Monday, January 28, 2013

Stonewall Honor, Rainbow List for SPARKS

Thrilled beyond measure to announce that SPARKS has been named as one of the Stonewall Honor books, not to mention the ALA's Rainbow List, for 2013!  There I was, sitting in the bathroom (as one always is when these things happen) when my phone started going nuts on my desk.

Lesson: watched pots never boil; spend more time in the bathroom away from your phone.

I may even start posting as SJ again.  Normally, you can follow me under my usual name,  Adam Selzer , both at that home page and on twitter.

SO pleased and hoping this leads more people to read the book!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Some Notes from Adam

I'm thrilled to hear that Sparks is up for the ALA Rainbow List. That's fantastic.

I haven't updated this page in a while, or SJ's twitter, because no one was looking at either of them, anyway. Attempts to get "SJ Adams" off the ground as an alternate persona, which I thought might even replace my old one, never really got anywhere. Since some people wondered, here's why I put Sparks out under SJ Adams, not my own name, for the benefit of people who stumble onto here:

1. There was an "Adam Selzer" book coming out the same day as Sparks. Two under my own name on the same day seemed like overkill to me.

2. So many reviews of my previous book had opened with something like "I didn't think I'd like this, because it's by a guy."  That's something to consider, particularly when your main character is female. The fact that Debbie was lesbian was another x-factor; I imagined that there would some people who would be rubbed the wrong way by seeing a guy's name on a lesbian book. The old trick of using initials so no one could tell what gender you are seemed like the way to go.

3. Look, publishing is mostly misery and humiliation for us mid-listers. My books are the kind that generally get very good reviews, but don't amaze anybody sales-wise. I've never had one that was easy to find in stores. I've had publishers forget to show me the cover, forget to submit my books to the trade reviewers, or forget to send me any copies (this last one happens all the time, actually). After a while, you DO get to a point where publishers say "Hey, we love this guy, but based on his numbers he's probably not worth the risk." After enough of that, you start thinking "Well, fine, I don't want to be that guy anymore. I'll go be somebody else."

Knowing what I know now about what happened with Sparks and the other book that was out that day, I wish I'd just gone ahead and put it out under my own name, but, well, here we are. I've toyed with having my "Satanic YA" novel (currently being shopped around by my agent) to be an Adam/SJ collaboration, but it would just be a little attempt at giving Sparks a boost. I love Sparks. I think it's my favorite of all my books. I'm thrilled that it's being considered for any sort of list.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Worst Episode Ever (The Girl Who Looked Like Kimmy Gibbler)

While looking for new and exciting ways to plug SPARKS, we ran across an mp3 of Adam singing a song about stalking a girl who looks like Kimmy Gibbler, the annoying neighbor on Full House. Since SPARKS holds the world record for most Full House references ever in a published novel, I re-convened one of the house bands, The Holy Quests, and had them re-record this little gem. Here's hoping that Andrea Barber doesn't take out a restraining order on Adam.

So we recorded it in honor of the fact that the staff is off to see the Beach Boys reunion show tonight. Enjoy!

Adam says that he mailed a copy of this to Andrea Barber's management (or something) 10 years ago just to be on the safe side. He never heard anything, so he assumed they didn't want to sue or anything. Here's Adam with Dave Coulier. Call him UNCLE Joey and you die. He was Danny's best friend. He wasn't anyone's Uncle. That was Jesse. Who Adam once waited on at a restaurant.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm back.

I've made it back from the arctic. I did not see Santa. But I'm not dead yet. In fact, I'm nominated for the ALA's Rainbow List.

I didn't come back to Chicago right away. In fact, I rolled through Canada to the great lakes (in that contraption of my own making) to go to Rochester, where the boss and I were both booked at the Teen Book Fest. Rode in a hot rod with AS King, caroused with Terry Trueman, Barry Lyga, Paul Griffin, Shawn Goodman, James Kennedy, and Jack Ferraiolo.

And, of course, as soon as I got back to Chicago and HQ, Selzer put me back to work.

"THERE you are!" he said. "Thank god. I need someone to make me a set of Don't Trust the B in Apt 23 action figures."


"Complete with a coffee shop action playset. Hurry. I want to act out my favorite scenes. And by the way, I think I might be going into the basement of the building on the site of the Murder Castle next month for a cable show to look for ghosts, so you'll want to start drilling the interns for what to do if something goes wrong."


"And we're getting some hate mail from Oxfordians ever since the Shakespeare guides came out."


