About last night . . .

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Last night was fantastic. Fantastic!

I didn't think it would affect me like it did, after all these years. To be honest, I wasn't even all that enthusiastic about it. Sure, when I was nineteen, twenty . . . even when I was, I don't know, twenty-five, I'd've lined up for the opportunity for a night like last night. Heck, I might have waited all night in the rain. But now I'm a grown man. I have a wife, and a son, and a burgeoning writing career. We own a home. It's time to be reasonable about these things.


It became obvious before it even started. Beth and I had just ordered drinks and were just sitting at our mezzanine table when a sudden chill fell over me. My heart skipped a beat and I sat up a little straighter to see a black-clad demure figure move past my shoulder then skirt quickly along the mezzanine. I leaned forward in my chair and said to Beth, "Did you see?" Beth had wondered if that was her. I nodded, then said, resigned, "I think I'm still pretty in love with Suzanne Vega."

From there, my condition just got worse. She opened her set with "Marlena on the Wall," and sure, I love that song, but it was a hit, so of course she opened with it. Next, "Small Blue Thing," and I positively swooned.

There were off moments, from some of the more recent releases that I never connected with quite as well. But there were also stories between songs; there was "Gypsy" and "The Queen and the Soldier," which should probably win the Best Song of All Time Award if the Grammy people ever decide to give it out.

Sorry, Neil Young. I'm going with Suze on this decision. "Cinnamon Girl" can come in second.

Suzanne played encore after encore. Eventually, Beth and I had to leave to get to bed at a reasonable hour, during "The World Before Columbus," and I will find out later today if she continued performing even after that. Just please don't tell me she did "Cracking," because I cannot bear to know that I missed that.

I should also note, in what would typically get its own entry, that the cheeseburger at the Dakota is phenomenal. I'd say it's the best burger I've had in the Cities thus far. Perfectly cooked eight ounces of house-ground angus; a bun with just the right softness, absorbency, and proportions; a thin slice of cheddar that hinted its flavor in every bite; beautifully seasoned meat; a portion of fries that was enough without overwhelming; and the toppings were left off to the side, where I of course decided to leave them. Excellent burger.

All in all, an amazing night at the Dakota (many thanks to the MIL and particularly the FIL for convincing me to go and treating!), and I do very much hope that Suzanne Vega plays there again soon.

The winner is . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Finally the time has come for Eric Stevens to return and announce the winner in his big, multi-book giveaway! So without further ado, here* he is!

Using some very complicated computations, I've come up with a totally random winner of all the comments left on the contest blog entry last week. Our winner is . . .


Thanks, everyone who entered. There will be more giveaways and contests hosted at the Exile in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned. I know Steve has a very exciting one planned for his YA debut, The Absolute Value of -1, that you're not going to want to miss.

*And there's the final, inked, shaded portrait of Eric Stevens by Sean Tiffany, Jake Maddox illustrator extraordinaire!

WIP dreams

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Eric Stevens giveaway is officially closed. I'll announce the winner early next week, and in that post I'll also include the final portrait, with ink and shading, of Eric Stevens, by Sean Tiffany.

Today, I'm back to my current WIP, aka YA MS the Third. It's my genuine obsession. Last night, I dreamed I was the protagonist, running around Greenpoint, visiting a bike repair shop that also served espresso drinks. It was a very cool place, and it was run by a guy named Jim, who I think was a counselor at my sleepaway camp when I was about ten or eleven. I'm not sure the idea of a coffee counter at a bike repair shop would be a good idea in reality*, and I don't think I need to add a cycling motif to the WIP at this point, but it was pleasant to dream about my characters a little. Protagonist wore some really cool jeans, like a member of the Smiths or something.

Speaking of the WIP, it's made the rounds in the Otters (my online crit group) and has gotten some very good and some very . . . errr, constructive comments. Good: nice writing! Bad: no plot! So I have gone back to the beginning and written up a nice beefy synopsis that I think has added quite a lot of tension and hopefully a nice arc and all that story stuff. Now I need to start the rewrite. So what am I doing here, blogging?

*Um, apparently it is a good idea, since there is a popular one right here in the Twin Cities.

One year!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sam's going to bed now. His first birthday was pretty fun: Beth took the day off from work, so we got to spend it as a family. And it started off with a bang: Sam's third tooth broke through overnight. That's a relief. The first celebration was pancakes from scratch for breakfast, which came out better than I thought they would. I mean, I made them, so I figured it would be a mess and we'd end up going out for breakfast. But everyone enjoyed them. After Sam's morning nap, we were off to the Children's Museum for big fun, and then lunch at Tanpopo, which of course was more for Beth than for Sam, but it turned out he enjoyed udon quite a lot. For dinner, we had one of my specialties, known around here as Kafka. It's actually kofta kebab, off the kebab, and spiced with a little Moroccan flare. We have it with tzatziki, a tomato and cucumber salad, and this time with a homemade flatbread Beth just learned to make that was amazing. For the full experience, we then get arrested for a crime we may or may not have committed and end up lost in a maze of bureaucracy.

Anyway, in the morning, we'll start year number two. If it's half as good (for all of us) as Sam's first year, we'll be the happiest family around*.

