Monday, August 24, 2015

Rick's Recent Reads for August

I'm not sure what compelled me to pick up this book, but that's true of many books I read. I simply felt like it was something I needed to read at that moment, and I'm very glad I did.

Between the World and Me is written as a letter/essay from Coates to his fifteen-year-old son, trying to come to terms with what it means to grow up as an African American male in 2015. I almost said "make sense of what it means," but Coates' story is not so much about making sense as it is about finding one's place in a nonsensical context. He does not believe there is an answer to race relations. He believes (as I interpret it) that racial conflict is in itself an artificial construct and part of the Dream that keeps one group in power over another.

This is not a book written to explain the African American experience to white people (or as Coates likes to say, people who believe they are white.) As a middle-aged white guy, I am in no way the intended audience for this book. Perhaps that's what made it such an enlightening read for me. There was no sugar-coating, no careful racial diplomacy, no worry about mediating opinions to cater to what white people might be able to hear. It was just a heartfelt, raw, painful and honest letter from a father to a son, laying plain Coates' worry, anger, frustration, and fear for his son's future in light of Coates' own past and the world his son will grow up in. (There again: I almost said 'the world he will inherit,' but Coates would be quick to point out that this is white thinking. We grow up believing we can inherit the future of our country, whereas African Americans grow up hearing a very different message.)

Coates' most powerful assertion: doing violence to the African American body is an American legacy and tradition. It is not a failure of the system. It is part of the system. As much as may have changed in the past decades, the past centuries, the basic fear of African American parents remains: that their children can be snatched away, brutalized, killed for the smallest of reasons or no reason at all, and too often this violence is never addressed as anything more than an unavoidable force of nature like a hurricane.

We all tend to gravitate toward books that reflect our own experience, toward characters who look and act the way we do. I believe many white readers, if they are honest with themselves, will think, If I'm a white person, why should I read a book about African Americans? That doesn't have anything to do with me. Whites have the privilege of not thinking about race until some violence flares up on the news, and then we think of the issue as a fire to put out, not a sign of some endemic problem. This was true when I was growing up in Texas in the 70s and 80s. It was true when I taught in San Francisco in the 90s. It's still true here in Boston in the 2010s. African Americans don't have the luxury of thinking about race only when it suits them. It is an omnipresent fact of life and death. It makes their experience of American society fundamentally different and exponentially more complicated. That's exactly why I'd recommend this book to white readers. Our bubble can be pretty thick. It is important for us to step outside ourselves.

Coates offers no answers, easy or otherwise. He believes in no grand vision. But he offers his son an honest assessment of his own experience and his own evolving thoughts on America. That's what rang true to me: a father talking candidly and caringly with his son.  That's common ground I share with the author, as different as our experiences may be. This is a short book, easily finished in a couple of sittings, but it packs a punch. These issues aren't going away. They are only going to become more pressing. Read the book!

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin.

I picked up this book after reading a thought-provoking article about the author in The Guardian. I really liked what she said about coming to fantasy with no interest in maintaining the status quo. She's right that so many fantasy books are about restoring order to a kingdom, returning a rightful heir to the throne, or getting back to the good old days by defeating some dark power that threatens to unbalance society. Jemisin, as an African American female writer, says this simply doesn't resonate with her or interest her, and why should it? Instead, she writes science fiction which challenges those in power, threatens the ordered society, and questions whether the good old days ever existed. I like books that force me to rethink paradigms, so I decided to check out her work.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a wonderful read. The first book of a trilogy, it introduces us to Yeine Darr, an outcast from the ruling family of Sky and the product of an unsanctioned biracial marriage, who is summoned home to the palace and suddenly made one of three heirs to the throne for reasons unclear. Soon she is locked in a cold war with her two cousins, both of whom have much more power and understanding of politics. But Yeine gains some powerful if unstable allies: the Enefadah, gods who were enslaved by the ruling family after those deities lost a war against the Lord of Light, the patron god of Sky.

You know me. I can't resist a good book with gods knocking around, causing chaos among mortals. I loved the mythology Jemisin created, and how she turned the bright shiny castle with the glorious white king and the heavenly patron god into just about the most horrible place you can image. I'm looking forward to the next two books, though after that ending (NO SPOILERS, BUT WOW) I have no idea where she will go with the story!

