Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 3

I’m not what you’d call well-traveled, so prior to today I’d had very littleimages experience with Alabama outside of Lynyrd Skynyrd lyrics.

Alabama, it turns out, is awesome! And I’m not just saying that because a lot more kids there have read my book than in the other states we’ve visited.

 

When we arrived last night at the Hampton Inn in downtown Fairhope, I found this Post-It note affixed to the headboard of my bed: IMG_1450

Let me say that, first all, I REALLY appreciate this; and second, I am now terrified that the other hotels aren’t leaving Post-It notes like this one because they’re not actually washing the duvet covers and sheets between guests. Eeew.

We had dinner at the Pelican Patio in Fairhope, which was delicious even though they were out of crawfish. Over dinner, Curtis told a story about a foulmouthed kid at one of his school visits in the U.K. that made everybody laugh until our faces hurt, and which if I retold it here would get me (and probably Curtis) banned for life from the children’s book industry.

This morning, our first stop was Fairhope Intermediate School, which was not only great but HUMONGOUS. There must have been at least 500 kids at the show. I’d post a picture of the vast sea of awesome, fun, happy kids, but my camera battery died before I could take one. Fortunately, our wonderful media escort Angela got this shot of a disheveled Peter harassing a kid near the front row while Jacqueline eggs him on:IMG_1936

Then it was on to the wonderful Page & Palette bookstore in Fairhope, where I charged my camera battery in time to get this photo of the four of us standing in front of all the stock we signed, and which I am posting even though I look like an idiot in it:IMG_1458

Page & Palette, by the way, is a fantastic store, and we signed a LOT of books, so if you’re anywhere near Fairhope, please stop in and buy some. There are cartloads. Literally.

Then it was on to the J. Larry Newton School in Fairhope, where we met a couple hundred of the nicest and most incredibly polite kids I have ever seen. Signing books, I was called “sir” more times than I can count. Which was A) very touching; and B) made me wonder whether I am a lousy parent, or New York City is just a terminally impolite place and I am scarring my kids for life by making them live there. Everything about the J. Larry Newton School visit was awesome. Here’s a shot from the back row, again courtesy of Angela:

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Now we’re in the Pensacola Airport, which serves a surprisingly good chicken sandwich and has free Wi-Fi, making the 90-minute delay of our flight to Miami almost painless.

More to come!

Posted in Appearances, Endangered Authors Tour | 5 Comments

Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 2

Turns out it’s easier than you think to incite a riot among a bunch of elementary school kids. 17lithuania01-600All you have to do is stand in front of a group of, say, sixty of them, all politely sitting cross-legged on a library floor, hold up a camera, and say, “everybody skooch in for a picture.”

I meant that as a joke–the joke being that there were obviously WAY too many of them to fit in the photo.

Turns out I was too subtle by half. Actually, more than half. As the left and right flanks of the crowd began to collapse inward and several kids on the perimeter stood up with the clear intention of stage-diving toward the middle of the room, I realized I’d just made a terrible mistake, of the sort that might eventually require me to hire a lawyer.

I took the photo as fast as possible and put the camera down, hoping that might keep the situation from spiraling out of control. Which is why the photo below, taken about three-fourths of a second before peak mayhem, is considerably more, “oh, isn’t that cute?” than “when will the police be arriving?” IMG_1443

Order was eventually restored, although I think the library carpet might have to be replaced.

That was at Davis Academy in Atlanta, a wonderful place with some really great kids, several of whom are going to be in real trouble if they don’t follow through on their promise to read my book.

Next up, after a brief stop to sign books at the absolutely fantastic Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, was the St. Thomas More School. Another great bunch of kids (hi, Javier!). Here’s a photo from the event, taken by our awesome media escort for the day, Ed Feldstein: IMG_6469

Whoooole lot of interesting stuff going on in that photo. See if you can make out: A) Curtis’s drawing of Bob the Builder as a werewolf; B) the broken picture frame hanging from Peter’s neck; and C) Jesus.

A word of explanation: in his other career as an illustrator, Curtis designed Bob the Builder, and turning Bob into a cartoon werewolf is Curtis’s way of integrating that biographical detail into the discussion of his Wereworld series. Here’s a closer look:IMG_6474

Just between us, I’ve started to wonder if Curtis’s interest in werewolves isn’t also biographical. Seriously, take a close look at that photo. See anything unusual?

There’s a full moon coming. This is cause for concern.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 1

So, I’m on a book tour. Which is exciting! And I’m not alone! I’m traveling with three other middle-grade authors: Adam Gidwitz, whose A Tale Dark and Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly are wonderfully creepy, often very funny retellings of Grimm’s fairy tales; Jacqueline West, whose bestselling Books of Elsewhere series also lives at the delightful intersection of funny and creepy; and Curtis Jobling, whose Wereworld fantasy series kicks funny to the curb in favor of flat-out horror.images-2 images images-1

At least, I think that’s the deal with Curtis. He’s British, but not Downton Abbey British–he’s more original-BBC-version-of-The-Office British, where if you don’t turn the subtitles on, you have to pause the DVD like every two minutes and back up because you have no idea what’s just been said.

Unfortunately, Curtis doesn’t come with a subtitle function, so most of the time I’m utterly mystified by what’s coming out of his mouth. He seems very friendly, though. And nobody else seems to have any trouble understanding him. I think maybe I just haven’t spent enough time in England. Or I need to re-watch The Office.

