Cover reveal! The Arctic Code

I’m really excited to reveal the cover to my next middle grade novel The Arctic Code, which is the first book in The Dark Gravity Sequence, coming from Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins. This adventure series takes place in the near future, and sees the earth frozen in a modern Ice Age, the key to which lies in the far distant past. That’s all I’ll say for now, but in the meantime, what do you guys think?

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A Halloween Post

It was Halloween over the weekend, which was appropriate to the book I’m currently writing. It’s a Victorian horror novel, and will be for a much older, YA audience than my usual, middle grade books. It’s been a new and interesting challenge to write, and I have to say I’ve creeped myself out a couple of times, both from the writing and the research, because man, the Victorian London underworld was NOT a very nice place. I mean, just to give you a taste, this was a place where guys would sell live sparrows on strings, at a penny apiece, as a kind of one-use toy for children to play with, AKA torture. If that kind of thing is going on, you know you’ve got some serious societal issues with empathy. And fun times for me writing about them! The book will be dark and violent, but I hope it will also be ultimately redemptive and hopeful, and I’m trying very hard to avoid any gratuitousness; when I include something that makes me uncomfortable, I make certain it’s not going in just to shock the reader, but serves a vital narrative purpose that can’t be accomplished another, better way. I’m not sure when this books will be out, but I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of the month or early December.

While we’re on the subject of Halloween, I had some fun with my step-kids’ costumes. One of them wanted to be Link, from The Legend of Zelda, but I couldn’t find a belt I could re-purpose into a baldric for her sword. So I went to Tandy Leather, and a young gentleman there was incredibly helpful in getting me sorted out with all the leather and tools I would need for the project. Here’s the finished product:

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The stitching isn’t the best, and my hands felt like they’d been run through a meat grinder for a few days, but it was actually a lot of fun. In fact, I may have just picked up a new hobby.

Jaime made the rest of the costumes, and here’s my step-daughter as Link.

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And here’s my step-son as a “deku scrub,” which, he will correct you, is not a character, but a race from Legend of Zelda.

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It was quite a fun Halloween. I hope yours was, too.

Before I go, just a last bit of writing news and updates. I get MANY emails and comments on the blog asking when the next Quantum League book will be out. I am so, so sorry that I don’t know. That’s up to my publisher, as well as other factors outside my control. I have written a draft of it, and I think it’s pretty cool. If you want to read it, I would recommend letting your local bookstore know that you want it.

But in the meantime, I have a new series starting up with a new publisher. The Arctic Code, book one in the Dark Gravity Sequence, will be out next April, and I’m really excited about it. It’s going to a place I’ve never gone in my books, namely the future. When I have a cover and I can tell you more details, I will.

Quantum League Book Trailer!

The talented Brandon Davidson has created a book trailer for The Quantum League. It’s honestly so cool, I can’t stop watching it. I thought you might want to check it out.

Books written, books yet to be written.

The books I have written may explain why I haven’t written an entry here in quite some time. Since I last posted, I’ve written the next Quantum League book, the sequel to Spell Robbers, and did a rewrite on the first installment in an SF/adventure series I’m doing for Harper Collins. I’m really excited about both, and I’m looking forward to talking about them more in the coming months.

The fact that I can write sentences like the ones I just wrote still catches me off-guard at times. I’m so happy and honored that I get to write stories. People often ask which of my books I like the best, and that’s a difficult question to answer. I usually reply that I like the book I’m currently writing the best, which means it’s a book no one else has read. That’s because the story I’m currently writing is the one that’s alive in my head. Those are the characters who’re living their lives and talking to me. When they stop talking, there’s no story, and when I’ve finished a book, it’s no longer a living, moving thing. I don’t know if that answer satisfies the one asking the question, but there it is.

Of course, it’s also true that I love different memories from the writing of each of my books, and it’s hard to pick a favorite memory, isn’t it? Each writing experience brings its own unique pleasures and challenges. Each book means something different to me, personally and artistically. I’m proud of all of them, each for their own idiosyncratic reasons.

In the next week or so, I’ll be writing a nonfiction piece, with an accompanying short story, for a really wonderful anthology called Been There, Done That. The project aims to show students how authors connect our real-life experiences to the stories we tell, and the roster of writers contributing to the anthology is mighty impressive. I’m honored to be a part of it.

