Tag Archives: young adults

Bully For Me. Bully For You.

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To commemorate October as “Bullying Awareness Month,” I bring you the following insights regarding the subject…

As a latch-key kid, I basically came home from school, made my meals, and did my homework until my adult “roommates” came home. (To amuse myself I’d drive across the local park, set fire to things, and make Super-8 movies, usually of me driving across the local park and setting fire to things.) So when I was bullied at school, I not only didn’t have any sense of conflict management or support tools of any kind, but I couldn’t even really talk about it. At the time, the notion of “talking about it” just seemed like it would make it all the more real. So I kept it all bottled up inside and quietly hated myself for being bullied upon. The bullying wasn’t extreme, really, in retrospect: hardly ever physical, mostly just name-calling, the threat of abuse, a few books knocked out of my hands, etc. I was never punched, never shoved, but I still felt like a victim. The bullying created a thick layer of malevolence and unease to my school day, which—in retrospect—affected my school-work, my relationships, and my self-esteem even today. I often feel like I put up with more shit than I need to, like the guy at the end of an incontinent elephant parade armed only with a shovel.

The bullying turned this outsider inside out. When people talk about how happy they were in school, I simply can’t relate. I had great friends and, equipped with a selective memory, I can create a fairly convincing scrapbook of happy times in my head. But, really, I only started to feel comfortable with myself in my 30s! Maybe that’s why my books are obsessed with the infantile. A part of me is still frozen in a state of arrested development. In the vicious, viscous amber of time. Despite being a boy named Dale, I was pretty popular in elementary school, doing plays and talent shows, etc. But, upon middle school, all my friends were sent to one school, while I was sent to another. I never really recovered from that. I was sent to, basically, an off-Broadway production of Lord of the Flies and learned to keep my head down (my, what interesting feet I have!).

I hated middle school. Hated it. So I find it supremely ironic that, after writing a bunch of books for middle-readers, I find myself having to go to schools for appearances. It’s like if I wrote a book about terrible prison experiences, then had to do a tour of maximum security penitentiaries. Yay. Maybe my next series should be about tropical spa vacations. Anyway, I don’t have a wide audience. My books are kind of cult-y. Niche. But the fan-base are really devoted. Half of the letters or messages I get are from adults, which is interesting. Also a lot of “spooky” teen girls, which I didn’t bargain for. I thought Heck would appeal mostly the pre-teen boys, but girls have really latched on to Marlo. Anyway, while I haven’t gotten any letters specifically about bullying, I can tell that my books are savored by outcasts: those that feel different. And that my stories, humor, outlook and way of writing appeal to them. They really enjoy the obscure references that make them feel part of an exclusive club. And I know that, when I was growing up, sci-fi and punk music really helped me through. It was very different then: media wasn’t so omnipresent. You had to actively seek out the things that you liked and, with the effort and intention that required, it made you feel like part of a club. Just knowing that there were other freaks out there that liked what I liked made school much more bearable.

The baddest bully in my books, Damian Ruffino— is actually named after a real bully I encountered in middle school. I forget what his first name was, but his last name was definitely Ruffino. He was one of those kids that was twice as big as the other kids, probably had facial hair as a baby…I remember he had the name RUFFINO on the back of the football jersey he’d always wear. He was just one of many. He never really did anything but make fun of me or threaten me. Anyway, in the first chapter of the first Heck book, Milton—the main character—has these horrible memories of his encounters with Damian flash into his mind just before his—SPOILER—death! While these scenes weren’t anything that happened to me, per se, they captured the feeling I would have of basically being “hunted” at school. Avoiding someone as if they carried the bully-bonic plague!

