In Dangerous Waters, the great ocean liner Titanic is preparing to cross the Atlantic. On board is a sinister thief bent on stealing a rare book that may be the key to unlocking infinite treasure, a wealthy academic traveling home to America with several rare books, and Patrick Waters, a twelve-year-old Irish boy who is certain that his job as a steward will be the adventure of a lifetime. Disguises, capers, and danger abound as the ship makes its way toward that fateful iceberg where Patrick will have to summon all his wits in order to survive.
That's the official summary. To me, of course, the book is about a million other things as well. I did a tremendous amount of research to render the world inside the ship as accurately as possible. I wanted readers to feel like they were down in the boiler rooms shoveling coal or reclining in one of the first class lounges. For a little while, during the writing, I was studying the details so intensely that I honestly think I could have drawn the blueprints from memory.
The inspiration for the plot itself comes from the true story of Harry Elkins Widener, a wealthy young Harvard graduate, and an unusual book he refused to leave behind even as the ship was sinking. Thanks to Harvard's Houghton Library staff, I was able to read many of Widener's letters to get a better feel for his voice and character. They also let me peruse - carefully! - a few of his many valuable books. Holding a first edition of Treasure Island was a powerful experience.
So far, the novel has been nominated for a few state awards, and earned a spot on the Scholastic Book Clubs bestseller list. For recent updates on the book, click here.
And if you'd like to buy a copy, please try your local independent bookstore, or take a look over at Barnes & Noble or Amazon for paperback and e-book versions.
Fish follows the adventures of a young pirate named Maurice Reidy. He's not your average rogue. For one, he hates to fight, and refuses to wield a weapon of any kind. He also loves to swim; that's how he earned his nickname. These might not seem like particularly good qualities for a pirate, or a kid trying to survive on a ship full of buccanneers, but Fish learns to use his brain instead of his sword, and his talent for swimming saves his life more than once.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. When the story begins, young Fish is sent to work as a courier to help support his struggling family. Before long, though, he is entrusted with a mysterious package of coins. He tries to deliver them to the intended recipient - an uncommonly small man with uncommonly large eyeglasses - but before he can do so, he’s attacked by pirates. They race off with the coins and Fish has no choice but to chase them. Determined to get the coins back, he joins a strange, funny, and foul-smelling crew, embarking on an adventure that changes his life forever.
On board the pirate ship, Fish learns that the strange coins could be the key to finding a fabulous treasure. While his distaste for violence lands him in trouble more than once, he does manage to make a few friends, including a very crafty girl named Nora, an aspiring captain named Nate, and Daniel, a young man who has spent so much time on boats that he gets land-sick.
Before long, Fish also discovers that the nasty, violent first mate, Scab, may be plotting a mutiny. Fish has to recover the coins, thwart Scab, find the treasure, and save his family.
I can't tell you how it all turns out, but young readers and critics alike have taken to the story. In addition to being a Scholastic Book Fairs bestseller, Fish has won a few awards since its release, and I've been having a wonderful time visiting schools and telling kids how the story came together. Plus, it’s really close to my heart. I always hated to fight when I was younger, but I loved to swim, so I really put a lot of my twelve-year-old self into this character.
Readers keep asking me this, so I should also say that I do have a few more Fish adventures in mind. Please keep sharing ideas of your own!
If you'd like to buy a copy, check out your local independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon. But don't feel pressured or anything. You could also check it out at your library.
The book is also available in electronic format through Scholastic's Storia app.
Have you ever wondered how Santa Claus travels around the globe in a single night? How he knows what we want, and whether we've been bad or good? How he's managed to survive all these years on a diet of milk and cookies?
Well, I have. Maybe a little too much. The Truth About Santa: Wormholes, Robots, and What Really Happens on Christmas Eve explains every detail of Santa's operation. Old Kris Kringle is not a magician. He has at his disposal some of the most advanced technology in the universe, including wormhole travel tunnels, metamaterial-enhanced holiday clothes, flying surveillance drones, and a team of cloned elves with unmatched software-engineering skills. In detailing the technical and scientific aspects of his operation, The Truth About Santa answers all of the major questions about Santa, and should erase any doubts concerning his existence.
A word to the interested, though: This is not really a kids’ book. I suppose it should have been, but when I thought up this idea, I had not started writing for kids yet. Listen here as I talk about the book on NPR, or click through here for some more recent posts on the science of Santa. And you could also buy a copy here if you'd like.
The Wages of Genius is my first novel, a little work of literary fiction about an office worker who thinks he's the reincarnation of Einstein. The book, set in the San Francisco of the dot-com era, is a day in the life, and the mind, of young Edward Weston as he struggles - kind of lazily - to find his place.
My original title was The Generalyst, or general analyst. Edward does not want to specialize. He wants to know everything. And that doesn’t exactly fly in the modern office.
Of course I know that people say writers often base their first books on real experiences, especially when they're written in first person, but that's not true at all in this case. Sure, I worked at some weird companies in San Francisco. And I didn't want to specialize. Oh, and I didn't really do much, either, so I did spend a lot of time sitting and thinking and washing dishes in the communal kitchen. But that doesn't mean this book was based on my experiences. Not at all.
The strange thing about this book is that when I mention it to kids during my school visits, they always want to know more. I'm up there talking about Titanic and robots and pirates and all sorts of amazing stuff, and invariably one of them raises his or her hand at the end and says, "What about that office novel? Can you tell us more about that?" I do, of course, and remind them again and again that they would not like it, but in the end a few more ask where they can check it out. Why? Maybe they're so overloaded with big giant adventure books about kids saving the world that a sitting-and-thinking story is appealing.