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Here I Am

Well, here's an update since last time I was here. I don't remember when that was, so:

- Still in my same apartment. Just signed the lease that will mean I lived there longer than my childhood home.

- Started a new job a few months per year as a "tour director" for student groups. I get busloads of students who come to Chicago from point A to point B and show them cool stuff along the way. It's fun, it pays well and I get free food. Still in training, officially, but my next tour isn't for a month or two. Groups don't come in the winter or summer. My tour guide / historical work is getting me a lot of gig offers lately but most of them don't pay. This one does.

- Still running ghost tours, though winter's been slow.

- My book on silent film in Chicago, FLICKERING EMPIRE, came out a couple of weeks ago via the film studies wing of Columbia University press. It's been fun! Mike, my co-writer, and I have done some radio interviews and have some events coming up. Marketing adult nonfiction is WAY easier than marketing YA novels. WAY easier.

- My latest YA novel, PLAY ME BACKWARDS, was ou via Simon and Schuser back in August. The next one will be out in about a year and a half. Last I heard it was going to be called KILL ME NOW. Black comedy set in the Chicago ghost tour world.  PMB has been about like my other YA books; good reviews and all but I've only seen it in a store once so far. I feel like my books are mainly for librarians and award committees.

- There's a table read set next month for I BEAT UP CHARLES DICKENS, a screenplay I co-wrote based on an unpublished novel. We're hoping to film next winter.

- My grandfather died a couple of weeks ago; it was just about exactly 70 years to the day that he was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. It was almost like Gd had said "Okay, we'll say your three score and ten starts right now. Go make me proud." I don't think he liked talking about the war, though; he'd probably rather we remember that he once froze the back yard for his kids to play in, or how he'd say "Everybody say 'shit'" when pictures were being taken. He wasn't a big talker but a great deal of what I remember him saying were jokes.

- He also wasn't a big reader. He once told me that the last book he read was some best-seller about sex in the 70s (probably "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask"). He thought it was such bullshit that he stopped reading books. Ten years writing books for a living has left me so cynical about them that I think this is awesome.

- I've been listening to a lot of Duke Ellington. There was an article about an album of his called Masterpieces by Ellington going around in December and it's just as good as advertised. Got me on a major Ellington kick.  The new Dylan album has given me a break in my Ellington kick, though.

- I've had multiple people listen to Dylan's new album (which is all old songs Sinatra recorded; I wouldn't call most of them "standards")  and email me to say they want "That Lucky Old Sun" played at their funeral. You guys okay?  (the whole album is terrific but that song, in particular, is magnificent).  He closed the last show I saw him do with "Stay With Me," a fairly obscure Sinatra song from 1963 and it was dynamite.

- Star Wars: Rebels is my favorite addition to the Star Wars world since at least Return of the Jedit . Love it. I think it bodes well.

- Went to the American Library Association convention the other day to sign very early copies of my new Ghosts of Lincoln book for Llewelyn.

- Listening to the band Bleachers a lot; going to see them in April. No idea what other sort of people like this band. Hipsters? Teenagers? Party kids? I dunno.

- Went to see "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play" and loved it. Taking my stepson soon.

- In December/Jan I wrote both a middle grade book and a YA book, as well as a screenplay (doing a screenplay and the "novelization" at the same time is fun and helpful). Now I'm working on another middle grade draft and turning an old YA draft into an adult book. I have a good routine going where I write in the morning at the coffee shop, then at night I make a pot of coffee (moved the maker to my desk) and work while I listen to records. Getting stuff written faster than my editor and agent can read them but I never do feel all that productive.

- Read a bunch of Sinclair Lewis last month; I'm kind of into books about crappy midwestern towns between the Civil War and about World War 1. Main Street, Spoon River, Winesburg OH, Midland IN, etc.

Guess that's about it. Shoveling the car out soon so I can take Ronni to lunch and take a couple of pictures for an article I'm doing on Chicago tombs.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 5th, 2015 05:06 pm (UTC)
It's good to see you here. No wonder you've been busy. :)
Feb. 11th, 2015 09:07 pm (UTC)
It's great to see you posting again. If that article about the tombs is online, please post a link; it sounds intriguing!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )