Hey readers,

So, the release party in Sonora went really well.  I'm gonna post some pictures and maybe even a video about this (author's note: I haven't seen any of the video footage yet, so this is still kind of a maybe.  Like, if it's boring, or boring to the point that adding a tasty soundtrack won't make it interesting, then I just can't justify wasting your time on something like that.  Because you mean more to me than that) in the future, but for now, I just want to say a few things: 

The few things I want to say: 

1.  A big thank you to Mountain Bookshop in Sonora for hosting the party and for selling the books. 

2.  An even bigger thank you to everybody who came out to the release party and got a book. 

I got some pretty severe tunnel vision about five minutes into the signing (author's note: I'm guessing part of this was from inhaling Sharpie fumes for several hours) so I didn't really look around the store all that much, but I guess there was a somewhat okay sized lineup to get a book signed. 

So, that was a bit of a surprise. 

Question:  How much of a surprise was it? 

Answer:  I brought my brother along so I would have a designated "conversation partner" for the expected fifteen minute intervals between people showing up for a book. 

So, yeah...it didn't quite happen like that, and that was really neat.

I signed books straight from 1:45 to about 5:15 or so.  Granted, my writing hand was starting to cramp a bit, and my handlers kinda dropped the ball on bringing me any refreshments from the cookie table (note to future handlers:  the author likes macaroons) but I have to say that this ranks up there with some of the greatest experiences of my life.  In fact, it's probably time to update the list: 

Some of the Greatest Experiences of my life: 

1.  Winning the Sonora Elementary School Turkey Trot in 7th grade. 
2.  Beating World Heroes in the arcade with one quarter (author's note:  I swear to god this happened). 
3.  The book signing at Mountain Bookshops. 
4.  That one time I slam dunked during warmups before a summer league game against Summerville (author's note:  somehow nobody present saw me do this, but I swear to god that it happened). 

Now, back to the thank yous. 

3.  A HUGE thank you to my friends and family for coming out to the release party.

And an extra special thank you to Cousin Megan for flying out from West Virginia.  Holy crap was that amazing. 

4.  And an extra big thank you to Mr. England and everyone at KVML, Chris Bateman at Union Democrat, and Mr. Lau at Columbia College for the tremendous publicity push. 

Because that was awesome. 

5.  And an equally big extra thank you to the teachers and kids at Sonora High, Sonora Elementary, Tenaya Elementary, Tioga High, and the Columbia College Middle College. 

For letting me talk to you guys and for not heckling me. 

Because I was kinda expecting some heckling.

But most of all: 

6.  Thank you to my Medici for making the release party happen. 

Thanks guys.  That was tremendous.

MORE STUFF TO COME

More thank yous and photographic evidence of the party to come soon.  Just as soon as I figure out who took said pictures and they send them to me.  

 

1.  There is a certain type of person who is good on morning radio shows. 
2.  This person is not me. 
3.  Everybody at 92.7, 93.5, and KVML were really nice to let me on the radio, anyway. 
4.  I should probably stop teaching kids how to say "I don't want a prostitute" in Chinese while doing school visits. 
5.  In case you're wondering, it's "Wo bu yao xiao jie." 
6.  This little nugget of wisdom was a big hit at my old elementary school. 
7.  The whole Chinese prostitute thing totally made sense in the context of my talk.  I swear. 
8.  It has been really cool talking with the kids at Sonora High, Tioga High, Tenaya Elementary, and Sonora Elementary the last few days. 
9.  So far, none of the kids have made fun of my "writer sweaters" or "artistic facial hair." 
10.  And I'm counting that as a good thing.  

 

Hey readers,

I think I mentioned that I'm up in my home town of Sonora doing some promotional type stuff for the book release party on Saturday. 

So far, the promotional type stuff has been a three pronged attack: 

The Three Prongs of the Publicity Attack: 

1.  My parents call their friends and tell them to buy my book (author's note: so far, this has by far been the sharpest of the prongs). 

2.  School visits (author's note: and as of yet, none of the kids have made fun of my sweaters.  And that has been an unexpected, and pleasant surprise). 

3.  Local media. 

Sonora is a pretty small town, so there's not a whole lot of media.  But what our media lacks in numbers they make up for in for sheer ferocity and hard hittingness.
 
