Fundraising for Broadway for Arts Education

I’m helping raise money for Broadway for Arts Education, in anticipation of their Silent Disco Dance-A-Thon in June! Which means you can win some COOL BOOK STUFF.

What exactly is BAE? Here’s their mission:

Broadway for Arts Education (BAE) is an NYC-based nonprofit organization that uses arts education to dismantle systemic barriers to success for underserved youth. Partnering with the Broadway community and school partners, BAE provides more than 125 performing arts classes each week, developing social-emotional, advocacy, and leadership skills for marginalized communities in New York City, India, Haiti, and Ecuador.

What can you win?

Donate $10 or more and you get a Paradox Hotel key card. Everyone who does this gets one.

Donate $25 or more and you could win a signed copy of The Paradox Hotel or The Warehouse (your choice), along with the key card. I’ll randomly pick two winners from this pot.

Donate $50 or more and you get both books signed, plus the swag. I’ll randomly pick one winner.

Donate $100 or more and in my next book, I will name a character after you (or the person of your choice [within reason; you can’t come to me with Dick McButts or something]). One winner, chosen at random.

For the books and the key card, given the shipping, it’s US only, but for the character name, you can be anywhere in the world!

Go to my fundraising page at this link. The deadline is the day before the event: June 4. That’s when I’ll pick the winners. Go get ’em.

THE PARADOX HOTEL is open for business

I probably should have posted this yesterday, but: The Paradox Hotel is out now!

It’s an interesting thing… this is the most earnest and vulnerable I’ve ever been writing a book, and I like to joke that it’s all time travel and dinosaurs and robots, but it’s a lot more than that, so I’ve been anxious for people to read it, and thus far, the reactions have been pretty nice. It’s available pretty much anyplace books are sold, in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook.

So, figured I would just do a quick round-up of cool stuff… because there’s been a lot of cool stuff.

I’m doing a virtual event with Delilah S. Dawson for Murder by the Book tonight (Feb. 23). Then I’m doing a virtual event with Poisoned Pen on Friday (Feb. 25). I’ll be in-person at the Staten Island Barnes & Noble on Saturday (Feb. 26), and will be doing two events for Mysterious Galaxy, with Jo Harkin and Alex Segura. I’ve got more stuff coming up later in March, and I’ll have more info on that soon. But you can find details about these events at this link.

Otherwise…

Gabino Iglesias wrote a lovely review over at NPR.

And Tobias Carroll wrote about the book at Tor.

At LitReactor, I wrote about what it was like to have a book optioned for film/TV, and did a podcast with Razorblade Tears author S.A. Cosby.

Also had a great chat with the fellas at the Words and Whiskey podcast, as well as the Queries Qualms and Quirks podcast.

I also have a cool interview at The Big Thrill (and they put me on the cover!), and another one with CrimeReads, and one with Paul Semel, and at The Line Up.

I wrote a step-by-step guide for Mystery Fanfare about writing time travel, and a piece about researching your fiction for Chuck Wendig’s blog, a list of riveting sci-fi thrillers for Publishers Weekly, and book recommendations for Strong Sense of Place.

That’s… it for now? I think. I am trying to keep up. Anyway. There’ll be more to share soon, and also, just wanted to say this is a good time to review the book on Amazon or Goodreads. It helps with discoverability and algorithms and whatnot. And hey, it’s helpful for any author so if you read a book recently that you liked, you should review it!

In a general sense, I’m overwhelmed by how many people helped push the book yesterday. It was almost impossible to keep up with so just wanted to say: thank you, everyone, for the support.

Where to find PARADOX (and me)

We’re almost there. The Paradox Hotel comes out Tuesday. For the sake of keeping things concise, here’s a quick roundup of events and details for how to get yourself a signed copy.

First: I’ve found some out in the wild already, so you can get signed books from The Mysterious Bookshop, as well as the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue and 46th Street.

On release day, I’ll be traveling around Manhattan (and maybe Brooklyn and Queens) to sign stock where I can find it. If you follow me on the twitter and the ‘grams you’ll be able to see where I end up.

There’s still time to get yourself a Paradox Hotel key card, if you pre-ordered the book… but not much. The window closes on Feb. 21. Go here if you want to do that. And I’m still sending out bookplates—stickers with signature you can slap inside the front of the book. Want one? Hit my contact form. It’s on me.

Otherwise, here’s where you can find me talking about the book:

Feb. 23 (virtual): Murder by the Book is hosting me and Delilah S. Dawson at 8 p.m. EST. Delilah is a pal, and her new book, The Violence, knocked my socks off. I loved it, and I can’t wait to talk to her about it.