"And I started you a tumblr so we can see about getting some people to pay you five bucks for holy quests."


"So we can be tax exempt!"

"You're weird, Selzer."

Maybe I should go look for Santa again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Message from Adam

Hi, folks. Adam Selzer here, S.J.'s boss on the Smart Aleck Staff. Just thought I'd give you a bit of an update about SJ and his whereabouts.

Most authors go through a sort of "post launch depression" when their book comes out and doesn't make a huge splash. After a dozen odd books that got good reviews but were hard to find in stores, I'm sort of used to it. S.J. isn't, though. We all deal with it in our own ways. Most of us whine about our publishers, or Barnes and Noble, or the simple fact that there's no market for YA humor these days. SJ didn't complain at all. That's not the kind of writer SJ is. But that's not to say there was no post-launch depression. SJ always wanted to Do Big Things, and slowly realized that putting a book out isn't as Big as it seems.

In January, a couple of months after SPARKS came out, SJ showed up at Smart Aleck HQ with this giant canvas ball - about the size of a monster truck - that barely fit into a city parking space.

"SJ," I said, "what the heck is this?"

"All terrain vehicle," SJ said. "Invented it myself. Look inside."

Inside of the thing, there was nothing but an axl with a hammock hanging off of it. "This baby'll roll over land or sea," said SJ. "You steer by sliding the hammock up and down the axle to shift the weight."

"SJ," I said, "what the heck are you going to do with this?"

"I'm going on an expedition," said SJ. "To the north pole."

"Like in Winnie the Pooh?"


"You know that since that book came out, they've discovered the north pole, right?" I asked.

"Did they find Santa?"

"Uh, no."

"Then they weren't really at the pole."

And SJ climbed into the hammock and the big canvas balloon rolled away down Grand Avenue, towards Lake Michigan. I guess SJ was planning to take the Great Lakes into Canada and head to the pole from there.

A few weeks back we got a note saying "Have been in the arctic for two weeks without snuff."

SJ doesn't use snuff anyway, so none of us here at HQ thought much about it.

But that's the last we've heard. I'm sure SJ is still okay out there, and has not frozen to death or been eaten by a polar bear.

- adam

Friday, February 17, 2012

What S.J. stands for....

For those who've asked, S.J. stands for Satan Jehosephet.

Like all authors who go by initials, I am gender-neutral.

I just kicked Adam Selzer's ass at tetherball.

The Smart Aleck Staff is in high-gear trying to get new guides going. The Smart Aleck's Guide to Grave Robbing is now on ibooks.  Just click here:

The Smart Aleck's Guide to Grave Robbing - Adam Selzer & Smart Aleck Staff

Friday, January 13, 2012

On the Air!

KMSU has posted a 20 minute segment in which I discuss, and read from, SPARKS.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Pair of Holy Quests

Some holy quests from Emma and Tim's scrapbook.

#73: Kick old ladies' butts at bingo and act all arrogant about it. Bingo hustlers, yo!

#55: Find a guy with the same name as a U.S. president at get his autograph. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

New review: SPARKS is "a game-changer"

There are some reviews that have launched people's careers - like Dorothy Parker's review of Harlan Ellison. Or Robert Shelton's review of Bob Dylan. Or the one from 1974 where Jon Landau said "I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Shelton's review got Dylan a record deal (with Columbia. At age 20). Landau finally got Columbia to pay attention to Bruce instead of just slipping him out and thinking of dropping him (that anyone COULD get dropped after those stunning first two records sort of makes you take pause). And that Ellison could have been thought of as strictly a pulp fiction guy given the quality of his best 1950s/early 60s work is sobering.

I don't think any YA blog has the same pull as Parker, Shelton or Ellison did in their prime, honestly. There's a middle grade blog or two where a rave can make a real difference in your sales, but YA is a different world. In fact, I've been a fairly harsh critic of all those Memes n Drama blogs that focus more on contests than content. And I'm not alone. Honestly, if I repeated the way I'd heard authors, agents, and editors complete the sentence "there are a few great blogs, but...," the scandal would go on for weeks. Authors are known to kiss up to bloggers incessantly in public - I've played that game myself. But believe me, when we meet for lunch or a drink, the conversation is different.

