And, by the way,

I'll be at Windycon Saturday and Sunday. Sunday morning at 11 I'm playing a gig as 82nd Street. I'll have copies of the new album onhand for 5 bucks. 

Onward and Upward

Over the last few years I've run over 1000 ghost tours for Chicago Hauntings, helping to make them one of the top such tours in the country. When the busy season ended this year, I told them I'd like to renegotiate my pay (which is actually less than it was when I first started with them in 2005). They responded by letting me go.

So I'm not in the process of starting my own company, Mysterious Chicago Tours (which is the name of the tour company in my upcoming novel, so that's convenient). Ghost tours are still available, but I'll be focusing a lot more on cool history without the paranormal angles. Which is fine with me - even my ghost tours are 90% history, and try to discourage jumping to supernatural explanations when we can't explain something. I think that encouraging people to look for paranormal explanations for things that can be explained more logically is irresponsible and dangerous. I let myself believe in ghosts enough to have fun on ghost hunts, but now and then I get these long emails telling me that the pictures I've taken and recordings I've made are invisible entities who are going to be cursed until I show up with the right blend of herbs and spices. I want to respond with "Dude, you're an adult."  If I'm taking you to a place that's supposed to be haunted, I'll still tell you, but I'm more apt to focus on how the ghost stories grew and where they came from (which, hey, sometimes really is from first hand ghost sightings).

 I've done a couple of walking tours for which I partnered up with Atlas Obscura - a "grave robbing" tour in Lincoln Park that showed relics from when the park was a cemetery, told stories about grave robbing that took place there, and taught some tricks of the trade, then a "Dark Side of Little Italy" tour that told of mobsters, misers, public hangings, devil babies, and arson queens along one stretch of Taylor Street. Both sold well.

So I'm off to a good start, and so far all/most of the drama is happening in the background.  We'll be announcing a couple more tours and a couple of really cool events soon, and regular walking tours in the spring.

In the meantime, you can get on the Mysterious Chicago mailing list and follow us on our social media feeds:

Mysterious Chicago - facebook
Mysterious Chicago - twitter (mysteriouschi)
Adam's instagram

New Album!

Hey guys - when I was first on LJ back in 2001, recording music was a big part of my life. One of the first entries I posted was about doing the album cover photo shoot for a record i did in 2001. After I started writing books for a living a few years later I let music fall to the side; I wasn't THAT good at it anyway, and other people named Adam Selzer were doing a lot better, which led to some confusion.

But this year I took one of my book ideas and did it as a rock album instead under the name 82nd Street. After nearly a decade off I found I was singing better than I used to.

The album started hitting places like spotify this week, and I'll be performing an unplugged set from it at Windycon.

All the details on hearing it (and the story it tells) are at

new song

"Just Like Big Jake's YA Novel Blues."  I'm playing at Geek Bar Beta on June 15th as a promo for Windycon in November, at which I'm also playing. I'd sort of given up on music, really, so I'm not really sure what kind of set to play. Decided I'd just write up some new stuff and play around on garageband.  I play better on ipad than on any actual instruments. Now I've got a handful of new songs. Some songs are big, Hold Steady / Titus Andronicus-type rockers. Others are a slow beat and some electric piano sounds. One is a Lana Del Rey cover. Not sure if I'm just playing around or if I'll do a whole album or what. It's a fun way to stay occupied between books, but not many people ever get my records or anything.

This one is basically the plot of a book I've been working on; my publisher picked one of my others to do next, though. This might end up being an indie film instead. It's a song for now. Contains my favorite line of any recent project: "If you like John Green, you'll love my hairy ass." Over in the YA world these days marketing departments will compare pretty much anything to John Green. It's like our only hope.

Here's the demo. No actual instruments were harmed.

New job

So, I started a new job. I'm a tour director now.

It's not quite the same as tour guide. I work for a company that organizes school group tours, mostly from out of state. I meet up with a bus full of kids when they get to town and stay with them for the whole time, taking them to museums, restaurants, plays, etc, and point out neat stuff and tell Chicago history stories along the way.

It can be stressful; there's always the chance some place will lose our reservations, or we'll be short a ticket, or we won't be able to find a place for the bus to park. Have to think on my feet a lot. In some ways it feels like my first real, adult kind of job. But I'm good at it. I go home exhausted and proud.

And it's a BLAST. I get to go to all sorts of cool places (boat rides, museums, Medieval Times comes up a lot), meet cool kids, and show off my awesome city. I spend  good chunk of every tour marvelling over the fact that I get paid for this.

The kind of kids I meet are very different from the ones I meet as an author sometimes. Maybe 5% of them actively read YA novels outside of a couple of blockbusters per year; this year no kid has asked me about any book besides Divergent. If they find out I'm an author, they start asking about George RR Martin and Nicholas Sparks, not YA authors. YA is a much smaller bubble than we think it is.  Sure, it seems like a big community online, but the community of people who talk about their "headmates" and stuff on tumblr seems huge, too.

Next week I get to spend four days with a group of theatre kids, doing the kind of stuff theatre kids would do on a trip to Chicago. Jazz, improv, art.

Meanwhile I'm revising my next YA book, Kill Me Now, and copyeding my next nonfiction, Ghosts of Lincoln. There'll be a book signing for Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the US Film Industry, on Saturday at Centuries and Sleuths (a history/mystery book shop, 7419 W Madison in Forest Park) at 2pm. I wrote that with Michael Glover Smith.

I've also been on WGN a lot lately; this sunday I'm going in very early in the morning to talk silent film in Chicago on one show, then very late at night to talk about baseball history on another!  I was last on the Pretty Late with Patti Vasquez show the other night; I sat in and chatted for the whole three hours. Patti's awesome; I climbed 70 flights of stairs with her in Tribune Tower a month or so ago. You can hear the show from the other night here!