Anyway, we’re all on the Endangered Authors tour, which is a very high-concept-y book tour wrapped up in a fake game show, emceed by Peter McNerney of the Story Pirates. The show is kind of hard to explain, except to say that Peter is hilarious in it, and extremely quick on his feet, which more than compensates for his unfortunate habit of leaving his luggage in inconvenient places (long story).

Our first stop, once Peter found his luggage, was Campbell County Middle School in Alexandria, Kentucky. Home of the Camels!

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I think the Camels thing is a clever play on the word “Campbell.” Either that, or there are a LOT of things I don’t understand about Kentucky.

Here’s a shot of the Endangered Authors set. Peter’s in the background–the suit and tie are ironic, and (spoiler alert!) that’s not his real hair. Jacqueline and Curtis are in the foreground. I’m pretty sure Curtis is making a werewolf face, because the main character in the Wereworld series is a werewolf. Or he might be threatening to beat me to death for taking his picture without asking:IMG_1436

I am honestly not sure. I should check with one of the others about this.

The kids at Campbell County were great (hi, Anastasia!), we all had a fine time, and after a brief stop to sign stock at the so-nice-I-wish-I-could’ve-stayed-longer Joseph-Beth Booksellers and an uneventful flight to Atlanta, we’re now ensconced in the finest La Quinta Inn I have ever seen. I’m not being sarcastic. Just look at this hotel room!IMG_1439

That’s the foyer. Of my hotel room. Which has a FOYER. What didn’t fit in the photo, because I do not have a wide-angle lens, were the kitchenette, the study, the bedroom, a bathroom so big it had built-in shelving along one wall, and whatever you call the room you have to walk through to get from the foyer to the bathroom.

And the closet space! To die for. Honestly, this La Quinta is out of control. After the tour, I might come back and move in.

More tomorrow.

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How To Lose A Major Literary Award

The winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize was just announced in London, and as I predicted on the day the shortlist came out, Deadweather and Sunrise got its scruffy little butt kicked by R.J. Palacio’s Wonder.imgres

Earlier this morning, my British editor emailed me to request that I write an acceptance speech for her to deliver on my behalf at the announcement ceremony in the event that I won.

While I more or less knew this was a complete waste of time (I mean, have you read Wonder? It is heartbreaking), I complied. Because, really, who wants to let down their British editor? I feel lucky to even have a British editor.

But as I wallow in the bitter tears of defeat, it occurs to me that, well, I have this blog…the whole point of which is to post things that are a complete waste of time. So here’s the speech my British editor never had to give on my behalf:

TO BE READ IN THE EVENT OF MY WINNING THE WATERSTONES CHILDREN’S BOOK PRIZE

I am flattered, honored, eternally grateful, and thoroughly convinced that you are all out of your minds.

I can only hope that you do not come to your senses until tomorrow morning at the earliest, so that I can enjoy the spectacle of reading more headlines like the one that appeared in the Telegraph when Deadweather and Sunrise was first short-listed. That particular headline, “Beavis and Butt-head Writer Short-Listed For Literary Award,” provided me no end of joy — irrespective of how relatively minor my two co-written episodes of Beavis and Butt-head were in the context of that show’s several hundred OTHER episodes, none of which I had anything to do with.

This honor also comes as a great relief from a purely nativist perspective. For nearly as long as the United States of America has existed, our domestic writers have received the lion’s share of the blame for the decay of English-language culture, while the United Kingdom has held itself up as the last bastion of eloquence and civility in an increasingly barbarous world.

Having grown up watching repeats of The Young Ones, listening to the Sex Pistols, and quoting Monty Python’s Wink-Wink-Nudge-Nudge sketch from memory, I have never fully understood this affectation.

Which is why it gives me great pleasure to see that you stepped over such a touching and frankly high-class work of genuine, American-bred art as R.J. Palacio’s Wonder in order to recognize a book in which unpleasant young boys employ foul language while bashing each other on the head with cannonballs.

This seems, at long last, to be incontrovertible evidence that Western civilization’s headlong rush off a cliff and into an apocalyptic abyss is, while still arguably America’s fault, at least being abetted by our more putatively cultured forbears across the Atlantic.

In all seriousness, folks, thanks much. If I seriously believed I had a snowball’s chance in Bermuda of winning this award, I would have spent more than three minutes composing my speech. I might even have gotten on a plane to deliver it. If you get a chance, please send an email and let me know if the canapés would have been worth the price of a ticket.

And please do let all the schoolteachers and librarians in the U.K. know that I’m available for school visits and Skype talks.

Thank you again!

Sincerely,

Geoff Rodkey

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg, Less Than Completely Serious | 3 Comments

The Chronicles of Egg blog tour!

So, this is exciting: Deadweather and Sunrise comes out in paperback on Tuesday, and to mark the occasion, I’m going on a blog tour!

How special is this? Special enough to have its own logo!

Egg - Horizontaltourbutton

Those of you who are new to the world of middle-grade book marketing may be asking yourselves what a “blog tour” is. Turns out it’s exactly like Led Zeppelin’s 1977 tour of America, only without the, um…or the, y’know…and definitely none of the, uh…

Okay, it’s got nothing in common with Zeppelin in ’77. Or even Bieber in ’12. The truth is, I’m not even leaving my desk to go on this tour, although I might play Physical Graffiti while I type. Not sure yet.

