When Did You Last Fear for Your Life?

UPDATE: Thank you everyone for making Comic-Con such a success this year!
Ned Vizzini at Comic-Con 2012
Line for The Other Normals ARC Giveaway, Comic-Con 2012
Attendees of the Humor in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Panel, Comic-Con 2012

And now... The Sullivan Canyon Bike Path Story

Top of Sullivan Canyon Bike Path Overlooking LA

A few months ago, my wife was getting her hair cut and I was watching our baby. In the salon they had magazines, and one of them was Los Angeles's "Bike" issue. "Well," I thought, "as a person who lives in LA and rides a bike, this is perfect."

The magazine had suggested journeys for different skill levels. I eyed "Mandeville Fire Road" for "Intermediate" (because obviously I'm not "Beginner"). I asked the lady at the salon if I could rip it out of the magazine.

"Of course you can," she said. "Nobody ever asks."

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What's In Your Head When You Wake Up

I had a nightmare about missing an important plane flight and ruining my career as a result. I have these dreams every so often; they're the adult version of the dreams when you show up for history class but you don't have your history project (and you're naked). But this time I woke up with a few lines of poetry in my head:

When it really is over

Maybe someday I'll use that in an epic poem about failure.

In the meantime, thankfully, things in my non-dream-world career are going well. I'm writing for the new ABC drama Last Resort which premieres in fall (Thu. nights, 8pm)!

Last Resort - Flag in the Water
[click to watch trailer]

If you're interested in following the process as it unfolds, follow the Last Resort writers' room on Twitter.

And my next book The Other Normals comes out on September 25, 2012! If you can't wait, enter this Goodreads contest to get a galley:

Okay, I gotta get to work!

The Story of Jon-Erik Hexum

I love Jerry Bruckheimer's tweets. There are just two topics:

  1. Bruckheimer's 2013 mega-production The Lone Ranger

  2. the LA Kings hockey team (e.g. "GO @LAKings GO!")

Recently, an item from category #1 brought an unexpected conversation into my home, the kind of conversation I love because it introduces me to forgotten culture and makes me go, "Damn!" Here's the tweet:

Jerry Bruckheimer's Twitter Pic of The Lone Ranger

Of course, that's Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer as Tonto and The Lone Ranger in the forthcoming film. The picture sparked some controversy as to whether Depp is part-Native American, as he claims, but never mind that -- as soon as my wife saw it, she said:

"That guy looks like Jon-Erik Hexum!"

I had never heard of Jon-Erik Hexum, but here he is:

Jon-Erik Hexum

He was the star of a 1982-3 television series called Voyagers! that had basically the same plot as Quantum Leap, except instead of just a guy traveling through time, it was a guy (Hexum playing someone named -- no joke -- "Phineas Bogg") and a kid. Here are the credits:

Voyagers! LOGO

You look at Hexum in that video, and in pictures like this --

-- and you wonder what happened to him. The guy doesn't just look like Armie Hammer. He looks like Ryan Phillippe. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A big star. Apparently someone said about him:

"If that boy has a single thought in his head, then there is no God."

(Curiously, "someone" is the only credited source for this quote.)

Well, here's what happened to Hexum, excerpted from Findadeath - Celebrity Deaths:

"On the morning of Friday October 12th, 1984, Jon left his home in Burbank, to report to work. Jon was making a show called Cover Up, being filmed at Twentieth Century Fox in Century City. He wasn't earning the big bucks yet.

He arrived on the Fox lot. During the day, he was inevitably to film a scene lying in bed - probably shirtless, on Stage 18. He was playing around with a .44 Magnum prop gun, as you do. At around 5:15 p.m. he put the pistol (according to witnesses, it was loaded with three empty cartridges and two blanks) up to his right temple. Just before he pulled the trigger he smiled, and said, "Let's see if I got myself with this one." He was apparently unaware that at close range, a blank can cause great damage. And damage it was. The explosion drove a quarter-sized piece of his skull far into his brain. Turns out that the blank was packed with paper inside, and it went straight into his temple and made a bone chip lodge in his brain. Killed by paper.

