First peek at UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO’s cover

I got my first peek at the proposed cover art for UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO today, and I love it.  There are a couple of tweaks that I think need to be made, but overall, my first reaction was quite positive.

This is good.  My initial reaction to the cover of SOMETHING MISSING was less than favorable, but I’ve come to like it a lot as well.  

When the cover is finalized and I’m permitted to share it with you, I’ll be sure to post it here. 

Prior to becoming  involved in the publishing world, book covers meant little to me.  I do not have a good eye for design and my attention to the visual realm is sometimes nonexistent.  While I can often remember every word spoken in a conversation from days ago, I often cannot tell you what color pants I’m wearing without looking down.  But ever since I saw the cover art for SOMETHING MISSING, I’ve started to pay attention, and while the cover of a book would still not influence my purchasing decision, I can now see how one book might stand out above another because of the appearance of the cover.

Recently, the miserable cover to WUTHERING HEIGHTS received a refresh after the book was featured in the plot of TWILIGHT.  Attempting to capitalize on Stephanie Meyer’s success, the redesigned cover attempt to capture some of the essence of the TWIGHLT cover, and while it feels a little cheap and commercial, anything is better than that original art. 


Instead, I have always been drawn to the titles of books rather than the art.  Intrigue me with a good title and I’ll give your book a shot.  Titles such as EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES, THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME, and THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE have caused me to purchase these books without any knowledge of the story inside, while a bad title is likely to keep me away.  My wife is a huge fan of Sharon Creech’s YA novel WALK TWO MOONS, but the title (and cover art) is so lousy that I cannot bring myself to read the book, despite my wife’s ardent recommendations.

And titling a book isn’t always easy, as I well know.  Neither of my books were titled by me, and I have no title for the book that I am writing other than THE CHICKEN SHACK, which will surely change upon completion. 

And speaking of changing titles, The Guardian had an interesting list of rejected titles for well know books that I found quite intriguing.  My favorites include:

Trimalchui in West Egg, the original, and I might argue better, title of THE GREAT GATSBY.

All’s Well that Ends Well, the unbelievably upbeat original title to WAR AND PEACE.

Book deal!

Great news! I’ve accepted an offer today from Broadway, the publisher of SOMETHING MISSING, for my second book, UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO. And happily, I will be able to continue working with my editor, Melissa, even though she’s now working in another division of Random House. We just spoke over the phone and are equally enthusiastic about the road ahead.

After many machinations, things seem to have worked out just fine.

And as a result of today’s deal, my wife will be able to take another year off from teaching and stay home with our daughter, Clara. It was difficult for us to imagine sending our little girl to daycare each day, but thankfully, Elysha and I can put off all thoughts of that scenario for quite a while.

Happy day for our little family!

I can’t tell you how relieved I am to have a deal for my second book. After finishing SOMETHING MISSING, I worried that I might be little more than a one-hit wonder. A one-trick pony. An author with just one good story inside him. I like UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO a lot, at least as much as SOMETHING MISSING, and though Taryn and my friends and family also loved the story, I spent about ten months (the time it took to write the book) wondering if my publisher, or any publisher, would feel the same.

It’s rare for me to lack confidence, so the past month or so has been especially difficult for me.  Wondering, worrying,  and often assuming the worst.  But that’s all behind me now, as I look forward to a summer of editing my second book and working (and perhaps finishing) my third. 

My wife and I are off to celebrate with cheeseburgers and fries.

Experience counts

My good friend often said that no one can write a decent book before the age of forty. Life experience, he believes, is required to write well.

I sold my book at the age of 37, three years under my friend’s presumed guideline. Sometimes I think I wrote it out of spite, just to prove the guy wrong.

Spite, I’ve always found, is the best reason to do anything.

I also become annoyed with myself from time to time for waiting so long to write my first novel, assuming that I could’ve done so ten or even fifteen years earlier.

But perhaps my friend is right. Though I have yet to reach the grand old age of forty, I certainly have a great deal of life experience behind me, and maybe this was in fact needed in order for me to be successful.

Guardian columnist John Crace would seem to agree, arguing that novelist and short story writer Jim Ballard’s life experiences before picking up the pen provided him with “a psychological and experiential depth” to his work.

Perhaps the broken home, the betrayal of my step-father, the near-death experiences, the near homelessness, the year I spent living with Jehovah Witnesses and a goat, the armed robbery, the arrest and subsequent trial for a crime I did not commit, and the public attack on my reputation and career have provided me with enough life experience to write successfully.

