself, I would like to devise some manner by which I can justify not liking this person, just because you hear about them so much and they are mysterious and simultaneously pervasive so you break down and actually purchase this book that everyone kept talking about and the book was called Please Ignore Vera Dietz and then you realize there is no defensible argument you can come up with for not liking this person because that book was so spectacularly good that you, in fact, begin idolizing this person at the same time you despise yourself for not succeeding in not liking her and then she pops out of nowhere and comments on your blog and you're, like, Holy Shit!!! A.S. King commented on my blog!!! and then you find yourself actually meeting her and becoming tremendous friends and she plunks down a book so unflinchingly powerful as Everybody Sees the Ants so you build a small shrine to her in your office and begin relentlessly stalking her every move?


Well, most of that.

Well, one of the books Amy has coming out in October is Reality Boy.

Listen: this is A.S. King at her best. Here's the deal: the thing I dig about Amy's books is how her characters are so vulnerable readers can't help but be sucked inside their existences. And then along comes Gerald the Crapper--Reality Boy--a guy who is so messed up that I actually got sweaty and felt my blood pressure elevating when I read what was going on in and around him.

I love this book, which certainly has no shortage of feels, and like we've come to expect from Amy, no shortage of magic, either.

I can't wait to see all the love for this one as people discover that HOLY SHIT!!! THERE IS A NEW A.S. KING BOOK OUT AND I DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT!!!

2. This is Her Other Book, and The Writer's Time-Warp

It's called Losing It. I'm in it too.

Losing It is an anthology of short stories, from Carolrhoda Lab, that all involve the loss of virginity.

I know a lot of people don't count anthologies as being "one of your books." But, what the hell, it's on my bookshelf right alongside the other seven books I have written (one of which is an ARC, since Grasshopper Jungle doesn't come out until February 11).

This is weird: I am frequently asked how many books I have written. I am beginning to lose track.

I am beginning to lose track of everything.

The other day I tweeted about Reality Boy and another book I love so much it hurts, Noggin, by John Corey Whaley, and I said that Reality Boy was coming out in October of 2014 and Noggin in April of 2015.

I was off by a year in both cases.

You know how that can happen?

To an author, we are constantly living in the future. I just finished the final work on my book 100 Sideways Miles, which is coming out in September of 2014; and I am currently writing another book (secret title) which is slated to come out in spring of 2015.

It's hard for my brain to home in on what year it is.

I have come unstuck in time.

3. Next Week Someone Will Win This


I have never signed an ARC of Grasshopper Jungle. So whoever gets it will have the only one.

Have you entered?

4. I Won't Be Here When You Win

Because I'll be in Chicago, speaking at Anderson's YA Literature Conference on Saturday and the YA Fandom Frenzy on Sunday. Both events are at the Hotel Arista in Naperville.

You can get info about these events here.

From there, it's off to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I will be the LONE MALE (let me tell you why being an author is so cool) at Literati Books' YA Author Summit at the Downtown Ann Arbor Library on October 1.

You can get info about this event here.
5. An Amazing Library

I'll be speaking and signing books at the Los Angeles Public Library's Teen Book Festival on October 12.

This is an incredible library.

More information coming soon.

6. Less Than Three <3

After all this planning, it is finally here: Heather Brewer's Less Than Three Conference in St. Louis on October 19.

Can I say October is busy?

You can find out more details about Less Than Three here.

And guess who else will be there?

My friend Amy.

You know, the one who writes all those incredible books.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

clutter bug

A few weeks ago--I can't remember when this came up--I was talking about writing with someone for something. Maybe it was a blog or a conference panel.

I know it was something, though.

The subject of outlining came up, and it had to do with how I was able to write a narrative as complex and layered as Grasshopper Jungle.

My answer had to do with my desk and my office--the space I have dedicated to writing.

Because I do not outline when I write.

So far, just about everyone who's read Grasshopper Jungle has remarked that they find it hard to believe the novel was written straight through, without an outline. As a matter of fact, when I first met with my editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, in Los Angeles two summers ago regarding the book, not only did I tell her that I do not outline, but that the novel was in essence a first draft (because I always turn things in as soon as I write them with no personal revisions or rewriting).

Don't try this at home.

Okay. So my answer about outlining was this: My desk is a visual representation of how I outline. It is a massive, mountainous, cluttered mess. But I know exactly where everything is. Exactly. If you want to see me turn into Satan's nightmare, just try moving something or tidying up in my office.

Not pretty.

So when I'm writing (straight through is how I roll), if I get to, say, page 200 and realize I need to change something that happened way back near the beginning, I know exactly where that thing I need to change is and I go back and make it work.

It's not a problem for me at all, but then again, neither is my desk.

I mention this because yesterday there was an interesting article in the New York Times about the psychology of clutter and creativity. It was a most gratifying read for me.

If you'd like to read it, or if you are in need of an intervention for your insane tidiness, I have linked it here.

Also, I spread the exciting news yesterday that Grasshopper Jungle will be published in the UK and Australia simultaneously with its US (and Brazilian) release. It was very exciting to see the news in England's The Bookseller magazine.

You can read the Bookseller announcement here.

And now for the big reveal.

My desk today:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

the year of the bug

I know I haven't been here in a month.

I feel guilty about that.

But the reason I haven't posted anything is the exact opposite of because nothing's been happening. Too much has been going on, and I've been busy.

1. I have always believed that when you put energy out into the universe, it turns into stuff. I think I have released an awful lot of bug energy this year. For some weird reason, I have seen hundreds and hundreds of praying mantises in my garden this summer. We usually don't get mantises up here in the mountains.

I did something weird.

2. Speaking of weird, you can win this:

There are fewer of these than there are mantises in my garden.

I honestly only have one to give away, but you can win it on September 30--just about three weeks away. I will sign it, and maybe draw a bug in it, too.

You can enter to win by clicking here.

3. A couple weeks back, my pal John Corey Whaley and I did readings from our books and signed at Mrs. Nelson's Bookstore in La Verne, California. Corey read from Where Things Come Back, and I read from Winger.

There were lots of great questions from the audience. One question (I don't think either of us had been asked before, but it fit very well with our books) dealt with adolescents' preoccupation with death, and why death is an important element in YA literature.

Also, the traffic was HORRIBLE that day. I swore an awful lot in the car.

Afterward, we went to dinner with friends, but all the pictures came out too dark, so here we are outside at the signing.

4. Speaking of Winger, I did a signing at Barnes & Noble in Valencia. The turnout was huge, the traffic on the drive there was delightful (my son drove me), and I signed an awful lot of books for readers.

One thing that I haven't mentioned enough, I think, is the spectacular job done by Lucy Ruth Cummins on the design of the wrapper on Winger. It really is amazing, and so is this photo, taken by Navah Wolfe, an editor at Simon & Schuster, who saw Winger on display with some of the greatest books ever written in Grand Central Station, New York City:

I mention this now because in the past month, I have gotten to view photos of the models who will be used for the wrapping on my next Simon & Schuster book, 100 Sideways Miles, which is coming in the fall of 2014. A few days ago, Lucy sent me the wrap (front and back cover) image for 100 Sideways Miles.

Unfortunately, I can't show it, but it is BEYOND AMAZING. You will agree when they reveal the cover.

5. The year of the bug: There have been so many exciting things happening with Grasshopper Jungle (coming February 11 from Dutton/Penguin), but I can't talk about them yet, even though I want to. Which will give me something to start the next list with, I suppose.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

a long night

1. I took this photo from the deck on my office this morning. On June 1, there was a terrible fire up here and we were forced to evacuate. We really had no choice in the matter, and when we left we were convinced our house would burn down. Well, the house did not burn down, although Satan's House (this was actually a real place) and a couple others did.

In fact, just about the only spot for miles in any direction up here that DID NOT burn is this land directly behind our house, which is what I look at every morning, and day, and night when I am the galley slave to the keyboard.

The consequence is that every last bit of surviving wildlife has now crowded into this area, which means we are sharing our space with families of deer and lots of big, hungry coyotes. One of the coyotes is completely unafraid of us, and will often sit just outside our horse corral, just waiting and watching. He has eaten two of our cats in the past couple weeks, and is probably trying to figure out a way to get to our chickens, or maybe the puppy.

It was a very noisy night last night with swarming coyotes and stuff. It was very much like the Sam Shepard play, True West, which I recently read.

2. Apparently, Grasshopper Jungle is up on Edelweiss, an e-ARC delivery system for bloggers and reviewers. I think Edelweiss may be overheating, judging from the comments I am getting from people queuing up to read it.

This morning, the lovely Carolina Valdez Miller posted this beautiful comment about Grasshopper Jungle:

Unexpected, to be sure. And big. But hard to explain. Like when you look into a tiny snow globe, which is really just a tiny thing, but inside there's a whole village, or world, or universe, everything all connected by the fake snow and the walls of the snow globe and your hands holding it and your arms attached to the hands, etc. One little shake and the whole thing goes. So yeah, big like that. One Hundred Years of Solitude big.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

outside the overlap

1. I have just three words about this book, Losing It, which comes out from Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner on October 1. Those three words are these: babies with guns.

2. One of the things I forgot to mention yesterday has to do with an upcoming appearance I have on Friday, August 23 at the Barnes & Noble in Valencia (from 4 - 7 PM). A dozen authors representing all kinds of genres will be there, including my friends Jessica Brody, Gretchen McNeil, and Sarah Skilton.