However, there are a few in particular that I really do recommend. Like The Book Lantern, which is known to ruffle some feathers with its criticism of some of the dominant themes in today's YA (it's drama, but it's for a good cause). And there's John Jacobsen's Dreaming in Books , one of the rare male voices in the YA blogosphere, whose reviews are lengthy and articulate. Like Roger Ebert, even when you don't agree with John, you at least get the idea that he knows what he's talking about, and get a sense of whether you might like/dislike a book more than he did (and, incidentally, if you read Ebert's 1 and 4 star reviews, you can skip every "writing craft" book out there - he may be writing about movies, but he'll tell you all you need to know about writing). These are blogs that expect writers to write good books - not just to stick to the trends.

Reviews on these blogs may still not get Columbia to push you so hard that you end of on the cover of TIME and NEWSWEEK in the same week, but they're gratifying as all get out.

So it's REALLY nice to get a good review from him. A REALLY good one. Like Parker on Ellison, Shelton on Dylan, Landau on Springsteen good.  I got reviews that felt like raves from some of the trades on I Kissed a Zombie, and a couple of my others, but you only get a paragraph or two in those things.  As a writer, you always fantasize about people articulating what they like about your book at great length. I'm not going to lie to you. This is a fine ego trip at a time when I can use one. It's reviews like this that make you feel like you're good at your job and ought to keep doing it, no matter what that pesky student loan officer says.

Some excerpts:

Every once in a while an LGBTQ book comes out for the YA audience that just strikes me as being a game-changer for my expectations of LGBTQ YA.....Back to my usual schpeel - the writing in Sparks is fabulous.  Truly, truly fabulous.  This is the kind of book that will make hipster YA readers (you know who you are, peeps) and commercial readers equally happy.  The book satisfies on a basic level, but as you can tell from above, there's more here than meets the eye.  Adams writes truly hilarious situations - I laughed many, many times while reading this book - and he has a great balance of satire, regular humor, and seriousness.  He doesn't stay too serious, though, and that's what will make readers fall in love with this book....  This book is more than a journey novel - more than a cross-town road trip.....I just can't say enough about Sparks.  This is a book that is so different from the contemporary and LGBTQ YA out there today.  It's not angsty...eople that want diversity done without a heavy hand; without a stereotyped view.  They will all find something in Sparks.  Go out and buy this book.  I can't recommend it enough."  

Full review

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Joyful Playlist

I tend to go on and on about the "Ragged Glory" playlist that lasted me the whole time I worked on SPARKS, from the first draft to the last copyedits. The songs all have a ragged, soaring, triumphant quality that I wanted in the book. I don't think playlists help much with rough drafts, but they're fun to make and help me a lot on revisions. You play a song with the right vibe and try to build the scene to work like that song is playing in the background.

Today I made a very important decision that I think will change my life: I typed "Slade" into the "Create a Station" field on Pandora. The station this created has me jumping off the wall as I bang my head and sing along to "Somebody to Love," "Cum On Feel the Noise," and "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress."

It makes me want to talk about my "joyful" playlist, which I switched to for a couple of scenes in the book during revisions. Songs that sound like the band and singer are so happy they can hardly contain themselves and want you to feel the same way. Here's what's on that:

"Oh Yoko!" by John Lennon. The harmonica solo at the end is pure distilled joy.

"Hold Me Now" by Polyphonic Spree. I'm not sure what they're on about in this song - I'm never sure what these guys are on about. But they sure sound uplifting. It's like an indie "Up With People."

I always wanted to start a band called "Up To Here With People."

"Good Lovin" by the Grateful Dead. Once I was at a show where they played this, and a rainbow appeared in the sky. I told a dead head about it and he said "Yeah, that happens a lot at Dead shows. There's a lot of psychic energy." I'm pretty skeptical about stuff like that, but there's no possible scientific explanation to explain how all those VW micro-busses in the parceling lot are still running.

"We Are Golden" by Mika. Fun!

"Don't Stop Believin' (Glee version). I never felt like the show lived up to the promise of the pilot. I like it when their music really sounds more or less like something a really good glee club would do (plus guitar and drums). They usually just sound like karaoke versions. But I sure loved that pilot! Did they ever get around to the gag I assumed they were going for where "new directions" sounds like "nude erections?" The "Halo/Walking On Sunshine" mashup is on there, too.

"My Favorite Things" by The Mountain Goats. One of their dozens of "unreleased" numbers. A minute long song about hearing John Coltrane on the radio while dancing with someone you're probably about to sleep with. "you put your arm around me and it felt real fine /and your ankle brushed up against mine /  and resonating in my bones / the precise, crisp, drumming of Mr. Elvin Jones / god damn it! / i love john coltrane!" I swear he actually sings the exclamation point. John Darnielle tends to sing in italics. He does not sing his songs so much as he declares them.