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.

PLAY ME BACKWARDS cover reveal

Sometimes, you just have to trust that the dark lord knows what he's doing....

Leon Harris is perfectly satisfied being a slacker.  In fact, he’s embraced it.
But when Anna B.—yeah, that Anna B.—says she might be moving back from England, Leon is desperate to get his act together.  Desperate enough to ask his best friend, Stan (who may or may not be Satan), for help.
Stan’s orders?  Listen to the whole audiobook of Moby-Dick.  Find the elusive white grape Slushee.  Join the yearbook committee.  And go out with a popular girl.
As each strange task takes him farther from slackerville, Leon has to wonder if maybe Stan really does have unholy powers after all….

Excerpts, downloadable soundtrack, and maybe an a NSFW trailer coming soon...

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back cover

New book news, etc!

Well, if you haven't heard already, I'm pleased to announce that the infamous "Satanic YA" sold to Simon and Schuster last week - it'll be released next year! Still brainstorming possible titles for it. Also demoing new versions of the songs from my back catalog that were written into the book.  Maybe I'll get a new band together.

Meanwhile, I'm working and working and working on a new book called "I Beat Up Charles Dickens."

I feel like I now have a new lease on life.

I used that feeling to revamp a bit over the last week. It's cleaner and has fewer dead links now. I'm posting more stuff - mostly my own photos on tumblr.

And this morning I woke up to a good hair day. See?

  • Current Music

So, that's been my life.

Mostly running tours, doing Chicago history research, and nonfiction books. It's winter, so I'm reading Dickens again. Last month I finally read all o Pickwick Papers, which is like watching the sitcom being formed out of primordial ooze. After that I switched over to one of his "mid-period" books Dombey and Son, and the effect is like going fro Meet the Beatles to Revolver I've read about a third of Dombey before, and while the parts with Little Paul tend towards a sort of pathos that I think Victorians were more into than I am, the rest is just stunning. There's a scene where Mr. Dombey is riding on a train and thinking about death that goes on for about three pages, and the prose is about as good as Dickens ever got, which means it's about as good as anyone ever got. I never finished this one before (I have a crap attention span), but this time I will. One of Dickens's darkest and dreariest books, but he could never write more than a few pages without saying something hilarious, too. SO many great comic relief characters - Susan Nipper, Major Bagstock, Mrs. Skewton, Miss Blimber, Mrs. Pipchin, Mr. Chick, Captain Cuttle... so many in one book! 

Speaking of Dickens, I started a new blog where I make drinks from his books and explain where the drinks come up in the works. It's like an intro to Dickens via booze; I call it Drink Like the Dickens.

As far as fiction goes, I have a new agent who sent out my "Satanic YA" novel to editors last month. No word yet. I'll have three new Chicago history books out this year, maybe four, but my novel-writing career is sort of stalled these days. Frankly, I found 95% of life as a "published author" to be misery and humiliation (the other 5% involved free food), and sort of wish I could just quit, but I keep coming up with new ideas all the time and can't stop working on them. Last year was the first year I made more as a tour guide than I did as a writer. That trend will probably continue for a while. I'm not thrilled about this, but it's nice to have a regular paycheck, instead of getting one about every six months. 

Work work work

Finishing up the last draft of my HH Holmes ebook for Llewellyn, which'll be out October 1, along with ebooks on Devil Babies and Resurrection Mary.  Having trouble getting started this morning, though, so I'll just post here instead. 

On Wednesday I'm going to Des Moines for the Bob Dylan concert and to meet with a magazine that I believe wants me to do a feature. This would be a new one for me, which is just what I need right now. While in town, I'll be recording with my old band from middle school, Scapegoat 95 (i usually add the 95 because we were not the first scapegoat, and certainly were not the last). We write wildly inappropriate music about beating up little kids, traveling through space, and stuff like that. A year or so ago we finally played our first gig; our setlist was "Something Scapegoat This Way Comes," (a shuffle about beating up little kids), "A Pro-Abortion Country Song For Right Wingers" (just as the title implies) and "The Voyage of the Matador (Dance Zirconians Dance)" (a dance tune that you can hear below. It has lots of auto-tune and features Claudia Gray on theremin. 

I will also swing by the east side to visit the naked trike angel statue. Of course.

I feel bad for Iowans these days. Other than a few that were notable enough to make the news, I haven't seen a single commercial for either presidential candidate. The only political ads we get here are for the Walsh/Duckworth congressional race (which is ugly enough). That's it. Iowa has been getting wall to wall ads for the last YEAR. Seeing ads for Walsh is bad enough; at least I didn't have to see ads for Bachmann or Gingrich. 

DId 8 ghost tours last week, may end up doing just as many this week, the rate things are going. 

Buying up some brown blazers lately. Found one I really liked at Nordstrom Rack, but it was 200 bucks, and a guy like me has no business paying that kind of scratch for a suit. So I bought a couple of similar ones at thrift stores for 1.50 and 5.99. One is a really sharp double breasted job with pin stripes AND herringbone - I look like some kind of gangster in it. Posed for a picture in it. The other is more professor-like. Here I am, posing in it with a pipe that Daniel Pinkwater gave me last week (we have the same agent; he sent it with her to give to me while she was in town). Now I look like a sport! Actually, I look as though I have a plan to kill Batman:


This'll go well with my "tenth doctor" coat that I wear in the winter - a good fall equivalent. Fall comes around and I get to put myself back on. I don't mind wearing shorts and t-shirts a few months out of the year, but it's just not ME, you know?