A witness account: "John smiled and pulled the trigger. There was a loud bang and a bright flash, then black smoke. Jon screamed in agony, then looked kind of amazed as he slumped back onto the bed with blood streaming from a severe head wound. It was horrible." [more]

Crazy. Unbelievable. Among the most ridiculous deaths in entertainment, with Clifford Brown and Paul Stojanovich. But at least Hexum isn't forgotten. He has a Fan Club & Archive that plays the theme from Voyagers! when you visit.

And what about that kid who starred with him? His name is Meeno Peluce. He's alive and well. A photographer now, in Los Angeles. Follow him @meenophoto.
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"Game of Thrones" Parenting Lessons + Appearing at LA Times Festival of Books

Update 4/21/12: Thanks everyone who came to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books! I had a great time on the "Page and Screen" panel.

This essay for Salon was a year in the making, believe it or not: when you count contacting the editor, pitching something that doesn't work, drafting the piece, editing, and re-editing, these things often are. So please check out the whole thing. You don't have to know Game of Thrones to like it; one of the fun things about it was that the editor hadn't seen the show, so it appeals to people who haven't.

In other news, there's a lot going on but the thing that I would love for you to keep in mind (please) is that on September 25, 2012, my next book The Other Normals will be published.

There's a Goodreads contest going on now where you can win an advance copy.


Peception of Myspace in 2007

Back in 2003, Monroe Mann (author of The Theatrical Juggernaut) told me about a website called Myspace.

He said that it was the next big thing, especially for bands. He said you could post pictures and make connections there, like on Friendster but less terrible.

Friendster 2012
Friendster in 2012

I forgot all about Myspace for two years, but in 2005 it went supernova. News Corp bought it for $580M. The New York Times asked "Do You Myspace?" If you were online at this time you may remember the sudden flip into inevitability -- Myspace went from being something no one had heard of to something everyone expected you to have, seemingly in an instant.

I joined. I had to. I had a book to promote.

A year later, I faced the same situation with Facebook. What people were calling "the new Myspace" had gone from an Ivy-League status tool to an expected avenue of digital access -- overnight. I was reminded of Jeff Goldbum's iMac ad where he perfectly crystallized the embarassment of admitting, "I don't have an email."

I held off on Facebook as long as I could, telling people I was too successful for it (nice try), but then I had a librarian tell me that her teen clientele was confused by my absence from Facebook. Not curious or surprised: confused. You don't want your potential readers to be confused.

So I joined. I had to. I had a book to promote (even if it was the same book).

I thought I could avoid Twitter. It seemed like a time sink that just aped the funcitonality of Facebook. By not being on it, I could be more productive, more mysterious, less aware of how embarrassingly unpopular I really am... and also get off the treadmill that I recognized by the time of Twitter's rise.


As a person who writes books, I know it's vital to connect with my readers. But social networking moves faster than writing. The moment I join a new connection platform, another one takes its place as the one I'm expected to be on. In the next few years, I think it'll be Tumblr, and then maybe Google+ (or maybe not), and then Zibbo.com, and Plinque.com...

And soon enough it will be Uuuuuuurrh.com, where you can post musings direectly from your squip.

Maybe then the treadmill will stop. Until then, I started a Twitter! I'm @ned_vizzini. If you'd like to follow me, I'd be super-grateful. Please don't mistake my complaints about format switching with my humble admiration for the people who let me do what I do.

I had to join, see. I had a book to promote. At least now it's a new book!

The Other Normals
Comimg September 25, 2012

Signed Book Giveaways!

ATTENTION: Thanks for the great response. The giveaways are over! If you won a book, I will contact you in the order you commented to see which prize you want. The rest of this entry is for historical purposes only.

In addition to The Other Normals, I have another book coming out this year:

Beyond the Wall

Beyond the Wall is an essay collection from Smart Pop Books and I'm one of the contributors; I have a piece about the genre wars, the history of fantasy, and George R. R. Martin's place in both. If you're a fan of Game Of Thrones you're going to want to pick this up.

I'm looking for blogs and websites to help spread the word about Beyond the Wall. If you know of any, you can score yourself one of the SIGNED goodies below, FREE of charge (AND I pay shipping).

Signed Prize Books

  1. Triumph of The Walking Dead: Robert Kirkman's Zombie Epic on Page and Screen

    Smart Pop Anthology I contributed to in November 2011.