The people at Barnes & Noble are turning the event into a fundraiser for a terrific cause, the Yes I Can program at Canyon High School. The program focuses on autism awareness and anti-bullying, creating an environment and opportunities for kids who sometimes are perceived as not fitting in, which is kind of exactly what Winger is about, and why Barnes & Noble wanted me to be there with that particular book.

So, for that day, and even throughout the following week for online orders, Barnes & Noble will be donating a portion of all sales (and not just my books, but you naturally want them, right?) to Yes I Can, as long as people who come in mention the Canyon High School YES I CAN Bookfair, or enter the online code when ordering.

Great kids, a great cause, and a great event.

More to come...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

the empty number six

1. See those books up there? Last week, Simon & Schuster sent them to me because they are from the second printing of Winger. All authors love it when their books go into successive printings, especially when the book has only been out for about 2 months.

2. And Winger has been named to yet another list on YALSA's The Hub. This list (which is very neatly organized in a kind of flow chart) is a Guide to YA Novels with LGBTQ Characters. Really, honestly, if you are a teacher (especially one who keeps a classroom library) or a librarian, do yourself and your readers a terrific favor and download the YALSA chart that is available in the article. It is fantastic.

You can read and download YALSA's Guide to YA Novels with LGBTQ Characters here.

3. Speaking of Winger, I will be speaking of Winger (and signing books, too) next week. I'll be appearing at Mrs. Nelson's on Thursday, August 15 at 5:00 P.M. and I will be speaking with my good friend John Corey Whaley about our books and what we've got coming up in the future. Mrs. Nelson's is located at 1030 Bonita Avenue, La Verne CA 91750.

4. Everything is moving forward quickly with my NEXT Simon & Schuster book, one that I have not spoken about hardly at all. The novel is currently going into the copyedit phase, which means my work is nearly finished. The title of the work is 100 Sideways Miles, and, as you can probably anticipate, it's pretty strange and quirky--it includes plays, a song, a shadow-puppet performance, and an entire book inside the book, which is what the book is kind of all about.

If that makes any sense.

As soon as I know the release date, I will naturally post the hell out of it. But I received the dust jacket's flap copy--the novel's summary that goes on the inside front flap--a few days ago, and I absolutely LOVE the flap copy, which is something strange for me because I usually do not like flap copy (with the exception of 100 Sideways Miles and Grasshopper Jungle).

5. And speaking of Grasshopper Jungle, I have been informed that the release date has been moved up. This makes me squee. The new official release date for Grasshopper Jungle is February 11, 2014. Awww... three days before Valentine's Day (and it would be such a loving and green gift to give). I don't know if I ever revealed this, but it was on Valentine's Day when I first spoke to Julie Strauss-Gabel (the book's editor and publisher) about how damn much she desperately needed to get this book.

6. I know I'm forgetting something.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

news of the week, and a bit of free writing advice

1. I finished proofing the inside ARC pages for Grasshopper Jungle. Did I mention they look beautiful? For some reason, seeing the typeset pages of your soon-to-be book is always the most thrilling part of the journey for me; kind of like seeing an ultrasound of your fetus or something.

Random page glimpse:

Also, there were about a dozen or so mistakes I caught, but that's no big deal. Now I can actually say I am completely finished with that book and it's time to move on to something new, as always, which is kind of postpartum-ish. So I am writing again, but I have until March 25 to turn in my next novel, which is a very comfortable deadline.

2. I saw a really cool article on YALSA's The Hub about getting YA fiction into the hands of readers who say they only like graphic novels. The article recommended Winger... and in pretty much the same breath as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is one of my favorite books ever.

You can read YALSA's YA Fiction for Fans of Graphic Novels and Comics here.

3. I also received news that Winger has been nominated to YALSA's 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults award. The list of nominees is spectacular, by the way, and this is a huge honor.

Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominees

4.  Yesterday, I participated with a number of other authors in the Nationwide Teen Lock-In video conference. I think the idea was that a whole bunch of teens spent the night in their local libraries tuned in to the conference and asking the authors a bunch of tough questions.

And... um... unlike the last one of these things I did, the technology worked perfectly.

One of the last questions I received was about giving advice to teens who want to write. Since this has been dubbed the "conference season" for whatever reasons, I figured I'd share my tips about being a writer here. I answered the question something like this:

Nobody can teach you how to be a writer. You have to learn how to do it. Everything you do in your life is part of the lesson in becoming a writer. If you really want to learn--and some people are afraid of what that verb--to learn--entails--you have to disconnect. You can't possibly learn how to be a writer if the majority of your life experiences are scripted by someone else and delivered on a flickering screen. This is the killer--the anesthesia to creativity. You need to get out and bump into things. If you know more about the characters in Dr. Who than the characters in your neighborhood, this doesn't bode well for your future as a writer. You need to read an awful lot. I listed the authors of the books stacked all over my desk. Here they are: Sam Shepard, Gunter Grass, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, Salman Rushdie, Ernest Hemingway--and I told the kids about the YA I've read this year, too--notably from John Corey Whaley, Carrie Mesrobian, and A.S. King. Yes, I have a very messy, book-stacked desk. You can't be afraid of grammar, spelling, and mechanics. You have to love those things as much as the story caged-in by them, or you will never be a writer.

I know. I'm such a downer. You want easy? Go learn how to ride a two-wheeler.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

on never getting old

Maybe it's just me, but when I look up there at that...

It reminds me of this:

Which is particularly creepy.

What that is is the opening page from Grasshopper Jungle. Not the human hand. That's some guy's painting in some beat up old church. I think Walt Disney did it.

Today I get to look at the first pass pages of Grasshopper Jungle.

First pass pages are the initial attempt at putting the book together, with the unrealistic hope that everything will be flawless. Of course, there are bound to be glitches, but these pages are what will be inside the ARC, and, in a perfect world where nobody makes mistakes, will also be in the final released version of the book which goes on sale February 20, 2014.

I think the ARCs will be out very soon, too, and I can hardly wait to actually hold one.

Grasshopper Jungle is my seventh novel (eighth book, if you count Losing It, an anthology whose first pass pages I have also seen, that comes out October 1), and there's just something about seeing those first pass pages that is always so thrilling. Because it really looks like a book, and you get to see for the first time how the artists at your publishing house--in this case Dutton/Penguin--apply their touches to your story to make a complete representation of the published product.

Well, everything about this is just so freaking amazing.

It never gets old.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

dear major league baseball

Okay. There are lots of writing/book issues that I could talk about today, but I feel the need to do something different. So, here goes:

[Author's Note--I am unapologetic in my love for baseball. I love baseball so much I stayed awake in bed last night thinking about how the characters from "Adventure Time" could replace the San Francisco Giants--How "Lumpy Space Princess" could be Pablo Sandoval; "Princess Bubblegum" could be Buster Posey; "Marceline" as Tim Lincecum; and, of course, "The Ice King" as Hunter Pence. Don't judge.]

Dear Major League Baseball:

Let me help you out. Seriously.

You have a little problem with PEDs. I can fix that.

Would you like to know how to fix that?

I thought so. It's really easy. There are two ways to fix it, and I guarantee they are both 100% effective.

Here they are.

These are my gifts, from me to you. Because I love you, Major League Baseball. I love how my dad used to take us kids to Dodgers games. I love Dodger Stadium, and going to Chinatown for great food after games there.

So, take these cures.

From me to you.

Method Number One: Kick the assholes out. First time. Permanent. Done. Did you get that? Kick. The. Assholes. Out. Make them give up their ten-fucking-million-dollars-per-year jobs playing a game in beautiful fields like Dodgers Stadium and go get a real fucking job like selling frozen malts at Dodger Fucking Stadium and walking up and down and up and down and up and down all those stairs for three fucking hours with seventy-five pounds of frozen fucking malts harnessed to their ripped shoulders.

Nobody would care if you kicked the assholes out.

You want to know why?

Nobody would care if you kicked the assholes out because there is an endless supply of young kids all over the world who maybe don't have biceps like Smithfield Hams (and testicles like Sunmaid Raisins) but are still every bit as exciting to watch play the game. And the fans will still go to watch those kids play.

Kick. Them. Out.

Giving an asshole who makes ten million fucking dollars per year a fifty-game suspension is like sending your kid to his room without dinner and then insisting that he come down for dessert later on.

Screw that.

Look: Clearly what you are doing right now is not working. Method One will work. Trust me. Make the assholes carry frozen fucking malts.

Not the big foam fingers.

They don't weigh enough.

Fuck big foam fingers.

These assholes are ripped.

Method Number Two: Just give up and let the assholes take whatever they want to take. Put hookahs in the dugouts. Who cares, right? We get what we pay for, and there are no surprises to people who love the game.

So, Major League Baseball, there you go. It's a very simple problem to solve.

Now I'm hungry for a frozen malt.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

changes coming

So, between now and February 20, 2014, which is when Grasshopper Jungle will be released, there will be lots of great stuff happening.

Like lots of touring and stuff (which you can see on the Author Appearances tab above).

And my WEBSITE has totally changed, too. Everything.

If you go to the old ghostmedicine.com website, you will be pointed toward the new one. It's much better; a needed change.

But this blog will stay put, although it will undergo some cosmetic and structural changes this week, too. For one thing, I have a pending post about why it is impossible to teach people how to write (and I am a teacher... been one for decades). I don't mean like write a noun-plus-verb sentence. I mean the other thing.

You know.

