Blurb blurb blurb!

Have I mentioned before how much I love the word "blurb?" Yes, like 9 million times. Well today I can share that I have received one! Or rather, GUY LANGMAN has. Blurbs are those little bits of praise from another author you see on book covers. Asking for them involves a lot of begging and bribery and tsoris. Just kidding, it's pretty painless -- after the book is written but before it comes out you just ask nicely and send an ARC, manuscript, or these days a digital file for an e-reader. Then you cross your fingers. Most every author is super-nice about it. Sometimes they're too busy, or sometimes they don't connect to the book and they pass, or sometimes they come through with a sweet thing to say! The first person I thought to ask for a blurb for GUY was my friend and award-winning author A.S. King. I'm happy to report that she enjoyed reading GUY and was kind enough to say some nice blurbage. Check it out!
"Berk delivers his signature mix of humor and mystery in Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator. I laughed all the way to the last sentence. A hilarious, intriguing and touching journey." -- A.S. King, Printz Honor-winning author of Please Ignore Vera Dietz
I'm so flattered! It's pretty much exactly what I want readers to know about GUY -- it's a mystery, but also a funny book, and also pretty emotional. She sums it all up in just a few words. That's why she wins the awards, people. (Also because her books are awesome.) Here's what it looks like on the actual book. Huzzah!



So I was talking about book-type milestones with my friend Trish Doller, on the exciting day she received her ISBN number. She's had a possibly even crazier path to publication than most, plus she is a professional bookseller, so she really got psyched! She was probably joking about getting her book's ISBN as a tattoo, but let's hope she was TOTALLY SERIOUS because that would rule. (If you're not way into books, you may not know that the ISBN is the official unique code each book gets & the way people in bookstores & libraries often look up books. It just feels soooo official that it's super exciting to new authors.)

This got me thinking about another really exciting milestone, which is the first time you see your book in a library catalog. This is of course extra thrilling if you are a librarian like me and just generally get pumped about things like subject headings and MARC records and such. Back when my first book was coming out, I (and my family) stalked the Library of Congress catalog because that's the first place where book records show up. It was so fun to see the book when it was finally added, and we all enjoyed staring at it in its library-format glory. But I have totally forgotten to stalk the LoC for book two! Thankfully, the ISBN discussion reminded me to go check it out and there it is! GUY LANGMAN, CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR at the LoC!

The summary came out really cool (I'm still not quite sure who writes those) and I just love the list of subject headings:
  • Forensic sciences--
  • Fathers and sons--
  • Death--
  • Grief--
  • New Jersey--
  • Humorous stories.
  • Mystery and detective stories
The way this book's subjects are both 'grief' and 'humorous stories' really sort of captures the project. Also: New Jersey. Pretty sweet!

Also, an update I know you're dying for: Grapes of Wrath is really good! It took me a while to start reading because I've been engrossed as all get out in the new young adult book CATCH AND RELEASE by my fellow 10er/friend/hero Blythe Woolston. It's actually not out yet, but Blythe convinced me to join NetGalley to get an advanced copy & I did so. It is not like I needed much arm-twisting because I loved Blythe's first book (THE FREAK OBSERVER) so much, but I was confused by the whole digital ARC thing & honestly much prefer books made of paper. Anywho, I will say more later, but here's what I have to say about CATCH AND RELEASE at the moment: This book could be 1,000 pages long and I'd still be sad when it ended. I'll let the LoC say the rest:

The subject headings for CATCH AND RELEASE:
  • Disfigured persons--
  • Automobile travel--
  • Fishing--
  • Trout--
  • Communicable diseases--

Ink Stains: Nine authors with more than 25 published books between them offer countless insights...

Hey, did I ever blog about this? I forget if I did. Pardon me if I did. If I didn't, check it out! I'm part of a cool e-book called "Ink Stains." It was edited by Lara Zielin, who is an author & fabulous youtuber & super cool lady.

Here is the description:
Nine authors with more than 25 published books between them offer countless insights to help your writing leave a mark. These candid author interviews speak to overcoming self doubt, triumphing over writer's block, mastering the editing process, learning to trust those quiet literary instincts, and more. The raw authenticity will encourage and inspire other writers. If they can do it, so can you.

