Author Archives: davidlomax

About davidlomax

Writer, teacher, husband, dad. Geek from way back. Author of the totally pre-orderable Backward Glass, out in October 2013 from Flux Books (http://goo.gl/4FOM2).

A review!

A couple of months ago, Anne Hannah at Addicted2Heroines gave a very generous review of Backward Glass.  My editor said it would probably be better for me if the review were to come out closer to our publication date.  Anne was gracious enough to withdraw the review, but this past week I started feeling guilty at asking her to continue to hold off since after all other reviews are beginning to roll out.  So here it is.  That review made my whole week, especially the bit where she called my book “a sci-fi mystery to die for.”  I wish I could have got that on the cover.

Thanks, Anne!


Banned Books

Hey all!  I just did a guest post at E. Kristin Anderson’s Write all the Words blog for her banned books month.


Kirkus starred review! What, what!

So I have a real trouble with self-promotion.  Apparently that’s a classic trait of an introvert, which, duh.   Today for example, we’re at the dentist and just before the hygienist starts torturing me a la Marathon Man she asks, “So, what’s new with you?  Anything new?  Anything new happening?”  I kid you not — there were three questions in a row to which the answer could have been, “My debut novel comes out in six weeks and I just got a starred review in Kirkus which is cool because that’s a really rare thing, and the review was really, really, blushingly positive.”

Me at the dentist. Bonus obscure reference: “Try acting, dear boy.”

My answer?  Oh, not much.

Fortunately, I have a wife who loves to brag about me.  And she was next to get her teeth scraped.  Long story short?  The hygienist’s daughter (filling in as the receptionist today) has pre-ordered Backward Glass.  (Also worth noting:  today I found a book blogger who discovered Backward Glass because my wife started following her on Twitter.  So Christina Lomax rules today.  And every other day.)

The lesson for me, I guess, is that it’s time for me to try — hesitantly, shyly — to start promoting.  So — hey guys!  I got a starred review on Kirkus.  I can’t feature the review here or even link to the full thing, because the magazine isn’t out yet, but I can say that they called Backward Glass an “Intricate, lusciously creepy paranormal mystery,” and that they said that “Following the complex threads of adventure as they come together through the multitude of intertwined journeys is a joy.”

So, that.  It’s a starred review, as I may have said already, and Kirkus isn’t all free and easy with the stars the way my kindergarten teacher was.  (I keed, I keed; I didn’t go to kindergarten.  I was schooled in Scotland and went to primary one.  My teacher gave out beatings, not stars — though I didn’t get any of those either.)

I digress:  Starred review in Kirkus.


Christopher Barzak — blurber par excellence (also: awesome writer)

I’ve been meaning for a few days to give a shout-out and some big thanks to my pal Christopher Barzak. A couple of weeks ago, I realized that my debut novel, Backward Glass was about to be final at my publisher without a blurb on it. It’s not a huge deal — lots of first novels go unblurbed, but I figured better to have one than not.

sorrow
Problem was, as I say, it was about to go final. My editor said we’d need something by the end of July. Enter Chris. He’s the author of, among other things, the excellent One for Sorrow, which — I almost don’t even have words for how fantastic it is. It has the angst and torture of Catcher in the Rye mixed with the genuine creepy haunted sadness of the best ghost stories. And when I said “among other things” I should note that those other things include one hell of a lot of achingly beautiful short stories, many of them collected in Before and Afterlives. The short fiction is amazing, and it’s new, though I have to say if I were recommending a place to start with Chris, it would be One for Sorrow. Doesn’t hurt that it’s being made into a movie with the, if you ask me, not as good title of Jamie Marks is Dead.
Anyhow, as well as being a pitch-perfect writer, Chris is also a stand-up guy. I Facebooked him and asked if he might have time to read Backward Glass. Guy’s got a busy schedule, but he unhesitatingly agreed. Three days later, I get this blurb to send to my publisher:

“Get ready to slide down into the past with David Lomax’s Backward Glass. It’s cold on the way down, hot on the way up into the future, and it is always, always riveting, no matter which direction in time he takes his courageous and intelligent teenagers. I’d read this again and again. Actually, the future me has already done so, I can assure you.”

