Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Troubles of Writing "The Troubles of Johnny Cannon" Part 1: Discovering Johnny.

The Troubles of Johnny Cannon has been out for a few months now, and I thought you might be interested in reading some "Special Features" about the book. So I'm going to make a series of posts detailing the inspiration, the process, the evolution, the challenges, and the surprising joys of writing a novel that was over ten years in the making.

First up, Discovering Johnny Cannon.

Johnny, out of all the other characters in the book, went through the most changes from the moment I first started mentally writing it up to the day the book hit shelves.

When I first, first, FIRST got the idea, his name wasn't Johnny Cannon. It was Johnny Cross. He was seventeen, the star quarterback for his high school, and trying with all his might to hide a very intense secret. What was that secret? Well, it went a little something like this:

Yeah, when I was originally writing the story, Johnny was a half-angel.  (AKA, a nephilim)

Gosh, what was I even thinking? (NOTE: This all started in 2002, so this was well before Supernatural, or Percy Jackson, or anything else.)

As I went on, I began to realize that I really didn't enjoy writing a story that involved angels and demons and angel hunters and the like, so I tweaked it a bit.  I left the supernatural powers behind and instead made Johnny a cyborg.

Yeah, no, that wasn't much better. But it's what I went with.

I also changed Johnny's name from Cross to Cannon because I realized that Alex Cross was an established character and I wanted to avoid using a name well known. (Little did I know that Johnny Cannon was an animator for Disney back in the day and also is currently a politician in Alabama. I love it.) But the Johnny stuck because that was the name of both of my grandfathers, so I felt like it was important.

Anyway, I wanted Johnny to have superpowers because I wanted him to have an out of this world adventure. I wanted him to be recruited by JFK to fight communism along with other kids, and I wanted it to be awesome. (I'll get more into why I originally wanted this so badly in another post)

So that was the story I originally wrote. Johnny Cannon and the Bay of Guinea Pigs. A story about a kid who doesn't know he's part alien cyborg, who is super fast and super good with a gun, and who has super hearing and super strength. He joins a group of kids and together they try to hunt down a soviet scientist and also rescue Johnny's brother Tommy from the clutches of Fidel Castro.

I eventually dropped Johnny's age from seventeen to twelve because it worked better for when I wanted his origin to take place, five years after the story of PT-109.

In The Bay of Guinea Pigs, Johnny leaves Cullman in the middle of the night for Washington DC after Captain Morris comes to recruit him. Eventually, Johnny rises as the leader of the group and they head to Cuba to rescue his brother.

And, wisely, every editor in publishing rejected that story. 

But what I kept hearing was that everyone loved Johnny, but they didn't like the un-human part of his story.

So I worked it again, dissected it, and I found his true voice. It was the voice of every relative I have in the south. The voice of my grandfathers and my dad. The voice of myself, even.

Johnny became this kid who was nothing special, nothing to look at, and nothing but a hard-headed, stubborn, sarcastic kid who, somehow, did amazing things.

And that's the best kind of hero.

Want to read Johnny's story? The Troubles of Johnny Cannon is available wherever books are sold!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"How Luthor Met Superboy" A review by Johnny Cannon

Like I did last time, I'm handing my blog over to Johnny Cannon, star of my book The Troubles of Johnny Cannon, to review a comic he probably read.

1960 was one of them years that felt really big. Elvis left the military and sang "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" The NFL announced they'd be starting a team down in Dallas, called the Cowboys. And John F. Kennedy started campaigning for the Presidency.

And, in Adventure Comics #271, we found out how Superboy first met Lex Luthor. Hot Dang!

See, it all started cause a new kid moved into Smallville and Superboy wanted to go over and say "Hey." But just when he was heading that way, some Kryptonite just happened to crash right in front of him. Thankfully, before he was ever an evil scientist, Lex Luthor was just hillbilly enough to drive a tractor and get that hunk of kryptonite knocked out of the way.

Yup, turns out Lex Luthor was a big fan of Superboy. In fact, he done got himself the craziest Superboy shrine there's ever been, and I got one myself under my bed. Look at this thing:

Well, anyhow, Superboy was so grateful to Lex for saving him and such, he figured he'd give him a present. And, since Lex told him he was aiming someday to be a scientist, Superboy did the only natural thing to do, he built him a whole high tech science lab. Then, to top it off, he did this:

Which makes perfect since. I mean, if you hear that some fella you only just met was interested in hunting, then of course you'd give him a fully stocked weapons locker and keys to a tank. Right?

