Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Truth About Santa is Spreading

The Truth About Santa is spreading! The book is out in the U.K. this year, and The Guardian just picked it as one of their top gift books for Dads this holiday season.

And here's a fun article I wrote for the SUNDAY EXPRESS that runs through the basic of Santa's operation. I've also written one about Santa and the future of education that should be published on December 24th.

Finally, Thane Burnett, a columnist at the Toronto Sun, wrote a great piece gathering a few different scientist's thoughts on Mr. Kringle. He also gathered a few bits from my own reporting on the issue, collected here as a list of Santa's top technological tricks.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Dads

A great take on Fish by teacher and reviewer Renny Fong:

"Whether read aloud or independently, this book will be hard to put down. Fish dishes it all out: action, suspense, mystery, and plenty of hearty laughs...Fish awakens all of the senses in its details, particularly smell. Mone writes it; you smell it. Your nose wrinkles up as Fish, being the lowest on the totem pole, has to scrub the 'seats of easement' and gets too close to pirate’s breath and feet. Suspense and action are raw, with each chapter leaving you hungry for more."

The rest of the Book Dads review is here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Santa on the Kindle

The Truth About Santa, my shocking expose of the technological secrets behind Santa's annual mission, is now available in a Kindle edition. That's kind of cool. To me, anyway.

A Splashing Good Addition

An excerpt from a new review in School Library Journal:

"Mone seamlessly integrates factual information into his tale of friendship, loyalty, and exploration. As Fish travels from farm to city to ship, he discovers his place in the world, and his moral compass helps to ground and direct the story. His decision not to engage in fighting and his efforts to stop the mutiny will provide points for group discussion. Fish makes a splashing good addition to adventure fiction."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

FISHing on Martha's Vineyard

CK Wolfson of the Martha's Vineyard Times wrote a very complimentary, thoughtful piece on FISH a few weeks back, calling it:

"...a suspenseful, rollicking, fact-filled pirate tale that will keep children and young teens reading by their flashlights into the night."

We also had a few great events on Martha's Vineyard last month. Thanks to Zoe at Riley's Reads for hosting a wonderful reading in early August, full of prizes, snacks, and costumed attendees. The highlight of that event was the dramatic re-enactment of one of the early scenes. We had a wonderful Fish - have you finished the book yet, Fish? - and a band of fairly fearsome pirates as well. Plus, no one was hurt.

I apologize to Zoe for not delivering on the promised shanty, and not bringing a pen, but in terms of the singing, I think we were all better off in the end.

A few weeks later, on August 26th, Nelia Decker and the West Tisbury Public Library, a wonderful space that's absolutely packed with great books, hosted another event downstairs in the childrens' room. We tried two scenes this time; I think I preferred the grunt-filled conversation between Fergal and Uncle Gerry. That said, the action scenes were also stupendous. Miles, you did an absolutely stellar job.

I'll be scheduling a number of school visits soon, but hope to set up a few more of these dramatic readings, too.

Keep checking back for details.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Economics of Modern Piracy

Very interesting and detailed piece here on the economics of modern piracy. In the Golden Age, pirates would try to capture ships carrying valuable cargo so that they could actually sell the cargo. Now, if they take a tanker with $100M to $150M of oil, they know it's going to be too hard to actually sell the petrol, so they ransom it instead. Eventually, a third-party arranges to have a few million dollars dropped onto the boat via helicopter. The pirates take the money and flee, the owner gets his ship back, the oil company gets its petrol back, and the insurance company reimburses the client for the ransom.

The total amount of ransoms paid last year was reportedly around $50M.

More Reviews of Fish

"Brimming with suspense, humor, colorful characters, and a good old-fashioned pirate story on the high seas, this fast-paced novel is pure enjoyment."

- Kendal Rautzhan, The Day

"His gift for swimming and dislike of violence make him a very odd pirate and treasure hunter, but somehow Fish makes it work. Full of action-packed scenes of Fish's "not-fighting" and vivid descriptions of exactly how bad his fellow pirates smell, "Fish" is a feel-good yarn perfect for reading as the waves lap nearby."

-Caroline Luzzatto, The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star

And the Columbus Parent's "Books for Kids" list.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Queen Anne Books Backs the Scurvy Mistress

An excerpt from a new review by Queen Anne Books in Seattle:

Clever treasure clues, exotic locales, fight scenes, and underwater explorations provide swashbuckling flair. I also loved how Fish's crew mates are quite aware of their pirate image, studying books about pirate history, cultivating beards, and picking pirate names to be most impressive. This novel is funny and exciting-- a great summer read or read-aloud, by Jove!