As an example, I would like to direct your attention to an article that was written about me in the Sierra Mountain Times.  The article is here

A couple of notes about the article: 

1.  This thing is LONG.  Like, get an extra cup of tea and make sure you're sitting somewhere comfortable type long.  If you're interested in me, this is quite possibly a good thing.  If you're not interested in me...well, then you're probably on the wrong website. 

2.  I used to play basketball in elementary school against the guy who wrote this article.  And I think that's neat. 

3.  The Sierra Mountain Times is a really cool newspaper, and I think they did a great job with the story.  And that's not just because they were writing about me...well, maybe it's a little bit about that.  Either way, you should check out the article. 

 

Hey readers,

So, I put out the call for pictures of people with "Sophomore Undercover" and the response has been overwhelming. 

Well, maybe "overwhelming" is a bit extreme.  I mean, only two of you sent in a picture, and I guess that's a pretty manageable amount of "whelmed," but I'm still happy.  You really have to start slow with these sorts of things. 

ELLIOT

In addition to his obviously great taste in literature and hand shaking prowess, Elliot is also one third of my favorite folk rock band in the world: Pickles and Relish

KATIE

I have been a big fan of Katie Darby and her very excellent blog these last few months, so it was especially neat to get Sophomore Undercover featured on there a few days ago.  The review is here

I once again feel a little conflicted about posting a link to a positive review for my book, but I'm gonna go ahead and do it for these reasons: 

1.  Katie is very cool, and you should visit her website anyway. 

2.  She says a lot of nice things about me, and that's good for my self-esteem.

MORE NEWS 

I'm going to be up in my hometown of Sonora for the next week doing school visits and so forth to promote the release party for Sophomore Undercover on Saturday.  I'll write more about this as the week progresses.  

 

I've touched on this topic before, but I have to say that I really miss the early days of hip hop.  You know, back before Biggy and TuPac and guns and stuff.  A simpler time, when advertising executives still thought it was a good idea to combine rap with cartoon characters from the 1950s to sell cereal. 

Quick side note:  I had no idea that fruity pebbles were supposed to have different flavors.  I just thought it was supposed to taste like scratchy little flakes of sugar. 

Second quick side note:  I could totally go for some fruity pebbles right now. 

But rap music wasn't just used to sell breakfast cereal.  Oh no.  Hollywood would never let that sweet promotional action go by without getting a taste. 

Early readers of the blog might remember the fine work of MC Hammer in The Addams Family and Vanilla Ice in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, but I just found another promotional rap video the other day. 

Starring Tom Hanks (author's note: yes, the one with the oscars and the myspace page). 

And Dan Ackroyd. 

And a bunch of dudes in goat costumes. 

And you better believe that there's a dance routine that's about to happen. 

Author's note:  I originally found this on cracked.com, I think.  God my memory is terrible. 


Dragnet was awesome. 

I'm still not sure how I feel about that rap video, but the movie was solid without a doubt. 

 

The first neat thing: 

I got interviewed over at YA Fresh.  Check out the interview here.   

A couple of thoughts: 

1.  I love YA Fresh, and I think you'll like it, too.  And not just because they interviewed me.  Don't get me wrong, that part doesn't hurt, but this is still one of my favorite websites for all things young adult literature.

2.  Tina Ferraro is really nice.  Also, she is a really great writer and not too shabby as an interviewer, either. 

The second neat thing: 


I've been getting some really nice emails from people who have been reading Sophomore Undercover.  Okay, 99% nice mail and 1% hate mail, but from what I understand, that's a pretty respectable ratio. 

The third neat thing: 


I look awesome in this sweater. 

That is all. 

 

Okay, I know I really need to slow down on this Nicholas Cage video thing I got going here, and after today's post I promise to let things cool off for a little while before I get into my thoughts on Face/Off, but before all that, I gotta show you guys something: 

The trailer for 1989's Vampire's Kiss

I heard about this movie from YA writer Chris Rylander (he's got a book coming out in September called "The Fourth Stall" that looks really amazing/funny/neat.  There's gonna be more about this in the future, but why don't you give his blog a visit in the meantime?) and I just watched the trailer on youtube today. 

And this ranks right up there with "The Wicker Man" highlight reel. 


So, without further ado, Vampire's Kiss

I'm pretty sure tracking down a copy of this movie is going to take up most of my weekend.  Granted, I should probably spend this time working on the new book, but life is all about making priorities. 

More news: 

Saint Francis High School Career Day

Was awesome.  The kids were great.  I talked a lot.  I answered questions.  I ate some donuts and felt really bad about myself for doing that.  I signed some books.  All and all, it was a pretty good day. 

Quick side note:  I visited the Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada and Once Upon a Time Bookstore in Montrose to sign some books.  Both of these stores are really cool, so if you're in the area, I advise you drop in and take a look around. 

Question:  And should you buy a copy of Sophomore Undercover while you're there? 

Answer:  Yes.  You should totally do that. 

 


So, I'm going to be speaking to the kids at career day at St. Francis High School in Pasadena tomorrow. 

And though I'm supposed to talk about my job as a writer, and nobody really told me to motivate anybody, I figured I'd throw go ahead and throw in a sprinkling for the kids, anyway.  You know...because I'm already going to be there anyway, and kids need motivation and all.

True story, in high school I dressed up like Matt Foley once and performed in front of the high school auditorium.  If I can find my old yearbook, I'll try to scan in the photo of me in my Farely get up.  Looking like Chris Farley was one of the few advantages to having a "husky" build growing up. 

I miss Chris Farley. 

 

Hey readers,

Here's some stuff that's in the works for the next little bit here at benjaminesch.com

Stuff that's in the works

1.  Interview with Alexa Young.   Yes, THE Alexa Young.  I'm very excited about this. 

2.  The author's commentary for Sophomore Undercover.  Just think of a DVD commentary, now get rid of the DVD and add me.  That's basically the idea.  More details to come as I figure out how the hell to do this. 

3.  Some stuff with cartoons (author's note:  I still need to flesh this idea out a bit more). 

4.  Uhh...do you guys have any ideas? 

I tell you what: I want you guys to name somebody that you want me to interview on benjaminesch.com, and I will lie, cheat, and lie until I get them to agree to stop by for an interview.  Sound good? 

Some possible interview subjects/people I'm pretty sure will say yes:  

1.  Adam Rex
2.  Dave Yoo
3.  Sonya Sones
4.  One of the guys who created Saved By the Bell (author's note:  who also happens to be married to Sonya Sones.  This is what is known as a "power couple."

And as a special treat for my readers from the Great White North:

5.  Canadian actor/heart throb Daniel Wilson.

Please submit your suggestions for interview subjects in the comments.  Feel free to think big on this one guys.  I mean, not like Obama big or whatever, that's just crazy, but maybe something more along the lines of The Fonz.  You know, difficult but doable.

Moving on: 

Interview with Katie's Bookshelf

Katie from Katie's Bookshelf ran an interview with me a couple days ago, and if you guys are interested in my thoughts on Taylor Hicks, YA novels, and some writing advice read on.  Check out the interview, and some really cool book reviews on Katie's site here

What sets Sophomore Undercover apart from other YA novels?

There's a lot of great books in YA, but I think Sophomore Undercover is different because it is exactly the kind of book that I wanted to read when I was a teenager but could never find. I think Sophomore Undercover hits a lot of different notes than a lot of the books that are out there right now, and I really wish I could send this book back to the fifteen year old me. Hopefully some kids out there who are like the fifteen year old me will find Sophomore Undercover and enjoy it. That's my goal as a writer.

I would also like to sell enough books so I can buy a jet ski. That's my second goal as a writer.

If you had to create a soundtrack Sophomore Undercover, what would be on it?

I guess I'll just have to go with the music that I listened to when I wrote it, which was basically Ratatat's "The Classics" on loop. Also, and this is kind of embarrassing to admit, but when I was feeling blue, I used to blast that Taylor Hicks song "Do I Make You Proud." Yeah...like I said, pretty embarrassing, but that dude can sing.

Are you working on any new YA novels? If so, can you tell us a little about them?

Yes, I'm under contract with Disney-Hyperion for another novel. We're still hashing out some of the details, but I'll be posting updates about this on my website (www.benjaminesch.com) very soon.

What are your favorite YA books/authors?

There are a ton, but I'm just gonna stick to the highlights:

King Dork by Frank Portman. The first YA book that I ever read, and how I found my agent. I don't think I ever would have gotten published without this book.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. Adam is the most talented guy in the entire YA world and possibly the nicest person I have ever met. Smekday is particularly cool, because Adam breaks up the text with really great illustrations and comic book panels.