My other favorite read this month was Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon. I reviewed it for the New York Times Book Review, so I'll let you read the whole story there: . Suffice to say the book was a fantastic middle grade adventure that breathes new life into the myth of Robin Hood. If you're looking for a page-turner for young readers, check it out!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

London Blogging

Becky and I just returned from a lightning-fast trip to London to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet at the Barbican. As a proud card-carrying cumberbro, how could I not? More on the play anon . . .

We used our limited time to good effect -- seeing many things and getting in some research. (Always research!) I had never visited St. Paul's Cathedral or crossed the Millennium Bridge, so we did both. I was glad to see Lord Nelson's tomb, since (MINOR SPOILER) he makes a cameo in The Sword of Summer. I was also happy to visit the Tate Modern and see the reconstructed Shakespeare's Globe, which I hadn't visited in almost twenty years. (Yikes!)

We then took a trip through the Museum of London. Here, I contemplate what I could do with these Viking axes. Hmm . . .

We visited the National Gallery just in time for a strike by the staff, so we did not get to see most of the collection, but I did get to check out Botticelli's Venus and Mars. Mars looks like he needs some caffeine in the worst way.

We took a trip down Whitehall to see the usual stuff: Parliament, Westminster Abbey, that clock tower thingie.

The picture above is so British you can almost smell the fish and chips.

I also spotted Rainbow the hippocampus:

One of the highlights of the visit was getting to see live gladiator fighting on the site of the ancient arena of Londinium, sponsored by the Museum of London.

Emperor Domitian arrived by chariot:

The priestess of Nemesis and her attendants blessed the arena with rosewater:

Then the gladiators went at it:

I learned a thing or two about gladiator fighting styles. I also learned I would not want to get on Domitian's bad side.

And finally, the reason for our trip -- Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch.

(This is not my photograph. The theater staff were rightly very strict about not allowing photography.)

So how was it? As a production of Hamlet, I'd give it about a 7 out of 10. Cumberbatch himself was excellent, but the staging was clunky and at times even silly. It certainly wasn't what you might call nuanced. (MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW) During Hamlet's soliloquies, the actors in the background would go into slow motion to show that time was nearly stopped. Sometimes this worked all right to show us that Hamlet was speaking only in his mind, but it was also distracting to see people in the background moving at varying slow speeds. You could almost imagine the soundtrack, "Nooooooooooooo."

To suggest chaos and confusion, and fluid time, the actors would help change sets, some of them moving in slow motion or fast motion, others moving backwards. Again, I don't think it was meant to be funny, but it was comical for all the wrong reasons.

Toward the end, I almost lost it when Hamlet was about to kill Laertes and the fight scene suddenly froze, while all the other characters burst into silent ballet moves around him. I avoided laughing out loud, barely, but it was just silly.

As an excuse to see Benedict Cumberbatch live on stage (which let's be honest, is why everyone was there), I'd give the play 10 out of 10. His physical comedy was wonderful as he played Hamlet going mad, dressed as a toy soldier shooting imaginary enemies from his play fort. He inhabited the part of Hamlet convincingly and delivered his lines with pathos and dark humor. He is, as we know, a very fine actor.

What I loved most? It got a lot of people to a Shakespeare play that probably wouldn't have gone otherwise. Not the best Hamlet I've seen, no, but it was an entertaining night and well worth the trip from Boston to see Cumberbatch take on the role.

And now we're back in Boston and I'm back to writing, with some fresh ideas about axes and swords and maybe even a murderous Dane or two. I'll keep you posted, Horatio . . .

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rick's Recent Reads for July

 Looking for a good read for the remainder of the summer? Here are my latest recommendations. All these are adult titles, though many of them would be perfectly good for YA readers. As I've mentioned before, I only blog about the books I enjoy. You might not like each one, but maybe some will catch your interest. All of these worked for me!

Brand New Ancients
by Kate Tempest

Adult narrative poetry.