  2. Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia

    Smart Pop Anthology I contributed to in 2008. Two copies available.

  3. Cool - Und was ist mit Liebe?

    German edition of Be More Chill, published in paperback in 2006. The literal translation of the title is "Cool -- And What About Love?"

  4. Mi Ammazzo, Per Il Resto Tutto Ok

    Italian edition of It's Kind of a Funny Story. The literal translation of the title is somewhat striking: "Kill me, for the Rest Everything's OK".

  5. The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy

    Smart Pop Anthology I contributed to in April 2011, currently burning up on Amazon.

Okay, so the rules are simple: comment on this blog entry with a suggestion of a website to contact about Beyond the Wall, and I'll send you a free signed book of your choice.

It should be a website that could review the book when it comes out in June 2012 or interview me about it, or just plug it and pass the word on about its existence. So I'm looking for Game of Thrones fan sites, but also fantasy geek sites, RPG sites, and maybe even an M:TG site. (Although I can't visit those. They're worse than Twitter.)

Thanks for your help!

Things I'm Glad I Didn't Say to Ron Perlman

Cover reveal: my new book The Other Normals on EW.com!
The Other Normals -- Cover

Things I'm Glad I Didn't Say to Ron Perlman When I Saw Him Walking His Dog in the West Village

- - - -
"Are they making a Hellboy 3?"
- - - -
"Do you want me to throw that baggie away for you?"
- - - -
"Wow, you're smaller in person."
- - - -
"You and David Attenborough are my two biggest man-crushes right now."
David Attenborough in "The Life of Mammals"

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The Words of Winter

UPDATE, 1/5/12: House of Secrets announcement in EW!

I love Post-It flags. I admit it. Those skinny little Post-Its for annotating books? I'm terrible. If I see a display like this, my afternoon is over:

Post-It Display

Over the years I've gotten some nifty designer ones --

[$10 at Bob's Your Uncle]

-- but I'll use whatever I can get my hands on. I'll even dog-ear pages if there aren't any Post-Its around. If I'm writing a review, I'll flag favorite passages and critical facts. (You'd be surprised how easy it is to finish a novel and be like, "How old was Scout again?") If I'm reading a book for pleasure, because I'm a dad, I limit myself to marking vocabulary words.

Steven King says in On Writing that with vocabulary, a writer should "use the first word that comes to mind, if it is appropriate and colorful" (emphasis his). It's good advice, but some people take it too far and decide they always have to use "said" instead of "scoffed" (or "smiled") and they can never use a Words-With-Friends word such as "ort."

If, like my father, you can pull off ort ("a morsel left at a meal" -- Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged), you belong to druidic order deserving of great veneration.

One person in this order is George R. R. Martin.

Arya Stark by Jordan Saia
[Arya Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire;
art by Jordan Saia, who is doing the map for The Other Normals]

Martin is the author behind Game of Thrones, for anyone who doesn't know, and I would've had a lot less fun reading his latest A Dance with Dragons if my wife hadn't scored me an online membership to Webster's Unabridged. If you haven't read GRRM, you probably didn't know that English has 65,000 words for horse, including:

  • garron
    Scot & Irish : an old broken-down worn-out horse

  • destrier
    a large powerful horse used as a war-horse by a medieval knight

  • palfrey
    especially : a light easy-gaited horse suitable for a lady

Or you may require polishing-up on your armor knowledge:

  • greave

    armor for the leg below the knee -- usually used in plural

  • gorget

    a piece of armor defending the throat

  • vambrace
    Oh Yeah
    a piece of medieval armor designed to protect the forearm [smoking glance not included]

And then there are the words that only Martin (and Brian Jacques, R.I.P.) could pull off:

  1. mews
    plural but usually singular in construction, chiefly Britain : stables

  2. chivvy
    to harass, annoy, or tease especially with persistence and by petty vexations and often for a specific purpose

  3. croft
    chiefly Britain : a small farmhold usually of 5 to 10 acres that is worked by a tenant

  4. seneschal
    a bailiff, steward, or majordomo of a great medieval lord or king representing the lord

  5. torque
    a usually metal collar or neck chain worn by the ancient Gauls, Germans, and Britons

  6. limn
    to outline in clear sharp detail : delineate

  7. flense
    to strip (as a whale or seal) of blubber or skin

Recently GRRM posted an chapter of The Winds of Winter, the next book in his saga, and there was "garron", front and center. Recognizing it made me feel like part of the druidic order too.

