Category: Books

Thoughts from a Book Tour

I’ve been traveling quite a bit, off and on, over the last month or so. I visited several cities, a few amazing bookstores, and numerous schools. The people I meet often wonder what a book tour is like. Some people assume it’s glamorous, and on occasion it does kind of feel that way. Some people assume it’s exhausting, and it can be. Some people figure it’s probably not all it’s cracked up to be, and that’s true, too. It’s all of those things, and I love it. But here is the important thing to remember: I am very, very lucky to be given the opportunity.

There are a lot of authors whose publishers don’t support them or their work in that way. Marketing budgets are limited, choices are made, and it is not always fair. I’ve been on both sides of those decisions. I’ve toured for some of my books, and I’ve had little to no publisher support for others, so I feel very fortunate and grateful when I’m given the opportunity to get out there and meet fans and readers. I try very hard not to take that for granted, because who knows when I’ll have that opportunity again. I try very hard to remember the times I didn’t travel anywhere, and I think about the writers I admire who should probably be out there on the road instead of me. When I visit bookstores on tour, I make a point to mention the books I love by other writers to the booksellers and readers. If I have room in my luggage, I buy books by other writers from those bookstores. I talk to kids about other writers and other books, because in the end, it’s all about turning young readers into life-long readers. It’s about making better humans, and books are perfect tools for that. If my being in a school, a library, or a bookstore can help build that excitement in young readers, then I’m honored to be given that chance, and I will always do my best.

P.S. A book tour wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication of an amazing publicist. They work tirelessly behind the scenes (and after-hours) to make sure book tours are as successful as they can possibly be. I’ve been so lucky to work with Lauren Felsenstein Bonifacius and Emma Brockway. Now I work with Monica Palenzuela, and if you ever get the chance to make candles with her, don’t pass it up.

Last Descendants giveaway!

AC_cover_412v3I’ve got a couple of signings coming up this Saturday, and I thought it might be cool to make them part of a giveaway. So come by either bookstore, say hi, and enter yourself for a chance to win an advance reader copy of Last Descendants, my Assassin’s Creed novel coming out this fall. Both events are on the same day – Saturday, June 11th – at different times and locations, so take your pick.

The first event:

3:00 pm

Barnes & Noble – Layton Market Center

1780 North Woodland Park Drive

Layton, UT

The second event:

7:00 pm

Barnes & Noble – Gateway Crossing

340 South 500 West

Bountiful, UT

Hope to see lots of you there!

Assassin’s Creed!

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So, the word is out now, and I can finally talk about something I’ve been up to since last year. I’ll be writing an original YA Assassin’s Creed series, which is incredible, and to help me out with everyone’s questions, I’ve asked the made-of-straw, ever-inquisitive FAQman to join us.

Hey, FAQman!

Hey. Listen, I’ve got some questions.

I thought you might. So let’s get started.

Okay, so first thing, Assassin’s Creed?? HOLY CRAP

I know! Can you believe it?

No. Who are you?

I . . . I’m an author.

I know, but like, what have you written?

Well, if you look over in the sidebar of this blog, you’ll see some of my stuff. So far, it’s been mostly middle grade novels. But you’ll notice most of it takes place in different historical settings, and usually with some kind of speculative twist. I love playing with history. Especially secret histories. That’s why writing for Assassin’s Creed was such a perfect fit for me.

How did this whole thing happen?

Well, last year I got an email from an editor at Scholastic, my publisher. They had just partnered with Ubisoft, and they were looking for someone to write an original Assassin’s Creed series. They asked if I’d be interested, and I said YES WHERE DO I SIGN.

So why did they ask you?

Short answer, because I’m incredibly lucky. Longer answer, because the editor knew the kind of historical stuff I like to research and write, he knew I’m a gamer, and I can usually turn projects around pretty quickly.

You’re a gamer?

Yes, but nowadays, because I’m so busy, a pretty casual gamer. (Except for Skyrim – I spent a not-casual number of hours on that game.) I started gaming when I was a kid, playing the King’s Quest series, Quest for Glory series, and other Sierra games on my family’s Atari ST computer. (Remember those? The thing had amazing sound and graphics, but adorably, no hard drive.) I’m mostly into PC games these days as well, but I grew up playing all the Nintendo consoles. I’ve been drawn to the world of Assassin’s Creed from the first game, and Prince of Persia before that. But like I said, I’m pretty busy these days, so I’ve just watched my step-son play through the last two Assassin’s Creed games.