I was drawn to this narrative poem by the cover – Ancient Greeks toting briefcases and smart phones. That’s right down my alley. I understand Ms. Tempest is an accomplished musician as well as a poet, and this short book has a lyrical, musical quality. The preface notes that it is to be read aloud. I can see why. The tone and performance elements remind me of the Beat poetry of the 1950s and 60s. “Winged sandals tearing up the pavement” is a line that one can imagine from Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

This is a very short read, with stanzas musing on the constancy of the human condition and how we really haven’t come so far from the days when Zeus and Hera might have walked among us. But the real power of the poem is Tempest’s narrative. She deftly weaves together two generations of modern families, telling stories of love, betrayal, anger and revenge with a minimum of verbiage. It’s truly impressive how much story and characterization get packed into such a small number of pages. Tempest effectively translates Greek tragedy to modern England. 

Station Eleven
by Emily St. John-Mandel

Adult speculative fiction

Even since reading The Stand by Stephen King when I was a kid, I’ve had a soft spot for apocalyptic plagues that wipe out humanity. Er . . . I mean in fiction, of course. Station Eleven is in that vein.

The Georgia Flu sweeps across the world, killing most of humanity. St. John-Mandel, using beautiful prose and poignant characterization, follows the lives of various survivors, tracing how their lives intersect in a group of entertainers called the Traveling Symphony. The thread that connects their stories is Arthur Leander, an aging Hollywood star who – on the same night that the plague began destroying civilization – was trying to reboot his career when he died on stage in Toronto during King Lear. We jump back and forth in time, watching how his life influenced what will happen to our band of survivors.

If you’re a fan of the TV series The Last Ship or books like The Stand, you may enjoy the premise and the way St. John-Mandel evokes a world without the trappings of modern civilization. The end of the novel hints at mysteries yet to solve for our heroes. I hope this means a sequel is in the works . . .

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

Adult fiction

This book is getting a lot of well-deserved attention for its unique story and its beautiful writing. It starts late in World War II, as the Allies begin shelling the French city of Saint-Malo to drive out the remaining Nazi troops. Our two main characters are Marie Laure, a blind French girl who fled here with her uncle from Paris, and Werner, a radio expert in the German army who is stuck in the city when the attack begins. We jump back and forth in time, and between the two characters’ perspectives to see how both young people were brought to this place.

If you like straight-ahead, linear, plot-driven war novels, this is not the book for you. It does have a central plot that brings the two characters together – a mystery about a possibly magic gem hunted by an evil, terminally ill Nazi officer – but that is almost beside the point. In fact it feels like something added after the fact, as if an editor said, “You know, what you need is . . .” That plot, and the way it resolves, strongly echoes the mystery in the movie Titanic.

What kept me turning pages, rather, were the characters’ lives and the short, well-crafted scenes. Doerr’s writing is elegant and evocative. Reading it is like eating the best gelato – so decadent you are sure you’ll put on weight. He treats Marie Laure and Werner with equal empathy, and their interaction – when they finally meet – is not your stereotypical wartime love story. It is much better, much more bittersweet and haunting.

It took me about fifty pages to really get into the book and figure out the structure, but once I did, I couldn’t stop.

Four Seasons in Rome 
by Anthony Doerr

Adult nonfiction

After finishing All the Light We Cannot See, I’ll confess I was a bit addicted to Doerr’s lovely writing. Since we were about to take a trip to Rome, I thought I would pick up this travelogue about Doerr’s year in Rome as a creative writing resident. He describes the city with love and nostalgia, capturing Rome at its funniest and most breathtaking. It’s difficult to say something new about a city that has captured imaginations for millennia, but Doerr manages to do so in this story of an Idaho couple with two toddlers who are thrust into Rome for a year. Again, this is a book you read for the writing. Doerr really knows how to craft a scene and turn a phrase.

The City of Stairs
 by Robert Jackson Bennett

Adult fantasy.

A highly original story involving gods resurrected in a modern world – how could I not be drawn to this? Set in an early industrial world where the two major nations are Bulikov (modeled loosely on Russia) and Saypur (modeled loosely on India), this story starts as a murder mystery and develops into a high fantasy of world-changing magic. Centuries ago, Bulikov had a pantheon of active gods who led their mortal worshippers to victory and made them the dominant world power through magic. Then, somehow, the leader of Saypur found a way to kill gods. Supposedly all the gods either died or disappeared, and soon Saypur was the dominant world power, using science and technology to conquer. Since then, Bulikov has been reduced to a backwater.