Girls for Breakfast and Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before by Dave Yoo. Full disclosure: Dave is my favorite writer in the entirety of young adult literature. His books have a mix of humor and heart that's really unique and awesome. You really need to read these books.

I could go on with this all day, but some other writers that are rad: Emily Ecton, Paula Yoo, Jonathan Stroud, Sonya Sones, MT Anderson.

If SU were made into a movie, who would play the characters?

Dixie: I'm not sure. Somebody from Nickelodeon I guess? I kinda stopped watching that channel ever since they canceled "Clarissa Explains It All."

Huggy Bear (the hippy school counselor): John C. Reilly or Philip Seymour Hoffman. Wait...no, it has to be Zach Galifianakis. This role was made for him.

Rick (jock/bully): Brian Urlacher from the Chicago Bears with a blond wig.

Mrs. Trasker (Dixie's journalism teacher): Sharon Stone or Glenn Close.

Sergeant Presto (Dixie's dad): The guy who played the dad in Twilight or Tom Selleck.

Brandon (Dixie's older brother): That hunky guy from Twilight. I understand he's popular

What's the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome to get to where you are today as a published author?

The biggest obstacle was deciding that I wanted to be a writer and that I might be good enough to make a living writing books. I know that sounds pretty simple, but it took quite a while to drum up the confidence to believe a career as a writer was possible and even longer before I would admit it to anyone outside of my immediate family.

Up until the book sold, when people would ask me what I did for a living I used to stare down at my feet and mumble something like "oh, I just kinda do this and that" which is pretty embarrassing when you run into your old teachers at the supermarket.

Did any of your inspiration for this novel come from real life experiences?

Well, Sophomore Undercover is set in my home town, and pretty much all the characters are based on people I grew up with, so yeah, my real life experiences were a huge inspiration.

However, I'm not a Vietnamese orphan and I never worked for the school newspaper, so a lot of this was just make believe, too. Make believe is an underrated but essential part of fiction.

How long did it take you to write Sophomore Undercover?


The first draft took about six months or so. Granted, this was a pretty rough draft.

It took me another three months of revisions before I got the draft to a place where I felt I could show it to an agent.

After I hooked up with the agent, it was another seven months of revisions before he felt like we could sell it.

And then after the book sold to Disney-Hyperion, I probably went through another four or five rounds of revisions with my editors over the past year and a half.

So...I guess that makes the grand total of time to get the final book about two and a half years or so. Wow. That is staggeringly long. You kinda lose track of how much time these things actually take.

Do you have any advice or comments for aspiring novelists and the book blogging community?

My key advice to both writers and bloggers is the same thing: Write what you like.

If you're interested and passionate about a subject, that's really going to show through in your writing. Plus, if you're writing a book, you're going to be stuck with this thing for the next few years, anyway. You might as well make sure it's about something that you really like.

 

That right there is my book in the windows of the Barnes and Noble on some street or another in New York City (author's note: geography isn't really my strong suit). 

This is especially cool for a couple of reasons: 

1.  That ghostly image in the window is none other than my editor, Jen Besser (author's note:  Jen is awesome.  I'll explore this a bit more fully in another blog post.  Or maybe we could do an interview or something.  Or a podcast.  I'm absolutely giddy about this). 

2.  It's always been my dream to get in a window display. 

No joke.  Like, when I was a kid, me and my buddy used to hang out in front of the display window in front of his mom's store and pretend we were mannequins. 

Of course, having a chubby kid with a mullet posing in the storefront doesn't really help drum up much business.  And yes, in case you were wondering, I was the chubby kid with the mullet. 

The early nineties were a confusing time. 

Moving on. 

And that right there is the fabulous Kelly Polark of The Kelly Polark Blog (author's note:  I think she still might be tinkering with the title) posing with her copy of Sophomore Undercover. 

Now, I don't want to put any pressure on you guys, but should any of you feel like sending in a picture of yourselves with the book...well, that would just do wonders for my self esteem. 

Plus, you'd get your picture posted right here on benjaminesch.com

So, I think that works out pretty well for just about everyone. 

I mean, Frank Portman's readers are doing it.  Just throwing that out there.