And now you’re writing an Assassin’s Creed series.

Yes. Like I said, I’m incredibly lucky.

Is your series tied to any of the games or the movie that’s coming out?

No, this is an all-new story, but fans of the games and graphic novels will notice some familiar names and connections.

So what’s your story about?

Here’s the official synopsis of the first book:

Nothing in Owen’s life has been right since his father died in prison, accused of a crime Owen is certain he didn’t commit. Monroe, the IT guy at school, might finally bring Owen the means to clear his father’s name by letting him use an Animus – a device that lets users explore the genetic memories buried within their own DNA. The experience brings Owen more than he bargained for. During a simulation, Owen uncovers the existence of an ancient and powerful relic long considered a legend – the Trident of Eden. Now two secret organizations will stop at nothing to take possession of this artifact – the Brotherhood of Assassins, and the Templar Order. It soon becomes clear the only way to save himself is to find the Trident first.

Under the guidance of Monroe, Owen and a group of other teenagers go into a memory they all share within their DNA: the 1863 Draft Riots in New York City. Owen and his companions will find themselves tested on the violent streets of New York, and their experiences in the past will have far-reaching consequences in the present.

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How has it been working with Ubisoft?

Honestly, it’s been an incredible experience so far. Everyone I’ve worked with has been so supportive and enthusiastic about what I wanted to do with this story.

How much freedom did they give you?

A lot, actually. We had a meeting where they discussed their vision for the story in really broad strokes, but after that I was basically allowed to come up with whatever I wanted. I was able to pick the time periods, create the characters, the plot, all of it. Then I sent it back to them, and the collaboration began, which again, has been amazing. Ubisoft Montreal has some really talented, creative people, and it has never felt like anything was imposed on me. We were all just part of a team working to create a series that would expand and enrich the world of Assassin’s Creed, which itself has almost endless storytelling possibilities.

What do you know about the movie?

A little. I know what I need to know to write my story. They actually asked if I wanted to read the script, but I said no, because I want to go into the theater and be surprised and blown away like everyone else. I think it’s going to be really, really good.

So, is it going to–

I really can’t tell you anything about the movie. Do you have any other questions?

Not at the moment. But if I think of any, I’ll come back and ask you.

Of course. Thanks, FAQman.

If you have any questions that he didn’t ask, feel free to drop them in the comments.

UPDATE

Publishers Weekly did a write up here

As did IGN here

And Game Informer here

And Game Spot here

FURTHER UPDATE

A video announcement of the series:

 

EVEN FURTHER UPDATE:

FAQman heard there was a great question in the comments, so he decided to come back and ask.

Yeah, I’m back. So when will the first book come out? When can I pre-order it?

The first book is scheduled to be released in September 2016, with the second to follow in January 2017. I don’t have firm release dates yet, but as soon as I do, I’ll post them here and on twitter. Same with the option to pre-order. Good question!

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A Taste for Monsters cover reveal!

Back in 2010, I was at the annual ALA conference in Washington D.C., and my editor, Lisa, and I had left the conference to do some exploring at the Smithsonian. As we walked along the National Mall, I told her about an idea for a book that featured the Elephant Man and Jack the Ripper, both of whom occupied a relatively small area of London’s East End, at the same time. As I talked, we both got the chills, (even though it was D.C. in the summer, and therefore uncomfortably hot and humid) and she said something like, “You have to write that book one day, when the time is right.”

That time came last year, and this year on September 27th, that book will be released. It’s called A Taste for Monsters, and I’m really excited to share the cover with you here:

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Here’s the official summary:

IT’S LONDON 1888, and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing the people of the city. Evelyn, a young woman disfigured by her dangerous work in a matchstick factory, who has nowhere to go, does not know what to make of her new position as a maid to the Elephant Man in the London Hospital. Evelyn wants to be locked away from the world, like he is, shut in from the filth and dangers of the streets. But in Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, she finds a gentle kindred who does not recoil from her and who understands her pain. When the murders begin, however, Joseph and Evelyn are haunted nightly by the ghosts of the Ripper’s dead, setting Evelyn on a path to facing her fears and uncovering humanity’s worst nightmares.

A Taste for Monsters is a terrifying and haunting tale of the monstrosity of men and the salvation one may find in the unlikeliest places, from Edgar Award–winning author Matthew J. Kirby.

YA Book Central is hosting a giveaway on their blog for an ARC, so if you’re interested in entering, click here.

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.

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!

 

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