May 10, 2013
For years, Jersey City, a place with a population of nearly 250,000, didn’t have an independent bookstore. Tachair Bookshoppe filled the void last year and is already a fixture in the downtown community, a place where you can go to read, drink coffee, catch a musical performance, and see paintings from local artists. Tachair is Gaelic for a meeting place and I hope you will meet me there for some readings from DWEEB, The Only Ones, and (possibly), The Riverman.
- When: Sunday, May 19 at 5:30 PM
- Where: Tachair Bookshoppe at 260 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ
- How: Drive or take the PATH train to Grove Street and walk northwest on Newark Avenue until you reach 2nd Street
- Why: Because it will be fun!
This world needs more places like Tachair. Like them on Facebook for even more information. And please come out and support them…and me!
May 4, 2013
After reading A 2-Year-Old Judges Books By Their Covers, I decided to ask a 36-year-old (i.e. myself) to go through the same exercise. Hilarious…and adorable.
1. The Corrections
“It’s about the clash between Eisenhower-era ideals of domesticity/economic stability and the uncertainties and advances of a detached, tech-based world at the turn of a new millenium. I bet there’s a sub-plot with Lithuanian gangsters.”
2. The Great Gatsby
“This book looks like the sort of thing you have to read in AP English and everyone claims to love it, but then everyone seems perfectly willing to let Baz Luhrmann turn it into some loud, razzle-dazzle, jump-cutty tripe.”
“It’s about a little girl who lives in a pretty house with beautiful gardens where she plays and plays and plays. And she lies. A lot.”
4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
“I bet kids will really like this book and will probably want to read more stories by this author so long as someone doesn’t ruin all the fun by telling them that the lion is basically Jesus.”
5. To Kill a Mockingbird
“This looks like something Truman Capote might have written.”
6. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
“I’m gonna agree with the 2-year-old on this one. It’s probably about lion feet that stomp things. Because the only other implication is just…ugh, so grody.”
April 28, 2013
I think a lot about endings. I rarely get far in a writing project if I don’t have at least a basic idea of how it will all turn out. I don’t plan many other plot points, but I need that dim beacon on the horizon. Otherwise, I’m lost. And if I’m lost, so is the reader.
I’m the first to admit that I didn’t nail the ending of my debut novel, DWEEB. Sure, it contains surprising revelations and the ridiculous moments of the book crescendo into an even more ridiculous finale, but not enough is logically or emotionally resolved. I always viewed DWEEB as an origin story. I planned it as a prelude to bigger adventures (adventures that probably won’t happen if one is to trust royalty statements). And while I don’t regret my choice of endings, I understand the disappointment that readers have when they reach the last page and say, “Is that all, bub?”
I feel the opposite way about The Only Ones. The ending, while open to interpretation, is all about resolution. Sure, there are some unanswered questions and I could tell more tales set in the world of The Only Ones, but as a stand-alone novel, it accomplishes what it set out to do. At least for me. And at least for a few other readers. People who really enjoy that book, enjoy it because of how it ends. But here’s the rub. People who really hate that book, hate it because of how it ends.
In books, the ending is everything. For that reason, books are different than music, or even movies. You can listen to a piece of music and simply enjoy the melody or lyrics. If it fades out early or comes to an abrupt stop, it’s rarely disappointing. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Well, that was a really interesting and lovely Bob Dylan song, but I can’t recommend it because I just didn’t believe the ending.”
You can also go to a movie, enjoy the heck out of it, and accept a bad ending. I’ve certainly heard people say, “Well, that was a lot a fun, even if the last twenty minutes were total hogwash. I can’t wait for it to come out on Blu-Ray!”
Obviously, a piece of music or a movie with a fantastic ending will be justly celebrated, and yet it’s not necessarily what makes or breaks them for an audience. But since a book is an investment of significant time, and since a book invites readers to linger over the final pages, the ending is everything.
The main complaint about the ending of The Only Ones is that people don’t understand it. This is something I anticipated. I didn’t want everyone to understand it, but I did want people to at least take some time to think about it. What I’ve found is that some readers finish the the book, shrug their shoulders and say, “well that didn’t make a lick of sense,” and then they throw the book at the wall.
“Oh well,” I tell myself. “So it isn’t for everyone. Neither is black licorice. And god bless black licorice for being black licorice.”
But it clearly bugs me. I wouldn’t be writing this if it didn’t. It bugs me even more when readers reveal the ending in an online review. “Hey everyone! Don’t read this book! Turns out there’s black licorice at the end! I was hoping for peanut butter cups. Heck, I’d have even settled for Necco Wafers. But it’s black licorice, people!”
To be fair, readers who enjoy the book sometimes do the same thing. “There’s black licorice at the end! What a surprise! Hurrah! Black licorice!” I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I also appreciate a spoiler-alert every now and then. Because I believe that while spoilers may attract a few new readers who will enjoy the book, or dissuade a few new readers who won’t enjoy the book, spoilers definitely steal a bit of the book’s currency. Part of a book’s value is its ability to surprise.
I just sent in the final copy-edits for The Riverman. Within a month or two, it will be falling into the hands of people who know very little about it. You might be one of those people. I can confidently say that the ending of The Riverman is more satisfying than the ending of DWEEB and not quite as mind-boggling as the ending of The Only Ones. Whether this means it will be more successful, I have no idea. Still, I hope it surprises you, and if it inspires you to throw the book at the wall or to hug it like a fresh-from-the-dryer teddy bear, then I hope you go online and air your grievances or sing some praises. But when it comes to discussing the ending, please just say one of the following:
- Black. Friggin’. Licorice.
- Holy Cow! Black Licorice!
We’ll all understand what it means.
April 19, 2013
I’m giving away books! Not my books, mind you, but copies of a little-known novel by a precocious young writer named Maggie Atwood (I think it’s about DIY projects or something*). Here are the details:
Come on by and grab a copy while supplies last!
*I know the book isn’t about DIY projects. But it is about Etsy, right?
February 27, 2013
Storytelling. It’s what got me into this mess. I’ve never been one of those people who says, “I write because I adore language” or “I have a love affair with words,” because that’s a little obvious and a little weird. Most of us adore language–it’s how we connect with other people, after all. Even the greatest recluses write manifestos or novels about boys in hunting caps from time to time. And love affair with words? I can assure you that antidisestablishmentarianism doesn’t feel the same way about you as you feel about it. No, the reason I write is because I want to share stories. I adore a tale well told. I save the love affairs for my wife.
My latest book is called The Riverman (née The Legend of Fiona Loomis) and it’s about storytelling, among other things. It’s about fairy tales and lies and misunderstandings and anecdotes and memoirs and how when you tell a story, you release it into the world and it goes on a bit of a rumspringa. It may inspire joy. It may wreak havoc. It changes things, and it never comes back the same.
The Riverman is still nearly a year away from bookstores, so to soldier through the first few months of waiting, I’ve asked some fellow authors to visit this blog and distract us. I’ve asked them to tell stories. No explanations, no apologies, no rules. Just stories, set free to do what they will. I guarantee that you’re going to enjoy these tales because they’ll be coming from talented and generous people who make a living making us laugh, making us gasp and making us want to hear more.