"Oh, Mary Don't You Weep" by Bruce Springsteen an the Seeger Sessions band. The Seeger Sessions band sounded like what old folk music should have always sounded like, but it's a sound that couldn't exist in a world without mixing boards. An 18 piece folk band with a banjo, a tuba, an accordion, and a ragged band of gypsies vibe. I really hope he brings this band back - or makes up for the loss of Clarence by sort of merging the E Street band with some of these guys (which is pretty much what he's already started).

"Janglin" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. These guys (like Polyphonic Spree) sort of seem like a cult. But what a swell cult! One line I just can't get past here is "We want to heal ya / we don't mean to kill ya." Well, good. I wouldn't want to listen to a band that meant to kill me (and wasn't a Norwegian black metal band).

"Kick Drum Heart" by The Avett Brothers. A bouncy song on an album that is generally not bouncy.

"In The Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel seems like it fits into every playlist ever. All building up to the line "can't believe / how strange it is to be anything at all" which is sort of what Sparks is all about. I would have written that right in, but Flux is pretty hardcore about not quoting any lyrics. This made writing the scenes where they listen to "God Only Knows" and "This Year" and "It's All right Ma, I'm Only Bleeding" an interesting challenge. This is not a song Debbie would like, though. It took forever for this band to click with me, and Debbie is not into artsy, avant grade-type stuff. Maybe one day she will be. Not yet.

"Such Great Heights" by The Postal Service. This makes me think of my wife.

"Love the One You're With" by Stephen Stills. When I was about 14 I went to see a Shakespeare in the Park thing where they did Midsummer Night's Dream with hippies in place of fairies, and between acts a band played this. One of those songs (like "You may Be Right" by Billy Joel) where, if you pay too much attention, you'll start thinking the singer is acting like a complete douchebag, but they make it fun anyway.

"What Is Life" by George Harrison. My favorite of his solo songs. "Waiting ON You All" would have worked in any Sparks playlist, too.

"My Roller Coaster" by Kimya Dawson. One of her happier songs. All the people in this book need to listen to more Kimya Dawson records. We all do, probably. The importance of "Nothing Came Out' by her band, The Moldy Peaches, to SPARKS can not be over-stated. Sounds like a funny song if you've never been "there," but I think it's really their most doggedly serious song.

"Queen of the World" by Ida Maria. I love Ida Maria. This is one of her happier songs, where the depression underneath is more effectively buried. She features very prominently on the playlist for another upcoming book tentatively titled Mad to Live, and "We're All Going to Hell" is on the Satanic YA book playlists (of course).

"Valerie Plame" by the Decemberists. "Engine Driver" turns up in most of my other playlists, but this one delights me more. Something about opening a song with "Valerie Plame / if that really IS your name" makes me smile.

"What Light" by Wilco. THe "Sing, Sing a Song" of my generation.

"The Happy Wanderer" by The Polkaholics. These guys are the greatest band in Chicago. They are a guitar-drum-bass combo that sounds like early Green Day, only they play polka. All polka is happy. It is happy music for happy people. "The Beer Barrel Polka" teaches us that something can start in Scranton and go to Number 1. The lead singer, Dandy Don Hedekker, is the name sake of the appliance store in the book I Put a Spell on You.

"Constructive Summer" by The Hold Steady. The Ragged Glory playlist was heavy on these guys.

Just added today to this list  is "Stuck On F**in' You" by Lady Gaga. Sounds like a Beggar's Banquet outtake. She should do more songs like this. I found myself wishing that whole last record was a big more organic (but in that Jim Steinman and Meatloaf way, if that makes any sense).

Some other music writings I've done:
On Green Day
The Gospel of the Mountain Goats
The Hold Steady and the Gaslight Anthem: Two Gangs Fighting In the Same Springsteen Song
On 90s Alternative as Oldies

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

News, all sizes

Some time soon I'll be doing a radio interview on KMSU's Weekly Reader program. More details when I have them.

Fiction State of Mind has a nice review of Sparks today.

Selzer and I are continuing work on Satan's Parents' Basement: A Novel For Young Adults Who Worship the Devil. No word on what we'll DO with it - we're very happy with it, but we're realistic about its chances of fitting into today's market. Contemporary humor with a male protagonist is a hell of a tough sell today.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...