And if I forgot to mention it here (I think I did), Grasshopper Jungle is going to be translated into foreign languages. First up: Portuguese. Grasshopper Jungle will be coming out in Brazil, which is a tremendous reading country. There will be more to come, too...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

stupid people should never read books

That is a title of one of the chapters in Grasshopper Jungle.

My copy editor, Anne, reminded me of this a few times yesterday.

That particular chapter has to do with book-banning in school, and one of my favorite YA authors, Robert Cormier.


I need to vent.

I have received hate mail for every book I've written.  Yes, that is true. Hate mail. Every book. Yesterday, I received my first piece of hate mail for Winger.

It made me think about a lot of things.

First off, the kind of person who writes hate mail to an author in the first place. They have to invest some time and energy finding how to track the author down so they can put themselves directly into your face. I imagine it's someone who watches a lot of daytime television and spends many days in the principal's office at their kids' school complaining about the bullies who pick on their children.

And sending hate mail to an author is classic bullying, because there's nothing you can do about it. You can't turn it off, and if you respond you will LOSE. So you have to take it, and try to ignore it, which is impossible for most writers because as a group we tend to personalize things. It's much different than a bad review on a blog or a poor rating on one of those book rating sites because the writer doesn't have to look at those things (and for the most part, I never do).

But when it's personally addressed to you, by email or on paper (both of which I have received--and at least in the case of the latter the hate-spewer was supporting the US Postal Service) it gets right into your face. And it feels especially caustic.

Look: I didn't send my book into your hovel to offend your sensibilities. You went out and got it.

What kind of sociopath needs to do these kinds of things? It's like walking through a crowd and screaming at the people you think are particularly ugly.

So, hate-mail-sender, I have two things to say to you. Well, three, if I corrected your abysmally lame grammar, but I won't go there:

1. Since you were obviously raised without manners: Shut. The. Fuck. Up. No, really. Shut the fuck up.

2. You undoubtedly care more about my book than I care about you. That's significant, but see number one above.

So I got some nice suggestions from friends about how to handle the ruination of my day.

Catherine Ryan Hyde, who is always so nice and positive, sent me a link to a site that shows images of angrigami -- folded-up negative messages transformed into something beautiful.

Okay, so I took the icky letter and went to You Tube, where I attempted to fold the thing into an origami crane.

Origami is fucking hard.

I suck at origami so bad I wanted to write myself a hate letter about my stupid crane.

I gave up.

The author Emily Franklin said that when she gets negative mail, she gives two extra compliments to people that day. That sounded like a winner. So yesterday, I did a couple surprise nice things for some people in various undisclosed locations, and I gave some compliments to people whom I probably should have complimented much sooner than yesterday.

That worked out. It was a good day. I will abandon the origami in the future, but this is something I think I can manage.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

nyeah, nyeah, nyeah

My favorite poet is Wallace Stevens.

I would have bought insurance from him, just because he was Wallace Stevens.

One time, someone said something like this to Wallace Stevens: I don't understand what that poem is about.

And Wallace Stevens answered something along the lines of: Of course you don't. You didn't write it.

I don't really know why I mention this. I just happen to work hidden Wallace Stevens references into a lot of the stuff I write. There's lots of Wallace Stevens pepperings in Grasshopper Jungle, as well as in the short story I wrote in the forthcoming (September 2013) anthology called Losing It.

Remember this?

Bet you thought I forgot about my pay-as-you-go online writers' conference, didn't you?

Well, I didn't.

I didn't because I am excited to have joined a brand-new ORGANIZATION.

The organization is this: National Young Adult Authors Association.


It is pronounced nyeah.

I know. Cool, huh?

So far, there is only one person in NYAAA, and one faculty member at our mega-super conference, and one guy who takes your money at the door: ME.

If you want to join, let me know, and I'll think about it. After all, NYAAA doesn't take just anyone. In fact, if anyone else does join, I will probably quit. While I was out on my seven-mile run this morning, I kept arguing with myself in my head about how morbidly introverted I am.

I hate my introversion, but not nearly as much as I hate being in clubs.

Anyway, I'm feeling compelled to give a lesson here this week on writing YA. Trust me, it will be tough.

You know why it will be tough?

It will be tough because LEARN is a verb. It requires some type of performance--action--on the part of the student. That's one of the first things I tell my students (and I've been teaching writing for a very, very long time).

Just remember that first bit before lesson one and it won't be as tough.

nyeah, nyeah, nyeah...

Sunday, July 7, 2013


So yesterday I had an online conversation with a fourteen-year-old kid about sports and reading, and stuff like that. He wanted to tell me that Winger was one of the best books he'd read in years.

He said that he doesn't usually read YA, and that, like I did when I was his age, he prefers adult fiction. I think there are an awful lot of boys like us out there, too.

The truth is, though, I'm pretty sure that most of the readers who've gotten into Winger in the last month-and-a-half since its publication have been adult readers.

I also told him--to be quite honest--that I don't read YA, either. (I will explain.)