What the blog tour REALLY is…is an eleven-day virtual tour of eleven different middle grade and YA book blogs — all of them run by thoroughly awesome bloggers to whom I am very grateful for the hospitality. (In this respect, the blog tour actually IS kind of like a fledgling punk band’s van tour, because I will be effectively sleeping on these fine bloggers’ virtual couches for the duration.)

Each day, I’ll visit a new site, write a guest post, and give away a signed copy of the Deadweather paperback. The posts will cover all manner of topics relating to Deadweather and the rest of the Chronicles of Egg series: character spotlights, origin stories, writing insights, and even a sneak peek at book 2, New Lands, which arrives in stores on May 2nd.

Here’s the full schedule, which I’ll update every time a new post appears. In the meantime, check out the sites! They’re awesome:

Tuesday, March 5th: Green Bean Teen Queen “Meet Egg Masterson”

also Tuesday: special bonus author Q&A at Bibliognome!

Wednesday, March 6th: Wanted Readers — “A Tale of Two Islands”

Thursday, March 7th: The Write Path — “Percy: The World’s Worst Tutor”Egg - verticaltourbutton

Friday, March 8th: I Read Banned Books — “The Story Behind Deadweather and Sunrise”

Monday, March 11th: A Thousand Wrongs — “Meet Millicent”

Tuesday, March 12th: Geo Librarian — “Action Sequences: Like Jokes, Only With More Blood”

Wednesday, March 13th: Chaos Is a Friend of Mine — “Meet Guts”

Thursday, March 14th: Buried in Books “Q&A With the Author”

Friday, March 15th: Book Sake — “Meet Roger Pembroke”

Monday, March 18th: Shannon Messenger — “Not Funny At All: The Real History of the Pirates of the Caribbean”

Tuesday, March 19th: There’s A Book — “An Excerpt From New Lands (Book 2 of the Chronicles of Egg)”

Some of these are real keepers, by the way. See you next week! Virtually, I mean.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 10 Comments

Deadweather and Sunrise: a great read at any age

Now that there’s a critical mass of Deadweather and Sunrise fan testimonials on Youtube (and by “critical mass,” I mean two), I thought I’d collect them in this handy anthology.

Taken together, they’re strong evidence that while the Chronicles of Egg books are being marketed as middle grade, there’s no such thing as too young or too old to enjoy the series. Augie and Bruno loved Deadweather even though, at six and seven, they were young enough to have it read aloud to them.

And the older teenage girl who goes by the Youtube handle TheOtakuSakura15 is adamant that Deadweather is “both a kids’ book and a teen book,” and a thoroughly satisfying read even if your tastes are more YA than middle grade (“the romance is…ohmygosh, it’s PERFECTLY balanced…”).

I’ve also lost count of the number of adults who told me they bought the book for their kids, only to wind up reading it themselves and loving it. None of them have posted a Youtube video (yet), but most had a similar reaction to that of the stay-at-home mom in New Jersey who wrote, “It’s a wonder I cooked any meals or did any laundry once I started reading the book. It is just so much fun! I found myself sneaking time to read it any chance I could, staying up late to finish a chapter, and then another…”

Nice, right? It’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon — Deadweather and Sunrise comes out in paperback on Tuesday, and its sequel, New Lands, arrives May 2nd.

No matter how old you are, you’ll like them. I promise.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 1 Comment

Don Rhymer, Screenwriter and Friend (1961-2012)

Don Rhymer would have been 52 years old today. He was a very good screenwriter, and an even better human being.tn-vsl-1201-don-rhymer-obit-001

I was only lucky enough to know Don for the last five years of his life, but over that period, he was a source of decades’ worth of both camaraderie and wise counsel, both about screenwriting and life in general. He was like the older brother I never had, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that knowing him made me a better person (if only slightly, because I am hard to teach).

Mostly, he led by example. Don was one of the most good-natured people I’ve ever known — but it wasn’t the cloying, marshmallow-edged type of good-naturedness that makes you suspect the person exhibiting it has either never read a newspaper or is in a state of active denial about reality.

Don’s good-naturedness was deeper and more fully lived than that — the sort that knows perfectly well just how unfair and stupid life can be, but has decided the best way to get through it isn’t to weep at the injustice, or rail against it, or stew in your own bitterness (personally, I’m good at all three, while excelling at the third), but to laugh at it.

Don’s ability to do this held true whether the source was Hollywood development executives or something actually serious, like cancer. When Don got sick a few years ago, he didn’t whine, or moan, or get depressed and withdraw from the world. Instead, he started a blog and made fun of it.Screen Shot 2013-02-23 at 12.48.37 PM

Let’s Radiate Don began as a series of comic updates about his treatment and, over time, turned into something deeper and more poignant. Since he died last fall, his wonderful wife and kids have continued to update it, making the site into a kind of living memorial and serving as a powerful reminder that even stories that don’t end well can be a source of comfort and inspiration.

If you check it out, I’d recommend reading backwards by first going to the bottom of the page and clicking “older posts” repeatedly, until it loads all of the archives dating back to July 17, 2010, where the initial obituary notice for Don’s lost taste buds appears. Or at least go as far back as “All Clear…and yet a little Fuzzy” on November 19, 2010, which is a real keeper.

Don wrote more than his share of successful films, including Rio, Happy Feet, and Big Momma’s House. The Oscar telecast is tomorrow night, and in spite of his long and impressive career, when it comes time to roll the tribute to prominent members of the film industry who’ve passed away this past year, it’s likely Don will be overlooked by the Academy one last time.

Now, my instinct — which, unfortunately, Don wasn’t around long enough to fully beat out of me — would be to treat this as an opportunity for some bitter screed about Hollywood’s lack of respect for screenwriters in general, and comedy writers in particular.

But that wasn’t Don’s way, and it’s not his family’s way, either — and thank goodness for that, because it led his son Andrew to create the following tribute to Don’s films. Even if you didn’t know Don, it’s a fun way to spend two minutes.

And if you DID know him, you may have the same reaction I did, which is to wonder how on earth you could get a lump in your throat watching clips of Martin Lawrence in drag.

Rest in peace, buddy.

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Why I Love The British

So, this is exciting: Deadweather and Sunrise was just shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in the U.K.

I am, as you can imagine, honored, flattered, and beyond certain that when it comes time to pick an actual winner, I’m going to get curb-stomped in the 5-to-12-year-old category. Probably by R.J. Palacio and Wonder, because everybody loves that book, and it’s hard to see how its deeply humane message of empathy and kindness could lose out to a story in which even the good kids aren’t above bashing each other in the head with cannonballs.imgres

(Although I do think there’s a great deal of incisive social commentary buried in the pages of Deadweather and Sunrise, not to mention some rather piquant observations on the human condition as it pertains to 13-year-olds, so if you’re a Waterstones voter and you happen to be reading this, please don’t let my opinion prejudice you. Also: does Wonder REALLY need more publicity? I think not.)

But the absolutely coolest part of this news was the headline that England’s fourth-largest newspaper (yes, I googled that) chose to announce the shortlist:

“BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD WRITER SHORTLISTED FOR WATERSTONES CHILDREN’S BOOK PRIZE 2013”

It would seem a curious editorial choice to elevate to headline status a minor, two-decade-old credit from just one of eighteen different writers on the shortlist.

Unless, of course, your sense of humor is keen enough–so keen, in fact, as to be positively British–that you not only notice the absurd juxtaposition of Beavis and Butt-head and a putative literary honor, but are willing to make that minor absurdity the main point of your story.

I think this might go a long way toward explaining why the British liked Deadweather and Sunrise enough to put it on the shortlist to begin with.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The Absolutely Best Ride at Universal Studios Orlando

It wasn’t what you’d expect.

It was NOT, for example, Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey.

HP line

Although my experience with that ride may have been soured by the 60-minute wait, which we had to endure despite sprinting to the ride the moment the park opened, and which felt at least three times that long, because I spent it alternately listening to my 10-year-old denounce — bitterly and at great length — our decision to skip the single-rider line (“we could have ridden it TWICE by now!”); my 12-year-old’s increasingly urgent pleas to abandon the line so he could pee (Me: “why didn’t you say something when we ran by that restroom in Seuss Landing?” Him: “I tried! You were running too fast!”); and my wife’s extended, Hamlet-worthy monologue on the subject of whether she might throw up her breakfast buffet from the Hilton (“I’m not used to eating eggs at this hour… Look at that warning sign: ‘This vehicle will suddenly accelerate, stop, turn, climb, and drop?’ Seriously, I’m really worried about this… Should I just wait for you in ‘child swap’?”).

Nor was it the Spiderman ride, which we went on immediately after the Harry Potter ride, and which, quite honestly, seemed like EXACTLY THE SAME RIDE, only with Dr. Octopus sneering at us instead of Draco Malfoy.

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And it wasn’t the Hulk coaster. It would have been, but I spent the whole ride terrified that my wallet was falling out of my shorts.

It wasn’t the Rock-It coaster, either. In theory, I did appreciate the ability to choose my own personal soundtrack to enhance my roller coaster experience. But in practice, it was enormously distracting: I spent the first half of the ride mystified as to why I’d never heard of half the bands in the “hard rock” category, and the second half mentally disputing the placement of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in the hip-hop section (yes, THEY are hip-hop; IT, however, is not).

Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall was automatically disqualified for requiring me to wait 25 minutes to sit on a ride that lasted less than ten seconds. (“WHOOO! Wait–that’s it?” “Yes. Get off.”)

The Twister ride was just godawful — a fifteen-minute forced viewing of Bill Paxtonpaxton hair talking about the “awesome, primal force” of tornados while sporting a haircut that must have already looked ridiculous back when the footage was shot in 1995, followed by somebody spritzing water on my head while dangling a giant plastic cow on a rope halfway across the room.

The Simpsons ride almost made the cut, but I just can’t bring myself to vote for a ride that force-pumps the smell of diapers into my face.

No. In the end, none of those rides delivered the kind of shocking, scream-out-loud-in-terror thrills of THE ABSOLUTELY BEST RIDE AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO:

The auto flush toilet in the restroom across from the Classic Monsters Cafe.

Because it was scary, and violent, and I never saw it coming.

auto flush

I was just sitting there (literally), minding my own business (figuratively), when a roaring noise like the space shuttle launch filled my ears, and the formerly placid water just inches below my most tender anatomical parts was suddenly transformed into a savagely churning maelstrom of gallons — literally, GALLONS — of water, fire-hosing through the bowl with an inhuman fury that even Bill Paxton’s liberal use of adjectival superlatives would have failed to adequately describe.

And it did not stop. Oh, no. It did not. It kept going, and going, and going…long past the point at which — had this been, say, Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall — my shoulder harness would have magically unbuckled itself and a pimply twenty-year-old in a polyester shirt would have given me a transparently insincere thumbs up and ordered me to exit to my left.

I do not exaggerate when I say that my screams could be heard as far away as Revenge of the Mummy.