And, I have to say, adults weren’t much help at the time. At least not for me. I remember in middle school we had a PE coach for a while, his name was—get this—Tiny. And, of course, he wasn’t. One of those nicknames that bullies adopt to basically dare you to say something, I’m sure. Anyway, my friend Guy Himber and I were trying our best to play football despite our utter non-interest and complete lack of skill, and the boys who basically lived to play football as an excuse to hit each other would always plow into us with undisguised glee. So, I had headgear—of course—and after one particularly vicious play, Guy and I were pretty banged up and were either crying or were on the verge of crying, and I recall vividly Tiny, surrounded by a pack of snickering boys, just laughing at us. An adult not only thinking that it was fine for some boys to physically abuse others, but openly condoning, even celebrating it. That really pissed me off. I mean, what an awful, awful person. I’m sure there is an open position in Heck just waiting for Coach Tiny!

So that’s pretty much the fuel that feeds my Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go series. It was basically my middle school experience…a living Heck, though none of my teachers had hooves and horns, at least to the best of my knowledge. So, as irony has it, my book series often sends me back to school to do readings and workshops. My bowels still turn to jelly when walking down those shiny, institutionalized floors, hearing the exploding heart-attack bell, and swimming upstream through halls of impulse-control-challenged pre-teens. Maybe it’s a form of therapy. But it still feels like, inside, there is that nervous little kid with the headgear, wearing bellbottom cords and a Star Wars T-shirt, just trying to get through his day with as little fuss as possible. And I’m sure it is exponentially worse for kids today.

Being an adolescent is hard. Harder now than ever, actually. Especially with all of the adult tools nowadays that only kids have the disposable time to completely utilize for evil. The key to it all is perspective. Now, in retrospect, I know that that time was fleeting. Transitory. But a blip. Sure, it was awful at times, but now I know that it was just a patch of bad road. At the time, though, it seemed impossibly deep and impassably terrible. And it’s really hard to convince someone with no perspective to have perspective.

But does get better, as they say.

Just remember: A bully is basically no different than their victim, only he or she tends to keep their bruises on the inside. A bully is really only beating him or herself up……only you’re the one doubled over in agony, scrambling for your broken glasses and your shattered dignity. No joke (In fact, you should never joke with a bully, as they always finish up with a strong punch-line). Bullies are always on the prowl for a quick and dirty fight. It’s best to leave them to simmer solo in their own beastly juices. Trying to win is the surest way to lose. The battle they’re fighting isn’t with you. It’s with themselves. You’d just get in the way…

Guest Blog and Amazon Gift Card Contest 2/13!

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Join book blog Bitten By Books on Thursday 2/13 with me (author Dale Basye) for a guest blog, chat and contest.This event post goes up at 12:00pm Central and runs into the evening. For those visiting from outside of the US, here is the time conversion link. Bitten By Books is in the Chicago time zone: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/

I will be talking about my newest book Wise Acres: The Seventh Circle of Heck.

“In the seventh installment of Heck, Dale E. Basye sends Milton and Marlo Fauster to Wise Acres, the circle reserved for kids who sass back. In Wise Acres, the cleverest, snarkiest, put-downiest kids debate and trade insults in Spite Club. But the new vice principal, Lewis Carroll, has some curious plans to raise the profile—and the stakes—of the competition. Now a full-fledged War of the Words will be broadcast through the afterlife. The winner will get the heck out of Heck and go straight to heaven. And the loser? Well, the loser goes down . . . all the way down to the real h-e-double-hockey-sticks. And Milton and Marlo are on opposite teams. Can they find a way out of Lewis Carroll’s mad-as-a-hatter scheme? Or is one Fauster about to pay a permanent visit to the Big Guy Downstairs?”

CONTEST INFO: Open to readers worldwide!
First Prize: $20.00 Amazon Gift Card
RSVP below and get 25 entries to the prize portion of the contest when you show up on the day of the event. If you don’t show up and mention your RSVP your points won’t be entered into the contest. Be SURE to TWEET and FACEBOOK this link: http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=72741 so your friends can RSVP too.

Interview with Jacobsen’s Books

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1) What was the first piece you ever wrote?