Feb. 25 (virtual): I’ll be in conversation with Barbara Peters from Poisoned Pen bookstore, which I hit a few times on the promo circuit for the Ash McKenna books, and really loved. 8 p.m. EST. They’ll have signed books to order.

Feb. 26 (in-person): I’ll be signing books at the Staten Island Barnes & Noble starting at 2 p.m. Depending on the crowd I may do a bigger Q&A, but if it’s slow we can just hang out.

March 2 (virtual): Mysterious Galaxy is hosting a conversation with me and Jo Harkin at 3 p.m. EST. Her new book, Tell Me an Ending, sounds very much in my wheelhouse. My copy just arrived and I can’t wait to dig in.

March 23 (virtual): Mysterious Galaxy is hosting me AGAIN, this time in conversation with Alex Segura. Alex is a good friend, a frequent collaborator, and his new book Secret Identity is incredible. That’s 10 p.m. EST.

You can find more information about these events at this link.

PARADOX HOTEL pseudo-tour

We’re getting closer to release day, so here’s some info on the tour for The Paradox Hotel!

Thanks to COVID, we’re keeping things tight this year. I’m doing one in-person event, at the Staten Island Barnes & Noble.

I’m also doing two virtual events—one with the fine folks at The Poisoned Pen bookstore, and one with my good pal Delilah Dawson at Murder by the Book.

I’m particularly excited to jam with Delilah because she’s promoting her new book, The Violence, and it is incredible. She asked me to blurb it and it was one of the few times in my life where I didn’t know if I could write a blurb good enough to do the book justice.

And… that’s pretty much it. My publisher has everything rounded up here.

The week of release (probably the day of, on the 22nd), I’ll be traveling around New York City signing stock at as many bookstores as I can, and will report on social media where you can find signed copies.

Plus, I’ll have bookplates available (which is a sticker I sign and then you stick inside the book). If you want one of those, hit my contact form and let me know. I’m sending them out free-of-charge to anyone who asks.

Then, come March, I’ve got another virtual event with Alex Segura at Mysterious Galaxy. Alex is a good friend, a frequent collaborator, and his new book Secret Identity is a complete and utter knockout.

That’s what I got. Not the most exciting news ever, sadly, ’cause I really do love touring (which I say now, not having gotten on a plane in nearly two years, and I’m sure if I were on tour, by the end I’d be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, which is usually the case).

But I do miss seeing folks and hanging out in bookstores and drinking too much coffee in the morning and too much whiskey at night.

I might be adding more events as we go. And for the record—I’m pretty happy to appear at any bookstore or library within driving distance of New York City if there are safety protocols in place, and will gladly appear virtually for bookstores, libraries, book clubs, etc.

So if you want to hang in a Zoom-like setting, also hit up that contact form!

Pre-order PARADOX and get a Paradox Hotel key card

How cool are these?

I was in a marketing meeting with my team at Ballantine and threw this out as an off-hand suggestion, thinking, “There is no way they are going to make up goddamn hotel room keycards.”

And then a few weeks later they sent me the design for these bad boys. Next time I’m going to tell them we need branded jet skis or something.

Anyway. Want one? All you have to do is pre-order The Paradox Hotel (available ONE MONTH from today; you can do that here) and submit some sort of proof of purchase at this link.

Why pre-order? Why not just wait until the day it comes out to get it? Well, if you pre-order it, you won’t have to go out in the cold to get it (a big deal if you live in the Northeast where it is currently brick cold).

But also: pre-orders make editors and publishers happy, which in turn means that authors get to write more books, and I would very much like to write more books, so, consider it a nice karma boost!

That goes for all authors, by the way. If there’s an author you want to support, the best way you can do that is through pre-orders, or leaving reviews on Goodreads or retail sites, or throwing copies of the book at your family and friends.

On the passing of Thich Nhat Hanh

Years ago I found this band Chroma Key—weird, ambient, electronic music that was fantastic to write to, or just slap in a pair of earbuds while wandering around Manhattan. One song in particular always stuck out to me. When You Drive.

It’s this very chill electronic melody and it samples what sounds like a tape you would play to calm yourself while sitting in traffic. A monk encouraging you to be mindful of the present moment.

I was fascinated by it, and always found something so incredibly comforting in the song. In the cadence of the man’s voice, the simplicity of the message. Sometimes I would put it on and just listen, if I needed a moment to collect myself or just feel some stillness.

Here’s a transcript of the sample from the song:

“When you drive, you practice mindfulness of driving. It is possible. When you stop at a red light, you look at the red light and smile. You look at the red light, you smile, and you breathe in and out, and sit back, relaxingly. Breathing in, I calm myself. Breathing out, I smile.”

