Tuesday, January 29, 2013

a good day

1. Yesterday morning, I was out on the roads, running at about 5:00 a.m.

I like to run before the sun comes up, even though it's dark still, and lately the temperatures have been down in the 20s.

As I was running out along the road leading away from my little neighborhood, a pickup truck pulled over onto the shoulder ahead of me. Running past guys pulled over in the dark kind of creeps me out, so I went onto the opposite side of the road.

When I passed the truck, the driver lowered his window and said, "Hey, dude. I see you running out here in the dark a lot. Do you want a vest?"

Then he held this fluorescent yellow vest out for me.

I thought that was really cool, but I declined the offer. I told him if someone was going to hit me, they'd hit me whether or not I was wearing a yellow vest, especially since I do not run ON the road.

I run past hunters with rifles, too. That really creeps me out.

2. I found out that Mark Boyett, the actor who did the amazing performance for the audio version of The Marbury Lens, as well as the forthcoming audio (I have not heard it yet) for Passenger, will also be recording the audio version of Winger in the coming weeks.

Mark really loved the book, but he asked me how he should go about "reading" the parts with drawings in them. I have to work on an answer for that. When you put pictures in a book, you do it because there are no words for what you want people to experience. If the words are there, then there's no reason to have the picture.

I realized this when I was writing Grasshopper Jungle. Originally, I wanted the book to be a hybrid graphic novel/narrative text, like Winger. I drew some panels and even had an artist friend illustrate some parts. Then I realized I had fallen too much in love with the words of the novel. If you have the words, you don't need the pictures; and if you have the pictures, you must not have the words.

One day, when I speak about Winger and Grasshopper Jungle in public, I'll show the artwork I came up with and talk about the evolution of the finished products.

3. And, speaking of finished products, thanks to Andrea Vuleta, head of Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, I found out that people who really want to get an early copy of Winger will be able to do that.

Here's how: Winger is supposed to come out May 14, 2013. However, people who attend the Teen Book Festival in Ontario, California on May 11 will be able to get the very first available hardcover copies, which will be sold at the festival by Mrs. Nelson's Bookshop. Oh... and I will be at the event, too, just in case you want to get those books signed.

I'm not sure what I'll be doing there, or any of the other details, but I'll share when I find out.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

regarding the next book

Part 5 is coming.

But I wanted to talk a little bit about my next book, since it will be here in a little more than three months.

I met a reader in St. Louis who'd started with one of my books and then worked her way through my entire list. She asked me when she would be able to get a copy of Winger. I didn't really know; all I knew was that the book is scheduled to be released on May 14.

So I looked, and I found that it's available for pre-order all over the place. Here are a few links where you can get the book:

Winger is a book about boarding school kids who play rugby. Although there are rugby scenes in the book, the book is not a sports book; it's about friendship and falling out of friendship, love, and fitting in. But I really love the game of rugby, and I coached a very good team of high school players for quite a while.

Next weekend, I'm going to attend a rugby tournament. I've really missed the game, and it's been a long time since I've seen a match. Now, the players that I coached are all grown up and scattered across the country. A lot of them still play, too, and many of them have been very successful at it. I still keep in touch with them.

It's the greatest game that was ever created by human beings, but a lot of Americans find it confusing. Probably the best way to learn the game quickly and easily is to go to a match with someone who knows how to play. You'll catch on in no time.

Anyway, here are some pictures I've taken over the years, and a little introduction to rugby terminology for you:

This is a ruck. There is a guy on the bottom of all that. And he is still alive.

This is a lineout. Our guys (in black and blue, just like the team Ryan Dean plays for in Winger) were really good at these.

This is a maul. We were good at those, too. And this game was played on a beautiful pitch in San Luis Obispo.

This is a scrum.

This is a concussion.

And this is a damn good fly half (he's like the quarterback in football) with a busted nose. We were wearing white that day because it was so hot.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

how to write novels (part 4)

Bet you thought I was gone, didn't you?

A lot of people did.

I haven't been gone; it's just that the universe decided a couple weeks ago to enshroud me in a fucking invisibility cloud.

It's a long story.

Also, I've been playing Castleville and Coasterville on Facebook nonstop for the past week. I haven't even gotten out of my chair and have plenty of filled bottles of urine on the floor of my office to prove it.

Honestly, I wonder why so many people invite me to play Castleville and Coasterville on Facebook. Do they suppose I'm going to be their Castleville and Coasterville on Facebook bitch?

Oh well, at least they're thinking enough of me to invite me to play those wonderful, wonderful games with them!

