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1. My Admittedly Biased Holiday Book-Buying Guide

What to read, what to read?

There are a ridiculous number of books out there. It’s beyond intimidating. It is to me, at least. I’m not a particularly fast reader. I linger. I soak in the language and the story. I give up on a lot of books, not because life is short but because some books are damn long. And boring. I read from the bestseller list occasionally, and I check off a few cultural touchstones. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn √ The Fault in Our Stars by John Green √ Life by Keith Richards √ Rin-Tin-Tin by Susan Orlean √ A Song of Fire and Ice Vol. 1-3 by George R.R. Martin √√√ But most of the time, I flounder. I hardly ever know what to read next.

Sometimes I force noble projects upon myself. Read some classic mysteries, try some Booker Prizer winners, delve into some epic poetry from East Timor–you know, that sort of thing. I don’t always enjoy it. So recently I tried a different tack. I decided to go local. By local I mean I focused on books by authors I personally know, have met in my online social media adventures, or have heard about through the gossipy cabals that secretly rule children’s book publishing. I was so glad that I did.

Below I will share some of the engrossing and oft-overlooked middle-grade and young-adult books that I have enjoyed during the last few months. You can find their plot summaries anywhere, so I’ll focus on a few thoughts and feelings these books stirred in me. Perhaps it’ll inspire you to buy one or two for your friends, family or self. I realize this humble post won’t generate tons of sales for the authors, but if I can help at least one of them become a rich and ruthless media mogul with the ability to make and break men with a snap and a whistle, then it’s all worth it. So, without further ado…

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford. I knew of Kate’s book before I knew of her. That cover! A man with fire for hair! Burning fairgrounds! Miscellaneous creepiness! When I met Kate, I had to apologize. “I’ve been meaning to read that book,” I told her. She was kind. She didn’t say, “Well then get to it, Champ! I need more money for bourbon.”  (Or perhaps she did say that–details are hazy). In any case, when I did get around to reading the book, I was greeted with an elegant slice of Americana. A headstrong girl learns to ride a very difficult bike while finding time to challenge the devil himself. Automata, demon dolls, guitar pickin’ contests, what’s not to like? The book has received the inevitable comparisons to Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes but I like to look at it as historical fiction run through a hand-cranked nightmare projector. Yes, it’s world building, but it’s also world restoration–wiping the mud off the weird bric-a-brac and giving it new uses. Kate has two companion volumes currently out: the novella The Kairos Mechanism and the just-released The Broken Lands.

Trapped by Michael Northrop. I’ve tossed back a few beers with Michael in my day. A fine lad with a gregarious laugh. He’s also the creator of a remarkably taut and realistic thriller. Growing up in the snowbelt of upstate New York, I know a thing or three about blizzards and the existential yearnings of suburban youth from cloudy communities. I also know more than enough about survival–we did, after all, have a “Survival Unit” in my seventh grade science class. So I can tell you that when Michael traps a bunch of teenagers in a snowbound high school, his details are spot on (n.b. Michael only traps fictional teenagers in snowbound high schools…as far as I know). I was expecting melodrama. What I got was far more surprising. Michael’s latest, Rotten, will be out in the spring and stars a rottweiler named Johnny Rotten. I just hope there’s a “never mind the bullocks”/neutering joke in there.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. Nova is truly a friend to all writers (as her never-ending and always-fascinating blog series attests) and one of the most dedicated authors of young adult fiction out there. Her lyrical, haunting tale of ghosts and sisterhood and the recklessness of rural youths is unlike anything on the market. In a way, you could call it a romance, but it’s not the girl-meets-swoonworthy-monster-man treacle we’ve all tired of. It’s about the romance of power, of being a big fish in a small pond (or reservoir, in this case). It’s about the twists of love and jealousy that bind together and choke families and small communities. It’s about 350 pages long. Nova’s new novel, 17 & Gone, is on the horizon. I’ve read the first chapter. Beautiful, scary stuff.