After that, I’ll be tackling something very new for me. It’s still quite early to be talking about it, but this next book will likely be shelved in a slightly different part of the store or library than my other novels. I’m a bit nervous about it, but also incredibly excited. I’m still in the research phase (which, let’s face it, I love) but I’ll be starting in on the writing very soon.

On a personal note, it occurs to me I haven’t updated you all on some life changes I’ve gone through in the last year. I have remarried. My wife is an absolutely amazing woman named Jaime, also known as the sophistimom. She blogged a bit about our meeting and marriage, so if you’d like to read about it, you can click here. We are happy, and life is good.

The Quantum League Launch Party

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Finally, a post about my book tour!

Hey, everyone! I just thought I would poke my head up from writing and post something I’ve been meaning to put up on the blog for a while.

Back in September and October I spent about three and a half weeks on the road, touring for The Lost Kingdom and Cave of Wonders: Infinity Ring Book 5, and I’ve been getting a lot of requests from people for a report. So, I’m here to report that it was spectacular and awesome and a heck of a lot of fun. I traveled quite literally from coast to coast, dipping my toes in both the Atlantic and Pacific (while suffering geographic whiplash to such a degree I actually got the two confused – “which ocean is this?” – for a few moments).

The tour kicked off in Washington D.C. for the National Book Festival. I’d never been before, and the sheer size and scope of the event was a little overwhelming. I got to attend a cocktail reception held in the Library of Congress, a place I’d never been before, and the book nerd in me got pretty excited. Plus, it was fancy:

Reception at the Library of Congress.

And I got to see Thomas Jefferson’s library:

Thomas Jefferson's library

And the main reading room:

The main reading room at the Library of Congress

There may be video of the talk I gave somewhere online. I’m not sure, but here’s a picture of me speaking. Based on my gesture in this image, it’s clearly all about ME.

Speaking at the National Book Festival

Just kidding. Really, it’s not, and I learned that following my talk. During the Q&A, a woman named Lisa approached the microphone and wanted to tell a story. It turned out that she was a writer, but had struggled with a lack of confidence in pursuing that dream. She found Icefall as her father was battling cancer, and Solveig inspired her to find her voice and tell her stories. After her father passed away, as a promise to him and to herself, Lisa buried him with a copy of Icefall.

I was speechless at the end of this story. I felt tears coming to my eyes. I had no idea what to say or do. Really, I just wanted to give Lisa a hug. This is not the kind of effect I think about when I’m writing a story and putting it out there. I have no idea how or if a story might touch someone’s life when I’m writing it, and I take absolutely no credit if it does. That’s the beauty of this job. We come together, reader and writer, and we share an experience with a story, and most of the time I don’t know what that experience has been for the reader. But every once in a while, a moment of beauty transpires in which I see that connection, and I get to feel some of it. I’m so humbled and grateful to Lisa for stepping up to the microphone to share it.

I wanted to talk more with her, but the schedule was so tight, they whisked me away on a golf cart before I could find her in the crowd. We went to my signing, where I met lots of wonderful fans and readers.

Signing at the National Book Festival

I also had the chance to hang out in the green room with friends old and new.

Kathryn Erskine, Jon Scieszka, Lisa McMann, and me

I also spent a day signing stock with Mark Teague, Kathryn Erskine, and Tamora Pierce, and they were great company.

Kathryn Laskie, Mark Teague, me, and Tamora Pierce

From Washington D.C., I traveled to Philadelphia for a few days of school visits and bookstore events. I’d never been there before, and I had a couple of missions I’d set for myself. The first was to visit the historic home and gardens of John Bartram, father of Billy (William) Bartram, the main character in The Lost Kingdom. The second thing I wanted to do was eat an actual Philly cheesesteak. The latter I accomplished right away, at which time I learned you can order your cheesesteak with provolone, American, or “whiz”. I did not order the whiz, but in retrospect, I wish I had.

In Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Krisy from the Doylestown Bookshop took me to the inexplicable and utterly fantastic Mercer Museum, or as I like to call it, the Temple of the Triumphant Hoarder. I love places that make me feel as though I have stepped directly into someone’s psyche (Salt Lake City folks can experience this with our own Gilgal Gardens), and that’s what this place was. I mean, check this out. He built it out of poured concrete, with no architectural plans. It was all just in his head.

