Monday, November 24, 2014

Grooming Tips for Writers

All in good fun, my writer friends, all in good fun:
Also, the misspelling was a terrible misstep for which I shall never forgive myself.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Book events, Johnny Cannon blogs, and more!

Hey guys!

First off, I've got a big event tomorrow at Books of Wonder in NYC! It's called the Middle Grade Adventures panel, and it's going to be me, Tommy Greenwald, Tim Carvell, Christopher Healy, Tom O'Donnell, and Geoff Rodkey. And If you're wondering how the heck I got paired with these awesome guys, too. So when you figure it out, let me know.

Second! Johnny Cannon occasionally blogs over on my tumblr site. This time he wrote a guide on how not to be racist. Go check it out!

THIRD!!!!! My new website is up and it has information for librarians and educators on it, specifically about school visits. I'm love to come visit your part of the country, so point your local educator or librarian to my page and let's make it happen!

And finally, FOURTH!!! Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK, and I'm super stoked because my brother will be here, as well as a good friend. PLUS I am going to try to have a couple of videos go up before Turkey Day. So be on the lookout!


Saturday, November 8, 2014

How The Troubles of Johnny Cannon is more than just a novel....

Hi-ooo! I just realized that I never posted on this blog whenever the book released. Whooops!

Sorry about that.

Anyway, now it's time to get all posty and updatey and professionally and all that fun stuff. So, first, let me show youse guys my big time book trailer video:

Wasn't that prettiful?

And now, let me tell you about some OTHER fun stuff!!!!! Because, although on the surface, my book The Troubles of Johnny Cannon looks like a fun romp and an great action-adventure story, it's something else as well.

It's a tool teachers can use.

In fact, visiting students in schools is one of my FAVORITE things to do. See, I used to be a teacher for middle and high-school students. Plus I have over 18 years of public speaking experience. And putting together an engaging school presentation is one of those crazy things that gets me SUPER excited. I have a 30-45 minute presentation about The Troubles of Writing a Book, in which I tell my story and give the three most important elements necessary for seeing your dream come true. I also have several workshops on writing, on research, and on life-goals.

And I'd love to bring my presentations to your schools.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. There's got to be a catch. And, sure, I won't be able to do these things for free, just because 1) it takes time away from my writing and 2) it ain't cheap to do anything any more. But I'm trying my best to make it affordable for schools. This includes maybe offering a rate for schools to work together, trying to be flexible when it comes to long distances so that paying travel expenses doesn't get too burdensome, offering some Skype options when nothing else is possible, etc.

But I guarantee you a great presentation that your students won't find boring and that will keep you and everyone else in your school talking even after I'm gone.

But, anyway, all that to say, my book is OUT!!!! And I'd love to come visit your school!!!!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Blog Hopping!


Yeah, it's been a while. Stuff's been a little cray.

Aaaaaaand we're done. Let's get out of this little weird place and back to writing like a professional.

You know, like NEVER on this blog.

Kidding, kidding. Actually, I'm back here because I got tagged by my buddy Dana Alison Levy in a fantastic blog hopping tour. And so we're going to answer a few questions. Ready? Here we go:

What are you working on?

Oh, man, you WOULD ask me that, wouldn't you? So, I'm the kind of guy who likes to work on a LOT of stuff. I just turned in my revisions on The Struggles of Johnny Cannon, which is coming out next year. I also finished the draft to a YA novel, which is out with my beta-readers. I've got a picture book text with my agent. But, what I'm feverishly working on the most? AbrakaPOW!, my WWII MG novel coming out in 2016. It's about an 11 year old amateur magician who has to use her hobby to help her dad, a Lieutenant Colonel, recapture escaped Nazis from a POW camp in West Texas. (Based on true events) So that's that.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Other stuff in my genre is really good, so there's that. Just kidding. Well, sort of. I mean, my book is a historical fiction set in the '60s, which Deborah Wiles has already done better. It's an action-adventure novel with a LOT of humor, which Rick Riordan owns the copyright on. It's in the dirty south and is VERY southern, which Sheila Turnage has done better than anyone could try. So, I don't know. I guess my book has a lot of This Day in History quips throughout, so that's unique. And this is the only one written by me. So there's that.

Why do you write what you do?

Honestly? I write what interests me and what I enjoy reading. Then, once I've written it, I hand it off to my agent and find out whether or not there's a market for it. Thankfully I'm a fast writer, so this crazy process doesn't affect my ability to make deals. It does, however, mean I write a LOT more than I publish.

What does your writing process look like?

For me, it starts with an idea that I let gestate until I can tell the entire story in a complete sentence. Once I'm at that point, I start plotting and I make sure I know the major beats of the story and how it will end. Then I work on world building. Since I write a lot of historical fiction, that involves immersing myself into the world of my characters so that I can convey their experience without it sounding like a tour guide or a museum curator. Then I write my butt off. Then I revise my heart out. And then I become a zombie and eat brains.