Read the rest here. The same reviewer also has a nice piece on David Mitchell's new novel, which sounds amazing and kind of surprising, or at least very different from Cloud Atlas.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Review: FISH Makes Summer Beach Read List

A great review of FISH appears in the Winston-Salem Journal today. Here's an excerpt:

" entertaining, rollicking read that challenges as well captivates...full of humor, quick-witted dialogue, well-disguised lessons in initiative and hard work with clever pirating lore and grand treasure dreams."

And the full piece.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pirates and the Liar's Paradox

A few weeks ago I visited Munsey Park School in Manhasset, NY, and spoke with a number of classes about FISH and the writing process. When I was talking to a group of second-graders, one of the kids caught on early that I have a tendency to embellish when telling stories. I'd been talking about my journalism (all true stuff) and my fiction (mostly invented). So he raises his hand, I stop, and he asks, "Was what you just said true?"

I'd been talking about sitting in a flying car, but I wasn't making it up. I wrote about the car, Terrafugia's Transition, which is really a drivable plane, in Popular Science. I explain this to the inquisitive kid, then add a qualifier, noting that I do often make things up.

"So how do we know what's true?" he asks.

"You can ask me," I answer, "but you shouldn't trust my answer, because I've already said that I make things up." He looks at me strangely, and then I get carried away. "You've actually brought up a really interesting and famous philosophical question known as the liar's paradox....."

The teacher laughed slightly, I went on for a moment more, and then quickly returned to stories of sword fights, treasure hunts, and smelly rogues.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New FISH Website!

CORRECTION: The website for FISH is now dead. But the book lives on....

The website for FISH is live, and looking great. Some features:

1. Read a sample chapter
2. Meet the pirates
3. Keep up on reviews
4. Track events

Cleveland Elementary

5th graders are bright. I visited Cleveland Elementary School in Norwood, Massachusetts, two weeks ago to talk about FISH, journalism, writing in general. At one point, one of the kids posed a great question.

"If you've written something that you think is great, but your friend reads it and says it's really bad, do you listen to your friend?"

My answer was a little long and winding, but I basically said that you have to think about your friend's critique, and consider whether there might be any truth to it, but ultimately you have to listen to yourself. I added that you should never take the first person's word. You're better off waiting for a whole bunch of people to tell you that you're terrible before you start thinking about believing them.

After class, one of the kids caught me in the hall. He was nervous, maybe a little annoyed. He summarized what I'd said with regards to criticism, then pointed out a contradiction. Earlier in the class, when another kid asked me whether I was an artist, I answered that I'm not very good, then cited the fact that a very skilled illustrator once told me exactly that.

The kid recounted this story about my artistic skills, then said, "You contradicted yourself! Maybe you're not such a bad artist after all."

A budding lawyer, perhaps.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Balch School

A group of Balch Elementary School third-graders and I had a great time talking about books, writing, pirates, and FISH in the packed school library. A few miniature journalists in the class came prepared with questions. Here's a sample:

"Did you always want to be a writer?"

No, I said, I wanted to be in the NBA. They laughed.

"Did you play sports when you were younger?"

Yes: lacrosse, basketball, football, swimming. This answer generated numerous high-fives.

"Did you write Twilight?"

No, and you can tell by my car.

"Is Fish a series?"

Not yet....but of course I have plans for him!

Visiting the Murphy School

Thanks to Mrs. Gale's two 6th grade classes at the Richard J. Murphy School in Dorchester. We had a fun time talking about writing articles and books, what brain surgery looks like up close, and how all writers, even the 6th grade version, should really think of themselves as editors. We also discussed piracy and the apparently little know fact that there appears to be an editorial error in the school's sign.

The questions from the kids were really sharp. I actually thought they were eighth graders until Mrs. Gale informed me otherwise.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pirate Ducks at the Canton Public Library

The Canton Public Library put together a fantastic FISH event this past Saturday, complete with kid-friendly sea shanties, ducks wearing pirate hats (over there on the left), goldfish, and more. I brought a few props along, including a plastic cutlass, but that quickly proved to be a bad idea, as a few of the four-and-unders in the audience went on the attack.

Ann Woodman of the Library's Junior Room did an amazing job setting everything up, and there were some hilarious comments from the kids. When I asked what they thought pirates might smell like, for example, they offered a few funny possibilities. My favorites:



"Peanuts on the floor."

The kid who threw out the last one might end up becoming a writer.