It was really fun to be a part of it. My chapter is about the pressures of writing a second book & such things. (Admit it - when you read the description's mention of "self doubt," you guessed that was my chapter.) My part is called "My Manuscript is Trying to Kill Me! Okay, not really. But it did scare me for a long time until I figured out how to kick its butt." I like long titles. Also I quote Yoda. Or the Dalai Lama. One of those dudes. Anyway, here are some places you can buy it for your electronic reading pleasures. It's $2.99:

Here is a nice comment from a reader: "You get the feeling that this is what writers REALLY talk about when they talk to other writers. I'm glad that Ms. Zielin let us listen in on the conversation. " And I'm glad she let me be part of it!


Author interview with A-Starms! (Aaron Starmer, author of the great new book The Only Ones!)

Hello! Today I am interviewing fellow Druid Aaron Starmer. No, we aren't magical Celtics (or Boston Celtics), we went to Drew University! Together! At the same time! In the late '90s. But we didn't know each other back then even though Drew is a really small school. There is a whole article about this -- "We Meet at Last" in the Drew Magazine. (Sing it with me.)

So even though we didn't know each other then, we have become friends now, both ending up writing for similar audiences at the same publisher. And as it turns out I really love his books. DWEEB is a very funny and very fun and very exciting book about "five awesome nerds figuring out how to save the world." (That's me quoting me!)

His new book, THE ONLY ONES, just published this week, is somewhat darker. There are some truly hilarious quips, but it's an intense story about a kid named Martin Maple who lives on an island cut off from all civilization because of his nutty father. Or IS he nutty?! Perhaps he is wise, because something very strange is about to happen to civilization... One afternoon (The Day) everyone on earth seems to disappear, except for Martin and a group of kids he finds living adult-free in a village called Xibalba.

From there is gets magical and wonderful and I truly love it. The ending is making me weepy. STARMER!!!! *shakes fist*

AS: Awww...thanks. I really do appreciate it. So few people have read the book that I still don't know how it will be received.

JB: It will be received awesomely because it is awesome. Timeless yet totally now, you know? I think it will be loved for years and years and years. NOW ON WITH THE Qs. Let's start with the back of the book. You acknowledge a Jamie Wyeth painting as inspiration for The Only Ones. Care to share which painting and the story behind that? Is it this one? That would be weird. Is being inspired by a painting something that happens often for you?

AS: Well I'm a weird guy, Mr. Berk, and that Pumpkinhead is actually one of my favorites and it's part of the series that inspired the book. Every summer, I go to a family cabin in Maine, which is on a tiny island just offshore. Andrew Wyeth (Jamie's father) had a house on the mainland that we can see from our porch and we used to look out and wonder if he or Jamie was sitting there, looking back at us and painting our house. In 2009, I was looking at that house and thumbing through a book of Wyeth art and I came across Jamie's series of paintings of Orca Bates. I hadn't looked at them in a long time, but I remembered how much they haunted me as a kid.

I think Orca lives in Brooklyn now, but he was a guy who grew up on Monhegan Island in Maine, a famous colony of artists and lobstermen. Jamie painted Orca as if he were a wild child who never journeyed away from the island. I used that notion as a jumping off point for my book. The one painting that really struck me was The Mainland, which shows Orca standing on the coast, looking to the sea. That's sort of how The Only Ones begins.

Of course, inspiration comes from any number of places. Actually, just right now I'm inspired to write a story about an interviewer named Jon Bork, who's intimidatingly handsome, but who has a deep dark secret. Any ideas where that story should go?

JB: Oh, I have ideas alright.

JB: Lots of writers are distance runners (myself included!). Any correlation you can identify between the two, besides the obvious connection that both activities sometimes make your nipples bleed?

AS: First off, a bit of advice. Body Glide ( There Won't Be Blood (don't even try to steal that, I'm copyrighting it). But to answer your question, I definitely think there's a correlation. Running is obviously a great release after sitting at a computer all day. But I think distance running appeals to novelists because it's about setting small goals to achieve big things. I take that approach when I start a book. I don't sit down and say, "how do I get to the last page of the story?" I think about how to get to the end of the chapter, or to a moment, or a bit of dialogue on the first page. If I run ten miles, it's nearly impossible to do in a straight line to the finish. To make it bearable and enjoyable, I have to look forward to twists and turns and landmarks along the way.