“And the red light becomes a friend, becomes a bell of mindfulness. Something unpleasant becomes something pleasant. We have the habit energy of wanting to arrive. That is why we want to go as quickly as possible. But according to this practice, we arrive at every moment. Life can be found only in the present moment. Everything that we look for must be found in the present moment. Peace. Joy. Happiness. Buddha. The kingdom of God.”

“What is our final destination? If we abandon the present moment, our final destination may be our death. We don’t want to arrive there, we want to go in the direction of life.”

“This concludes Tape 1, A Retreat on the Practice of Mindfulness. Our program continues with Tape 2.”

One day I decided to look it up, to find out who it is. After a good bit of Google-fu I found it was Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and renowned peace activist.

Pulling back a bit, I was raised Catholic, and now consider myself to be in some weird atheist/agnostic liminal space, but I’ve always appreciated Eastern philosophies. I like that it’s about looking inward, instead of looking for someone else to tell you what to do.

So while I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist, I’ve done some reading in that area. I meditate. I have some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, and will occasionally revisit them, even just to read a few passages here and there, though I haven’t in a while.

I would often read him before going to bed. Not because his work put me to sleep, but because generally around bedtime, my brain feels like a blender with a fork in it, and Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing always served to center me and help me relax.

He died today. I won’t claim to be an expert on him, or on Buddhism, but I felt moved to say something about it. He’s very much in the DNA of The Paradox Hotel. Another thing I love learning about is quantum physics, and the way Eastern philosophies and quantum physics can dovetail from one another (see: The Quantum and the Lotus).

Paradox is very much about looking inward, and facing yourself, and as much as I like to joke that the book is about robots and dinosaurs too, there’s a lot of me sorting out some ideas related to mindfulness and nirvana and the concept of the bodhisattva.

There’s a lot of me looking to find peace and love and joy in the present moment. There’s a lot of me chasing his words, or at least, trying to figure out a way to let them in a little deeper.

That transcript above, it’s funny the way it came into my life—as a sample in a song—but it’s really meant a lot to me. I’ve been listening to it for so long, read it so many times, that I could probably recite it from memory at this point. At very least, this stretch:

“Life can be found only in the present moment. Everything that we look for must be found in the present moment. Peace. Joy. Happiness. Buddha. The kingdom of God.”

I almost made that the epigraph of Paradox. I ultimately went with a quote from Through The Looking-Glass, which felt a little more appropriate, and looking back, there’s a small part of me that regrets it, because every now and again, we come across stories or passages that become imprinted on our hearts, that resonate inside us from the moment we hear them.

That little bit up there is one of those passages for me. I don’t know why. I’m not sure I could sit here and explain it. There’s just something about his voice, and the cadence, and the way it makes me feel, that I just find stunningly beautiful, and I see it as something worth reaching for.

So, you’d do well to pick up one of his books. And, in moments of stress, or even calm, remember that life can be found only in the present moment.

Classes, reviews, other stuff

Time for some updates!!

  • Starting November 23rd, I’m teaching The Source Code of Storytelling at LitReactor again! There are only a few seats left so if you want to get in there you better get moving. It’s a four-week online class in which I teach you to build good writing practices and recognize how stories are put together. Sign up here.
  • We’re gearing up the marketing machine for The Paradox Hotel and last night I was thrilled to get a starred review in Publishers Weekly. This book is different enough from The Warehouse that I was legit nervous about how it would shake out, and if people would respond to it the same way. I’m pretty happy to see people are responding to it.
  • I’m also happy to say I’ll be working with Ren Weston this year in Pitch Wars—she applied to me last year and she was my runner-up pick. The book was almost there, but not close enough for the timeframe we had to work on it, and another book just grabbed me more. But I gave her some feedback, she took the last year to put in the work, and here we are.
  • I updated my website! You might not be able to tell the difference because I don’t put up a lot of content here. That might change. Who knows. We’ll see.

Support a good cause; win a WAREHOUSE/PARADOX prize pack

Authors for Voices of Color is an online silent auction to raise money for racial-justice non-profits in the publishing, education, and literacy arenas. Authors, editors, and other publishing professionals are donating items and services to raise funds for organizations that amplify voices of color.

And this month they’re holding an online silent auction with some very, very cool prizes.

Up to and including some stuff from me!

Here’s the deal: Go to my page and bid (see instructions at the bottom) and you could win a signed paperback copy of The Warehouse, in which I will reveal for you a secret about each of the main characters (probably stuck into the book on Post-It notes). It’ll be stuff most people don’t know about them, that I hope further enriches the story.