Anyway, I'll assume that you've all followed the steps outlined in the previous posts and that you've finished your cover designs. Your cover should look something like these:


Bet you never knew the author of Ecstacy (I wonder if they really didn't know how to spell it) was also the author of Lady in a Hurry.

I'm pretty sure I'd pay 75 cents for that one.

Also, these are from the time when guys actually wrote books.

I suppose that says something.

But speaking of paying for something:

Now with a card reader.

Last night I had a dream in which Dwight David Eisenhower explained the limitations of and essential differences between narrative fiction told in first person past tense and first person present.

I honestly really had that dream.

It was weird.

Then he challenged me to play Castleville and Coasterville on Facebook with him.

Fuck you, Ike.

So. Are you ready to start writing?

The essential prep to writing a novel is creating your author website and having business cards printed.

Now, I know nobody ever tells you that, but it's true--you simply MUST have a "web presence" before you write anything, or else nobody will take you seriously.

RULE NUMBER FOUR: To get a convincing "web presence" that is guaranteed to impress publishers, simply invite a hundred fucking thousand people to play Castleville and Coasterville on Facebook with you.


You are an internet sensation.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

how to write novels (part 3)

How's the cover coming along?

Keep working on it. No matter what genre you're targeting, there must be an element of whimsical sluttiness involved.

In the calculus of the book biz:

Slut + Whimsy = Face-Out at B&N

Trust me.

Here's what I'm talking about:



You call that hiding?

Man! Did my website ever get a lot of hits yesterday! I accidentally tagged the URL for my website instead of the (corrected now) List of Literary Agents Who Will Represent You Even If You Have Never Written a Fucking Haiku in Your Life.

And there's no need to start writing anything just yet. You aren't ready for that. Look, hopefully I won't have to continue posting these checklists, but up to this point, you should have:

A trained Suicide Prevention Pit Bull

A Drowning Victim outfit for our dress-up day

A crackerjack literary agent

A slutty cover for your novel

And, oh yeah, this:

Pay up.


I mean, come on! Where are you ever going to learn stuff like this? All the other so-called teachers of How to Write a Novel are going to tell you the same old list of lies: You need to read massive amounts of stuff (eww... boring); you need to have grammatical and technical perfection (bullshit, editors are our grammar and spelling bitches); you need to have a wealth of real-life person-to-person experiences (horse crap! Besides, I get anaphylaxis if I go outside without earbuds or spend more than six minutes away from my X-Box).

People are dumb and boring.

RULE NUMBER THREE: You should set up a Skype visit with a school.

Just tell them you're a writer. Schools never check shit like that.

Trust me.

And, by the way, it's a good idea to carefully scrutinize the background of your "Skype Set" before you visit the little tykes.

I recall, with a bit of whimsy (which, if you hadn't guessed is my word of the day--yesterday's was poo), the first time I Skyped in to a middle school as a "guest author" (which was about four years before my first novel was published, although I had attempted several unfinished Haikus), there was all this booze and porn on the bookcase behind me.

My bad.

I'm only here so YOU will learn from my mistakes, people.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

how to write novels (part 2)

This is an exhaustive course.

But we must begin at the point before which you actually start putting words down into your WIF file.

WIF in writerspeak means "While I'm Facebooking."

I will also teach you writerspeak.

I am easily distracted when I conduct a class. Did I ever tell you the story about the lady in the bedazzled cowboy hat who, in the middle of a class I was conducting on Character Driven Fiction (don't even try to figure out what that means in writerspeak--you're not ready), raised her hand and said:

"Will you please stick to the topic?"

I'm not going to say where this happened. But it was in a state that starts with a U.

And rhymes with Pootah.

RULE NUMBER TWO: Be on time for shit.

Which reminds me of something: If your characters are boring as fuck, the car of your novel is probably going to be driven at like 5 mph in the fast lane. This will piss people off, and you will never show up on time for anything if that's the case.

This particular session comes with a FREE GIFT.

I am about to give it to you, and all I ask in return is that any time you use this FREE GIFT you think kindly of me.

Here it is: If you are the type of person who can't seem to show up on time for appointments, work, or How to Write a Novel classes and you want to be absolutely forgiven for your insensitive lack of punctuality, all you have to do is say this:

"I'm sorry I'm late. I had to poo."

It works every time. As soon as you say that, all these things simultaneously happen:

1. People instantly forget about your lateness.

2. People start thinking about pooing.

3. Nobody wants to deal with having a conversation with anyone else about pooing. Not ever.

Trust me.