Focusing the telescope of attention inward, the haziest memory of early writing I can think of is a gripping, multi-layered piece of fiction entitled “Snoopy Travels Around the World.” It probably won’t come as much of a shock to you—the person on the other side of whatever this is—that this short slab of edgy prose was about Snoopy, and how he…well, traveled around the world. I was probably seven or eight when my pen (or crayon, more likely) produced this genre-defying work. It was basically a list of places loosely held together with the dramatic conceit of Snoopy being bored, venturing forth, then returning home, realizing that he was happiest here all along. I believe some of the places he visited were “France, Italy, Africa, the desert, Mexico…” amongst others. I love the depth of thought that went into “the desert”…I even cribbed the main character. I’m surprised the Schultz estate hasn’t hounded me. Puzzlingly, the story was printed in The San Francisco Chronicle. Really. I ended up working there years later, probably on the merits of this early, disturbing work.

2) Where do you get most of your ideas?

Mostly my brain…but then again, look what’s telling me that! My brain thinks it knows everything. It’s like it has a mind of its own sometimes. Anyway, I’m just this sort of living, breathing ransom note comprised of odd scraps of often conflicting things, hastily pasted together to form some kind of coherent incoherence. Sure, I read a lot—mostly nonfiction (here’s a parenthetical statement wedged inside of two dashes: I’m currently reading the first volume in an exhaustive and exhausting history of the Beatles. It’s fascinating, but I just found out that the second volume won’t be published in another six years, when I’ll be in my 50s…my sweet lord…)—I also wage a valiant yet doomed assault on The New Yorker, where I try to keep up, invariably fail, then cancel my subscription until I get another offer where they basically pay me to read it…throwing in a desk calendar or something. I used to be a movie critic, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the dark. I also absorb most every conversation I overhear in coffee shops. So all of this stuff coagulates in my brain pan—baking for a fortnight at about 350 degrees until golden brown—and then I chip it out of the pan and…great, now I’m hungry and I’ve completely lost my way. The point is, I get my ideas everywhere. I think my greatest strength, besides competitive thumb wrestling, is in putting ordinary things together in unexpected ways. I have to make something my own before I’m interested, which is why I’d be a terrible co-author!
3) Who was your favorite childhood author?

At first, the Peanuts anthologies, then the Hardy Boys, then Jules Verne, then the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, then Dune, then Catcher in the Rye, then Crime and Punishment, and then a book of matches.

Probably Roald Dahl, for his wicked sense of humor. Then I got into sci-fi WAY hard. Inhaled most everything that had space ships in it. As a teen, I’d carry around anything by Kurt Vonnegut, even before I fully understood his books, perhaps hoping to absorb them through osmosis.

4) Who do you act out the scenes in your novels with?

I’m not sure I fully understand this question, though that has never stopped me before. I don’t really “act out” my scenes (though I have been accused of acting out, especially by my mom). I grab pictures of what I think my characters look like and pin them to a corkboard so they feel more real. I also have to sketch out my various monsters and creatures so I can describe them properly. That way I’m just recounting what I’m seeing rather than writing. The closest I’ve come to acting out my scenes (apart from literally acting out my scenes at readings) was one time when I was driving, which I almost never do as a committed cyclist, and I had a conversation playing out in my head, where it very much felt like two separate people, and I later realized it was Milton and Marlo Fauster, the two protagonists of my Heck series! What they were saying didn’t seem like what I would say at all. They were speaking for themselves! I’m lucky my insurance doesn’t cover meds or I would be out of a job.

5) What is your favorite thing you’ve written?