And this made me think about something I've seen on a lot of writer's advice blogs, and even on advice tips from literary agents. The commonly expressed myth is this: If you want to write YA, you should read A LOT of YA.


Why should you not read A LOT of YA? Because then you'll be reading an awful lot of terrible stuff. The same is true for romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and so on: An awful lot of it is pretty awful.

If you want to write well, read A LOT of stuff that is good writing, no matter what it is.


So I do read YA, but not A LOT of it by any stretch, because I am very selective about what I want to spend my time with. I read more "adult" fiction, though, and currently I am reading the work of a brilliant American playwright. (I am still taking time OFF from writing.)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

a story map

That right there is how I mapped out most of the chapters in Grasshopper Jungle. The chapters usually begin at the ending, then have a frequently long and convoluted story in the middle that stitches together all kinds of improbable events from history, then they go back to the ending/beginning of the chapter again.

It's an interesting kind of path that I'd never used before in a novel, but is evident in some of my favorite chapters:

Stupid People Should Never Read Books

Eden Five Needs You

The Vice-President's Balls

Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone Never Wore Coonskin Caps

Rat Boys From Mars, and an Unfortunate Incident Involving an Inflatable Whale

Yes. Those are chapter titles.

In Eden Five Needs You, for example, the chapter starts as Austin and his girlfriend Shann are eating in a diner after a movie date. Austin goes through the entire plot of the ridiculous movie they saw and all the embarrassing things that happened to the couple in the theater in Waterloo, Iowa, and then the chapter ends again, back in the diner where the following conversation takes place:

“You know what I really love about you, Austin?”
I did not know what she really loved about me. Probably not my endurance.
I said, “No. Tell me.”
Shann said, “I love how you tell stories. I love how, whenever you tell me a story, you go backwards and forwards and tell me everything else that could possibly be happening in every direction, like an explosion. Like a flower blooming.”
“Really?” I asked. “I… Hmm… I never noticed that about me before.”

Saturday, June 29, 2013

conscientious objector

Like Ryan Dean West, my alter ego from Winger, I often have conversations with people in my head.

This one's been going on for some time. It's with someone who objects to some of the elements in the novel Winger. It goes like this:

CO: There sure is an awful lot of sex and foul language in Winger.

ME: What? Sex? There's no sex in the book at all. Where do you get that from?

CO: Well, there are those words, you know. And it is YA, so there shouldn't be certain words in there.

ME: Look, YA is a genre, it is not an age-level. (And yes, I am calling you out on this, Chuck Wendig.) It's a genre in that--whether the story is fantasy, sci-fi, literary fiction, pararom, or whatever--good YA deals with those essential adolescent experiences. And adults read as much or more YA than kids do, because most adult readers realize how significant and life-altering those adolescent experiences are. If I wrote down to, say, a fourteen-year-old audience, I would feel like a condescending prick. If you're seeking out something to read because you want to be treated like a fourteen-year-old--well... that's actually quite creepy. Grow up.

CO: When I read Winger, which, by the way, I liked very much, I was kind of grossed-out by all the testosterone flowing through the book. I felt like I needed to wear a raincoat, or take a shower after some parts of it.

ME: Well, that's definitely a reaction, I suppose, but I wonder about the angle of this as a critique of the book, and whether it's okay to make backdoor sexist comments about what are perceived "boy" books, especially those written by male authors. I'd probably be justifiably lynched if I ever said something like reading Jane Eyre made me feel like I was ovulating.

CO: Okay, well what about the ending? It really bothered me.

ME: Why?

CO: There weren't enough pages dealing with it.

ME: There are parts of the book that are haiku.

CO: But you don't spend enough pages dealing with the aftermath. I need to know about the aftermath.

ME: My, you are spoiled, aren't you? Look, the book is about a disaster, not the cleanup. And more than that, the book is about storytelling itself, which is why Ryan Dean talks about "conscripting" his audience, narrating entire passages and then saying things like, well it didn't actually happen like that, luring you into this complacency where you can't see around the corner, but he keeps telling you the corner is coming up (so you better watch out), and that he knows what the next panel in the comic is going to be. And this is the toughest lesson about growing up. That's what the book is about. Apparently, you're asking for a sequel. Talk to my agent.


Anyway, I have been anxious ever since I read this post by Chuck Wendig about 25 Things You Should Know About YA that appeared earlier this month. It's linked above, and you should read it and let me know what you think. I could imagine having a very healthy debate on some of his points at a conference some time. And that would be a panel to see!

Friday, June 28, 2013


Think green.

This is the cover of Grasshopper Jungle, which is coming February 20 from the amazing people at Dutton (an imprint of Penguin).

There is so much I want to say about this book, and how it came to be through working with my amazing agent Michael Bourret and the incredible Julie Strauss-Gabel, my editor.