Beth posted the birth story over at her blog; she set it to auto-post right at 1:43 this morning, Sam's official time of birth. You might not enjoy reading it quite as much as I did, but I think it'll make you smile. It has a very happy ending.

*Yes, in this photo Sam is wearing the hat they put on his head in the hospital when he was born. We posed him in it on his six-month birthday, too. Shut up.

Look at him now!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One year ago today, Beth went into labor.

Sam's first birthday isn't officially until tomorrow, but to me it starts right now. I still have, somewhere in my little notebook that was supposed to be for writing down story ideas or plot notes, several pages of timed contractions from that day.

In other news, you have right around 24 hours left to enter the big Eric Stevens/Jake Maddox giveaway. Even if these aren't your type of books, they make a great package to donate to a local library. I know a lot of the libraries in our area are in need of all the help they can get; yours probably are too! So enter! Click here! Do it today!

"enviable prose"!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Two posts in one day? You better believe it, buster.

The official blurb from Sara Zarr -- author of Once Was Lost, Sweethearts, and National Book Award Finalist Story of a Girl -- for The Absolute Value of -1 is here:
Brezenoff’s enviable prose captures four distinct, compelling characters as they struggle through the often heartbreaking work of becoming adults. Readers will identify with Suzanne, Lily, Noah and Simon as they try to reconcile their longing for connection with their need to break free.
Pardon me while I go pass out. While I recover, enjoy the post from earlier today.

Four items of particular interest

I'm dropping by the blog today to announce a few things of varying importance.

1. I finished When You Reach Me the other night. It's fantastic. I haven't been reading much middle-grade lately, but I used to read it almost exclusively. And let me tell you: instant classic, as they used to say on 102.7 WNEW in New York, Classic Rock. I cried and cried for the last 100 or so pages, for two reasons: I figured out what was going to happen, and I knew the book would have to end at some point. I, of course, did not want it to.

2. You can read the first 50 or 60 pages of Bennett Madison's new book, The Blonde of the Joke, at WeRead.com. He's a brilliant writer, and it's a gorgeous excerpt. It will make you buy the book.

3. The first review of The Absolute Vale of -1 has arrived over at the supersecret blog for the cover project. Though reviews are not officially part of the project, I was happy to learn that the first reader found the book "really awesome!"

4. Finally, don't forget to enter Eric Stevens' huge giveaway. This would make a great prize to donate to a local library. The libraries go crazy for these paper-over-board titles, especially Jake Maddox ones.

An Eric Stevens giveaway!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Since last week's giveaway was such a smash success -- or anyway a fizzling step forward, a little? -- Eric Stevens has decided he'd like to host a contest of his own. So, without further ado, here is Eric Stevens*:

This was going to be a Jake Maddox giveaway. I was going to ask for a favorite school or club sports memory, and I'm sure I would have gotten some great answers. But some other samples have arrived, so now the contest will be for this smashing list of titles:

FIVE Jake Maddox titles, including Field Hockey Firsts, Stock Car Sabotage, Record Run, Half-Pipe Prize, and Disc Golf Drive;

HOPE!: A Story of Change in Obama's America;

and Bandslam: Will's Guide to Music.

Since two titles have been added to the giveaway that are strictly NOT sports related, I've changed the entry question a bit. So here it is:

In the comments below (if you're reading this on Steve's Facebook page, please click over to the original post to submit a comment), briefly recount a favorite or least favorite memory from a school or club sports team, band, or government body/council. Hopefully that will give everyone something they can reflect upon.

I'll announce a winner, selected at random from the comments, around this time next week. Be sure to check back!

The Jake Maddox titles are RL 2.0-3.0, Guided Reading Level M. HOPE! is RL 3.4, Guided Reading Level N.

*Sketch of Eric Stevens by Sean Tiffany, the official and awesome artist for a shocking number of Jake Maddox titles!

Teens really do know best

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I don't have any photos. YET.

Last night, the AE, myself, and the esteemed publicist from Carolrhoda went up to Dayton's Bluff to present |-1|, in all its bound-manuscript glory, to a room full of YAs: the intended audience for |-1|! It's not every author who gets the opportunity to present his work, so early in the production schedule and more than ten months before finished books, directly to teens! So, what gives?

Teens Know Best is a group of teens who, thanks to Adela Peskorz and Metro State University, in collaboration with the Saint Paul Public Library, get together to read, discuss, and review books (usually bound galleys; be jealous--their BG collection is swoon worthy) for young adults. This organization was, I think, the first to supply teen-written reviews to SLJ. They are the real deal, mister. And they're going to help us develop ideas for the cover and overall packaging of The Absolute Value of -1!

Each member has been given a bound manuscript of the book, and, once they've gotten through it, will start brainstorming, and photo hunting, and sketching, and concepting. AE has set up a blog (sorry, it's restricted) for all the TKB's to post their ideas and talk it over.

A few of the TKB's also seemed interested in reviewing the manuscript at this stage. While this is frightening, I am thrilled at the prospect, and so far, so good: one TKB insisted upon high-fiving me after reading just the first ten or twelve pages simply because they made her laugh. Sounds like five stars to me.