Oh and also you can’t tell anyone this stuff. So it’ll be nice and exclusive to you.

If that’s not enough, I’ll also include a galley of The Paradox Hotel, which doesn’t come out until February.

Prizes aside, this is a hell of a cause, and I’m thankful to take part. So get in there and give until it hurts.

Pitch Wars 2021: Wish List

Another year, another Pitch Wars! This is my third year doing it, and I’m excited to be back.

Don’t know what Pitch Wars is? Click this link.

The last year two years were a lot of fun, and I’m very proud to say that both my mentees, Victor Manibo and Jennifer Mandula, landed with really solid agents. And one of them might have some very exciting news to share soon but I’ll let them tell it…

Anyway. This is a cool process and at this point you’re probably wondering who I am and what I’m looking for, so here goes:

About me

I’m the former publisher of MysteriousPress.com, at which I published and edited more than a dozen books in the crime/mystery genre (A Swollen Red Sun by Matthew McBride, several Nero Wolfe books by Robert Goldsborough). I wrote a five-book amateur PI series and a collection of food-noir short stories, all for a small press, Polis Books. I co-wrote Scott Free with James Patterson, and my last novel, The Warehouse, is out from Crown—it’s been sold in more than 20 countries and been optioned for film by Ron Howard. My next book will be The Paradox Hotel, with Ballantine, and will come out in February. My non-fiction articles have been published widely—Daily Beast, Salon, LitHub, Electric Literature. I also take on freelance editorial clients through 22Literary.

This is all to say… I’ve seen the industry from a couple of unique angles, I know a little bit about a little bit, and I think I can offer some useful advice.

My style

I want you to write the best book you can. I want you to do it. I want to give you the insight to recognize where your story can be stronger, and the tools to make it happen—then get the hell out of your way. I want you to come out of this process with a shiny new toolkit. I’m going to push you because the story has to win in the end. I love big picture stuff—I’m okay with copyediting, but a few misspelled words are not going to hurt you as much as a plot that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, so I’ll be focusing slightly less on the former.

What I want:

  • Mixed genres: I like books that straddle genres. A murder mystery with time travel? A heist story set on a Mars base? Please and thank you. I won’t say no to a classic PI novel if it really lights my fire, but this is where my head is at: big, sprawling, challenging ideas.
  • Strong social themes: I’m a big fan of books that get to the root of crime. I care less about the street crime created by the heroin crisis and more about the pharmaceutical companies that started it. Blue-collar crime? Yawn. White-collar crime? All day long. I like politics in my fiction. The Warehouse is an indictment of capitalism and consumerism wrapped in the language of a thriller. The Paradox Hotel is a time travel story about how billionaires will let the world burn as long as they get paid. That’s my sweet spot.
  • Diverse stories: I’m a white guy. I have read a lot about white guys in my lifetime. I’m not saying I won’t accept something with a white male protagonist—making a visceral connection to the narrative is the ultimate goal here. But as of late, I’m more interested in stories different from my own upbringing and experience. Think American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (black Cold War-era FBI agent), the Roxane Weary mysteries by Kristen Lepionka (LGBT private investigator), Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican fantasy), and Three-Fifths by John Vercher (noir featuring a bi-racial protagonist).
  • Deeply, deeply human stories: Let’s use American Spy as an example because that book legit made me cry. It’s a spy novel, about a black woman in the FBI during the Cold War, so there are themes of racism and sexism. And the book could have just been that and it would have been really good. But it’s also a romance, and it’s a story about a mom and her kids. And those are the things that make it great. So… plot is great. Ideas are fun. Character is the most important thing. And I want deep emotional honesty more than anything else.

What I don’t want

  • Game of Thrones– or Wheel of Time-style fantasy: Not my wheelhouse. A book with elements of fantasy (see genre-straddling above), I’m cool with. Got a PI who also uses magic? Great. But full-on fantasy, I don’t think I can offer effective guidance.
  • A first draft: I want something you’ve worked over a few times and you think you’re done, or close to it. Spoiler alert: you’re not even close! But one of the best pieces of advice I ever got is: your book is ready for the next step when you don’t know what else to do with it. That’s the point when you need to bring in another perspective (like me!).
  • Transgressive fiction: It is really, very rare for transgressive fiction to be done well. I cut my teeth on Chuck Palahniuk but I want emotional honesty a lot more than I want subversive, explosive violence for the sake of itself.
  • A violent act against a woman as the inciting incident: Most any trope can be reinvented and done well but this one really needs to just… go away. If your story opens with a naked dead woman wrapped in plastic, I don’t think think it’ll be for me.