–Christopher Barzak, author of One for Sorrow

Needless to say, Chris put me on a high all day. So go out and buy his books. You will thank me.


My first review!

I’ve been meaning to blog here approximately forever, so many interesting things have happened. I got the galleys for Backward Glass a few weeks ago and have been slogging through some corrections.  Then I got an advance reader copy, which my editor suggested I give away in a contest.  (The contest is simple: click “Like” on my Facebook author page and you’re entered; closes tomorrow.)

But today the most exciting thing of all happened:  a very nice review.  Anne Hannah, who reviews at addicted2heroines.com, had contacted me yesterday to let me know that she had an ARC and was about to review it.  Little did I know she’d be so fast.

My new favourite review site!

And so kind!  Calling Backward Glass “a sci-fi mystery to die for” she compares it to both Doctor Who (a clear influence) and The Wonder Years (a sort of secondary influence, since I think both TWY and have Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me and thus Stephen King’s “The Body” as common inspirations).  She also says that “although this is a YA book, it reads like a coming of age story that adults can easily relate to, as well,” which was just one of the many points in the review that I got that wonderful sense that Ms. Hannah had read the book I had intended to write.

This is no small thing.  So often when I read reviews, I get the sad feeling that, for whatever reason, the reviewer didn’t meet the same characters the author had intended to introduce.  Ms. Hannah, however, got it.  Writing about the relationship between my protagonist, Kenny, and deuteragonist, Luka, she wrote about the latter:  “She’s smart, brave, feisty, and ends up saving his butt several times over. Luka equals Batman, and Kenny is her Robin.”

And that was it.  That was what I meant.

So happy.


Six Degrees of Amazon

New game.  Here’s how you play.  You and a friend agree on two writers who are totally unalike — Chuck Palahniuk and Danielle Steel, for instance.  Agree on which one is the starting point and which the finish line.  Then go to the Amazon author page, and to the “Customers Also Bought Items By” section.  Pick an author carefully, click that author’s name and, by repeating this process, try to get to the end point in as few links as possible.  Keep track of your clicks.  Here’s my attempt at Palahniuk to Steel:

palahniuk 1

Big surprise — if you buy Palahniuk, you buy a lot of stuff by boys.  So I went for Monica Drake, whose work I know nothing about.  Turns out her big seller right now is The Stud Book.  No comment on the Palahniuk connection.  Here goes Drake:

pala 2 monica drake

So next I figure Toni Morrison.  Just about everybody’s read one or two, right?  I might have been overlooking an obvious connection here, though.  I mean, Stephen King must be the only person I’m going to find who’s had more bestsellers than Danielle Steele.  But the first rule of Six Degrees of Amazon is that you don’t go back.  Make mistakes?  Wear ’em.  Let’s see Morrison:

pala 3 toni morrison

Once I’m at Toni Morrison, however, where do I go next?  She’s too deep.  I want to get into the shallows of melodrama.  Frankly, the Morrison readers’ taste is too good.  Furthermore, whoever I click on here, I’m going to be pretty insulting.  But I have an instinct for Louise Erdrich.  She’s got a little bit of genre appeal.  Let’s see where that takes me.  Okay, show me Erdrich:

pala 4 louise erdrich

Well… nowhere.  I’m really beginning to regret not going for Stephen King.  Nothing for it but a trip to the past.  Let’s try Faulkner:

pala 5 faulkner

Well, that didn’t help.  Does anybody who reads books that I love read Danielle Steele?  At this point, I’m tempted to cheat.  But the second rule of Six Degrees of Amazon is that you can’t launch a new tab and check out the “Customer Also Bought Items By” (hereafter called the CABIB) of your target.  Okay, let’s get back to the present day.  Cormac McArthy.  Anybody read The Road?  I cried.  I admit it.  Give me McCarthy:

pala 6 mcarthy

Now maybe I’m getting somewhere.  I’ve got Margaret Atwood.  Maybe I can make up for not clicking Stephen King earlier.  Surely everything goes through … Atwood:

pala 7 atwood

Nope.  Atwood readers go for Huxley and Orwell.  I have to keep it contemporary.  William Gibson?  I must admit I haven’t read anything of his more recent than an article explaining how big eBay was going to be about ten years ago in Wired.  But I keep meaning to, so maybe he can help me out…  Let’s have Gibson:

pala 8 gibson

Okay, this is the worst game I’ve ever played.  How about Dan Simmons?  I loved those Hyperion books, and a lot of his early short stories.  Give me Simmons:

pala 9 simmons

I suck.  I know nothing.  I’m going for Stephen King:

pala 10 king

Okay.  That didn’t solve all my problems the way I’ve been thinking.  What about Suzanne Collins?  She’s wrong by about two generations, but maybe she’ll get me in the neighbourhood.

pala 11 collins

She did not get me in the neighbourhood.  Unless… what about Stephanie Meyer?  I found Twilight execrable.  Maybe she could help me with Danielle Steel.

pala 12 meyers

Yes.  Do you see what I see?  Love lost.  Melodrama.  Odd coincidences.  I’m betting that where there’s Sparks, there will be Steel.  Here goes.

pala 13 sparks

Yes.  So I kind of suck at my own game.  But that’s the way it goes anyway, though the notation should be simpler than all these screen captures.  Something Like this:  Chuck Palahniuk==>Monica Drake==>Toni Morrison==>William Faulkner==>Cormac McCarthy==>Margaret Atwood==>William Gibson==>Dan Simmons==>Stephen King==>Suzanne Collins==>Stephanie Meyer==>Nicholas Sparks==>Danielle Steel

Twelve jumps from Palahniuk to Steel.  Now your turn.  Can anyone do Maeve Binchy to Kathy Acker in fewer CABIBs than this?  Anyone else got another challenge?


PSA: An App for the Ontario Secondary Schools Literacy Test

For those who don’t want to read the post, here is a link to the app.  For everyone else, read on.

I don’t usually blog specifically on school business, but this seemed a good way to get the word out.  For grade ten students in Ontario schools, spring comes with an extra little zap of stress in the form of the OSSLT, a test which all must pass in order to get a diploma.

At my school, Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute, we have been looking for new ways to help our students prepare for this test.  Someone recently suggested I contact Dr. Susan Elliott Sim, who, as part of her CSC 301: Introduction to Software Engineering course, has students take on real-world programming tasks.

Long story short:  Dr. Sim had two teams of students turn our data and resources into an app for Android.  We don’t have in on Google Play yet, but if you’re interested in preparing for the OSSLT, and have an Android device, all you have to do is follow these steps:

  1. Set your Android device to allow third-party apps to install.

  2. Download and install this app.

  3. Start it up and go.  There are a few bits where the text isn’t formatted perfectly, and if your device is running 2.2 or lower, or if you have lousy screen resolution, you might have troubles, but other than that it’s pretty good.

If you notice any major problems, please don’t hesitate to send me an email at dlomax100@gmail.com.  I can’t promise I’ll be able to fix anything, but I’ll sure try.

Obviously big thanks go out to the creators of the app.  These students had less than three months for the project, and what they came up with is very impressive.  The initial entry of data was the labour of the following Pearson teachers:

David Lomax

Christina Lomax

Abby Edwards

Darivoj Jaksic

Azadeh Shirzadi

Ishrat Chorghay

The creation of the app itself is thanks to the work of:

Kenneth Wang

Sabrina Parayno

Vanessa Afolabi

Lorenz Breu


Why this doesn’t suck: No Right Turn by Terry Trueman

Terry Trueman always guarantees a good read.  A few years ago, I read his Inside Out, an extremely short novel whose protagonist, a teenage boy in need of his antipsychotic meds, gets caught up in a hold-up-turned-hostage-situation.  There wasn’t a word wasted in that spare and gripping narrative.  I immediately went on to Stuck in Neutral, a first-person narrative from the point of a teenager who suffers from cerebral palsy.  He’s wheelchair bound, unable to communicate with the world around him, and believes his father wishes to end his “misery.”  Though less kinetically plotted than the earlier novel, Stuck in Neutral is no less compelling.

noRightTurnNewSo it’s crazy that I then took so long to read another by Trueman.  The guy is a genius at getting to the heart of the story without wasting any words.  Within a few pages, the immediately likeable narrator of No Right Turn has told us that his father committed suicide three years before while his son was the only one in the house, and that he, the son, went into a kind of spiral of social isolation ever since.  It’s kind of dizzying how quickly Trueman gets us into the story, especially as he manages along the way to let us feel completely comfortable with Jordan as a person.  The rest of the elements of the plot — a beautiful car just aching to be stolen, a beautiful girl who might just be able to draw Jordan out of his self-imposed interior exile — slide into place quickly.