But I might need an OED to read Winds of Winter -- Martin is starting to use words that break Webster's Unabridged. From Dance with Dragons, p. 549:

[T]he baggage train followed: mules, horses, oxen, a mile of wayns and carts laden with food...

Okay, I understand what it is in context, but does anyone know what a wayn is? I can't even find it on Google.

Wayn's World

Against "Bullying"

I love English. It's a fascinating mutant stew, constantly incorporating and breeding new words to keep healthy, and I figured I would never have to advocate against any of them.

But "bullying" has gotten ridiculous.

Bullied to Death (New York Daily News, 12-22-11)
[New York Daily News, 12-22-11]

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as "bullying." There were "bullies," and they looked like this:

These bullies, who could be found all over TV and film, were brutish teenage villains who made fun of smart teenage heroes. They were easy to spot because they always made fun of the heroes for being themselves -- for being shy, or for liking guys, or for liking girls.

And they didn't stop with words: they hit, spat, and threw things.

Now, when I actually met people in my childhood who made fun of me for being myself (and threw things at me), my brain went, Ah! That's a bully! It was almost as if I'd met them before. And thanks to The Wonder Years, and Louis Sachar's Sideways Stories From Wayside School, and especially George Orwell's "Such, Such Were The Joys", I knew that there were two ways to deal with bullies:

  1. Fight back. Pretend you're in prison and go for the bully's throat to show that you're not scared, to make the bully respect you.

  2. Endure. Pretend that the bully's words and physical attacks aren't getting to you and wait for the bully to forget about you. (This will take at least one year -- and possibly until you graduate whatever institution you're trapped in.)

Generally I endured bullies; occasionally I fought back. But in all my dealings with them, I never thought "I am being bullied" or "I am a victim of bullying." I thought, "This is just like in the stories, and we know who wins in the end."

But as the bullies around me weakened and dispersed in the late 1990s, the term "bullying" grew stronger.

It originated in England, which makes sense if you read "Such, Such Were The Joys," with this book published in 1989:

Bullying in Schools (1989)

Still in print today, Bullying in Schools acknowledges the term's coeval obscurity --

"Bullying is the most malicious and malevolent form of deviant behaviour widely practiced in our schools and yet it has received only scant attention from national and local authorities."

-- and posits that prior research was limited to Scandinavia:

"The Scandinavian research tradition can be dated back to 1969 when a Swedish doctor of medicine wrote a semi-popular article about a phenomenon which he named 'mobbing' (Heinemann, 1969)... He describes the phenomenon [as] violence directed against an individual who has disturbed the group's ordinary activities."

The book goes on to set the foundation for bullying as we know it today. In 1992, the term appears in the international journal Disability & Society; for much of the decade it is recognized as a workplace issue, with books such as Bullying in Sight (1996) offering ways to combat "Flame mail, bullying by e-mail, 'spamming'... and 'cyberstalking'".

But in the 2000s, as the children of Gen X hit school, bullying takes off as pop psychology, and now it's everywhere.

Now parents can get scared of it on "20/20" and "ABC News." Now kids can watch black belts teach them how to deal with it in "Bully 911". Now you can engage in Girl Wars and Bullyproof Your Child For Life. (Do you want to? Really? How do you expect them to deal with life if they can't deal with Wayne?)

I can't help but wonder how the bullies feel about all this -- they might feel great, or they might feel a little ripped off, because they're robbing people for chump change while the bullying experts get to appear on TV.

Bullying Expert Takes Your Questions

I understand that cyberbullying is a new phenomenon and needs to be addressed -- but cyberbullying doesn't feel like bullying to me. It feels closer to slander, with its ability to instantly reach millions of people and leave a stain forever. As such it should be dealt with in court -- and it is.

The way to deal with bullying is simpler:

Teach every student in America about 1-800-SUICIDE.