Wow, that was fun! Glad also to nominate my friend Kristin Rae, who wrote the awesome book, Wish You Were Italian.

Monday, June 16, 2014

MMGM: The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher

Ask me to list my top five authors, and any day of the week the names will generally change. Except for one. Mark Twain.

Probably the most influential book I ever read as a kid was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, followed by The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and then (because I believe in reading thoroughly, doggone it) Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective.

So when I heard that there was going to be a book from the yet-untold-perspective of Becky Thatcher, I hopped on that like a frog from Calaveras County. (See what I did there?) I immediately voiced how much I wanted an ARC on the Twittersphere. And Jessica Lawson, author of the coveted tome, responded and we exchanged ARCs.

Before I read it, however, Jessica felt the need to make me aware that this book was not a retelling of the Tom Sawyer tale from Becky's perspective. Nor was it a "story-behind-the-story" sort of non-fiction documentary book. It is, instead, something very, very different. And she didn't want me to be disappointed

She didn't need to worry.

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher is a story Mark Twain himself would be proud to write. Imagine visiting St. Petersburg, MO (Tom Sawyer's hometown) in a parallel universe to the Tom & Huck world. In a universe where Tom Sawyer isn't the scalawag we all know and love, but is instead a sniveling, whiny kid who tattles on everyone. Imagine a universe where Mark Twain isn't the absent narrator, giving voice to the characters born from his memory, but is instead Samuel Clemens, sitting on a porch, watching the adventures play out in front of his eyes.

And imagine a world where Becky isn't the straight-laced, proper, object of Tom's affection, but is instead the seed-spitting, marble playing, midnight-cemetery-raiding hero of her own adventure, an adventure that puts her and her new best friend in a world of danger. The kind of danger you only find in St. Petersburg.

Yeah, that's the world Jessica has created. And that's the world readers get to visit in this fantastic book that is a great read for kids and for grown-kids. Plus S&S is releasing a box set of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Becky Thatcher, which is just the perfect thing to do with a book like this.

It's coming out on July 1. You should go preorder the mess out of this book. Trust me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Middle Grade Book Suggestions for #TheSixtiesCNN

Well, isn't this a fine kettle of fish?

Here I am, three weeks late on posting about the amazing series that's hit CNN, simply titled, "The Sixties." Way to drop the ball, Isaiah!

Anyway, I know a lot of people are excited about this series, as am I. And, with the raised interest in the decade that changed the world (I know it's true cause it's right up there under CNN's title, so that proves it), I thought it'd be cool to highlight some books, written for the Middle Grade audience, that are PERFECT for those interested in the sixties:

REVOLUTION by Deborah Wiles
This is the second in Deborah's Sixties trilogy (the first was the incredible COUNTDOWN, pubbed in 2010) and it kicks the intensity and the beauty of the first book up to a whole different level. It takes place during the summer of 1964, Freedom Summer, in a small Mississippi town, when the southern ideals Sunny grew up with are challenged at every turn. Everything hits the fan when she and her brother sneak into the city pool, and I'm going to leave it at that.

It's the sequel to Rita's ONE CRAZY SUMMER (Which was a Newbery Honor book and a NYTimes Bestseller), and it's a fantastic novel in its own right. It deals with the societal change that took place in the late sixties, with Vietnam and returning, war-torn soldiers, and with, well, being eleven in a world that expects you to be a lot older. It's heart-warming, touching, and if you don't shed a tear by the end, you aren't human.

Set in the early sixties, this Newbery winner tells the story of a young boy (it's semi-autobiographical except for the parts that are complete lies) who has to get in touch with the past in order to make sense of the present and prepare for the highly uncertain (especially in the sixties) future. It all starts when Jack shoots a gun, a relic from WW2. And then it's all obituaries and Eleanor Roosevelt from there. Which may not SOUND very interesting, but trust me, it's fantastic.

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
This is the oldest book on this list (pubbed in 1995) but you simply can't have a list like this without Christopher Paul Curtis' game-changing, award winning tale of a family that chooses probably the worst possible time to send their son to stay with grandma, right when the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing happened. Which just so happened to be grandma's church. I really don't need to say anything more than that. Read this book!

Ok, my agent and editor would probably skin me alive if I didn't include my book on this list. It's set in 1961 Alabama, against the backdrop of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. In it, a comic-book-obsessed twelve-year-old has to dodge the CIA, face the Klan, and escape from Cuba to prove his pa didn't sabotage the Bay of Pigs Invasion. In the early days of the sixties, there is the faint rumblings of the changes to come, and in this story, you get a real idea of what life was like before the changes, why those changes needed to happen, and just how difficult the change of the sixties was destined to be.

Did I miss any books? Leave them in the comments and (maybe) I'll add them to the list!