Monday, January 30, 2012

Minnesota Book Awards

The 2012 Minnesota Book Awards finalists have been announced! The Big Crunch is among the four finalists for the best Young People's Literature award, along with The Books of Elsewhere: Spellbound by Jacqueline West, The Tanglewood Terror by Kurtis Scaletta, and With or Without You by Brian Farrey.

Here's the full list of finalists. Winners will be announced on April 14th at the Minnesota Book Awards Gala. It's a really fun event—if you can score tickets, go! Tickets are $45 (cheaper than dinner and a movie) and are available here or by calling 651-222-3242.

This is Jacqueline West's second consecutive appearance as a finalist. I haven't read her book, but she's a really nice person so I know the book must be fabulous. And it's her turn.

I did read Kurtis Scaletta's book, and it is wonderful. Plus, it features glowing mushrooms, and I am a sucker for all things mycelial. 

Note: The perception among *some* authors is that YA books get taken more seriously by the judges, while funny, action-oriented books for younger readers are not given their due. The selection of the above two "middle grade" novels puts the lie to that. Or maybe the books are SO GOOD that the judges were forced to overcome their prejudices. 

I have not read Brian Farrey's book, but he has a cat named Meowzebub, and we have a mutual affection for the Fifth Doctor (the one with the Panama hat), so I figure his novel is a shoo-in.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

No Limit and Mr. Was: the Corrected Editions

My two YA books about poker player Denn Doyle have been reissued with new covers. I'm very happy about this because every copy of the previous edition of No Limit was missing three pages! The cover designs are quite different from my other books. I wanted them to put a warrior goddess battling dragons and zombies on the cover, but that's why I'm not doing graphic design anymore.

Mr. Was has also been repackaged in a (slightly) revised edition. I think I changed about five or six lines of text to correct some time-travel-related anachronisms (an oxymoron, I believe). I'm pleased that the new edition is coming out now, because Mr. Was is the precursor (not prequel!) to The Obsidian Blade (check out the video!), which will be arriving in April.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Free Book Reports

Looking at the “webstats” for my website, I’ve noticed that for the past three years the single most popular page (other than the home page) has been the free book reports. Why is the book reports page so popular? I’ve never done anything to promote them, and the link to them is not prominently featured on my home page. How are people getting there?

The answer is revealed in the webstats, which list the key words used in Google searches that lead to the book reports page.

Imagine yourself at age fourteen. It is 2:20 a.m. You have been playing World of Warcraft for three hours. Your book report on Godless is due in six hours, and somehow you never quite finished reading the book. Time to get creative! What do you type into Google?

And what pops up first on the search results?


Except…Pete Hautman’s book reports turn out to be not all that good. I would love to know if any of them have ever made it to a teacher’s desk.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Weather Report

In Minnesota we love to complain about the cold and snow. This year Minnesotans are kvetching about the warmth and dryness. Not me though. I like it. So does Mary. It was 54 degrees yesterday. I went for a run in shorts and a T-shirt, and I got overheated.
Last year
This year

New Website!

Amanita muscaria
I finally got around to buffing up my tired old website. Although the new site is not awesome, it's clean and easy to navigate. I added a bunch of stuff like videos, free book reports, and (ta-da!) a mushroom page.

Of course, being that it's a new site, there will be glitches. If you spot any, please let me know!

Check it out:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Why I Wrote a "Romantic Comedy"

What Boys Really Want is now officially available in bookstores. 

This is an unusual (for me) book—a romantic comedy, of all things. Allow me to explain.

Way back in the latter years of the last millennium, I suggested to my partner, Mary Logue, that we write a book together. "It will be fun!" I said. "I have an idea."

The book would be loosely based on a true story. Many years ago, when I was in high school, one of my shirttail relatives (second cousin once removed, I think) decided to earn some money by writing, publishing, and selling a small handbook to his classmates. The title of the book was something like "How to Please a Boy."  He printed hundred or so copies, and had some success selling them at school. Later, I learned that his book had been cribbed from the "Wendy Ward Charm Book." (The Wendy Ward Charm School was a popular program offered by Montgomery Ward department stores. It taught young ladies how to dress, behave, enunciate properly, and attract a mate. It was quite popular in the sixties and early seventies.)

With this fuzzy and possibly inaccurate background story, Mary and I began work on our book. It would be a he said/she said story. I would write the boy's parts, Mary would write from the girl's point-of-view. We wrote about six short sections—maybe twenty pages in all—before the project sputtered, coughed, rolled over and died. The problem, as I recall, was that it was my idea, and I was too directive, too impatient, and too everything else. Also, Mary was working on her own book, and our togetherness project was taking up too much of her time. So we set it aside.

Fast forward five years. While organizing my computer, I came across the abandoned manuscript and reread it. I liked it. I asked Mary if I could take it on solo, and she gave me her blessing. I fiddled around with it for a few more years. After a time the story came together, and now, thirteen years after its inception, it is a book. You will find traces of Mary Logue in the first two chapters, but after that I must take full responsibility. 

What Boys Really Want is available as a bound book, or in ebook format. You can get it here:

Or (best choice) your neighborhood bookseller.