But it sure made Lex happy. He went right ahead and told Superboy that he was gonna become famous cause he had a super awesome idea for a new formula.

Lesson here: If you got the power to snoop and you done gave some fella enough chemicals that he could probably blow up the whole planet, go ahead and snoop.

Anyway, Lex was so dadgum happy and pleased with what Superboy gave him, he done decided he'd do something to pay Superboy back. (But Superboy had made the lab to pay HIM back. These fellas needed a check ledger.)

Or you could make him brownies. Everybody loves brownies.

Anyway, of course when Lex tries to do his big experiments everything goes wrong, and of course Superboy comes in and saves him. But it ain't without consequences.

I ain't gonna lie, I think Lex looks better without the hair.

Yeah, that's probably true.

But the story don't end there. Lex somehow convinces Superboy that there ain't no hard feelings and that he actually did make an antidote for Kryptonite. So Superboy says they ought to test out the antidote.

Cause there ain't nothing dangerous about this setup at all.

So they go out, Superboy discovers that the antidote works, but then Lex tells him that there ain't no more. After that, Lex tries to prove himself to the folks of Smallville that he's a better hero than Superboy by building a tower that keeps them all warm during the winter (but winds up frying them all in the process) and making seeds that'll grow real fast (but then wind up destroying everything around them), and Superboy keeps showing up and saving folks like he always does.

Finally Lex gets real mad at Superboy and tries to kill him. But it don't work. 'Cause it never works.

See, I reckon maybe Superboy will learn that LL is a bad combination, right? Nope.

To read more from Johnny Cannon, check out my book The Troubles of Johnny Cannon!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

"The Man Who Broke Supergirl's Heart" A Review by Johnny Cannon

Hello all! I've decided to do a semi-regular (meaning whenever I feel like it) review of comics from fifty years ago. Only, I won't be doing the review. Instead it will be the superhero obsessed kid who stars in my book, The Troubles of Johnny Cannon. Considering his story is set fifty years ago and he actually read these stories, he's probably a better authority. So, here goes:

Hey y'all!

I'm real excited to talk about Action Comics #320.

It's a real humdinger of a story, what with Superman meeting up with - say what?

Oh, you want me to talk about the OTHER story that's in there? The one about Supergirl?

Oh, all right.

Well, the story is called "The Man Who Broke Supergirl's Heart," and right there you know it's going to be as sappy as a tree. But, since you're itching to hear about it, here goes.

It starts with these alien fellas flying to earth, and they're scheming for something.
I mean, I reckon if they're willing to be knocked out for a century to avoid questions, you know they're scheming to take over the universe or something.

Anyway, they arrive and they set out to find Supergirl. But they ain't looking to kidnap her or nothing. They just start scanning her brainwaves, and also her folks brainwaves, to get an idea of what she cares for and what her preferences are when it comes to things.

And why would they do that? Well, it's cause they want to know what sort of fella she's most likely to fall head-over-heels for.
I don't know what makes that fella so darn special or nothing, but whatever. Anyway, once they've figured out what she'd like the most, they make themselves an android that looks exactly like Supergirl's dream date. They give him the totally normal name of Randor, then they set them up to meet by having him get stuck in a cave and, when she comes to save him, putting kryptonite in there so he winds up saving her instead.
I'm gonna have to use that line with a girl some day.

Anyway, eventually, they meet up again and he reveals that he's a prince from another planet. He invites her to be his queen. And, since Supergirl is such a smartypants, she says no at first, but agrees to visit. Once she visits, though, she decides to become his queen anyway, just like that. She didn't even care that she was abandoning earth. Dadgummit.

So she goes and sits in the queen's throne, and then this happens.
See, them dadgum robots, you just can't trust them.

So all the power gets taken away from Supergirl and given to that fella with the bad haircut and the mustache. Why did he come up with this scheme? Real simple.
Yeah, she ain't nearly as concerned with the fact that this fella just stole her powers cause he was bored as she is that her dreamboat is an android. But I guess you got to have your priorities.