Friday, June 4, 2010

First Copy

Went to our closest bookstore, the Barnes & Noble in Walpole, and saw the book for the first time. Pretty wild to see FISH all nicely printed and bound! Our eldest was excited initially, but her focus shifted pretty quickly to a Pinkalicious picture book. Then our two-year-old grew restless, the baby woke up, and it was time to go. We did manage to buy a copy before taking the store down, though, so that was good.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

FISH: First Review

A great review from the smart, inventive Cory Doctorow went up on on Tuesday. Here's an excerpt:

Chock full of real historic curiosities about pirates, sly humor for grownups, excellent action scenes and general quantities of swash and buckle, Fish is a great, self-contained addition to the canon of fun pirate fiction. Perfect for young readers, even better for reading aloud at bed-time, thanks to the plentiful cliff-hangers.

And the rest.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

FISH is out today!

Fish is officially on shelves, digitally and physically, today. Oddly, I have not seen the book yet, but I've been told it looks nice. Going to buy one with the kids tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hunting Pirates in High Style

A very interesting, funny story from the AP today on how the Swedes are hunting pirates. This one warship has a sauna, offers massages to crew, and serves fresh baked bread. If you're going to hunt bad guys, why not do it in style?

Read the article here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beneath the Oil Slick

Since the oil spill began three weeks ago, most eyes and cameras have been focused on the widening, orange slick. But now, as experts argue that the flow rate could far exceed the government's estimate of 210,000 gallons a day, a team of independent scientists studying the water in and around the disaster zone have found another problem: stores of leaked oil lingering beneath the surface in long, stringy filaments and snowflake-like collections.

"It doesn't float right up on top as you would think," Raymond Highsmith of NIUST tells AOL News. "Some of it floats right under the surface, and some of it now looks like it's quite a ways down."

This is the start of a piece I just wrote for AOL News. What these scientists are doing is amazing, and important. Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

An Immortal-Free Book

There are no vampires, werewolves, gods or demi-gods in the novel. I realize this might seem strange, given that immortals have become a requirement in any story for young readers, but I simply couldn't see a way to fit them in. If I were to add a werewolf to the crew, he would inevitably transform during the crossing, since it typically took a sailing ship a month or more to go from one side of the Atlantic to the other in the age of piracy. This werewolf would probably kill all the other pirates, and then, when he woke up, all exhausted and guilty-feeling, but certainly not hungry any longer, he wouldn't have anyone to help him sail the boat.

OK, so what about vampires? There is one character who could absolutely fit the role - any guesses? - but the pirates and vampires mash-up has already been done.

Gods? Certainly Poseidon could have a role in any ocean-soaked book, but I didn't see any place for him here.

Instead, Fish is populated solely by mortals. Real people who won't survive the shot from a pistol or the thrust of a cutlass.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bluefin Tuna and the Oil Spill

A story I just wrote about a fish that won't fare as well as the title character in my book:

The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could not have happened at a worse time, or in a worse spot, for the Atlantic bluefin tuna. More than 600 species are considered to be at risk due to the sunken rig, which is gushing oil into the water at a rate of 210,000 gallons per day. But this is an especially sensitive period for the bluefin.

"The giant bluefin only show up for about a month, and this is the time they show up," Stanford University marine biologist Barbara Block told AOL News. "Bluefin tuna are moving to the Gulf of Mexico exactly right now to spawn." Plus, she said, the spill is centered around one of the preferred breeding areas. "Many of the tuna go exactly to that region."

Read the rest at AOL News.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pirates and Politics

A columnist for Canada's Winnipeg Free Press, reacting to news of the official recognition of a new political Pirate Party, runs through some of the reasons rogues would be better than politicians.

This closing line is my favorite:

"Either way, you're going to get robbed, so it might as well be by someone with an eye patch and a hook."

Buily Your own Desert Racer

The Rally Fighter from automotive start-up Local Motors is a burly, menacing vehicle no major manufacturer would ever include in its standard lineup. With its 33-inch tires, 20 inches of suspension travel and rugged inner skeleton, the street-legal desert racer is too niche for mass production. But Local Motors knows that this beast is exactly what a small subset of buyers wants. How? Those buyers designed it.

[These are the opening lines from a short feature I wrote for Popular Science on a cool new car company called Local Motors. The basic idea is that they're going to let customers assemble cars themselves. Read the rest of the article here.]

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Somali Pirates on the Move

In real world pirate news, two militant groups are fighting over the Somali pirate stronghold of Harardhere. And the pirates? Reports suggest that they've bolted. Much like the seafaring rogues of the Golden Age of Piracy, these modern pirates are not tied to any one place. In all likelihood they'll move up the coast and establish a link with another port.