The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill. I remember reading a fantastic early review of this book and since Kelly was someone I followed on Twitter, I thought I should check it out. I read the first chapter online and…gulp. This is the brand of middle-grade fiction that most people don’t know exists: dark, risky and intellectual. The set-up seems typical enough: new boy in town, mysteries to uncover. But when the perspectives start shifting and things get botanical and pagany, you realize you’re reading a story about the gnarly roots underneath, and not just the literal type. It’s a modern folk tale, but not in a jokey or revisionist way, which means it has guts to spare (as well as some tree sap). Kelly’s new fairy tale, Iron-Hearted Violet, is also getting great buzz.

The Dead Gentleman by Matthew Cody. Matt and I met when we were both debut authors, in the long ago year of MMIX (I’m pretty sure they only used Roman numerals back then). He told me that he was working on a book inspired by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne and featuring time travel, monsters in the closet and dinosaurs. I was obviously intrigued. When I finally had the chance to read the finished product, I was thrilled to find a yarn that was both pulpy and dripping with Victorian ambiance, a rip-roaring adventure of the old mold. If they make a movie of it, they should resurrect Ray Harryhausen to do the special effects. In case you haven’t heard, Matt’s Super is now out. It’s a sequel to his delightful anti-superhero tale Powerless.

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith. I don’t know Andrew, but my agent recommended I check out one of his latest. The cover promises some sort of steampunky or sci-fi adventure, along the lines of this or this. But it’s not really like those other books at all (at least I don’t think it is). It’s a psychological horror tale, about how trauma lays waste to our worlds. People are undoubtedly calling it dystopian fiction, but that’s not accurate either. What’s disintegrating here is not society, but the mind. And the book has one of the most spectacularly tense openings of anything I’ve read in years. Andrew’s sequel, Passenger, just hit shelves. Not for the faint of heart or stomach I bet, but riveting I’m sure.

Bigger Than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder. I’d been meaning to check this one out for a while, ever since I noticed it was being published around the same time as The Only Ones. But I lollygagged, and Laurel beat me to the punch by reading my book first and writing a lovely review of it. So I immediately went out and got a copy of hers. I fired through it in three evenings and found myself nostalgic for my early reading experiences. I was weened on the junior versions of magical realism like The Indian in the Cupboard and Laurel’s book certainly lives up to that tradition. But its real magic is its plainspoken and intimate portrayal of a family falling to pieces and it made me remember what I’ve always truly cared about in fiction: emotion, confusion, difficult questions that don’t always have answers. I’ve never met Laurel, but I’ve learned through her Twitter feed that she’s working on a prequel of sorts. If it’s as poised and well-crafted as this one, I can’t wait to read it. In the meantime, we can all pick up her picture book The Longest Night when it arrives in February, right before Passover.

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea. I sat next to Rob at the Collingswood Book Festival in October. He was passing through, on his way north to join his wife for their wedding anniversary, and he only had a couple of hours to meet his fans. He was greeted by an enthusiastic class of local 5th-graders who were reading this debut novel and were desperate for the author’s autograph. He signed a few dozen copies and prepared to hit the road. I trusted the kids’ endorsement, so I also had Rob sign a copy for me as he left. I read the book a few weeks later, by candlelight during the Hurricane Sandy blackout. I understood immediately what made him such a rock-star to these kids (and to their teacher). Rob has written an ideal book for the classroom, a story about a variety of children with conflicting perspectives and motivations, about mistakes, about the importance of forgiveness and understanding. It’s a thoughtful tale and he continues it in his second book, Mr. Terupt Falls Again. Assign this one to your fourth or fifth grade class and you’re sure to have hours of discussions.

So there you have it, my admittedly biased holiday book-buying guide. Each of these novels is available in paperback, so they can be had for less than ten bucks. Stuff a stocking, why don’t you?

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2. Things I’m Doing in 2012: Spring Edition (Updated! Improved!)

Here’s the updated list of Cool Things I’m Doing Soon. If you happen to be in any of these areas, please come by and say hello!