Anyway, the fella tells Randor to get rid of Supergirl, and he reckons Randor will do it cause he ain't got no feelings to speak of. But jokes on him, cause Randor DOES have feeling to speak of, and he came up with a whole scheme from the very beginning.
Well then, ain't that something? So Randor tricks the fella into sitting in the power-stealing throne and gets Supergirl her powers back. But then some fellas shoot Supergirl with a death ray, and since she got her powers back, the death ray bounces off her (cause death rays act just like bullets) and hits Randor.
Which I reckon is about the saddest thing you've ever seen in comics, ain't it? And you know Supergirl got real mad about it, too. Cause this is what she did to them fellas that started the whole dang thing.
Yeah, she done marooned them on an uninhabited planet. Dadgum, she just sent them to starve to death or kill each other or whatever, she don't even care. They done hurt her little robot buddy, so she's gonna hurt them something fierce.

Well, I reckon maybe Supergirl ain't so bad after all.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in Review

Well, well, well. It's that time again. Time for us all to take a long, hard look at the year that was and determine how it went and what we could have done differently. I'm going to do this differently myself. I'm going to solely use Wikipedia and my facebook to find all the events. Let's go month by month:

The year started with a bang when Latvia adopted the Euro. (I know, right?)
For me, it was a pretty big deal because I started this:
Yep, that's Queen of the Nerds, the book that is now in the hands of people who matter. ;)

Ah, yes. The Winter Olympics began to much acclaim and did not live up to the hype. Also the ebola epidemic began, mostly unnoticed, and proceeded to take over the world.
And, for me, I got the ARCs to my book, The Troubles of Johnny Cannon:
Hopefully it's neither Sochi nor Ebola. Except for the taking over the world part.

Hoo, boy. Things are really heating up now. Malaysia flight 370 disappeared and Putin annexed Crimea. This was a rather tense month in the world.
I also had my wisdom teeth extracted this month and finished the first draft of Queen of the Nerds. 

Definitely a tense month.

This was the month that 276 girls and women were abducted from a Nigerian school. Sadly, they still haven't been returned. Wow, that really sucks.
In personal news, this was the month that we announced we were moving from Albuquerque to Philadelphia. And my son looked awful dapper at a wedding.
So...I guess that's a bright point. (Man, what a bummer about the kidnapping. Okay, let's do the American thing and move past it so it doesn't bum us out any more.)

Terrorists detonated two bombs in Nigeria killing over 100 people at a marketplace and a bus station. Doggone it, this review was supposed to be fun.
Okay, okay. Let's see.
Oh, yeah. In MY life, I was a part of the Kids Author Carnival in NYC, which was my very first visit to the Big Apple, to BEA, and my first time meeting so many author friends.
Whew, emotional crisis averted. No, it hasn't? Dang it. Here's another pic:

June was a great month because it marked the opening of the World Cup and ALSO the rise dear.
For me, it was my birthday month and the month we officially left Albuquerque to move to Philly.

Israel and Hamas began killing each other. A Malaysian air flight was shot down over Ukraine. This review is not going well. If I was a drinking man...
Oh, right, my life. Let's see. The first reviews for my book started rolling in, we arrived in Philadelphia, friends came and visited all month, and I found out George Washington liked my shoulder.

Woo-Hoo! America strikes back at ISIS. Go team USA!
I spoke (Really at the end of July, but it all rolled into my facebook August) at the National Fine Arts Festival. Also I put up my most watched video on youtube. So I'll post it again here:

Airstrikes began in Syria.
I got my first official copies of The Troubles of Johnny Cannon!!!!!
Yeah, things were really heating up for me. Just a few weeks until...

The Roman Catholic Church beatified Pope John Paul VI. Definitely the biggest event in my life.
Oh, wait, no that's not it.
Yeah, I got tired of putting my ugly mug on this blog, so here's my sister instead. Woot!

Philae landed on a comet. We landed a spacecraft on a freaking comet. We can do anything, people. ANYTHING. Except, you know, fix global warming, find racial equality, or keep people in authority from abusing their power. Other than that. (And all the other stuff we can't do) we can do ANYTHING.
I had my dream come true when I did an author event at Books of Wonder in NYC. I also shot a funny (at least I think it's funny) video in the process:

President Obama announced that we're finally resuming relations with Cuba after fifty years. I feel like this applies to the world AND to my book. I take full credit for this. Johnny Cannon fixed US/Cuba relations, people.
I wonder what the sequel will do?
Here's to 2014!
Onward to 2015!

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!