The Mercer Museum, or as I like to call it, Temple of the Triumphant Hoarder.

Inside this temple, he housed his collection of crap. Well, at the time it was crap. Just ordinary, everyday stuff that other people looked at and wondered just what was wrong with this Mercer guy for collecting it. But nowadays, all that crap has historical significance and we can call this hoarder’s mother lode a museum. I highly urge you to go check it out if you’re in the area.

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It was also in Pennsylvania that I had the most exciting school visit I’ve ever had. I was in the multi-purpose room, and I’d set up my laptop with the projector. The kids were filing in, and it was go-time, but just then the principal came on the loudspeaker and announced that we needed to evacuate the building for a gas leak, and this was not a drill. So we all filed out of the building into a cloud of sulfurous gas, across the soccer field, to the school’s evacuation site, which was a Church of the Nazarene. Once there, I decided it might help distract the kids if I still gave my presentation, so I offered. The staff took me up on it, so there in the church, without my slides or even a microphone, I gave a talk to what was now the entire school, rather than just the upper grades. I have to say, it went really well, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have another school visit experience that can top it.

From Philly, I went to Boston, another city I’d never visited. I loved it. The history buff in me was seriously geeking out. I stayed in the hotel where they invented the Boston Cream Pie and Parker House rolls…

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…across the street from the King’s Chapel

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…just down the road from the Granary Burying Ground and Boston Common.

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This is Chloe, a 6 month old Bernese Mountain Dog. I met her while walking through Boston Common, and she and I became instant friends.

One afternoon, I met fellow writer and foodie friend Ammi-Joan Paquette for lunch in Harvard Square, where I ate my first lobster roll (but not my last!), and afterward I walked across the Harvard campus to the Peabody Museum. Jaime Richardson of sophistimom had told me about the glass flowers, and I had to see them for myself. They amazed me in a way that left me doubting what I was seeing.

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These are made ENTIRELY OF GLASS.

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For realz. ALL OF IT IS GLASS.

Boston concluded the east coast leg of my tour. From there, I went to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and then to Nashville, but I think I’ll cover those in another post. Hopefully soon.

Okay, back to work on the book! I’m currently writing the second installment in my Quantum League series. The first book comes out this month on the 28th. I’ll be doing an event that evening with The King’s English in Salt Lake City, so please come. In the meantime, there’s a giveaway of the book running over at goodreads. Hop on over to enter!

 

A new bio that is not autobiographical.

The following entry comes to you courtesy of a certain commenter to whom I am related. I take no responsibility for its content, and the opinions contained therein do not reflect those of the management, AKA, mine.

I am Matthew’s little sister Amy. His “Short, short bio” is keeping me up at night because it’s so BORING! I decided to take the initiative and re-write it for him, because I’m just that kind of person, and he’s busy being a famous author (“double book launch” and all that).

It should go something like this… Matthew’s ears must have magical powers because he always rubs them for inspiration (and distraction). His childhood was just as rich as any young adult work of fiction. He got spectacular gold rimmed glasses in 6th Grade and compensated in coolness (for the unwelcome addition) by smacking his gum extra loud. Matthew almost became proficient at the piano, but shocked everyone at his last recital (age 14) as he stood up mid-sonata and announced that “he quit.” In spite of that very unexpected drama, he has an amazing ear for music and a decent baritone. He sings loudly in the car, but not in the shower. During his younger days, Matthew’s summers were filled with scout camps, catching fire flies, building forts in the front yard, collecting Batman cards, organizing The Monopoly Clue Club, swimming at the lake, and playing “Adventure Games” in the woods behind his house. He carried a long bow with him in those days, and made trouble using a small cannon equipped with real gun powder and fuses given to him by his Uncle.

Above all, Matthew plays well with others. He is way too charming for his own good. During his adolescence, he dabbled in the fine arts with dreams of becoming a comic book artist or a film director. He enjoys staying up way too late playing computer games with his brother (when he should be writing). He can’t say no to grape Hi Chews, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Grandma Sycamore’s white bread, and maple bars with bacon bits (gross!). His mind is like a magnet for fascinating information, unappreciated by most, but necessary for his craft. Much to the credit and appreciation of his younger sisters, Matthew is extremely well versed in classical romance movies such as (but not limited to) Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Random Harvest. He is loved by his nieces and nephews. He has a kind perceptive heart, brilliant mind and ever-growing imagination. Icefall is my favorite book. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you have read it, read it again!