Haruki Murakami wrote an interesting book that covers writing and running called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Running writers—and writing runners and people who enjoy Raymond Carver puns—should check it out.

JB: I'm totally all those things! And I've read that book. It rules.

JB: Some craft-type Qs: Your books are very well-plotted and finely crafted. If I had to guess, I'd say you are a careful pre-writer. The twists are well-thought out, the plotting and pacing are airtight. Do you do tons of pre-writing? Big outliner, are you? Notecards and giant diagrams? Scrivener or some other software you recommend? Or do things take shape as you write? Don't tell me you don't plot any of this stuff out in advance because then I will throw something at you.

AS: I appreciate you thinking that, but warm up your pitching arm, because I'm not much of a pre-writer. I usually know the beginning, the end, and some scenes and characters that I'd like to include, but not much more than that. And all that stuff is always in my head. No notes. No diagrams. No outlines. No fancy programs (is MS Word 2004 fancy?).

When I start writing, what I definitely don't do is write a lot at a time. I write little bits, and then revise. I'm always going back to the beginning and tweaking what I've already written. Dozens of times. When I'm halfway done with the book, I might do a synopsis of where it's going, but those details have already been worked out in my head, usually while jogging or lying in bed. If I don't know it backwards and forwards in my head, then it's not going make much sense to the reader.

When I finally finish the entire thing, it's hard to call it a first draft. I do go back and do a couple big revisions, but maybe not as many as others. Form is very important to me. It's always at the front of my mind.

JB *throws a stapler* *Agrees that MS Word 2004 is the fanciest!*

JB: Do you have a favorite character in each of your books? I totally have a favorite from each, but I won't tell you who they are. OK, fine, I'll tell you, but you have to guess first.

AS: No, Mr. Berk, you first. I got nowhere to be. Can do this all day

*After 15 hours of staring at each other*

AS: Fine! You win! I'll tell you my favorite character from The Only Ones! It's Darla. Are you happy? Of course you aren't. You want to know why, don't you? You'll keep staring at me with those steely eyes until I tell you everything. *whimpers* It's because she can be awful and endearing in the exact same moment. Sort of like you, Berk...sort of like you... *buries face in hands*

Darla's my fav too!

JB: I have a theory that every YA author had an unhappy adolescence while every children's author had a happy childhood. I'm not sure why this is, but maybe those of us who write about high school do so because our high school years were in some way difficult and we need to work through the baggage. Whereas those who write for younger children are sad that childhood ended and want to relive it in some way. Is this true and did you have a happy childhood? (No pressure. Feel free to mess up my theory. Your books are sort of on the MG/YA cusp so maybe you had a "complicated" childhood. Also feel free to pass answering on the grounds of this question being "too Freudian" or simply "not making any sense-ish.")

AS: How dare you ask such a question to Jungian! Actually, I think it's an interesting idea, but I'll call myself an exception to the rule. You can read some writing I did as a teen here and read about my teenage fumblings here, but honestly, high school was a bit of a blur to me. Not because I lived it Rock and Roll High School-style, but because I was so tied up in sports and academics and just trying to be a nice guy that I didn't have much time to do much hell-raising or brooding.

Middle school was a different story. I have many vivid memories from that time of pain and adventure and confusion and discovery and mistakes. And I guess that's why my characters tend to skew towards the 11-13 age. I remember the first R-rated movie I saw in the movie theater was Stand by Me. I was probably 10 years old and I was amazed that someone finally got things right. This was how my friends talked! This was how the older kids acted! It's a foul-mouthed tale, but it's also a lot more weepy and self-conscious than almost all boy-approved fare out there. I'm a "suburban romanticist" (copyright pending) and I guess I want to capture those raw and exciting and weepy moments that arise when kids are let out into the grassy world without parental supervision. The Only Ones is that taken to the extreme.

Thanks, A-Starms! Until we meet again!

Go read the book everyone. DO IT.

I had to turn off commenting b/c of stupid LiveJournal spam so if you're reading this on LJ and want to leave a comment, I do not think you can, but I appreciate your kindness.