I was sort of a “Johnny come lately” when it comes to writing (as is evident by my use of phrases such as “Johnny come lately.”). As a kid I was really into drawing: mainly spaceships and superheroes (such as The Volt and the ill-named Human Faucet). Later, I was really into music, which was my driving passion up until my early 30s. I used to write stories, though, to supplement my drawings: mainly based on existing properties such as Star Trek. You know: having Kirk and Spock do cool things like destroy entire planets that wore white after Labor Day, or do awesome mash-ups with the Enterprise battling the Fantastic Four. I would also view the burden of writing a book report into an opportunity to use whatever subject was imposed upon me as a launch pad to write what I really wanted to write about. Like when I had to write about the Declaration of Independence. I housed my essay within a post-apocalyptic story where a man finds the document in the rubble of a destroyed building (razed by alien lasers) and, though English had changed so much he could only make out part of it, he gets the gist just as humanity is enslaved by our new alien overlords. It got an A, though that could have been because I used glitter on the cover. I became more serious about writing when I worked at The San Francisco Chronicle. Though I was mostly a messenger, I would review night clubs and books so that I could go to night clubs for free and get books before they were released to the masses. I found that I really enjoyed being published! Oh, and the writing too. From there, I began reviewing movies and became a movie critic, then started my own newspaper in Portland (Tonic), then was an Arts Editor at Willamette Week before being sucked into the Netherworld of advertising. When I look back at my reviews, they remind me a lot of the writing that I did as a kid, where I’d approach a subject as a springboard to talk about something else that sort of relates but doesn’t really. Like when I reviewed Alien 3 and it turned out to be mostly about my difficult relationship with my mother. I think it was the whole “hatching eggs, bleeding acid, and things eating their way out of stomachs” thing.

Oh…I almost forgot the question. I think one of the things I’ve written I’ve enjoyed the most was in my newspaper tonic. One was a fake news story of a bunch of dim-witted old protesters protesting the Arboretum, waving signs declaring that Arboretum Is Murder, and another where I did a fake profile on a guy that “tasted” local streets and reviewed them as if he were a wine connoisseur. Anyway, they seemed funny at the time. I’m probably the most proud of my books because, wow, it’s hard to sit for a year and write a book and not have a total breakdown.

6) What scene in your writing has made you laugh the hardest or cry the most?

My fourth Heck book, Fibble: Where the Lying Kids Go, takes place in an underworld advertising agency. So I had a lot of fun using my advertising experience for good use, coming up with ridiculous campaigns for products such as “Gee, Your Farts Smell Terrific!” (scented underwear) and flavored soap with a yummy “surprise” in the middle. That stuff cracked me up. In terms of crying, there is a note that Milton’s mother leaves him at the end of the second Heck book, Rapacia, where she is telling him he is not to blame for his sister’s death that gets me every time.

7) What do you think makes good writing?

A strong voice, declaring something that hasn’t been declared before, at least not in that particular way. I like experiencing a story through fresh perspectives. The story itself may not even be conventionally “good,” but I enjoy a ride in a new car, going someplace I’ve never been before. For instance, I love Tom Robbins’ Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, not so much for the story, which I barely remember, but telling that story in second person was so exciting to me as a reader! I love that he took that chance!

8) What made you fall in love with writing?

I loved creating worlds to inhabit, as an escape. I think any outcast retreats into their imagination, and that is just one of the many ways that I am not unique. For a time I did it with music, then movies, but then I realized I could have the most control by writing: controlling every aspect of the world I was creating. It probably seriously started for me when I worked the graveyard shift at the San Francisco Chronicle. I would be SO bored that I wrote little stories for my friends on the day shift. Nothing like being alone in a huge building tending countless machines at 3 AM to get your creative juices flowing. They started as funny little anecdotes then expanded into surreal tomes involving all of the people I worked with.

9) How do you beat out your writers block?

Of the many problems I have, that is not one of them. In fact, I suffer from having too many ideas, so my books are like high pressure canisters. One day I will relax and not have that anxiety that comes with thinking that every idea you have should be captured. Some, well…don’t. I do, occasionally, feel like my mojo has left the building…that what I’m writing isn’t crackling with creative energy. So I’ll ride my bike. That tends to dislodge the sludge from my brain. Wrestling alligators also helps keep me in the moment.

10) Who is your favorite writer?

The guy that writes the Emergency Exit signs on planes. Those are very useful. There are so many writers that I am DEADLY jealous of…but, in terms of writing that has always affected me on multiple levels, I’d say Kurt Vonnegut. I mean, every book of his has some wonderful nugget. Like Mother Night (We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.) and Slaughterhouse Five (How nice–to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.). Brilliant. I miss St. Kurt.

Wise Acres: The Seventh Circle of Heck is an Amazon Best Book of the Month!

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…available December 24th!