But as thrilling as it was, when it finally ended — EVEN THOUGH the wait time was less than five minutes — I did not get back in line to ride it again.

Once was enough.

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

I Would Send Rick Riordan a Fruit Basket…

…if only I knew his address. Because he keeps saying such nice things about Deadweather and Sunrise:

“Another brilliant middle grade debut, Geoff Rodkey’s Deadweather and Sunrise reads like Pirates of the Caribbean as written by Lemony Snicket. Our young hero Egg Masterson lives a miserable life on an ‘ugly fruit’ plantation until his father finds a mysterious parchment, which leads Egg on a dangerous quest with plenty of pirates, battles at sea, tricky twists of fate, and a beautiful plucky heroine named Millicent. A great mix of dry humor and good old-fashioned derring-do.”

Click here for prior instances of Rick Riordan saying nice things about The Chronicles of Egg.

At this point, all I really need is an efficient means of alerting the twenty million people who’ve enjoyed his books to the fact that Rick thinks they’d enjoy mine, too.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 3 Comments

Google Translate: The Ragged Edge of Awesome

This is going to be a little self-indulgent. Okay, more than a little. But when you name a web site “geoffrodkey.com,” self-indulgence is kind of baked into the cake. So, you know.

While obsessively googling references to Deadweather and Sunrise, I came across a review from Italian blogger Daniele Imperi. He read the English edition, but wrote his review in Italian.

Unfortunately, I don’t speak Italian. But Google Translate does! Sort of.

As I discovered when it translated the Spanish edition’s rendering of Deadweather Island, la isla de Bochorno, as “Embarrassment Island”–and as my kids seem unable to accept no matter how disastrously it fails them whenever they try to cheat on their French homework–Google Translate is an imperfect tool.

But sometimes, there’s pleasure to be had in that imperfection. With a sincere grazi (I think that’s the right word) to Daniele, here are excerpts from Google Translate’s badly mangled version of what I’m sure is, in the original Italian, a very eloquent review:

“This volume begins with a saga set in an imaginary world, made up of pirates and balloons, escapes and battles, a novel for children more than enjoyable…

“The title (literally Dead Time and Smile) is dedicated to the two islands where the events take place, the antithesis of a. Very good and taken care of the environment, Rodkey has done a great job of not only getting the details and give the world its credibility must for any fantasy novel, but it has also recreated sounds and calls of the world we know…

“Deadweather Sunrise and thus appears to us to be a part of an imaginary universe, imaginative, the other a real place, tangible, that exists somewhere in the ocean, more or less where raging pirate ships.

“The Chronicles of Egg – in this case has nothing to do with the egg – are a kind of diary of boy named Eggbert and his incredible and almost tragicomic adventure…

“Deadweather and Sunrise immediately captures the reader from the opening lines, revealing sometimes adventurous, sometimes hilarious, sometimes dramatic. A mixture of feelings that live together in a wonderfully original story environment pirate who can renew the genre.

“Mix Treasure Island with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, softened tones in both and throw them in the island that does not exist, even in the islands that are not there, and you Deadweather and Sunrise.

“But Deadweather and Sunrise is not in either, it is an adventure novel to read, waiting for his train, to know what will happen in Egg and his friends.”

Amen to that.

Posted in Chronicles of Egg | 3 Comments

The Next Big Thing…

First, a word about Brian Farrey: he’s the author of the thoroughly awesome Vengekeep Prophecies, which has a lot in common with Deadweather and Sunrise

in that it’s funny, and exciting, and marketed to 10-year-olds but a good read even if you haven’t been that age since Ronald Reagan was president.

Brian recently tagged me on Twitter as one of his picks for The Next Big Thing. Does that sentence make any sense to you? No? Me, neither. Not at first. But here’s the gist of it:

The Next Big Thing is a sort of literary chain letter, passed from author to author, and designed to get us to talk about not only our next project, but the projects we’re excited about seeing from three other authors.

Authors like…

Christopher Healy, whose A Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom also has a lot in common with Deadweather and Sunrise: it’s a funny adventure, the first in a trilogy, was released in May 2012, and was named one of Amazon’s Best Middle Grade Books of 2012. A Hero’s Guide… is the story of four Princes Charming–the unnamed love interests in Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel–who wind up getting in a whole lot of trouble involving a witch and the aforementioned princesses, one of whom is a real piece of work. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about the second book in the series.

 

And…

 

Tommy Greenwald, author of Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading and Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit. Charlie Joe is a middle schooler who’s much cooler than I was at that age, and who–just like my own kids–goes to sometimes extraordinary lengths to avoid reading.I read both of these books out loud to my 10- and 7-year-old boys, and all three of us had a fantastic time with them. In fact, my kids are more excited about the next Charlie Joe Jackson book than they are about the next Chronicles of Egg book. I don’t blame Tommy for that; I blame my parenting.

 

Last but not least…

 

Amy Ignatow is the author-illustrator of The Popularity Papers series, which follows the continuing adventures of fifth graders Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang. I think these books are hilarious, although I can’t get my sons to read them for the same reason my wife couldn’t get me to read the Twilight series–they are ever so slightly gender-specific in their appeal. But if you have a daughter, and she hasn’t checked out this series yet, she will love it. I’m secretly hoping Amy’s planning to announce a brand-new series that’s more boy-centric (I think she could really make hay with gratuitous violence and fart jokes), but I’m pretty sure her Next Big Thing is a continuation of the Lydia and Julie saga, not least because it’s been a big hit.