It's run by The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; it's national; it's been used 5 million times; it's an easy number to remember. Kids should be taught it as a basic: "If you see someone really hurt, call 911; if you feel like you want to really hurt yourself, call 1-800-SUICIDE." Every time I read about Tyler Clementi typing "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry" on his Facebook wall I wonder, why didn't he call the hotline?

Then again, maybe he didn't like to use the phone. So it's good that Facebook has this new feature that lets you chat with a counselor if you post something that a friend flags as "harmful behavior → self-harm".

I know this is a sensitive issue, because people who run afoul of bullies sometimes kill themselves, but ultimately, suicide is a decision made by the person who takes his or her own life. We can't possibly protect all the nice, smart heroes of the world from what the bullies do. If you're any kind of decent human being, growing up you will be ridiculed for what you are and what you aren't. You will be called gay; you will be called stupid; you will be called ugly; you will have your racial heritage mocked. There's no way around it. If it gets bad, call the hotline.

We don't need to make the bullies any more powerful by giving them a noun.

Flowers Keep Clinging to My Head

Flower in the Hair.jpg

flower unbenowskt in my hair at the library.jpg
August 31, 2011
flower hair 2.jpg flower hair 2a.jpg
October 26, 2011
flower hair 3.jpg
October 29, 2011

These blue blossoms they have in LA are really tenacious. Does anyone else have this problem? Meanwhile, in more serious news:

  1. "Goodreads | Book giveaway for Triumph of The Walking Dead: Robert Kirkman's Zombie Epic on Page and Screen by James Lowder Oct 28-Nov 15, 2011"

    The anthology I contributed to about The Walking Dead is now in stores! And if you feel lucky, you can attempt to win it as part of this Goodreads contest:

    The book is also available at Amazon and B&N. Enjoy it. My essay is about Ayn Rand and zombies.

  2. "Patrice Evans’s ‘Negropedia’ Sorts Out the Racial Landscape - The Daily Beast"

    A new article written by me! All about Patrice Evans and his excellent first book:

    "Shortly after President Obama’s inauguration, I saw a television commercial for Popeyes starring its new spokeswoman Annie the Chicken Queen. I thought perhaps I was watching Saturday Night Live..." [more]

  3. "IKOAFS Art Made By Readers and Fans of the Film - a set on Flickr"

    I continue to be impressed with the talent of people who make book- and film-related art:

    itskindofafunnystory by Karely Byrd
    kinda funny

    Keep it coming. If you get the art to me, I will put it in the Flickr set, as the "reader artwork" section of the website is getting full!

There's a lot more going on these days but nothing I can talk about quite yet, so stay tuned!

My Castle of...

UPDATE 10/20/11: it's a good feeling to give a book a rave review. From The L Magazine.

Earlier this year I was driving late at night in New York City (the best time) and I put on the radio and heard static. But this wasn't normal static, this was the static of a band called Darvulia--

--who create some of the "Black metal, dark hardcore, modern "noise," occult-kosmische electronics, soundtracks, and horrorscapes™" on the My Castle of Quiet radio show.

I listened, stunned, for about 20 minutes and then picked up over the internet when I came back to CA. The show is hosted by Wm. Berger, who starts every program by playing the theme to the 1979 horror film Zombie, but sometimes gets impatient and skips through the CD so you hear it digitally sped-up before he takes the mic and complains about cassette tapes, the word "kvlt", and how far he has to go into Queens to see bands like Decimus.

The appeal of the music is that it contains such wretched bursts of noise that listening to three hours of it is a challenge, but always rewarded by the horror movie trailers and experimental quiet pieces. After listening for three weeks, I even considered getting a turntable so I could listen to black metal on vinyl --

Vomikaust Vinyl

-- but my wife and I have an infant in the house and this would not be a good influence. Our jack-o-lantern, which Sabra has named the "Jack-O-Wolf," is scary enough.

Jack-O-Wolf 2011

Anyway, My Castle of Quiet is asking for money this month!

Now I'm going to basically have to give some money.

  1. Uncle Tumba Issue #1 Sale
    Speaking of giving money, I am selling issues of my Uncle Tumba comic at a SPECIALLY DISCOUNTED RATE FOR HALLOWEEN 2011 (which according to Etsy will last until February 2012):

    Uncle Tumba Issue 1

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