More here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pirates and Science

So there is a link between pirates and science after all! Last week researchers released a report detailing how people can live longer by eating less...a paper touted as a step towards the fountain of youth. I wrote about it here. Now comes the news that the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie will involve a quest for the fountain of youth. Maybe the movie will end with the pirates all deciding to eat less? That would be quite a Hollywood ending.

Monday, April 5, 2010

FISH: Artwork

Artist Jake Parker created the beautiful work for the book's cover and wrap-around jacket. He explains his process, and reveals a few of his early sketches, in this post here.

FISH: Buy the Book

FISH: Origins

This is my first novel for children, but I've been telling pirate stories, and setting up kid-friendly treasure hunts, for years. Whenever we celebrate a summer birthday for one of my nieces and nephews, we usually make a treasure hunt part of the events. I'll stash clues and create ancient-looking maps that force the kids to work through puzzles and word games and eventually point them towards the final treasure.

For the first few years, my siblings and I kept it simple, leading the kids towards goodie bags and things like that. Eventually, though, we started adding more and more layers to the story. A replica treasure chest. Fake gold coins. Reports of pirate ships spotted through the telescope.

One year, I designed the map so that the final "X" led them out to a spot in the Long Island Sound. The kids were too young to swim out there, so my brother led the expedition instead. Before he swam out, we secretly loaded his pockets with old swimming medals. He swam out about 20 feet, dove, held himself to the bottom for 20 seconds, then surfaced and yelled back to the kids: "There's a sunken ship down there! I think there's treasure!" They started screaming with excitement: "Go back down! Go back down!" He did, and he held on again, making it seem as though he had to descend to great depths, and then shot out of the water, gasping, holding the old swimming medals. The kids, seeing gold, cheered and called for more.

Most of them are too old now for this sort of game - although my two young daughters are nearing prime treasure-hunting age - but designing those miniature quests really made an impression on me. It was incredible to see how pirates and treasure hunting can capture the imagination of both boys and girls. I was well aware of the fact that there are about 1,000 pirate novels, movies, and stories out there, but I figured I'd try one anyway.

The book went through many revisions over the course of five or six years, but the central idea remained the same. For me, the story has always been about this main character, Fish, a boy who loves to swim and hates to fight. I'm 34, with a lovely wife and two fantastic daughters, and I certainly don't have any experience with piracy, but this 12-year-old treasure hunter is very much me.

FISH: The Story

Here's the official summary:

"Maurice Reidy - nicknamed "Fish" because of his incredible swimming abilities - is sent to work as a courier to help support his struggling family. Entrusted with a mysterious package of coins, Fish is waylaid by pirates who abscond with his delivery. Determined to get the coins back, he joins the wily and foul-smelling crew of rogues, embarking on an adventure that changes his life forever.

On board the pirate ship, called the Scurvy Mistress, Fish learns that the strange coins could be the key to finding a fabulous treasure and that the nasty first mate, Scab, could be plotting a mutiny. The water-loving boy has to recover the coins, thwart Scab, find the treasure, and save his family."

And here's what I think the book is about:

Adventure. I suppose that's obvious from the plot summary above. After Fish has to leave his overcrowded family farm, he ends up halfway across the world hunting a mysterious treasure. His chance of survival seems slim at first, but thanks to a few friends, his skill in the water, and a talent for the art of not-fighting, he dodges death more than once. 

Swimming. Fish earns his nickname because of his love for the water, but he certainly never thought he'd use his fantastic swimming skills to escape a band of murderous pirates. He's thrilled to be out at sea, sailing across the world on the Scurvy Mistress, cruising the clear blue waters of the Caribbean. Yet he's also desperate to return to his family. 

Treasure. Or treasure hunting, really. The hunting is the most important part - whether they find any treasure I'd rather not say. It's during the search that Fish proves to be a valuable new member of the pirate crew. He shows that the brain is a far more important tool than a cutlass or a gun.  

Bravery. Normally we think of bravery as a hero charging forward against scores of enemies, ready to fight no matter the odds. Fish is brave because he chooses not to fight. He refuses to carry a sword, cutlass, or weapon of any kind. In a few instances this nearly kills him. A pirate ship, after all, was a very violent place, and pirates were more likely to resolve conflicts with knives than with words. Yet Fish stays true to himself. He refuses to fight no matter what.

Filth. Can you imagine being trapped on a boat for months with a few dozen people who don't bathe, wash their clothes, or brush their teeth? It would be absolutely revolting. Their foul breath, the stench coming from their fetid stomach turns just thinking of it. Yet this was the reality, so I weighed down the Scurvy Mistress with all the grime and crud and smells I could conjure. And whenever it grew too nasty, I made sure to send Fish into the water for a cleansing swim.

Of course there's more. If you really want to know what the book is about, you have to read it!