No way! A Double Launch!

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For probably the only time in my career, I had two books come out on the same day this past week: The Lost Kingdom and Cave of Wonders: Infinity Ring Book 5. I’ll be celebrating this rare event with a double launch party at The King’s English! Please come! I will speak and read and sign your books, even!

When: September 5th, 2013 at 7 PM

Where: The King’s English, 1511 South, 15oo East in Salt Lake City

The Quantum League cover reveal!

Over the weekend, the lovely Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 kindly hosted the cover reveal for my next middle grade project, The Quantum League. It’s a magical crime saga that I’ve talked about a bit before. I’m really excited for it, and I’m happy to now put the cover up here:

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What do you think? I think it is made entirely of awesome, and it incorporates a lot of the book into it. My thanks and appreciation to the talented artist, Jason Chan. To see more of his work, check out his site.

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So, Disneyworld. If you’re planning to go at some point, might I suggest timing your visit with a tropical storm? I was in Florida teaching at a regional SCBWI workshop. The workshop was great. I taught the fantasy class with agent Joe Monti, and it turns out he and I share considerable brain real estate – similar tastes in fiction, similar approaches to writing and books. And we both have a deep and abiding love for Ursula K. Le Guin, something that pretty much guarantees my friendship.

While I was there, I took advantage of the fact that the conference was held inside Disneyworld, and made my way over to the Magic Kingdom. The day’s rain had already started, but I never once considered bailing (pun not intended, although there was a lot of rain). I just bought an over-priced poncho and went for it, and let me tell you, tropical storms do wonders for clearing crowds. The funny thing is, I didn’t actually know it was a tropical storm until the day was almost over, and people were texting me, “Hey, are you okay? There’s a tropical storm going on.” The place was a ghost town. I don’t think I waited longer than 15 minutes for any ride, and I didn’t need fast passes. I mean, look at this:

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“Um, where is everybody? Is there something I don’t know…?”

The storm cleared out by the end of the day, and the crowds piled in, but by then I’d already done everything, and eaten myself silly. I was soaked, and it was awesome.

Then, last week, I taught at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop. I love that conference, and I always will. Steve, my agent, was there on the faculty, and so was Martine Leavitt. It was like a little reunion, and it meant a lot to me. I taught the advanced novel workshop, and my class was amazing. So much talent and creativity. I was honored to look at each of their work, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing their books in stores soon.

In just a few short months, Cave of Wonders and The Lost Kingdom will hit the shelves. My book tour is shaping up, so check back here for details to see if I’m coming to your neck of the woods.

So, it’s been a while since I blogged…

In the past eight months or so, I’ve finished three books. The Lost Kingdom (which comes out later this year on September 1st), Cave of Wonders, my installment in the Infinity Ring series (which also comes out on September 1st), and the first book in my Quantum League series (which won’t come out till next spring). This is not a pace I think I could keep up long-term, but it’s been so fun to work on each of the projects. Now I’m working on the first book in my science fiction series with HarperCollins, and it’s a blast, too.

I’ve also done a few events recently. I did a wonderful visit at Saint James School in Montgomery, Alabama (thanks, Benji!), participated in the Children’s Literature Festival at Truman State University, and presented at the conference of the International Reading Association in San Antonio with Matt de la Peña. I’d never been to San Antonio before. Can someone explain the river thing? I mean, was it a real river at some point?

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I also got some new author photos taken. The result of which was this:

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And this:

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Many thanks to the talented Naomi Leu, who took the photos. If you live in the Salt Lake area and you’re looking for a photographer for yourself, your wedding, or another event,  I highly recommend her. (You can find more about her here.)

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I’ll be teaching at a few upcoming workshops.

The first will be the midyear workshop of the Florida regional chapter of the SCBWI. You can find out more about that here.

The next will be my Advanced Novel class at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers workshop. I’ve mentioned that conference many times here before. It’s the place where I met my agent and got my start. If you’d like to register for my class, or the classes of any of the other amazing faculty members, check it out here.

Rounding out the month of June will be the Jackson Hole Writers Conference. To register and find out more, go here.