So I will say some things about the book eventually. But for now, you can read what Entertainment Weekly has to say about my work and this very, very strange novel.

Read Entertainment Weekly's exclusive on Grasshopper Jungle here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

the terrible mrs. b

 I realize it's been a while since I've posted anything new here.

The fire is out and our phone service (which was out for two weeks) has been restored, so I no longer have to drive five miles to the llama ranch to make a phone call.

So here will be a lengthy-ish post about some things I'd been meaning to talk about.

About writing, believe it or not.

A few days ago, a Facebook friend who is an author (and I apologize because I can't remember who it was at the moment) posted some photos of papers she'd written when she was a schoolgirl. There were comments written on the work--in red teacher pencil--praising her talents and saying things like "I know you're going to be a published author some day!"

Stuff like that.

It's really neat to see how an encouraging teacher can really shape a child's future.

And it also made me think about what happened to me when I was in Middle School. Remember, I was the kid like Ryan Dean West, my protagonist in Winger, so I was, like eleven years old when I was in 8th grade. That was really horrible. Eighth grade is sheer hell on boys. As a tiny kid, I'm lucky I didn't get pecked to death.

But the teachers were worse than the other boys.

When I was in 8th grade, part of our English curriculum (this is absolutely unheard of today thanks to the one-size-fits-all approach to schooling) included creative writing, which I liked very much. One of our major assignments was to write a short story.

I remember the short story I wrote in 8th grade, too. It was really dumb--a horror story about a guy who has a vacation rental and likes to drive his guests insane by making them think the house was haunted, which it was not. The story was called The Owl. I worked really hard on the story, and I thought it was very good.

After I handed it in to my English teacher, a horrid woman named Mrs. B--I waited (just like we wait for editors and agents) for some time for her feedback. When the class's portfolios were returned after grading, Mrs. B called me up to her desk because she wanted to talk to me.

I was kind of excited because I thought she was going to tell me I was a talented writer.

Well, not so much.

Here's what Mrs. B said (and wrote, but in graphite teacher pencil as opposed to red) on my short story:

Andrew, this story is very good. In fact, it's too good, and I do not believe an 11-year-old could have written it.

So, not only did Mrs. B accuse me of plagiarism (I can assure you the story, as dumb as it was, was entirely original and she had nothing to compare my work to), but she gave me a ZERO on the project and set up a conference with my parents to discuss their cheater plagiarizer son.

My parents were pissed. I was destroyed. I had never gotten an F on anything in my life. I'm pretty sure I walked home crying that day, too.

Also, I never wrote anything for Mrs. B ever again.

Yay for teachers!

Okay. Now, after that cheerful story, I want to share a couple bits of Winger love with you all.

First of all, I'm going to be speaking to EVERYONE, live via video conference about Winger on Tuesday, June 25 at 7PM EDT using a platform called Shindig, which is very cool. You can participate, ask questions, talk to me, or simply watch like a creeper to see what I am wearing and what incriminating objects are in my office in back of me, and it's all free. You just have to sign up here:

And, this morning, I woke to find that CNN had listed Winger in its Top Twenty Books to Read This Summer. This is a list of all genres, and Winger is NUMBER EIGHT!!!!

I am so stoked right now, it almost wipes away the trauma inflicted by that horrible 8th-grade English teacher I had.

Monday, June 3, 2013

the homefront

Okay, it's been a particularly rough last few days and here are a bunch of updates to my friends and family:

1. The Fire -- I still have no phone service, and power has been spotty, but at least for now I have the internet and it is the only--however unpredictable--way I can stay in touch with people. We were pretty much caught in the middle of a wildfire that's been burning since Thursday.

On Saturday morning, my wife and daughter went to the beach. By the afternoon, I called them and my son and told them they'd better come home. The reason I called them is that in the middle of the afternoon, the sun from our backyard looked like this:

After I went to sleep that night, my son came and woke me up and said, "Dad, I think we need to leave."

Because this was in front of our house:

...and this was actually before things got too crazy, when you could still snap off a cellphone picture and not be a complete moron for snapping off a cellphone picture.

The bottom line is that with the help of friends who live about 10 miles away (thanks SO much Jeff and Tracy), we got out, one horse was rescued, and our dogs and one cat went with us. 

When we left, we were all pretty certain the house was a goner. There are no houses behind us--only open forest land--and we have two large wooden decks which is kind of like stacking up cordwood next to your house.

Long story not-so-long: The house is okay. We all made it back (just now) except for our one rescued horse, which we have no way of tracking down because there are no phones up here and the police will not let anyone into our community, so if we leave, we'll be stranded again--and that hasn't been fun. For now, the family, dogs, cats, chickens, and one of our horses are all together.