Cover Story / PAYA

Here are two interviews I've recently done, both of which were super-fun!

(1) Authoress (I'm bringing it back) Melissa Walker profiles my book for a record-setting second time on "Cover Stories!" I'm not really sure if it's a record, but it's probably not too common. A while ago I told the tale of the hardcover jacket & now I'm back. Paperback.

(2) Another authoress (told you I'm bringing it back), Sarah Darer Littman & I interviewed each other about Pennsylvania, books, and other random things. It's over on the PAYA blog and is hilarious. Sarah is incredibly freaking funny. Check it!

And speaking of PAYA, you should totally come to PAYA! It's this Saturday!
Info here:


WriteOn Con! (Make Friends With the Fear)

Hey, it's WriteOnCon time again! WriteOn is an online writing conference all about writing for young people. There's lots of YA authors, agents, children's authors, editors, and other kidlit sorts who contribute videos & seminars & critiques and it's just like a real conference, only you can attend in your bathrobe! Or, maybe give a keynote address in your bathrobe. Which I did. It was really fun! Paulie Walnuts appears. Check it out:

At the end there's some info on how to win a book if you're into that sort of thing. Write on!

EDIT: Some kind souls asked for the text of the poem I read as part of my speech. It's now below. Enjoy! Feel free to share widely and/or print to hang on your wall next to a picture of Paulie Walnuts.

Make Friends With the Fear.

The Fear is a insatiable beast, feeding on your tears and self-doubt
The Fear is a sly fellow, a sneaky fox who pops up into your heart, your mind, your manuscript, your life, at precisely the moment you need him the least.
The Fear is a cynical bastard,
An unwanted house guest,
A congenital condition,
An endless itch.
The Fear is kind of an {expletive}.

I have learned to live with The Fear.
I have not killed The Fear.
I have not vanquished The Fear.
I have not triumphed on The Fear and crushed his skull with my booted heel.
I have simply learned to live with The Fear.

They say the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.*
Similarly, the greatest trick the Fear ever pulled was to convince you that the only way not to fail is not to try.
This is a sly trick, Fear, you miserable {expletive}.
You almost convinced me not to try.
So that I may not fail.
But if I listened to you,
I would have certainly failed.
Because the only certain path to failure
Is not to try.
And the only certain path to success
Is to try like hell.

The Fear is strong
But I am stronger
The Fear is tough
But I am tougher
The Fear is determined
But I am moreso
And The Fear
Will never win.
I know you will never go away
And that’s fine,
But if you would,
Please go sit over there and leave me alone.
Because I have a book to write.

(*By “they” I either mean “the Bible” of Kevin Spacey. It’s early and I don’t feel like checking my sources.)


THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN is out on audiobook today! You can get it for download or on CD and it's really fun to hear a great reader reading it!

Info on downloading the audiobook:

Info on buying it on CD:

That is all.

Oh wait, that is not all. You can listen to a sample! Is there a button to play a sample below? There should be. If there isn't, I apologize. I know how you love buttons.

Random Acts Of Reading (win an advanced copy of GUY LANGMAN!)

Hi everyone! Today I'm visiting my friends at Random House & blogging on Random Acts Of Reading. Check it out!

You can see that they call me a "wickedly funny guy" and also "quite possibly be the funniest librarian around" which is like being named the strongest person in your family or the best ice skater in the Sahara. Just kidding! Librarians are a funny bunch indeed & I'm flattered by all the nice things my RAOR friends said. Thanks!

Anyway, I tell a bit about getting "the call" for DDoHH & then also talk quite a bit (for the first time anywhere!) about my new book, GUY LANGMAN: CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR. (Teaser: I use the word "torpor" and the phrase "macho Jew.") It was fun. Also, if you leave a comment there you can win an advanced copy of said new book from Random House. Get to it!

Note: If you're reading this on LiveJournal, you cannot leave a comment here on this post because I had to disable commenting because I was getting 90 million spam comments a day, usually in Hebrew for some weird reason. Maybe it wasn't spam & I just have a lot of Israeli fans? No: it was spam. So go comment on the RAOR page & you can be a winner! YOU ALREADY ARE A WINNER IF YOU ASK ME.