March 21-15th, Virginia Festival of the Book

Matthew Cody at Charlottesville Day School
Thu. March 22nd, 2012 – 9:00 AM

Matthew Cody visits with CDS elementary and middle school students

Powerless at Albemarle High School
Thu. March 22nd, 2012 – 12:45 PM

Matthew Cody (Powerless and The Dead Gentleman) chats about writing novels and comics with Albemarle High students. Open only to the AHS community.

Matthew Cody at Buford Middle School
Fri. March 23rd, 2012 – 9:00 AM

Matthew Cody discusses writing about books and comics with Buford students. Open only to the Buford school community.

Matthew Cody at Walton School
Fri. March 23rd, 2012 – 12:30 PM

Matthew Cody chats with Walton students about his books and comics. Open only to the Walton school community.

Sweet Reads
Fri. March 23rd, 2012 – 6:00 PM

Meet many of the young adult and children’s authors participating in the Festival. Celebrate literacy and literature at the Charlottesville Catholic School! Enjoy a dessert reception and chat with the authors. Open to the public.

Charlottesville Catholic School
1205 Pen Park Rd
(434) 964-040

Hosted by Charlottesville Catholic School.

Young Adult Fiction: Heroes, Demons & Bad Roommates
Sat. March 24th, 2012 – 2:00 PM

Jenny Hubbard (Paper Covers Rock), Matthew Cody (The Dead Gentleman), Wendy Shang (The Great Wall of Lucy Wu), and Jon Skovron (Misfit). Open to the public.

Matthew Cody, Jenny Hubbard, Wendy Wan-Long Shang, Jon Skovron, Bella Stander (moderator)

Village School
215 E High Street


March 25th-April 1st, 2012 NYC Teen Author Festival

The NYC Big Read (I’ll be joining a whole HOST of great authors reading all over NYC)
Thurs. March 29 (Time and Location TBA)

Symposium- The Writer as Time Traveler: Writing the Past While Sitting in the Present
Fri. March 30th, 3:00-3:50 PM

Matthew Cody
Jennifer Donnelly
Leanna Renee Hieber
Suzanne Weyn

moderator: David Levithan

Location: 42nd Street NYPL


April 2-5th, Chicago Schools Tour

These visits are open only to students. Hopefully if you live in the area, I’ll be visiting your school!

April 2nd, A. Vito Martinez Middle School

April 3rd, Jane Adams Middle School

April 4th, Lukancic Middle School

April 5th, Palos Middle School





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3. The Once and Future Podcast

Anton Strout is an old friend of mine,as well as being “America’s favorite lower mid-list urban fantasy author” (his words), AND the host of The Once and Future Podcast.

Anton invited on this week’s podcast episode to talk about my new book, comics and geekdom in general (and how roleplaying games can lead to a career in publishing!) It was a fun talk!

Follow the link and give a listen or subscribe on iTunes!

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4. Get your signed copies of The Dead Gentleman at Books of Wonder!

Signing at Books of Wonder

Besides having the splendid opportunity to be on a panel with some of YA’s coolest fantasy authors, while at Books of Wonder Sunday I was able to sign a number of books!

So if anyone wants to get a signed copy you should check out their mail service here!

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5. Independent Bookstores Heart THE DEAD GENTLEMAN, and the feeling’s mutual!

A few weeks ago we got the nice news that The Dead Gentleman had been chosen by Amazon as a Book of the Month. A very nice honor and I’m grateful.

But THIS week I learned that the American Booksellers Association is including my little book on this Winter’s Indie Next List - and that’s just totally awesome! The Indie Next List is put together by the front lines, the many, many wonderful independent bookstores across the country and therefore it has special meaning to me (it should also help sell a few books)

Here’s my favorite line from the review written by Ellen Klein of Hooray for Books!

“This fantastic time-travel tale with a scary twist is great for reading with a flashlight under your bedcovers!”

That’s exactly how I picture readers with my book!

So please, please, please – take the time to do some holiday shopping at your local independent bookstore this year.

Oh, and buy The Dead Gentleman while you’re there.  It’s good.