Perhaps it was good for something after all.


My mother-in-law found SOMETHING MISSING listed on the Japanese version of Amazon today. 

Kind of neat.  Huh?

While I'm not certain, I think this is actually an English version of the book, being sold in Japan.  As far as I know, the international rights to the book have been sold to publishers who will translate it into German, Korean, and Russian. 

In Germany, it will be called The Good Thief.  Apparently SOMETHING MISSING doesn't translate well. 

Oddly enough, the book will only be translated into the languages of former enemies of the United States.

I found this amusing, until I realized that that the list of former enemies is quite long.  Even nations like Britain, Mexico, Spain, Italy and France make the list.

How to make your wife cry

I have many reasons to write, and most are of the high-minded, creative sort. But I also like to make my wife cry.

It was a Friday in May, and I was at work. My students were in art class, gone for an hour. My student-teacher and I were sitting at my desk, discussing lesson plans for the coming week.

Just another Friday in a waning school year.

Then my cellphone rang, an exceptionally rare occurrence in the middle of the school day. Though I wouldn’t have normally answered it, the absence of the students, combined with the odd timing of the call, made me check to see who was calling. Whenever my cellphone rings in the middle of the day, I expect the worst, and rarely am I mistaken.

This day I was.

It was Taryn, my agent, with news on SOMETHING MISSING, my first novel. Doubleday had made a preemptive offer. Though my book was slated to go on the market for sale the following week, Taryn had passed a copy on to an editor at Doubleday, and they were now attempting to purchase the book before anyone else had a chance to make a bid.

Their offer was for more than I could have ever dreamed.

In that one moment, my entire life changed. Wedding debt that had saddled us for two years was suddenly erased. My dog’s recent spinal surgery was suddenly paid for. Our dream of purchasing a home and starting a family, one that we thought was at least three and probably five years off, was suddenly within our grasp.

Someone in New York City wanted to pay me for something I made up in my head.

I couldn’t believe it.

Teary-eyed and trapped between laughter and genuine weeping, I thanked Taryn as much as a person can do in one minute, told her to do whatever she thought was best in the ongoing negotiations for the foreign rights, and hung up the phone, almost unable to breathe. I had one thought in mind:

Find my wife.

I stood up, hugged my student teacher, who had been sitting beside me the whole time, and headed for Elysha’s classroom up the hall in order to tell her the news. I couldn’t wait.

But her classroom was empty. Her students were in music class, meaning Elysha could be anywhere, doing anything. Prepping lessons. Trapped in a meeting. Making photocopies. Grabbing a snack. I began a frantic search of the school, looking everywhere. The copy room. The faculty room. The main office. Her colleagues’ classrooms. Even the restrooms. I bumped into friends and coworkers along the way, some of whom saw the wild-eyed look on my face and asked me if I was okay, but I did not tell anyone my news.

I wanted to tell Elysha first.

After more than fifteen frantic minutes, I finally found her walking down a hallway behind the auditorium. I grabbed her shoulders and stopped her midstride. From my appearance, she thought that something was wrong. She asked if I was alright. Then I told her the news.

I thought she would be excited. I did not expect her to collapse to the ground, crying hysterically, but that is what she did. She fell to my feet, back against the wall, cheeks red, tears rolling down her face, weeping into her hands.

Colleagues poked their heads from classrooms, certain that something terrible had just happened.

Some were convinced that I had just broken up with her.

I was so happy. In fact, it’s one of the happiest moments of my life. The phone call from Taryn, and the subsequent calls from her that afternoon, informing me of the increase in the sale price as negotiations concluded, were great, but to knock your wife off her feet with news like that was indescribable.

I’d only done it once before.

Four years earlier, I had proposed to Elysha on the top steps of Grand Central Station, her favorite place in the world. It was three days after Christmas and about a week before her birthday, so she wasn’t expecting the proposal at all. Sprinkled amidst the multitude of holiday shoppers, business people, and the like were about thirty of our friends and family who had traveled to Grand Central ahead of us to take up positions in the crowd.

Exiting the train, we climbed the stairs, and when we reached the top, I grabbed Elysha’s hand and stopped her. The proposal went like this:

Me: I chose this place because I know it’s your favorite room in the world.

Elysha: Yeah…

Me: And I wanted a place that would always be here, so that someday we could show our kids, so…could you hold my book? (I had a book in my hand and wasn’t smooth enough to drop it to the floor. Elysha took the book and I removed the ring box from my pocket. Just then a policewoman stepped beside us.)