I’m tagging all of these people for the Next Big Thing. They don’t know that yet, but they’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, per the Next Big Thing rules, here’s the part of the post where I plug my own work:

What’s the working title for your book?

NEW LANDS isn’t just the working title in the second volume in the Chronicles of Egg series–it’s the actual title! And it comes out on May 2nd.

A short synopsis?

The action picks up where Deadweather and Sunrise left off–with Egg and Guts en route to the New Lands in search of the lost Okalu tribe, who hold the key to the mysterious treasure map that Egg can’t decipher. But the ruthless Roger Pembroke is hard on Egg’s trail, the New Lands are full of new enemies, and our heroes’ only weapons are their brains, their courage, and the two dozen Cartager swear words that Guts picks up from a foul-mouthed sailor in Chapter 1.

They’re going to need help. But who can they trust? Is Kira, the beautiful and heavily armed Okalu refugee, their ally…or their enemy? Is Pembroke’s daughter Millicent on Egg’s side…or her father’s? Why on earth is the notorious pirate Burn Healy being so NICE to them? And the biggest question of all: what shocking secret will Egg discover in the shadow of an ancient Okalu temple?

Where did the idea for this book come from?

I vaguely recall Stephen King once writing that when people ask him where his ideas come from, his standard answer is “Mars” — because the truth is that he doesn’t know where they come from. They just sort of show up.

New Lands is like that. The story grew out of what happened in Deadweather and Sunrise, except that the stakes have gotten bigger, the canvas has gotten wider (moving from a handful of islands to an entire continent), and a lot of the questions left tantalizingly hanging in book 1 will finally be answered.

Although some of those answers will only lead to bigger questions.

But all of THOSE questions will be answered, once and for all, in book 3. I promise.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s sort of a fantasy, except that there’s nothing fantastical about the world.

It’s sort of historical, except that the history is all made up.

It’s sort of middle grade, except that I tried to write it so adults could enjoy it as much as kids.

I think “adventure-comedy” is a pretty fair description.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I started working on this trilogy because I was tired of writing movies, so that’s something I’d rather leave to other people.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s published by Putnam/Penguin, and represented by the very talented Josh Getzler of Hannigan Salky Getzler.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Six months. Plus six months of thinking about it before I started. Plus the six months that it took to write Deadweather and Sunrise before that. Plus the two years I spent thinking about the whole trilogy before I started writing any of them.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Someone (okay, not someone–my agent) described Deadweather as “The Princess Bride with 13-year-olds,” which I think is very accurate.

There are also some tonal similarities to both the Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl books.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to write something that was as much fun as you can possibly have between two covers.

What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s the finest book written in English for a middle grade audience since…well, I guess that’s a tie between A Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit, and The Popularity Papers, Vol. 4. 

Posted in Chronicles of Egg | Leave a comment

Deadweather and Sunrise: The Turkish TV Ad

Every once in a great while, you come across something of such pure undiluted awesomeness that it cannot be explained. It must first be experienced. Like that baby panda sneezing on Youtube.

Or this:

 

Wow! Right? I mean, just…wow.

That was, as you’ve probably deduced from the title, an ad for the Turkish edition of Deadweather and Sunrise. I’m told it’s running on the Turkish versions of the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and the Cartoon Network.

Which immediately made me wonder just how cheap ad rates are on Turkish cable.

The enthusiasm of it is really something. That announcer sounds like he’s going to burst a vein in his neck. I have no idea what he’s saying, but he makes me want to log on to Turkish Amazon and buy a copy just to see what all the excitement’s about.

I will admit that the skeletons in pirate outfits gave me pause. While there are a couple of skeletons in the book, along with quite a few pirates, there are no actual instances of skeletons wearing pirate outfits. Nor, if such skeletons existed, would they be walking upright, in possession of live parrots, or given to flexing their knees like suburban housewives at an aerobics class.

Ultimately, it was the skeletons that convinced me I needed to get this thing translated.

As luck would have it, my son’s second-grade teacher is Turkish (this is one of the many benefits of sending your kid to an international school), and she was kind enough to translate the entire ad for me. Here’s the text of the voice-over:

Come on! Admit it!

You are dying to read other people’s diaries!

Especially if that diary is full of excitement and adventure!

You will love Egg’s diaries, too!

While you are reading, your heart will jump because in these diaries are mystery, murderous pirates, dangerous enemies, and a crazy young deckhand with one arm!

Non-stop entertainment! 

The first book of The Mysterious Diaries — The Fire King’s Treasure — presented by Epsilon Publishing House, your address for entertaining books — has come out!

Kind of interesting that The Chronicles of Egg is now The Mysterious Diaries. Particularly because there are no actual diaries in the book.

But I have to admit it’s a compelling hook: I actually am dying to read other people’s diaries, especially if they’re full of excitement and adventure.

These Turkish marketing people are pretty smart.

In fact, swapping out Deadweather and Sunrise for The Fire King’s Treasure is so smart it’s a little upsetting.

Don’t get me wrong. Deadweather and Sunrise is a fine title. Evocative, slightly mysterious, got a nice sort of lilt to it… But once I got the translation back, I ran it by my 12-year-old.

“So it turns out that, in Turkish, they’re calling it The Fire King’s Treasure.”

“Oh, geez, Dad!”

“What?”

“Why didn’t you call it that in English? That’s a much better title.”