The main character, Shara Thivani, arrives in Bulikov to solve the murder of her former mentor, but soon learns there are strange things going on. It’s possible the gods are not dead after all. And if the gods come back, it might threaten Saypur’s power and plunge the world into another civil war.

The world building is great, the action is awesome, and I loved the clash of cultures and belief systems. Definitely recommended for fantasy fans!

The Martian 
by Andy Weir

Adult science thriller.

Love it, love it! A meticulously researched, briskly paced and surprisingly funny story about an astronaut left behind on Mars, presumed dead, who must now figure out how to survive and let the folks back on Earth know he is alive and needs rescue. This is hard-science science fiction. Parts of it read like really complicated (but amusing) word problems, juggling mass and time and weight, etc. But all of that adds to the realism. You can tell Andy Weir loves his space exploration and knows a ton about it. He totally had me convinced, anyway. The Martian is a fast read, and the main character’s irrepressible sense of humor will have you cheering for him as he tries to survive against impossible odds. I will also never eat another potato again. (Long story.)  If you’re looking for a fast-paced, believable space adventure set in present day, this is your book.

The Fold 
by Peter Kline

Adult science fiction

I read this book very quickly – always a sign that I liked it. The story moves along at a brisk pace. The mystery keeps unfolding in increasingly bizarre new layers. A team of scientists discovers a way to teleport matter between two rings – very much like Stargate, though early on we are warned not to make that comparison, because the scientists hate it. The only problem: The team is secretive about how the technology works, and why they insist on testing it for another year before publically announcing the breakthrough. Strange things begin to happen. People from the team start behaving in odd ways. At first, it’s nothing big, but still . . . the powers that be ask Mike Erikson, a man with a perfect memory, to visit the facility and find out what the team is hiding before ruling on whether or not to extend funding. Things get weird (and dangerous) very quickly.

This book is sort of the opposite of All The Light We Cannot See. Read The Fold for the plot, not the writing. The prose is workmanlike and gets the job done, but don’t expect evocative descriptions or nuanced characterization. Sometimes the writing gets in the way, at least it did for me. For instance, the author uses the pacing mechanism “A moment passed” so often that it became unintentionally funny. I was reminded of the old Monty Python sketch: “A moment passed. Another moment passed. Then, suddenly, another moment that seemed like the same moment but was actually a different moment . . . passed.” Despite that nitpicking, the book is a real page-turner. If you want a good beach read that you can finish quickly and don’t have to think about too much, this is great entertainment.

The Water Knife
 by Paolo Bacigalupi

Adult science fiction

Bacigalupi is the master of ecological dystopian novels. He describes the world after climate meltdown in frighteningly believable detail. I loved his novel of a drowned Bangkok, The Windup Girl, and his two young adult novels set in the wastelands of the former U.S. – Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities. The Water Knife is set closer to our own time. The United States still exists, but it is frayed and crumbling. The Western states are competing for scarce water supplies, and the competition is getting ruthless: legal battles, sabotage, paramilitary raids, everything sort of outright war. Given what is happening to our water supplies in America and worldwide, the scenario is scary and gripping. This is not so much science fiction as “this could be us in about forty years if we don’t stop being idiots” fiction.

The story revolves around three characters – a disillusioned reporter who is covering the slow violent death of Phoenix, Arizona, a young girl who is a refugee from the collapsed state of Texas, and a ruthless “water knife” who works for the Las Vegas government to procure water rights at any cost. When someone in Phoenix finds legal documents that could completely change the balance of power, all the players will stop at nothing to get them, and our three protagonists must scramble to make a score before they are destroyed in the crossfire. The plot is great, the characters relatable, but what will really haunt you is how well the author builds this near-future world. It reads less like a fantasy and more like an augury of what will happen to us – and the prediction is not pretty.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Weekend with the President(s)

It was an unusual weekend. We went to New York to kick back, see some shows, hang out with Percy, visit Mount Olympus, etc.  You know, the usual tourist stuff.

Saturday we had miraculously scored tickets to the matinee performance of Hamilton, which we'd heard was THE SHOW to see on Broadway. I taught American history for six years. I'm a sucker for Revolutionary lore. I figured sure!