Busy Week in Heck

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This past week, I had two wonderful appearances, firstly as part of the Bards and Brews reading series, and then leading the monthly Young Willamette Writers workshop!

1) Bards and Brews

I was late. Yes, late for my own reading. I do have an excellent excuse, however: I am always late. It’s something hardwired into my DNA. I can’t prove that, exactly, because I was late for my doctor’s appointment, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Luckily, I was to read with four other wonderful authors—Ripley Patton (GHOST HAND), Maggie Faire (CHAMELEON: THE AWAKENING), Mary Jane Nordgren (QUIET COURAGE), and Cat Winters (IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS)—so I was covered. This reading, at Primrose & Tumbleweeds in Hillsboro, Oregon, was different than my usual readings for three reasons. 1) It was at night. Usually, as a children’s author, your readings fall somewhere between nap time and dinner. 2) The audience was adults. Luckily, most of the jokes didn’t fly under their heads. 3) There was wine. Wine and signing books, I have found, is not a winning combination. So I sang, told a few jokes—or at least made several statement intended at producing mirth—and dragged two rather unwilling yet game audience members up to the podium to help me read the first chapter of Heck. I like doing this as this makes less work for me. And, in a few hundred blinks of an eye, my portion of the reading was over and I got to enjoy listening to other less socially awkward authors read their work! I even bought a book and had it signed. By the actual author, no less! After the event was over, I listened to music way to loud in the car since I never drive, which is great fun, not only because it’s a blast to scream while hurtling in a metal box along a freeway, but then—when my wife uses the car first thing in the morning—the radio immediately comes on, blaring, and scares the figurative crap out of her!

2) Young Willamette Writers Workshop

Next, it was off to Portland’s Old Church—which is an indeed a church that is very old—to give a workshop for a group of budding writers focused on building compelling characters with original voices, which is really hard, since—if you aren’t careful—all of your characters can begin to sound like you using a funny voices. One way of preventing this is to work in coffee shops so that, if you start using the funny voices, you will be publicly embarrassed by a hipster barista, which is pretty much the worse thing that can happen to a writer. I warmed up the crowd of a dozen young scribes with a song. The only problem was, when the Young Willamette Writers group holds their monthly meeting, there is a bigger meeting for the adults next door where they have a speaker read and what not. And, this being a church (an old one), my beautiful voice and exquisite guitar playing really carried, as if held aloft by angels, and filled the building with song. It was like at Thanksgiving dinner, where the adults are prattling away at the big table, and then suddenly the kids’ table erupts with laughter, and gets glared at. So doors were closed, and I continued, unashamed.

Usually I show up to my workshops with a multimedia presentation to help keep me on track and to be sure that all of the attendees can take part in the prompts and exercises. And, perhaps this being an old church, it also came equipped with old computer connectors, meaning, I couldn’t project my presentation. But, no matter: when life serves you lemons, you simply have the kids huddle around your computer to watch your Keynote presentation of lemons. There is nothing more satisfying than giving a workshop where all of the attendees really WANT to be there and get busy writing! Some great characters were created, including ghost teens and talking microwaves, and everything in between!

And, in two weeks, things get even more interesting as I fly out to St. Louis to take part in author Heather Brewer’s amazing anti-bully extravaganza, the Less Than Three conference!

Love this Goodreads review of Precocia!

