The Ultimate Chapter: 42

In the comic sci-fi classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy , a computer was created specifically to calculate the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything. That answer was 42. The problem was, no one knew the question, not even the computer. My novel, The Freezer , had 42 chapters. That's right: had . Now it has 41.  I didn't even realize I'd written a novel in 42 chapters until the day, in a hotel room in Perth, I decided to remove the last chapter. On the final read-through before I turned it back over to my editor and proclaimed that I was finished, I realized that the last chapter wasn't part of the story I'd been telling—it was the beginning of another story. It felt right to remove it. Then I realized what I'd done. That was chapter 42! Did that chapter contain the answer to life, the universe, and everything? Was the question really "which chapter of The Freezer contains the answers we seek?" No, I suppose not. Not in the

The Story of a Story

 This is the story of my novel, The Freezer —where it came from, how it evolved, and how it got published. I'll try to be brief, because this story might be more complex than the one told in the novel. It began in the 1990s. A teenage girl had an unusual dream. In the dream, the world was about to explode. To survive, she and her brother climbed into a chest freezer of the sort many people have in their homes or garages. The freezer was thrown into space by the exploding planet, carrying its occupants safely to land on another planet. The inhabitants of this planet were kind and lived in a utopian society.  In late 2000, I met the dreamer of this dream. In 2001, we were married. I don't remember when she first told me about this dream, but sometime after the birth of our first child, maybe even the second, I decided to adapt the basic premise of the dream—the freezer spaceship—into a screenplay for a short film, which I would then shoot. I had an interest in film and a new digi

Thirteen Reasons

UPDATE : This blog post was originally published in June 2011. Now Netflix has adapted Thirteen Reasons Why to film, so I find myself thinking about it again. I don't plan on watching the series; I have better things to do. But I think making the show was a bad idea for the reasons below. And I still recommend keeping this story away from teens you're worried about. Now, not only does Hannah pull off the perfect suicide, but she and everyone involved is super attractive, not just the ordinary teenagers you might imagine while reading. It's not just the Hoosiers of suicide anymore, it's the Avengers of suicide. Read this book instead of watching Thirteen Reasons Why . ------------------- Okay, so I know I've been posting a lot of depressing suicide-related stuff on here, but I'm kind of writing a book about it, you know? Like the thing over there —> says, I write about basically whatever I want. And today I want to talk about Thirteen Reasons Why

No, wait! I like this query better!

And I posted it on this very blog back in October of 2011, before I even started writing The Freezer . For some reason, it's better than any of the four (or five?) queries I've written since then. What do you think? (Yes, you.) THE ORIGINAL, PRE-WRITING PITCH, BACK FROM THE DEAD: The world is about to die a violent death at the hands of a rogue planet. The last escape ships have gone, leaving billions of people knowing the exact date and time of their demise. Society is coming apart at the seams. Violence is spreading. Food is disappearing. There's one month left. Thane Ryder turned down a seat on a spaceship to stay with his six-year-old daughter Mandy, and he intends to make her final days happy. He'll stay in his home and refuse protection. He'll feed his enemies and treat them like friends. He'll plant a garden, clean the house, and teach Mandy to ride a bicycle. He won't pick up a gun or show any of the fear gnawing away at his insides. And

The Writer's Voice Entry: The Freezer

Thane Ryder would move mountains to keep his daughter happy, but it wouldn’t lengthen Mandy’s six-year life. A rogue planet is on a collision course with Earth. Only a few thousand people will escape on ships destined for a new world. Thane’s wife Dawn piloted one of the first ships. Thane and Mandy were supposed to follow on a later flight. But the Evacuation Authority disqualifies Mandy, dooming her to die with everyone else. Torn between a wife whose distant vessel has mysteriously lost contact, and the daughter who needs him more than ever, Thane decides to stay. If shielding a child from the troubles of a dying world is difficult, keeping her from seeing his despair is impossible—almost as impossible as their dream of seeing Dawn again. But Mandy knows Thane helped build the big interstellar ship that carried Mommy away. Why shouldn’t he be able to build a much smaller ship for only the two of them? Glad for the distraction, Thane plays along with her plans and builds a sp

Happy Pi Day!

It's March 14th. 3.14. Celebrated mostly as another excuse to eat pie. Unlike some novelists , I don't have a degree in math. I did make it through college calculus, though, and I really like numbers in almost any form besides homework. So when I went looking for the number of known digits of Pi, I was astounded and pleased to find that there are 12.1 trillion known digits—and they're all available for download ! Of course, encoded as ASCII text, that would be about 12 terabytes of numbers. I don't have nearly that much disk space. Or time. But the downloads are broken up into nice 100,000,000 digit chunks. I downloaded the first one, used Excel to strip out the line numbers, and used TextEdit to search through it. (Because, while Excel will handle 1,000,000 rows, that's literally all it will handle, and it gets dog slow and uses 2 GBs of RAM.) Of course, I had to make a pie chart. Big surprise, eh? Each of the 10 decimal digits occurs approximatel

Dear Agent,

I sent you a query this morning. It's labeled "Query 4" in my Scrivener file, so I must be getting better at writing queries. The previous novel I queried got up to "Query 6" before I dared send it out. I don't like this query process, but I appreciate that I'm one of many thousands of aspiring writers, and this is an efficient way for you to sort through our manuscripts. Writing novels and writing queries are very different things. I'm better at writing novels. But the query I sent isn't bad. Now I'd like to say what's not in the query. The Freezer  is my fourth novel. It took me two years to write and revise, far longer than the previous two novels. This one was really difficult, and I'm not quite sure why. But I do know that I put my heart into it. I let my voice come through. I put every writing skill and piece of advice to use at one time or another, including killing my darlings. The result is something multi-layered and m