We left for the theater with tons of time to spare, but ran into a traffic nightmare that was bad even by Manhattan standards. We had no idea what was going on. Finally we got within two blocks of the theater only to find the entire area cordoned off by police. They had barricades. They had snipers on the roofs. They had garbage trucks lined up along the sidewalks forming an impromptu wall of protective metal.

So, okay . . . I figured the president was passing through Manhattan. That's the only thing it could be, and I had been "Obama'ed" once before -- completely unable to move through the city because the president's route cut across Manhattan.

We tried to figure out a way to the theater. No luck from any direction. Police kept turning us back. And then it occurred to me . . . President Obama wasn't passing through. He was going to the same play we were. That's why getting to the theater was impossible.

I was sure we would just have to miss the performance, but a nice staff member from the theater finally found us and a few other stranded folks and got us through the extremely tight security. We missed the first twenty minutes of the show, but we did get seated.

That part pretty much sucked. Trying to leave the show afterwards also sucked. The crowds around Time Square were dangerously packed, like 'New Year's Eve' bad. It seemed like a lot of pain to put Manhattan through so the president could see a play. (Even a president I voted for twice. Cough, cough.)

But, okay. That concludes the griping portion of this blog post, because I'll admit it was very cool to see a show about the birth of the American presidency with the sitting U.S. president in the row right in front of me. Every line in the play seemed more meaningful, more immediate. The jokes were funnier. The subject matter was more charged. When King George talked about all the presidents seeming small after George Washington, I half expected Obama to jump up and engage him in a rap throw-down like the other characters on stage were doing. I can imagine the president was wishing his cabinet meetings were as entertaining as the ones in the play.

Even without Barack Obama in the house, I have to tell you the play was BRILLIANT. I didn't think it could possibly be as good as all the reviews said. It was better. I wish I could be an American history teacher again just so I could take my students to this play. They would learn more in two hours at Hamilton, and have more fun doing it, than in an entire semester of classwork.

The story of Alexander Hamilton's life set to a hip-hop/rap/pop soundtrack may not seem like a natural fit, until you see the play, and then it's impossible to imagine the story any other way. The creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is a freaking genius. The casting of African American and Latino actors  as George Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr, etc. gives an incredible depth to their personalities -- allowing the modern age to truly own the Founding Fathers on so many different levels. Miranda's history is right on the mark. He uses primary sources as the basis for a lot of the songs -- personal letters, speeches, pamphlets -- which is a sure way to a history teacher's heart. But there is nothing dry or boring about this history lesson. Hamilton comes alive on stage. His story is funny and tragic and inspiring. I actually got tears in my eyes at one point, and I do not cry often at performances. King George was a riot. Thomas Jefferson was insanely funny as Hamilton's hip-hop arch-rival. I mean . . . I can't think of anything I didn't like.

Well, I got a little nervous when Becky pulled her eyeglasses out of her pocket and the secret service guys tensed up and glared at her, but fortunately the only guns that were drawn on us were the fake muskets from the stage.

If you have any interest in American history, whatever your politics, you should try to see this play. If you have no interest in American history, you will after you see this play. It's that good.

But President Obama . . . seriously, man. Let's coordinate our schedules so we're not in NYC at the same time. We have to stop meeting like this.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The Sword of Summer Tour!

I'm very excited to share with you the tour dates for Magnus Chase & the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer! The book will be published October 6, 2015, and below is a list of the places I'll be visiting.

If I'm coming to your area, I hope to see you at an event! If you have any questions about a particular event, please contact the sponsoring book store. Don't contact the venue holding the event (especially if it's a place like a public high school) because they won't be able to answer your questions. All contact information is below.


·      Boston: Harvard Book Store – Oct. 5, 7:00 PM

Sponsored by:

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

Event to be held at:

Back Bay Events Center
180 Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02116

$30 Bundled Ticket (General Admission Ticket + Signed Book)
$15 General Admission (Ticket Only)

·      New York: Symphony Space –  Oct. 6, 6:00 PM

Sponsored by and event held at:
Symphony Space 
2537 Broadway at 95th Street 

·      Washington, DC area: Barnes & Noble in Fairfax, VA – Oct. 8, 7:00 PM

Sponsored by:

B&N #2937
12193 Fair Lakes Promenade Drive
Fairfax, VA 22033
703-278-0300 store

Event to be held at:

W. T. Woodson High School
9525 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22033

·      Orlando area: Books a Million in Kissimee, FL – Oct. 9, 6:00 PM

Sponsored by & event held at:

Books-A-Million #520
2605 W. Osceola Parkway
Kissimee, FL 34741

·      Miami: Books & Books – Oct. 10, 2:00 PM

Sponsored by: 

Books & Books
265 Aragon Avenue
Coral Gables, FL 33134
305-442-4408 store
The Center for Literature & Writing at MDC
Miami Dade College

Event to be held at:

The Chapman Conference Center
300 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33132

·      Houston: Blue Willow Books – Oct. 11, 3:00 PM

Sponsored by: 

Blue Willow Bookshop
14532 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77079

Event to be held at:

Morton Ranch High School, Performing Arts Center
21000 Franz Road
Katy, TX 77449

·      Phoenix: Changing Hands – 10/12, 7:00 PM

Sponsored by:

Changing Hands
300 W. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85013

Event to be held at:

Dobson High School Auditorium
1501 W. Guadalupe Road
Mesa, AZ 85202

·      St. Louis: St. Louis County Library – 10/13, 7:00 PM CT

Sponsored by & event held at:

St. Louis County Library – Headquarters
1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63131

Below are my usual tips and disclaimers if you're planning to come to an event. Very important to read because I don't want anybody going away disappointed!

 What to expect at the events:

We've been doing events differently the last few years as the crowds have gotten larger and larger. Again, check with each location for exact details, but in general, here's what happens:

When I arrive on location, before the event, I will be signing a thousand books. These autographed copies will be available for you to buy. In some cases, they are your ticket into the event. In some cases, you can choose to get a ticket without a book, or both.

The event will be about an hour long. I'll tell you all about how and why I wrote the books. I'll show you behind-the-scenes cover art that was never used. I'll make stupid jokes. I'll give you a sneak peek at my super-secret upcoming projects. And of course I'll answer your questions, as many as we have time for. It's always a blast!

What NOT to expect:

We won't be doing a signing line. There are a lot of reasons for that, but it all boils down to the size of the crowd. Several years ago, I realized that so many people were coming through the signing line that nobody was really getting a chance to meet me. We had to move so fast, just to make sure everyone got through the line, that it just wasn't a quality experience for anybody, including me.  I would either have to do a brief "Hi, how are ya?" speech and then launch straight into signing, or the store would sit me right down to sign. Kids would wait for two or three hours to get a two-second face-to-face with no chance to really interact. I couldn't sign all your books. I couldn't do pictures. I couldn't personalize the books. I couldn't answer individual questions. Well . . . it just wasn't working. 

Back in the old days, I was able to do all of that stuff, and of course everyone understandably wants a selfie with me and wants all of their books signed, but even if I only spent thirty seconds with each fan (which is way too short to do all that) if a thousand fans show up, the signing would last eight hours. You see the problem? Also, to be honest, I'm getting older, and sitting in a chair for so many hours each night was murdering my back.

Because of all this, I decided if we didn't have time to do a quality signing line (and with a thousand folks, there really is no way) we would make it a quality evening, with tons of time for the presentation and lots of Q&A.

Don't bring all your books from home, because I won't be able to sign them, but I wouldn't be able to do that even if we were doing a signing line. There are just too many people with too many copies. The good news: You'll still get a signed copy of The Sword of Summer. You'll get a chance to ask your questions and really feel like you got to know me a little. And you won't have to wait in line for hours and hours!

Hope that makes sense. I'm really excited for each of the events. Of course, every tour I wish we could go to more places, but with my writing schedule we just can't. I know you guys want the books to come out as quickly as possible, and that means I have to spend most of my time writing.

Why am I not coming to (insert name of your country here)?

Apologies to all my international fans. I've been invited to so many amazing countries, and I'd like to visit them all, but sadly it just isn't possible. We can't even cover more than a fraction of the US in the time that we have. There's only one of me, and I have to spend most of my time writing the next books. As I always tell people, however, the main way that I communicate with you is through my books. I may not be able to meet you in person, but the best way to get to know me is to read the books. Each one is a private conversation between me and the reader, and I love you guys! You're all awesome. So if I get to see you on the tour, fantastic, but either way, I hope you'll enjoy The Sword of Summer!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Demigods of Olympus

If you missed the interactive stories in the Demigods of Olympus app, never fear!