Policewoman: Please keep moving. You can’t block the stairway. (A second later she saw the ring box and smiled.) Oh… (stepping back)

Me: (Dropping to one knee)

Elysha: (Starting to cry)

Me: (On one knee) Elysha Green, I love you with all my heart and want to spend the rest of my life with you. (Opens the ring box) Will you marry me?

Elysha: (Starts crying and reaches out to hug me, NEVER ANSWERING THE QUESTION!)

Friends: (Screaming in the distance, immediately surrounded by National Guard Soldiers)

Me: That’s all of our friends screaming honey…

Elysha: (Continuing to cry)

Friends: After assuring the soldiers that they weren’t in some kind of distress or preparing to commit an act of terrorism, they raced up the stairs, shouting and cheering.

Elysha: Oh my God. Where did you all come from?

The rest was great. After the proposal, we all enjoyed lunch at Ruby Foos and then made our way down to Rockefeller Center to check out the tree. Snow was lightly falling, the streets were abuzz with holiday shoppers, and the day couldn’t have been more perfect.

Elysha, however, has yet to answer my question.

Nevertheless, she is crying in almost every photo taken that day. She would later cry throughout much of our wedding ceremony as well, but I can’t take full credit for those tears. The wedding was more than just me.

Which leads me back to the reason that I write, or at least one of them:

I want to make my wife cry once again. As I work on finishing my second book by the end of December, I have many goals in mind.

1.  Finish the book and discover Milo’s fate. I honestly can’t wait to find out what happens.

2.  Share my story with readers.  I can't tell you how satisfying it is to know that you've brought a little entertainment and insight into a person's life.

3.  Sell the book so we can remodel the kitchen, replace the windows, and increase our options in terms of childcare for the fall.

4.  Prove to myself that my first book wasn’t just a fluke.

But I also want to make my wife cry again, like she did that day in the hallway behind the auditorium. To bring so much joy to someone who I love so much might just be the greatest reward of all.

And so I write. With ten days of vacation in my near future, I hope to churn out the last 30,000 words of my latest manuscript.

Fingers crossed that there are more tears in my near future.

More excited than me

My book popped up on last week, available for preorder. I have a Google alert set up for my name, and last Tuesday, it alerted me to the novel’s appearance on the site. Since then it’s been popping up on sites like the Borders and Random House website.

Very exciting.

I told my mother-in-law about the news and she wrote:


I will order it - I will be the FIRST!

Less than an hour later, she wrote:

I ordered it - I'm the first one and now I can't wait for it to come!


Will you sign it when it comes?

Yes, I know that you will….

I'm so excited!

It’s almost as if she has co-opted my excitement. No matter the event, it's almost impossible to match this woman's enthusiasm.  This is the same woman who sent me this gem a couple weeks ago:

Behind every successful man is a surprised mother-in-law.

A few months ago I went into New York to record an interview with my editor that will be used in the promotion of the book (see the photo below). I decided to invite my mother-in-law along, giving us the chance to spend the day together. Never having parents who gushed over me or my accomplishments (as far as I can tell, my mother died never knowing that I was a state champion pole vaulter), it’s always amusing to watch my mother-in-law talk about my accomplishments to others. Wherever we go, she is constantly introducing me as “Her son-in-law, the author,” and that day in New York was no exception. When she first met my editor, Melissa, she pointed at me and said, “Isn’t he brilliant?”

How does one respond to a question like that?

I’ve heard about sons and daughters who are embarrassed by their parents for making a big deal out of their children’s successes and accomplishments, but I’ve always thought them to be foolish, unappreciative and narrow minded, unaware of their good fortune.

I must admit that I understand this embarrassment a little better now, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Recording studio


An acquaintance of mine met with her divorce attorney today to begin the sad proceedings that will bring her marriage to an end.  Included in the informational packet that she received was an article entitled Two Divorces Too Many, which was written by me. 

About five years ago, I published the article as an OP-Ed in the Hartford Courant, and it was picked up by the Washington Post-LA Times wire service and published in newspapers and magazines around the country.  You can still find it online today, in many newspaper archives and on the websites of some parenting and family magazines. 

The piece really got around. 

So much so, in fact, that this attorney has apparently made it part of the material that he distributes to clients.  And by a stroke of luck, I found out.

Luck, I say, because one never knows how his or her words will be used once they are sent out in the world.  Believe me.  I know this first hand. 

So to discover that a divorce attorney is distributing my piece in hopes that it might provide his clients with some perspective on a difficult situation warms my heart.