Philly Diversity Conference: Telling the Story of All of Us

If you’re near Philadelphia this weekend, come to “Telling the Story of All of Us: Books for a Modern World”, a conference celebrating diversity in middle grade and young adult literature!

On Saturday, Nov. 14 and Sunday, Nov. 15, panels will feature many authors, including Sonia Manzano (Becoming Maria),  I.W. Gregorio (None of the Above), Shaun Hutchinson (The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley), Corinne Duyvis (Otherbound), and more!

I’ll be moderating a discussion of “The Author’s Journey and the Author’s Responsibility” on Sunday from 3:45-4:45 p.m. at Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, PA, followed by a signing and reception. My books will be available for purchase, as will all the other authors — courtesy of Children’s Book World, the excellent hosts of the events. Buy books to support them and our diverse authors!

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Happy Back to the Future Day!

Unsurprisingly, I am a huge fan of the Back to the Future films. When my first book was published, I immediately thought of the ending of the first film. And as I wrote the sequel, Quantum Coin, I kept thinking about Back to the Future II and what I enjoyed about it and time travel stories, how it raised the stakes and advanced the characters’ lives and maybe enriched your enjoyment of the first movie. And other BTTF fans can see its influence in my book.

Quantum Coin opens with Ephraim thinking his life is great now until Zoe shows up and says, “You have to come back with me — everything is messed up!” And like Marty, he makes the mistake of bringing his girlfriend along for the ride, which only complicates things further. They travel to possible futures (some of them very dark), even using a car for part of the journey, which definitely hits 88mph. They meet multiple versions of themselves, one of whom is Dr. Jena Kim, who the others sometimes call simply “Doc.” There are probably other little references that I’m forgetting.

Anyway, this is an important day for geeks like me, because it’s the day Marty travels to in the future! But it’s also a big deal because it’s my son’s first birthday! Happy birthday, Spud! So to commemorate this once in a lifetime occasion, we had a special photo shoot:


How did you celebrate Back to the Future Day?


Book Review: ZER0ES by Chuck Wendig

000000Chuck Wendig’s new novel, Zer0es, is more cyber and more thrilling than most cyber thrillers I’ve read. From the very first page, it’s evident that Wendig is either secretly a world-class hacker in his own right, or he’s done so much research that he has become not only comfortable, but fluent in the technical and paranoia-fueled online world that hackers inhabit. Either way, he’s definitely on the NSA’s watchlist — but this book should be on their reading list as well, as Zer0es is an entertaining and timely addition to the subgenre.

The novel focuses on five hackers recruited by the U.S. government, given the opportunity to avoid conviction, jail time, and exposure by committing their services to a top-secret program. Being hackers, they don’t just blindly follow orders, and soon they’re asking questions and digging much deeper than anyone ever expected them to, and coming up with shocking and frightening answers.

With the fantastic TV series Leverage named as one of the novel’s touchstones, it’s not too surprising that each of the hacker main characters has a specific role to play: social engineer, cyber criminal, hacktivist, internet troll, cipherpunk. Their situations and backgrounds may remind some readers of recent news headlines; Chance Dalton’s situation clearly recalls the Steubenville High School rape case, while Aleena Kattan’s political agenda is inspired by Anonymous’ involvement in the Arab Spring. But just as Leverage‘s Parker is more than a thief, Wendig fleshes out his characters beyond their stereotypes, often subverting your expectations of who they really are, what motivates them, and what they’ll do next. By the end of the novel, you become invested in and care for even the most unlikable characters, which is both satisfying and unfortunate in a book with a startlingly high body count.

Striking a balance between not-so-riveting computer time and real world action is challenging in stories like this, but Wendig handles it deftly, and the novel is incredibly fast-paced. A big revelation, twist, or cliffhanger seems to hit readers every few pages. I am not often moved to swear at books or authors while reading, especially when I’m having so much fun, but many a chapter ended with me muttering, “Jesus Christ, Chuck.” This book is bloody and gruesome and too compelling to put down. You just have to wait for your pulse to slow, shake your head, and keep turning the pages.

The book also isn’t burdened by techsposition, a tendency to include too much computer jargon and explaining every scintillating facet of their technological exploits. But there’s enough for non-technical readers to follow along, and plenty for those who know a bit more. A lot of the hacking in the book is more than realistic — it’s actually real in the world today, and if Wendig’s representation of how easy it is to hack your social network accounts or even your car doesn’t creep you out sufficiently, you’d better start Googling. So much of the technology in the first half of the book is so accurate, by the time Wendig starts pulling out the slightly less believable black boxes, most readers will be happy to accept them as well-earned creative license and move on.

However, that same contemporary, convincing portrayal of computers and hacking may also work against the book as the plot progresses and takes a decidedly science fictional turn that strains credibility. Despite the shift in tone and shaken expectations, I was happy to ride it out to the end. Perhaps more disturbing is the possibility that Wendig is right about this secret government program too, since everything else is right on the mark. If he soon disappears under mysterious circumstances, we’ll have our answer.

Although the prologue/epilogue of “Chapter 0″ fell flat for me, they’re short enough to simply ignore. Overall, Zer0es is a terrific success: an exciting, scary, and often funny novel that offers fresh insights into what it means and what it’s like to be a hacker. It now has a place among my favorite books featuring hacking, and it has certainly raised the bar for those that follow.


Zer0es by Chuck Wendig is out today from Harper Voyager. My review is based on the uncorrected advance reader’s edition.


My Dragon Con 2015 Schedule

logoI’m thrilled to be returning to Dragon Con in Atlanta again this year! I’ll be attending the con from Friday, Sept. 4 through Sunday, Sept. 6, and I look forward to seeing fellow fans and writers. If you’re looking for me on programming, my schedule is below. (Of course, it’s subject to change!) I hope that The Missing Volume will have copies of The Silence of Six, Fair Coin, and Quantum Coin for sale; I’ll update if I will have a formal signing, but you can also just catch me whenever you see me.

If anyone wants to meet up and you don’t already have my cell phone number to text me, the best way to reach me is probably through e-mail or Twitter, since I refuse to install the Facebook Messenger app on my phone. Phones aren’t all that reliable at the convention anyway, so it’s also a good idea to try to make plans ahead of time. ;)

Friday, September 4

Panel: Animated To Live Action
Time: 7:00 pm Location: A708 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)


Saturday, September 5

Book Signing*
9:00 am to 11:00am Location: SFWA Table – Hyatt (Exhibit Floor)

Panel: Finding the Teen/Middle Grade Reader Within
Time: 1:00 pm Location: Embassy D-F – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

Panel: Systems of Magic in YA Worlds
Time: 2:30 pm Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)

Panel: YA Writing and Publishing
Time: 4:00 pm Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)


Sunday, September 6

Book Signing*
9:00 am to 11:00am Location: SFWA Table – Hyatt (Exhibit Floor)

Panel: Diversity in YA Books
Time: 2:30 pm Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)


*My books will be available for purchase at The Missing Volume (Floor 1 – Exhibitor). :)


The Silence of Six at BEA

PrintWill you be at Book Expo America in NYC next week? On Wednesday, May 27, come by Table 11 from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m. and I will sign copies of The Silence of Six!

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This is my first time at BEA, and I’m really excited!