Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Path of Least Resistance

Now come on, did you guys really expect me not to get anything for Mrs. V for our anniversary? I ended up getting her a nice (i.e., expensive) ensemble of clothes from the mall. She especially liked the v-cut sweater from Ann Taylor.

On to other news, I find that I'm really, really confused about the state of Young Adult Literature. Most of us that are trying to write in this field know that it's been in a state of flux for a long time. The old "12-18 year old" range doesn't quite work anymore, and I don't know if anyone has figured out what to do about it. On one end, we have books that are being challenged and even banned (see Cynthia Leitich Smith's post on Brent Hartinger). On the other end, we have more and more authors willingly opting to publish their YA novels as adult fiction.

I'm not sure how I feel about all of this. Maybe by publishing an upper YA as an adult novel, you can circumvent the whole censorship thing. And we all know that teens are reading adult novels, whether we want them to or not (one young girl at one of my school visits asked me about Zane, an erotic fiction author that she just luuuuves). So if teens still have access to our novels, and if we can sidestep the censorship problem, and if in the process we sell a whole lot more books, does adult publishing become the clear choice?

I'm sure some of you have seen this before, but Publishers Weekly has an article concerning the different publishing options some "YA" authors have taken. The biggest thing that jumped out at me: the 200,000 copies that Prep has sold as an adult novel vs the 30,000 that Looking for Alaska has sold as a YA.

Publishing options aside, for those of you in Austin that are interested in writing books featuring teenagers, Cyn and her husband, Greg Leitich Smith, will be speaking at Barnes and Noble, Westlake, this Saturday at 10:30 AM. Their topic: Writing the Young Adult Novel. Be sure to bring paper, pencil and a creative mind.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Perks of Being Married

My 2nd anniversary is tomorrow, and I still haven't gotten my wife a gift.

I know how this sounds, but believe me, I'm really not that absent-minded. I knew November 29th was coming up. Mrs. V and I have been trying to make plans to get away to a little Bed and Breakfast for our anniversary. I knew our schedules were bad, but I figured I could surprise her and sneak her away this weekend. Unfortunately, the professors at UT had something different in mind, because there is no way Mrs. V can afford to lounge around this weekend, with finals and projects looming around the corner. Mrs. V and I consulted our calendars yesterday, and I quickly came to the conclusion that the soonest we could get away would be the beginning of next year.

So my problem is: Can I count a trip in January as an anniversary gift, even though our anniversary would have long passed? Or, am I still obligated to get my wife a gift?

I personally think that the trip still counts, but a few guys at the office have informed me of the error of my ways. Supposedly, a gift only counts if it's given within two weeks of a holiday. I could run off to the mall and get her a gift, but I hate malls, especially during the holiday season. As much as I love my wife, it'll take a lot more than a 2nd anniversary to get me to brave a Dillard's at this time of the year.

Yep, it looks like Mrs. V will be getting a bag of mints and some ice cream sandwiches from the CVS around the corner this anniversary. I know it isn't romantic, but as I've told Mrs. V countless times, you don't have to be romantic when you're married.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope to resume a more normal posting schedule now that I'm through with the bulk of my traveling. I do want to say thanks to everyone in Florence, SC that came out to support the book. We ended up selling over 100 books over the course of the weekend.

I hope everyone has a happy holiday. Don't eat too much turkey.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Big Time

Amazon Ranking as of 11/21/05.....

#130,205!!!

J.K. Rowling, watch out!!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Lessons Learned

I love Texas.

There aren't many other ways to express how I feel after my book signings in Austin and Dallas. Cynthia Leitich Smith and Don Tate have some great observations about the book signing here in Austin at Barnes and Noble, so I won't go into too much detail about it. I will say that I was super-nervous. The only time I've been more nervous was on the day I got married. I consider myself a pretty good speaker, but on the night of my first book signing, I was terrified. It really helped to have so many friends and co-workers there - we had a GREAT turnout. I'll post pictures in a few days.

My book signing in Dallas at Black Images Book Bazaar also went pretty well. I was a lot less nervous, being that I had made it through the first book signing. Again, it was a great turnout, and we actually ran out of stock.

There are a few lessons that I've learned from my book signing experiences:

1) I probably spoke for about 10 minutes too long at B&N. I felt myself rambling during my talk, but I couldn't force myself to stop. I think I did a much better job at Black Images.

2) It helps to have a lot of friends in the audience.

3) I have to be careful not to get on a soapbox when someone asks about something near and dear to my heart. At B&N, a small child asked if I wrote books for kids. Instead of answering his question, I spent five minutes talking about how YA books are so great and that not just teenagers should be reading them and that people are really missing out on a good thing by not reading YA and....well, you get the point. Upper YA books, African-American Literature, and censorship (especially censorship) are topics that really get me riled up.

4) People are very interested in how I came up with the title of the book.

5) People like it when I smile.


In closing, I got my first review from a teenage reader. In her own words, "I finished your book in the same day and i believe it was a really good book and i haven't cried so hard over a book in a long time."

Somehow, that makes all the nervousness worthwhile.

Friday, November 11, 2005

WOW

I just wanted to say one thing to everyone that came out last night for my book signing:

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!!!

I was soooooo nervous, but seeing so many familiar and friendly faces in the crowd made things a lot easier. I promise, I'll post more later, but for right now, I'm literally at a loss for words. Thanks again. As one of my co-workers would say, "You Guys Rock!"

FYI - the novel is now available via Barnes and Noble's website.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Stark Fear

Tomorrow, I have my first book signing at Barnes and Noble (Sunset Valley).

What in the hell have I gotten myself into?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

2944 Days and Counting

October 12, 1997. Will Rogers World Airport. As I sit in the airport, waiting for my brother to arrive, I see a tall, slim, beautifully awkward young woman walk past. She has frizzy red hair; it's so wild that it looks like it has a life of it's own. She has pale, skinny arms that look as thin as straw. She has a radiant smile that momentarily makes me forget that I'm stuck at the airport in the middle of the night.

Even though I never spoke to her, that young woman would be one of the most important people in my life. She was Maxine Phillips. And after a little over eight years, I'm finally getting the chance to share her story with the world.

A lot has changed with Maxine since I first began jotting those notes down that Sunday night. At first, Deke was the narrator. But after a few chapters, I realized Maxine wasn't going to let anyone else tell her story. Maxine still loves comic books, although you wouldn't be able to tell from the published novel. Also, Maxine started off as a Muslim, but she just couldn't give up bacon. The working title of the manuscript was Captain Maxine to the Rescue, and then Family Portraits, and then a bunch of other crappy titles until I lucked up on Red Polka Dot In A World Full of Plaid.

I titled this post 2944 Days and Counting because due to a cover error, the novel's release date had to be pushed back from November 1st as originally planned. However, the folks at Genesis Press and Kensington assured me that the books would go out within the next two weeks. Also, they've already made arrangements for the books to be at all of my book signings, so please come out and get a copy of the book. (I owe Stephanie Nelson, Community Relations Manager at Barnes and Noble-Sunset Valley, a big thank-you for talking to my publisher, and for also calming me down.) I planned to start off this post by complaining about the release delay, but after eight years, I figure I can stand to wait a few more weeks.

At the bottom of this post are a few of my handwritten notes from that night. And yes, my handwriting is atrocious.

When I left the airport that night, I knew I had something special. For those of you that read the novel, I hope you realize the same thing.