“Before I go on, I want to let everyone know that I am, in fact, a KID. Thirteen years old, to be exact. And, odd as it may be– not to mention extremely rare– I understood all the puns, Biblical references, mythical references, cultural references, and general not-from-the-twenty-first-century-puns/knowledge/background information jokes. This is because not only did both my parents spend time telling and showing me movies, stories, and pop culture references from ” back in their day”, I also read constantly and pick up background information from other books. To most kids my age, the AWESOME Heck books would be confusing and possibly boring, unfortunately. However, I love these books because of that!! Before, I used to ask my mom why she made me watch I Love Lucy and made me listen to Jesus Christ Superstar, and she would say,” So you can talk to adults”. And even though I love adults and all (sadly I communicate with them more proficiently than with my own friends sometimes) whenever she told me that I used to think, Why THE HECK DO I CARE AGAIN?? But now I’m glad she did that because I can enjoy these books while my friends go, Huh? What the crap is that?– and there’s something satisfyingly hilarious about that. Sorry, friends. I’m not gonna lie. I love these books- in fact, these are my favorite books! At times Precocia was a bit confusing– what with the constant reality switches on Milton’s side of the equation– but other then that, it was another wonderful book in a wonderful series. Hopefully this will continue to be the result in books to come- and I have no doubt it will! Lipptor– now ‘ Wise Acres’- sounds really exciting! Also I’m hoping Zane will come back; its been two books with no sign of him. In conclusion, it was an awesome book and I’m glad a bought it. Oh, by the way, my favorite book in the series was Rapacia, although Heck and Fibble were close competitors. Hopefully Wise Acres will be my new favorite- who knows? :):):D” — MAGGIE

The Hardly Boys Mysteries: The Best-Not-Trifled-With Occurrence

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 9.42.19 AMChapter One: A Good Day for Staying Out of Trouble

Frank and Joe Hardly clutched the grips of their padded scooters and stared in horror at the oncoming jalopy. 

“He’ll hit us!” Frank shrieked.

“Or she’ll hit us,” Joe corrected. “We mustn’t rashly assume gender.”

“Whomever is driving could very well hit us upon passing. They could succumb to a sudden stroke, be fiddling with the radio, or simply bear a grudge against two impeccably clean young men out for a brisk stroll after being told to get some fresh air by their irritable governess…”

“We’d better cautiously ascend this hillside, taking our time as to avoid injury!” Frank exclaimed, as the boys started up the mild embankment, the training wheels of their scooters grumbling over the gravel.

To their amazement, the car passed without incident. 

“Wow!” said Joe. “Let’s go back home before that crazy guy—“

“Or girl.”

“—comes back to finish the job.” 

 On their right,  an embankment of plush moss sloped gradually to an ambitious puddle. From the opposite side rose a small blackberry bush.

“Watch your step, Frank, or Dad’s papers won’t get delivered.”

Frank reached into his jacket pocket to be sure several important legal papers were still there. Relieved to find them, Frank chuckled and said, “After we help father with his latest personal injury case, he ought to set up the firm of Hardly and Sons.”

“That would be very sensible of him,” Joe replied with a respectable grin. “Isn’t he one of the most famous claims adjusters in the country? And aren’t we meticulous and content to spend our days assessing the amount of compensation that should be paid after a person has made a claim on their insurance policy too?”

Just then, the two boys heard the gentle clatter of a car approaching from their rear. 

“An ice cream truck!” Joe burst out.

“Good night!” Frank replied, clearing his throat. “I’m already getting all phlegmy.”

At once the Hardlys stopped and pulled as close to the edge as they dared.

The ice cream van ambled slowly past. 

“Whew!That was close!” Frank gasped. 

“If I ever meet that driver again,” Joe muttered, “I’ll -I’ll…have the butler deliver a strongly worded reprimand!” 

Perhaps we should entrust a proper carrier with these papers,” Frank said.

“Yes,” Joe agreed meekly. “Better safe than sorry.” 

“We can stop off at Chet’s.”

Chet Morton, who was a school chum of the Hardly boys, lived on an estate about a mile out of Cravenport. 

The two boys laughed.

“Just kidding,” Frank added. “Chet is disgusting.”

Beyond the tall bushes was a flaming, overturned wreck with wheels cast upward. 

“Egad!” gasped Frank in terror. “Do you think we should—“

“Most definitely,” Joe interrupted. “Run home as fast as we can and make a detailed report!”

The brother climbed carefully out of the culvert and rode home at a sensible speed upon their padded scooters. 

“After we phone the authorities,” Frank said, his voice quavering with fear, “perhaps we can relax with a game of Chinese checkers.”

Joe blanched.

“Perhaps something less…exotic. Like regular checkers.”

“Capital idea!”

 

 Chapter Two: A Calming Sip of Not-Too Hot Chocolate…