I might be making this sound facile:  it isn’t.  Trueman puts his story and his character through enough twists and trials to do a lesser writer for two or three hundred pages, but he manages it all in much less — and that’s with a pretty large font — and he still manages to give us some well-drawn characters.

Some people would think of these as issue books:  psychosis, cerebral palsy, suicide.  And it’s true that the author said about Stuck in Neutral, for instance, that he wrote it in part to educate about cerebral palsy, from which his son suffers.  But something about the honesty of the first person narratives in these books lifts them above the usual moralistic lessons in disguise that are issue books.  Trueman’s website lists Charles Bukowski as a hero, and though that writer’s work is not at all to my taste, I can see his influence in a positive way here, a kind of raw, scrupulous what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude that smolders inside the prose.

One further indication that Trueman is a fine writer:  I am thoroughly bored by cars, and yet he held my attention in a novel that primarily features the stealing of an [insert-some-year-here-I-really-don’t-care] Corvette by a teenager from a classic-car enthusiast who likes to talk about what a great machine it is.  And I kept reading.

And will again.


Hey teachers! Free resources for Romeo and Juliet

A week or so ago, I began a project of giving stuff away.  I’ve been teaching for mumble-mumble years now, and I’ve always tried to follow the lead of the mentors I had in my early days: a lesson shared is a lesson multiplied.  When I share ideas, lesson plans, resources and so on at the school-level, I often find it works its way back to me in positive ways.  People improve on the ideas I share and give them back, more polished, smarter or just plain different than they were when I gave them away.romeoandjulietpackage

Last time around, it was something new: a series of reading, writing, media and oral communication activities for Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother.  Now I’m going in the opposite direction.  Here linked is my booklet of somewhat differentiated instruction activities to accompany a class reading of Romeo and Juliet.

I should make a couple of things clear:  First, I’m a read-aloud kind of guy, especially when it comes to drama.  I don’t tell students at the end of class to go home and read act two.  That’s useless in my view.  It doesn’t get me what I want, which is for the kids to have a direct encounter with the poetry of the play.  I know it’s difficult to read Shakespeare aloud, but I find it rewarding as well.  My students feel a sense of accomplishment at the end, a sense of ownership of Romeo and Juliet.  We read every single word aloud, and pause often to talk about the words.  Before act two, scene two, I ask them to think about that famous line, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”  Most believe that wherefore means where, and I love to see their faces light up when they hear that it means “why.”

Second, I’m pretty demanding.  All told, from pre-reading note-taking to post-reading essay-writing, I take five to six weeks for R&J, but even six weeks isn’t a lot of time to assign all of the activities herein, and read the entire play aloud, and watch two movie versions (as we read: read an act, watch an act — rinse, repeat).  I often cut something here or there, and I have to keep making things as fresh as possible in the classroom to keep them with me.  So, as I said over the Little Brother stuff, use as you like; discard as you don’t.

My only request is that you keep the attribution on the front page.  I’ll be honest:  part of my goal in all of this is altruistic, but another part is very self-serving.  I have a book coming out in October 2013 from Flux(Backward Glass — available at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Chapters: feel totally free to pre-order) and I want to drive traffic to my (hopefully soon-to-be-spruced-up) website to generate sales and interest.  So if you’re a teacher, and get some use out of my materials, please consider buying a copy of the novel for your classroom or asking your teacher-librarian to order a few for the school.  If you really don’t want to keep that ugly attribution text-box on the front cover of this package, how about this?  Buy a copy of the book, and you’re off the hook for the year.  Get a kid to read it, and you’re good for life.