2. Yesterday, Winger was listed in the Los Angeles Times Book Section for "Summer Books." I haven't taken a look at it yet, but here's a picture:

3: The Winger Contest: My last post described a contest involving photos of Winger from bookstores. Up for grabs is a signed copy of Winger and an actual rugby jersey. We received entries from all over the US--really, from Hawaii to Vermont, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, New York, Georgia and dozens of other places, as well as Australia.

So congrats to the winner, David from Idaho who will be getting that book and one of these jerseys:

(Ryan Dean would have worn 11)

(Joey would have worn 10)

4. THE BET: As you may know, every year four authors get involved in a little event called The Bet, which involves choosing a horse (we don't really care if it's a decent horse) in the Kentucky Derby.

The four authors are myself, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Kimberly Pauley, and Brian Farrey. Of the four, the person with the fastest finisher gets to assign the next author a title, and that person has to write a story for the title.

Brian, exempt from writing, came in first of the four, and he assigned me the title Journey, Crimson, Nightmare, Name. I wrote the story. Be cautioned: It is weird and has adult content (NOT YA). It's a story without walls--kind of an EP in music lingo--with four short blasts at cruelty, loyalty, addiction, and sexual attraction.

I got to give Kimberly Pauley a title:  The Druggist and the Apostrophe.

And Kimberly assigned Catherine Ryan Hyde a title: Even Pigeons Can Sing.

So you get three short stories for free.

And here they are:

Journey, Crimson, Nightmare, Name

The Druggist and the Apostrophe

Even Pigeons Can Sing

And that, I suppose, is a good week-and-a-half's worth of blog posts in one shot, while the power is still on and the internet is still connected.

Friday, May 17, 2013

the shirt off my back


So Winger has been out for a few days now. Judging by the reaction on the internet, people are really liking it.

The very cool thing is that people have been sending me pictures of Winger on bookshelves all over the country. I love seeing them.

Here's one from Minnesota:

And Oregon:

And Idaho:

There are a few more, too. I hope people keep sending them to me.

In fact, to encourage people to do just that, I am willing to do a giveaway contest. Everyone who sends me a picture of Winger on the shelf of their bookstore of choice (and let me know where it is), I'll enter into a drawing.

Here's what the winner will get:

A signed copy of the book.

AND a rugby jersey. Not just any rugby jersey, though. I'll give the winner an actual rugby jersey that was actually worn in a game by one of the kids I coach (I promise it's clean... more or less).

See, an awful lot of the stuff that happens in Winger really happened in real life. And the descriptions of the team colors and everything else about the Pine Mountain Rugby Football Club (Ryan Dean's school team) are very, very similar to the high school team I coached over the years.

I should even be able to let the winner pick the number of a character from the book.

Ryan Dean West wore number 11. Joey would be 10. Seanie is 9. The brooding and angry JP would be 15. Kevin is 4. Chas is 5. and Mike ("Bags") is 16.

Numbers are very specific to position in rugby.

OR the winner can pick a size (these are adult size jerseys), and I'll get the right size without a guarantee of the position, since usually forward numbers (1 thru 8) are bigger-sized players than backs (9 and up). You'd just have to let me know.

I'll pick a winner on June 1, 2013 -- so get out to your bookstore and take a picture.

You can notify me or upload your picture on Twitter, Facebook, or send me an email.

Monday, May 13, 2013

the big day

On Saturday, I was very fortunate to participate in the Ontario City Library's Teen Book Fest 2013. It was a great day filled with so many amazing authors, librarians, teachers, booksellers, bloggers, and lots of teens who love books.

And, thanks to Simon & Schuster and Mrs. Nelson's Books, copies of Winger were available at the event. So many people were talking about this book and scrambling to get copies of it. For the rest of the world, the big day--the book's publish date--is tomorrow, May 14.

And yesterday, which was Mother's Day, Winger was reviewed in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. This is something that's truly beyond amazing; one of those true milestones for an author. So, as tired as I was from a very long day in Ontario (which is a very long distance from my home), I took the kids down from the mountain and found the nearest available copy of the New York Times--a mere 30 miles from my house.

You know how many people get the Sunday Times? In paper, about 1.25 million, and online another million. That's a heck of a lot of love for Winger.

So let me give the opportunity for broadening that circulation:

New York Times Book Review of Winger

Also, I've neglected to mention that I'll be posting a brand-new short story soon.

I lost THE BET.

Every year for the past three years four authors get together and place bets on The Kentucky Derby. You might know those authors are Catherine Ryan Hyde, Brian Farrey, Kimberly Pauley, and myself. The author whose horse crosses the finish line before the others gets to make up a title for the second, who gets to make up a title for the third, who gets to make up a title for the fourth. So three short stories have to be written and posted by June 1.

Brian Farrey won, and my horse was second. So I have to write a short story with Brian's title. He gave me this:

Journey, Crimson, Nightmare, Name

Coming soon.