The Demigods of Olympus: An Interactive Adventure, will be released as an e-book, on-sale at all e-retailers on July 14.

You are the demigod, and your quest begins! Use your skills in this interactive and customizable e-book. Combining four short stories, "The Two-Headed Guidance Counselor," "The Library of Deadly Weapons," "My Demon Satyr Tea Party,” and "My Personal Zombie Apocalypse," your choices will have consequences in this demigod adventure.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Summer Visit to the MFA

I always have a good time at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Becky and I took a stroll through the ancient Greek and Roman collection yesterday and found some unexpected surprises.

Now first . . . this Assyrian demigod. According to the description, he is holding two animals "who are urinating on him to purify him." Say what? We can all be glad that the Greek demigods at Camp Half-Blood do NOT practice this ritual.

This Persian lion was pretty cool, however, sinking his teeth into a bull. He looks kind of like a robotic lion, doesn't he? I'll have to ask Hephaestus.

Moving on to the Greek section, this frieze from a temple of Athena shows a guy chasing a group of centaurs with a bow. Apparently the centaurs did not realize they could just turn around and stampede the puny mortal. Or perhaps they are running because someone told them there was a sale on root beer nearby.

These sphinxes are hanging out in the teachers' lounge, anxiously discussing their standardized test results.

I'd never seen anything like this before -- a ceramic oil container decorated with the birth of Aphrodite. It looks like some cheap souvenir you'd see in a gift shop, but this is thousands of years old. I'm kind of amazed it survived intact. Aphrodite must have protected it.

I love this completely accurate and dignified picture of Hera from one of the Greek vases. She looks beautiful, doesn't she?

Here is Zeus chasing Ganymede, one of his mortal boyfriends. What can I say? Like most of the gods, Zeus had boyfriends as well as girlfriends. Zeus was attracted to Ganymede's good looks. Judging from the picture, Ganymede also had mad skills with the Hula-Hoop.

Apollo, getting ready to shoot somebody. It works better if you put the arrow in the bow, Apollo.

Hercules fighting the Hydra in one of John Singer Sargent's murals. Doesn't Hercules look like Rama from Indian mythology with the blue skin?

Scylla the sea monster on top of a ceramic vase. Why you would want a Scylla vase, I'm not sure. Maybe to pour Scylla-Aid, grape flavored. Oh, yeah!

It's a mask! It's a cup! It's both! I'd never heard of these before, but apparently eye cups were all the rage at Bacchanalian parties. You would drink to Dionysus, and by lifting the cup to your face, you would "become" the god by having his mask over your face. Warning: do not drink and drive, especially with a ceramic cup over your face. Those painted eyes will not do you much good on the highway.

A tiny ceramic Nike, holding a comedy mask. Why? I don't know. She doesn't have much of a sense of humor.

Another lion, snacking on the head of a horse. Or maybe they're just cuddling.

Nobody knows what the Athena Parthenos looked like, but here is a Roman replica that looks pretty fierce. I'm wondering if beer cups with straws were once attached to either side of that helmet.

Perseus rips the head off Medusa and rides away while Pegasus tramples his mother's corpse. Not sure that's how it happened in the myth, but whatever. Notice Perseus is handing off the head to Athena as he rides away, because Perseus is trying to work on his passing game.

Most of the statues of Dionysus make him look creepy and crazed, but here the god of wine looks almost calm and normal. Something is obviously wrong . . .

A Chinese tapir FOR NO APPARENT REASON, but I thought it was cute.

Why is Icarus kissing the Egyptian sphinx? I don't know. You'll have to ask John Singer Sargent. What happens in Giza, stays in Giza.

Great statue of Eros -- captures some of that threatening, not-so-cute personality you get in House of Hades.

One of the many bronze spare parts the museum has, just in case Hephaestus needs to repair one of his automatons.

Hermes carries the baby Dionysus to the nymphs who will raise him. Why is Hermes carrying out this important task buck naked? Maybe he was in a huge hurry to get the kid to safety. Couldn't be bothered to put on pants. He's a god. Don't judge.

That's just a small sample of the collection at the MFA. If you want to visit, see if you can follow my footsteps and find the stuff we saw!