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6. Cyber Monday Book Deals!

Yes Black Friday gets all the press, but Cyber Monday is the shopping day of the future (and you can’t get pepper sprayed through your computer)

I’ve put together a quick and easy list of links for you to do some Matthew Cody book shopping this season – signed copies, deals, stocking stuffers! Here’s your place for one-stop shopping! (Grandma loves steampunk and superheroes. Trust me)

Signed Copies of The Dead Gentleman from Books of Wonder! Missed me on tour? You can order a signed copy of this Indie Next book and get it in time for the holidays! And my handwriting is terrible! You must witness it yourself to believe it!

Deep discounts on Powerless Hardcovers from Amazon! Hardcover books are easy to wrap, and these ones are very affordable. Read it before the sequel comes out! Paperback Powerless is stocking-sized! I’ve tried. It fits perfectly in that stocking looks good doing it.

Load up a flashdrive with Audiobooks for that super-busy someone in your life!Get the Powerless audiobook from Audible! Sign up for the first time and get free downloads to load up a snazzy flashdrive for your overworked loved one. (Recommend this awesome drive, I do!)

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7. Should we scare them? Yes, yes, and yes again!

I’m a bit of a come-late-to-the-party sort of guy when it comes to hot internet topics, even when they concern yours truly.  A week or so ago, there was some chatter on KT Literary regarding how bad to make the bad guys in children’s fiction.  Apparently this was sparked by a very friendly review of POWERLESS that nevertheless asked the question whether or not the antagonist of that book was a bit too evil.  I assume the reviewer shares the same concern that parents have everywhere (myself included) about scaring the little ones.  It was an interesting discussion that happened over there, and if you have the time I suggest you go take a look.

As for the question at the heart of the debate – I say scare them.  Scare them good.

YA literature is allowed to be scary (or not – golden sparkly vampires?) but folks seem to want to soften the rough edges off of children’s literature and to that cry foul!  When you read a scary book that is in fact not scary, that is called BORING.  It doesn’t matter your age.  Going all the way back to Grim’s Fairy Tales, there has been an element of, yes, horror in children’s stories because children love it.  Underestimate the discriminating taste of a ten year-old at your own peril, my friends!

Now horror isn’t gore, though the two have gotten blurry now and again. I’m not calling for drippingly descriptive decapitations (though there’s a ten year-old boy somewhere who just perked up at that bit of alliteration I can promise you). I’m also not asking anyone to write GOOD NIGHT MOON AND THE BLOODY WEREWOLF for my two year-old.  I am however saying that this writer likes his villains evil and his scares scary.

And while  it’s technically more adventure than horror, THE DEAD GENTLEMAN delivers on the promise of its title. There’s a very bad fellow at the center of that plot and the things he does . . . . well, you’ll just have to read to find out (with all the lights on, I find it’s easier that way.)

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8. Clarion Write-a-Thon Week One: Back to the Tights and Capes! (well, jeans and sneakers really)

The first week of the Clarion Write-a-Thon is over and thanks to those of you who’ve kindly donated!  (For those of you who haven’t, there are five weeks to go!  But this is the best week to pledge. Seriously)

It’s been a cool, exciting and slightly bewildering experience returning to Noble’s Green for this sequel.  For starters, I wrote the first draft of POWERLESS over five years ago, and for the last year and a half my mind has firmly been in the grip of THE DEAD GENTLEMAN.  In fact, I’m still working on edits for the Gentleman while starting the new POWERLESS book.  It’s a massive shifting of steam-powered gears to go from Jules Verne adventure to flying kids, but I’m not complaining.  Just having to privilege of typing that previous sentence is worth all the headaches!

So what can I tell you about the new POWERLESS story?  Well, I have a real thing about spoilers, so don’t expect any here.  But I will say that I am really looking forward to seeing how the Supers of Noble’s Green deal with the greatest, most diabolically nefarious enemy of all – growing up.