Adela, TKB's advisor and library liaison (and my professor of adolescent lit., by the way), will be supplying some photos, I believe, so hopefully by the time we drop by again in October, I'll have had the opportunity to post some.

Oh! And they promised me my own TKB T-shirt, which is so going on the list as soon as I get it.

Field Trip Mysteries winner announced!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The winner of a complete set of season of the Field Trip Mysteries, chosen at random using the World of Warcraft in-game dice roller, is . . .

Maddie Clark!

Maddie, I don't have any way of contacting you, so please contact me! You can get my email address by clicking on "view my complete profile" to the right, and then clicking "email" under "contact."

Sorry to all the entries who didn't win. Thank you for entering. There were some great answers, and one vulgar answer! Thanks, Adam!

Stay tuned to the Exile this week, though, because another giveaway will be happening darn soon.

John Hughes, 1950-2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

There have been many significant artistic influences on me, as a writer, as a person, even as a songwriter in my younger days. At least two of them, if I think about it for just a moment, were called John. One was Updike, the other was John Hughes.

Hughes has died of a heart attack. Movies of the 1980s and 1990s -- hell, teen existence, pop culture, and America itself -- would never have been the same without him. And by extension, my entire generation owes a tremendous debt to films like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club . . . it goes on. Teen movies had traditionally been teensploitation; that is, they were about little more than sex and beer: throw those two ingredients onto a beach, or a ski resort, or hell, anything at all, and you had a teen movie. It had been that way since the late 1950s, with surf movies, and the tradition went on and on. Some of those movies were good. Occasionally, a funny or poignant script would build on that formula and maybe become great. But John Hughes broke that mold for good. He created movies with characters of depth and scope. Relationships were real. Every conversation, be it between Ally and Andrew, or Duckie and Andie, or Cameron and Ferris (in one of the finest friendships ever captured on film) is as weighty as it should be, because that's what life as a teen is: heavy, moment-to-moment, rarely the carefree sex-and-booze-fest many filmmakers (and local politicans) would have you believe.

As a writer of YA, I am constantly paying homage to, and occasionally ripping off, Mr. Hughes, and my guess is most writers of my generation, and those younger, have his work -- and the archetypal characters he favored -- constantly in their unconcious as they work. It would be impossible not to.

Cures for Heartburn

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

YA MS the Third is giving me serious agita. I'll be taking a short break from it, letting it worm around in my fuzzy little mind, and maybe the problem will look less problematic when I return to it.

Meanwhile, I will be dedicating the next 30-45 days to some SAB business, including one very exciting, totally new, and mind-blowingly cool project that I can't even say anything about yet. I mean, I wouldn't want to build it up too much or anything. I can say it will likely be the longest, word-count-wise, project I've ever done for SAB.

There's still a few days to enter the Field Trip Mysteries giveaway. Give it a whirl! And if you don't win this one, I think Eric Stevens has a giveaway planned for next week. He just got all kinds of samples in, too, including Bandslam: Will's Guide to Music. He's really proud of that one--spent a good amount of time yesterday reading through it, second guessing some, but mostly just liking it. That was an insane project. Some revisions arrived, with a short turnaround requested, the morning my . . . I mean, his son was born! (That's almost one year ago, for those playing at home.) Anyway, I expect that title will be involved in the giveaway next week.

Now then. Back to the Isle of Conquest!

We have a title!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The big news today is the title of YA Novel the First is official:

The Absolute Value of -1

It may be written as |-1| to save time. So from now on, the tag for anything related to YA MS the First aka YA Novel the First aka The Absolute Value of -1 will be |-1|. Does anyone blog read using the tags? I mean, I know I do, but does anyone else?

Related: I just signed three copies of my contract for that novel and sent them off to my smartly dressed agent back in New York City.

Not related: You can still enter for a complete set of Field Trip Mysteries, the first season. And by that I mean, please enter! I want more entries.

Note to self: Buy for Sam a toy with buttons similar to those of the light switch in the dining room. If you do not, he will throw tantrums until you hold him in front of that light switch and let him push it over and over, possibly for hours at a time.

Field Trip Mysteries giveaway!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Beth tells me that posting a screen grab of my Wordle doesn't count as a post. I'm not sure I agree with her, but to be on the safe side, since I promised two more posts this week, I thought I'd better drop another post.

And, since it's Saturday night and I just got paid, I'm going to make this the first-ever giveaway on the Exile! (The second-ever giveaway will happen pretty soon, by the way. Stay tuned.)

Up for grabs today is a complete set of the first season of the Field Trip Mysteries. That's one each of The Zoo with the Empty Cage, The Painting That Wasn't There, The Village That Almost Vanished, and The Teacher Who Forgot Too Much. To enter, just leave in the comments* a short memory of the best school field trip you've ever been on. The winner will be selected at random.

Get your comments in by this time next Saturday, August 8, to enter. Open only to residents of the U.S. and Canada. The Field Trip Mysteries are published by Stone Arch Books. RL: 1.7 - 2.4; Guided Reading Level: M.

*If you're reading this on Facebook, please come over to the Exile itself to comment. Thanks!