Contact style

I like e-mail, and occasional Skype/Zoon/FaceTime session is cool. If you’re local to NYC or you’re visiting, I’d be open to getting a socially-distanced drink/coffee/cupcake. I know a really good cupcake place.

Find more wishlists below!

Pitch Wars 2021 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

  1. Anna Kaling (Accepts NA)
  2. Ian Barnes (Accepts NA)
  3. Jackson Ford
  4. Jake Nicholls (Accepts NA)
  5. Jesse Q. Sutanto and Grace Shim
  6. Charish Reid and Denise Williams
  7. Saara El-Arifi (Accepts NA)
  8. Rosie Danan and Ruby Barrett (Accepts NA)
  9. Carolyne Topdjian
  10. Falon Ballard and Brooke Abrams
  11. Mary Keliikoa (Accepts NA)
  12. E.A. Aymar
  13. Amanda Elliot (Accepts NA)
  14. Kelly Siskind
  15. Vaishnavi Patel and Sarah Mughal (Accepts NA)
  16. Mary Ann Marlowe and Laura Elizabeth (Accepts NA)
  17. Mia P. Manansala (Accepts NA)
  18. Peggy Rothschild (Accepts NA)
  19. Natalka Burian
  20. Courtney Kae and Jenny L. Howe (Accepts NA)
  21. Rochelle Karina (Accepts NA)
  22. Swati Hegde (Accepts NA)
  23. Nanci Schwartz and LL Montez
  24. Paris Wynters
  25. Hudson Lin
  26. Sarah Remy (Accepts NA)
  27. AM Kvita (Accepts NA)
  28. Heather Van Fleet and Jessica Calla (Accepts NA)
  29. Melissa Colasanti (Accepts NA)
  30. J.A. Crawford (Accepts NA)
  31. Michella S. Domenici
  32. Yvette Yun and Marith Zoli (Accepts NA)
  33. Sari Coritz and Rosalie M Lin (Accepts NA)
  34. Stephenie Magister and Noreen (Accepts NA)
  35. Regina Black and Nikki Payne (Accepts NA)
  36. Farah Heron and Namrata Patel
  37. Alicia Thompson and Amy Lea (Accepts NA)
  38. Lyn Liao Butler
  39. Preslaysa Williams (Accepts NA)
  40. Keena Roberts and Molly Steen (Accepts NA)
  41. Alexandria Bellefleur (Accepts NA)
  42. Samantha Rajaram
  43. Ashley Winstead
  44. Clay Harmon (Accepts NA)
  45. Rob Hart
  46. Cole Nagamatsu and Sequoia Nagamatsu
  47. N.E. Davenport (Accepts NA)
  48. Katherine Lim
  49. Alexia Gordon
  50. Cynthia Pelayo (Accepts NA)

Click here to view all Pitch Wars 2021 Mentors’ Wish Lists. To view the wish lists by genre, visit this link.

Want to support arts education for kids and maybe win an early copy of THE PARADOX HOTEL?

Ok here’s the deal. I’m helping Broadway for Arts Education raise funds in anticipation of their Silent Disco on Saturday. I’ve been assigned a team (Team Tangerine!!!) and I want that team to kick ass.

Earlier today, on the social medias, I offered to send someone a signed copy of The Warehouse, plus some Warehouse swag if you donated to the campaign. Any amount and you were in the running.

But now I’m going to sweeten the pot. If you donate $25 or more, I will put you in the running for an advance copy of The Paradox Hotel!

It’s not coming out until February. I have no idea when I’m even getting the galleys. If I have to print it out and bind it myself, I will—either way, you’ll get it soon.

So, park your little cursor here so I can see your name on my page and give until it hurts.

What does this mean to people who already donated? Well, you’re still in the running for that copy of The Warehouse (or copies, who knows, maybe I’ll send out more than one). If you want to donate again to hit the $25 threshold, you’ll be in for Paradox, too.

And if $25 is too rich for your blood (I get it, pandemic), any amount still puts you in Warehouse running.

Why is this important? Because arts education is one of the first things to get cut when school budgets make it to the chopping block, and that’s an incredible disservice to… everything? Kids. Teachers. Our literal future. Take your pick. Art is an empathy machine. We piece ourselves together through other people’s stories. I will never not go to bat so that kids can learn stuff other than math and science (which, let’s all admit, is kinda useless—I have never once used calculus for anything—it’s all a scam perpetuated by the graphing calculator industry!).

There are a whole lot of kids out there who would benefit from targeted artistic education, and BAE is a great mechanism for that. So it’s a good way to help.

But winning free stuff is fun, too.

And hey, if you just want to boost the signal and spread the word, that’s cool, too. Let’s do something nice today.