Oh, and a couple of other resources:  I’ve put together a couple of Prezis that define some of the literary terms and poetic and dramatic devices referenced in the early part of the booklet.  Please feel free to use those as well.  I also have some content quizzes, but I’m not making those available here — not much point in a quiz if anyone can have it.  If you’d like them, please shoot me an email at david.lomax@tdsb.on.ca.  Finally, I have some games and activities for David Riley’s awesome platform-independent Triptico.  Seriously, if you have an interactive whiteboard in your class (it doesn’t matter which type) Triptico is a simple way to liven up a class.  Easy to use, and amazingly fun for the students; it’s like turning your classroom into a slick game show.  I have files for that as well, and if you email me, I’ll send them to you.


Teachers: Free novel unit for Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother

This will be the third year in a row that I’ve had my grade nine academic English students read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother.  There’s a lot that’s surprising in this fact.  I don’t usually stick with a specific novel too long, and for that matter, I don’t usually find myself teaching the same grade and level for so many semesters in a row.  This makes something like eleven classes I’ve taught this novel to.

When I introduce the novel and the author, I always make a big deal about his very cool practice of giving away ebooks in order to encourage sales, build readership, and keep his name in the public eye.  I point my students to his Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, and talk a little about what it means.  I speak in support.

So now maybe it’s time to put my work where my mouth is.  My wife and I were talking last week about our plans to design some educational materials for my forthcoming novel Backward Glass in a bid to draw in some middle and high school teachers and librarians.  We decided we’d make such materials available for free.  Then she had the idea:  why not also give away some of the other stuff we’ve designed over the years?

Indeed.  Why not?  Anyone who’s ever worked with us knows that we share with our department members.  And if I’m giving things away, the stuff I made up for Little Brother seems like an ideal starting point.  So just like Doctorow, I’m making this stuff available totally for free under the same Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, which means that you can have it, you can share it, and you can even change it around, but you may not charge for it, and you may not remove the attribution of our names as the original creators.  That’s what I get out of it:  my website is linked there.  I’d prefer that the link stay.

A caveat:  These three booklets of writing, reading, oral communication and media tasks are pretty demanding.  I teach at a school with really motivated kids, and even I, who am quite demanding, end up cutting a page or two here and there to give them a break.  The whole novel study ends up taking a little over four weeks — slightly more than a week for each of the booklets here — and then I add on a little extra time for the essay and the final project.  Some people find that’s too long to spend on a single novel, but I don’t think of it that way.  For one thing, Little Brother has a lot inside it — opportunities for lessons in civics, history, poetry and so on.  For another thing, this becomes an essay unit as well as a novel unit.  But again:  take as much as you like, and leave as much as you don’t.  My wife and I borrow each other’s materials all the time, and almost always end up altering to taste.

There is more than just the three Word documents I’ve linked below.  There’s a Prezi I created to introduce some of the literary terms I expect the students to use in their response journals.  There’s a number of comprehension quizzes that I don’t want to place here, because a quiz isn’t much use if the students can see it as well:  send me an email at david.lomax@tdsb.on.ca if you’d like copies.  I also have those quizzes for use on Socrative, which I’ve been experimenting with this year, and which is great.  There are additionally a few games and activities for David Riley’s astounding Triptico, a set of  interactive whiteboard tools, which I can again share on request.

In any case, your mileage may vary, but these are entirely for your use.  I’ll admit that I have another agenda here.  I’ve blogged extensively about trying to move some of the old mid-twentieth-century mankind-is-doomed novels that I think of as a symptom of the West-wide post traumatic stress disorder that came after the Second World War.  Now I’m thinking that it’s time I lent a hand instead of nagging.  So if you know someone who’s a little tired of teaching Lord of the Flies or The Chrysalids for the thirtieth (or even second) time, please try to talk them into Little Brother, and send them my way.  I’ll give them all the help I can.

Because there’s the last reason I’m doing this.  When I got into the teaching profession, lo those many years ago, I benefited from the generosity of a lot of kind people who passed on ideas and wisdom.  There was a lot of collegiality, a lot of paying forward.  Continuing to pay forward is the only way of paying back that debt.

So here it is:

little bro package 1little bro package 2little bro package 3