This book is going to be huge in Turkey.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 5 Comments

The Slightly Strange Saga of my Son’s Soccer Ball

This is a story that begins in a simpler, more innocent time–specifically, mid-October, before Hurricane Sandy came and took away our power and water (an event my children will forever remember as The Day The iPods Died And Could Not Be Recharged).

My 10-year-old is soccer-obsessed, which is mostly a good thing. I say “mostly,” because A) his steadfast conviction that he will one day play professionally in Europe–and thus will be dropping out of middle school as soon as he’s recruited into FC Barcelona’s player development program–has severely undermined our efforts to get him to take his homework more seriously; B) his rabid hatred of all things Real Madrid, which extends to strangers wearing Real Madrid jerseys on the streets of New York City, is not only psychologically disturbing but threatens to end with one of us getting socked in the jaw by an angry Spanish guy on Sixth Avenue; and C) his school is on the East River, with a playground fence that’s only ten feet high.

Here’s why C) is a problem: my kid loses a lot of soccer balls. I mean, a LOT. Like two a week. They don’t all end up in the East River. He’s lost them in playgrounds, parks, rooftops, construction sites, the overhead heating ducts at his indoor soccer camp… We even lost one in our shoe closet, which I still can’t figure out, because it’s a very small closet.

So when the line item in our family budget for “soccer balls” surpassed the one for “real estate taxes,” I decided it was time to implement some kind of soccer ball retention policy. This was easier said than done. Those of you who are familiar with soccer ball design will agree it is impossible to chain a ball to a kid’s wrist without compromising the ball’s structural integrity; those of you with children will recognize the self-defeating nature of ultimatums like, “lose this one and I will NEVER buy you another soccer ball;” and those of you with better ideas failed to share them with me when I asked your opinion.

Ultimately, the best policy I came up with was to write my cell phone number on every soccer ball before releasing it into my kid’s (maddeningly temporary) custody. Like most of my good-parenting initiatives, this was meant less to solve the problem than to make me feel like I’d at least made an effort. And the first few soccer balls that disappeared with my phone number on them seemed to confirm that this new policy was, in fact, totally useless.

Which is why I was so surprised when my cell phone rang on a Thursday afternoon in mid-October, and a friendly but anonymous stranger informed me that someone on a kayak had just fished a soccer ball with my phone number on it out of the East River. After a brief discussion of logistics, we agreed that the best thing would be for him to leave the ball at the North Brooklyn Boat Club for me to pick up later.

That the North Brooklyn Boat Club existed was news to me, but he gave me the address and told me it was conveniently located underneath the Pulaski Bridge.

That the Pulaski Bridge existed was also news to me. After I hung up, though, I went on Google Maps and worked out the geography of what must have happened:

The pizza place isn’t really germane to this discussion, but if you’re on 14th Street and hungry, it’s between First and Second Avenue on the south side of the street.

Anyway, about the North Brooklyn Boat Club: my mental image of the place was mostly derived from the yacht club scene in Caddyshack, but it turns out “boat club” and “yacht club” are two VERY different things. For one thing, you’ll never find a yacht club just downstream from a wastewater treatment plant (see map). And the NBBC ethos seems to be less, “let’s drink gin while wearing cable sweaters draped over our shoulders” and more…actually, it’s hard to tell from their web site. Or their Facebook page. As best I can figure it, they’re some kind of “hipster enviro-boaters.”

And they don’t have a phone. This proved important when, a week later, I found myself driving from a Saturday morning soccer game on Roosevelt Island to a Saturday afternoon soccer game in Red Hook, a route that took me conveniently over the Pulaski Bridge. Unable to reach anyone at the North Brooklyn Boat Club via their email address, I decided to just drop by and take my chances.

What I found looked nothing like the yacht club in Caddyshack, and a lot like the kind of back alley where low-level hoods get shot in gangster movies. But there, right in the middle of the alley, and not far from what may or may not have been the dismembered body of a Gotti family traitor, was my kid’s soccer ball:

I know, it’s hard to tell that’s a soccer ball from the photo. Here’s a blown-up image:

No question about it, that was my kid’s soccer ball. But the Boat-Club-cum-Sopranos-episode-execution-site was padlocked, and there wasn’t so much as an angry Rottweiler on the other side of the fence.

My kid, who had convinced himself (if not me) that this wasn’t merely the 18th soccer ball he’d lost since Labor Day, but in fact his FAVORITE SOCCER BALL EVER, was more than a little disappointed to be thwarted so tantalizingly close to a heartwarming reunion. But the next Saturday’s soccer game was also going to take us pretty close to the Pulaski Bridge, so I promised him we’d come back and try again.

Then came the hurricane. The North Brooklyn Boat Club was submerged under several feet of water, the soccer game was cancelled, and while we’ll never know for sure–because there’s no way I am driving all the way back over there–I can only assume the soccer ball was reclaimed by the sea.

There’s a lesson in all this–about our responsibilities, not just to ourselves and our athletic equipment, but to each other…or maybe it’s about how Mother Nature makes fools of us all…or maybe it has something to do with the importance of maintaining a working phone line, even if you’re a local community non-profit whose members likely all know each other.

But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what that lesson is. All I know is I had the photos, so I figured I’d post them.

And seriously, that pizza place on 14th is worth checking out.

Posted in Less Than Completely Serious | 16 Comments

Texas librarians are the best

Just got back from the Tweens Read Book Festival in Houston, Texas, where I had the rare privilege of seeing six hundred kids lose their minds in the presence of kidlit superstars Heather Brewer (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod) and Rachel Renee Russell (The Dork Diaries).

It was also great meeting and/or catching up with the likes of Amy Ignatow (The Popularity Papers), Tommy Greenwald (Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading), Trent Reedy (Stealing Air), E.J. Patten (The Hunter Chronicles: Return to Exile), and Stefan Bachmann (The Peculiar).

But that’s not why I’m posting. I’m posting about the cupcake.

The cupcake that reproduced the Deadweather and Sunrise book cover in frosting:

And not just the cupcake. Oh, no. The cupcake was just the deliciously frosted, red-velvet tip of the iceberg.

There was also a glazed tile drink coaster, also hand-crafted with a reproduction of the Deadweather book cover:

And then there was the hand-knitted cup cozy.

I don’t have a picture of that one, but go ahead and conjure up a hand-knitted cup cozy in your mind’s eye.

Then make it much nicer.

Nicer still.

Even nicer than that…

Okay, now you’ve got it. It was that nice.

All of these things were gifts, hand-made by Texas librarians for no other reason than they are really, really nice people, and love books, and have amazing cupcake-making, tile-glazing, and cozy-knitting skills.

And they created these incredibly touching, personalized gifts for TWENTY-ONE DIFFERENT AUTHORS.

Thank you, Texas librarians! I am in awe of you.

The kids were pretty cool, too. But honestly, I’m not sure they realize just how good they have it librarian-wise.

Posted in Appearances, Chronicles of Egg, Texas Librarians | 3 Comments

Hey, look, people showed up

I had been warned, by more than one person, that bookstore appearances by first-time authors don’t tend to draw a crowd. Consequently, advance estimates in my household of the total number of people who would show up for yesterday’s appearance at the awesome Words bookstore in Maplewood, NJ were not high (my wife figured three; I was slightly less optimistic).

Very pleasantly surprised to discover those estimates were on the low side. Many, many thanks to everyone who showed up, and to Words owner Jonah Zimilies for hosting the event. Pictures below are courtesy of Michael Keane and Words.

Here’s me pontificating on the difference between writing movies and books. Or it might have been me complaining about the way The X-Files TV series ended. Hard to tell without the audio.

 

Signing books. This reminds me that I need to change my Facebook status from “balding” to “bald.”

 

Thanks again, Jonah!

Posted in Appearances | 4 Comments

In the event of our untimely demise

There is a mosquito in our apartment. Ordinarily, I would not bother to document such activity. But this mosquito’s methods are so cunning, and its purposes so inscrutable, that I feel compelled to leave a written record in the event that something mysterious and inexplicable happens to us, leaving only a void of questions without answers.

It began four nights ago. I was awakened shortly after two by a fiendish itching, emanating from two locations on my upper left arm and a third just below the elbow. It was one of those I-know-I-shouldn’t-scratch-or-it’ll-just-get-worse-but-oh-my-lord-this-is-unbearable kind of itches, and after ten minutes of hapless writhing, it eventually propelled me from my bed in the direction of the kitchen, where I found a wrinkled tube of Cortaid in the back of a cabinet and applied it to the fingernail-sized welts rising on my flesh. It took me ninety minutes to get back to sleep.

So what, right? It happens. And that should have been the end of it.

But the next night, the mosquito struck again. This time, the victim was my wife. This was highly anomalous. Bugs tend to find me pheromonally irresistible, usually to the exclusion of all other available targets. In well over a decade of marriage, there had never previously been a documented case of my wife being bitten by anything, ever, as long as I was lying next to her like a honey trap made flesh.

So, kind of odd. But certainly nothing worth getting all excited about. Although my wife did get sufficiently agitated to roam the bedroom for forty minutes at 3am, wielding a magazine. She found nothing.

We were both groggy the next day. Even so, not a big deal. Yet.

Night fell again. This time, the mosquito came for my ten-year-old. Morning found him in a state of itchful agony, with prominent bites on either side of his face near the jaw line. He lathered on enough Cortaid to tranquilize a small animal and went to school once his argument that this was grounds for staying home and watching TV all day was politely rejected.

Outwardly, my wife and I remained calm. But now we were on our guard. Over the course of the day, an exhaustive room-to-room search was conducted. Aside from a fleeting, unconfirmed sighting on a bedroom wall, it proved fruitless. A subsequent google search of “mosquito lifespan” yielded the unfortunate news that this could potentially go on for two weeks.

But surely it wouldn’t. Surely, after three nights, this was the end.

Then the sun went down, the moon rose, and my seven-year-old woke up this morning with a welt on his arm as big as one of those impractical European coins. The Cortaid tube came out again. At the victim’s request, a Band-Aid was applied.

It’s now the morning of the fifth day. The house is in a state of siege. It’s not just the duration and the severity of the attacks. It’s that they’re so unnervingly methodical. This mosquito clearly has a plan, which it is executing with a pitiless and terrible precision.

The pattern is clear. We know the twelve-year-old is next. And yet, short of evacuating him to sleep at grandma’s (which we would have done, except she’s out of town), we feel powerless to protect him.

And the worst thing about it is the lack of motive. We can only guess at this mosquito’s intentions. Manhattan being what it is, it’s possible he has his eye on our real estate, and hopes to drive us into exile in the suburbs while he snatches up our apartment for well below market value.

But this is just a theory, offered up in a panicked attempt to bring order to the chaos, and useless as a road map to our possible future.

The fear lies in the not knowing.

Posted in Less Than Completely Serious | 5 Comments