Thirteen.  That magical number has come and gone for several members of our little group and life is suddenly a lot more complicated.  The Rules are gone.  The Shroud is gone.  But those powers just keep getting stronger and stronger.

Of course, the center of the new book is once again, Daniel.  If anything, our hero seems even more powerless compared to his friends as he watches them display an ever increasing array of super-abilities.

And who is that stranger who just arrived in town, and what interest does he have in Daniel and his friends?

Okay!  That’s all!  Just a few plot teases.  After all, I’ve just started the book and it could all change in the end.  Maybe I’ll end up with Daniel and the Great Pie-Eating Contest!

Next week, I’ll be going out to the Adams County Library in Gettysburg to talk to a group of very astute readerly-type kids about POWERLESS and I plan on using them as a little informal focus group. I’ll be asking them what kind of things they like to see in a sequel. I’ll report back here, but in the meantime, do you have any thoughts?  What are some of your favorites?

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9. Citizen Steel: The Man with Metal Skin! (He’s no Devil Dinosaur . . .)

It’s no secret that I harbor a long-time love of superhero comic books. I still remember my first number one issue – Devil Dinosaur! Something about a red tyrannosaurus and his monkey-boy sidekick. Man, that’s a killer concept!

So it was a real dream come true this week to see my name in my first honest-to-goodness funnybook

JSA 80-Page Giant 2011 is an anthology of short stories spotlighting the various members of the Justice Society of America. My story featured Citizen Steel (him on the cover!) and Jay Garrick (the golden age Flash, you whippersnapper!) with art by the super-talented Tim Seeley. (It is rated Teen-Plus, however, so don’t give it to your little brother. Tell him to go find some age-appropriate comics. Might I recommend Devil Dinosaur?)

I had a blast working on this, and I’m happy to say you’ll be seeing some more comics-related stuff coming from me this year, though I can’t announce any of it just yet. But between the novels (The Dead Gentleman, Powerless Sequel) and the comics work, it’ll be a busy 2011-2012!


ps- If any of my editors are reading this I have a Devil Dinosaur pitch ready that will knock your socks off! C’mon, the fans demand it! (or this fan at least)

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10. Writing in Graveyards . . .

Yesterday I spent the day with the young readers and writers of the Thalia Kids Book Club Camp, hosted here in NYC by Symphony Space. This is a TERRIFIC camp, where the kids get to spend their days with professional authors and illustrators, while working on their own creative writing skills in the process.

And if they are spending the day with me, they will end up in a graveyard.

This was my second visit to the camp, having taken the a group of campers on a tour of the Random House offices back when Powerless came out. So I was thrilled when they asked me back to talk about The Dead Gentleman. We spent the morning at Symphony Space, then I dragged them out to Trinity Cemetery, where I told them to write something mind-blowingly terrific or I’d be leaving them behind . . . bwa-ha-ha!

Truth be told, we found a lot of inspiration among those old stones, and I witnessed some really imaginative writing going on, threats notwithstanding. Here are a few pics from the day, but check out the Thalia Camp’s Blog for more:

Talking about steampunk!


A poor camper made to suffer through my writing lesson.


The campers and I pose with some of the graveyard's residents

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11. The Dead Gentleman is an Amazon Best Book of the Month!

Nice news to behind the lovely month of November and chase away the post-Halloween blues – The Dead Gentleman has been chosen as a Best Book of the Month by Amazon!

This means, I can only assume, that the book giant will be hand delivering a golden bottle of champagne borne upon the backs of faeries singing Ode to The Dead Gentleman whilst I indulge in my award – a treasure bath.

While I wait, I think they’ve discounted the book as well.

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12. Creepy new book trailer for The Dead Gentleman!

Mattie Turner is a super talented young gent from England who put together a chillingly good book trailer for Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star. The trailer made the rounds on the internet, and made a name for Mattie! Buy the book here! Check it out Mattie’s trailer here!

Mattie’s newest project is this spooky trailer for The Dead Gentleman, just in time for book launch. It even makes me want to read the book. Enjoy!

(WARNING: Don’t watch it with the lights off.)



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