So this is what I said to the lady in the bedazzled cowboy hat:

"I'm having a hard time sticking to the subject because I need to poo really bad."

Believe me, admitting to something like that instantly erases peoples' hard drives.

So the lesson for today is this: Every writer is going to run into walls when working on his WIF--those awkward parts where you can't seem to figure out how to propel the action forward into the next sequential block. When that happens, it's always a good idea to write in a short scene that involves one of your major characters making poo.

Trust me.

I have a first edition of For Whom the Bell Tolls. I would take a picture of myself holding it (it's sitting right here on my desk, after all), but I just got out of bed and my hair is a mess.

This novel is from a time when people didn't give a shit about book covers. You can tell. Trust me.

Lamest cover ever.

Nowadays, covers are way more important than the shit inside books.

So, before you even start thinking up names of characters who will drive your fiction, and before you even attempt to put the first words into your WIF file (and assuming that you've gotten your hands on an actual Suicide Prevention Pit Bull, assembled your Drowning Victim outfit for our dress-up day, and secured representation by a top-notch literary agent), you're going to need to come up with a cover design for your novel.

Yes, that's how it's done: the cover comes first. The shit inside doesn't matter at all.

Didn't anyone ever tell you that?

Bet you're happy you showed up on time, huh?

So, for your homework, start working on your covers. We'll talk about them next time.

Also, if you have not yet secured representation from a crackerjack literary agent because you were laboring under the hallucination that you have to have written something first (Oh PLEASE!!!), I have collected a list of agents who will sign on clients who've never written anything.

Click here:

Literary Agents who will represent clients who have never written anything in their lives.

Too bad Ernest Hemingway was a cat person.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to ... you know ...

Friday, January 11, 2013

how to write novels (part 1)

I'm not kidding.

It's that time of year again, the time when I conduct my Massive-Multi-Student-Online-Writers'-Conference (MMSOWC).

Trust me. It's worth every cent of what you pay, which reminds me (and those of you who've been around here for the last couple of years will be no strangers to THE SLOT):

Pay up, bitches.

The Slot also reminded me of this idea I had a few years ago to train and market a few dozen Suicide Prevention Pit Bulls.

Look, writing is tough. It is frequently disappointing and can plummet the unprepared practitioner into the depths of despair. You have to accept the following rule about writing:

RULE NUMBER ONE: If you are going to be a writer, you are going to think about killing yourself more frequently than, say, someone who earns a living making balloon sculptures at kids' birthday parties.

 Maybe not.

But here's how it works: As soon as the suicidal impulse takes hold (and this probably happens every 36 hours or so for most writers), you activate your Suicide Prevention Pit Bull, which immediately begins mauling your face and throat.

It's been my observation that whilst being mauled by an angry dog, there is nothing one desires more than to live, live, live!

Here's how the idea came to me: I am a runner. I run every day, no matter what the weather is like or how suicidal I am. In fact, there is a good bit of snow on the ground this morning from last night's snowfall and I'm even going to go run in that, just as soon as I fight off this intense urge to drink a tumbler of Clorox.

In any event, there was this crazy guy who lived on the lake up here, and one day when I was running (on the other side of the fucking street, by the way) past his house, he let his dog out. The dog came scampering after me and immediately began to bite me. In fact, it had its teeth clamped (this, I was told later, was a classic human defense wound) around my left wrist (I still have the scars).

Boy! Did I ever want to live at that exact moment!

Thank you, little red Sheltie-mix, for making me love life!

So here is what happened next: My right hand was wrapped around the dog's collar, which I twisted and twisted so the dog was choking--in a carotid clampdown.

The dog wanted to live.

I wanted to live.

There was such love of life taking place there on the street by the little lake, it was almost like a Tony Robbins seminar.

If you think I've strayed from my topic, which is How to Write a Novel, you are wrong.

This is just the warm-up, and besides, you get what you pay for (please see THE SLOT, above).

Besides, if you really want to be a writer, there are some things you need to do first, before I can teach you how to write a novel. If you plan on attending my MMSOWC, you'll need to consider obtaining some type of Suicide Prevention Pit Bull, and you'll need a costume for our dress-up day.

This year's theme is "Drowning Victims."

So, once you've got the dog and the Drowning Victim outfit, you will also need a crackerjack literary agent.

After you have those things lined up, have deposited sufficient funds into THE SLOT, and have come to terms with RULE NUMBER ONE (see above), then you are ready to participate in my How to Write a Novel course, which not only will be the subject of forthcoming blog posts, but is also guaranteed to make you want to live, live, live!