I just signed a contract with Beacon Publishing Group in NYC for my Young Adult Urban-Fantasy/Humor novel, Gideon Versus the Gods of Cool. They anticipate a release date by early Spring of 2019. I’m excited to see this one take root, as I’ve poured more of my soul into this work than any of my previous novels. That is, it’s very autobiographical … or as autobiographical as you might expect from one of Utah’s Biggest Liars. (Speaking of which, come see me and my family tell our stories at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival this weekend, the best time of the year!)
From the horrors of gym class, to sneaking out at night, to getting mixed up in inter-school fights, to teen drama and complicated love affairs, to going against the popular grain, to challenging the establishment, to exploring the secret tunnels beneath the school, to joining the football team and getting severely pummeled, to sneaking into a dance dressed in drag, to escaping from detention, to jocks becoming nerds and nerds becoming jocks, to crawling through the halls like elephants, to taking on otherworldly beings and having metaphysical adventures, this book very much happened. I think my high school friends will especially appreciate it, as … well … they were there too. And for the rest of my peers, they’ll finally find answers to the often-asked question: “Why is Steve so weird?”
Earlier this year, I was invited to visit Amelia Earhart Elementary in Provo, where I read the final few chapters of the book to several sixth grade classes who had been reading it. It was fun to hear them gasp when things got scary and cheer when the good guys prevailed. More than one of the students exclaimed, “This book needs to be a movie!” I also read it to my daughters, and every time I finished a chapter, they begged me for just one more. Thus I think young readers will enjoy Gideon Versus the Gods of Cool.
In its self-published form, the book has been temporarily available on Amazon, though I’ll soon be taking it down. So if you want to snag a copy of the first edition (whether in print or eBook form), you’d better do so quickly. You can also order signed copies from me.
Just for fun, here’s an excerpt:
First there’s the familiar shame of being late in front of the entire team. Then there’s the agony of running, the taunts of teammates, the pointless slaps, the cruel calisthenics. The autumn air turns cold and sharp, and time slows down as never before.
Finally the warm-ups end, and the armored players line up head-to-head. A whistle blows, and the violence begins. Gideon slips away to the sidelines, but his sweet catharsis doesn’t last. Coach McPherson says, “Pay attention to the plays, because soon you’ll be tested.”
Gideon tries to take mental notes as the quarterback, Doug Rock, shouts strings of seemingly random words. “Blue, forty-two, check, check, set-hut!” What could it mean? He watches the players assume strange, three-legged positions. Then Doug shouts more nonsense – “slant route,” “six-eighty-six,” “left lover boy” – and the players assume new positions. Gideon tries to memorize the complex geometry of this men’s ballet, but it’s information overload. What’s the difference between the “Quick Ace” and the “Green Eighty”? How is a “Reversed Forward Pass” even possible? It would help if he knew the difference between a linebacker and a nose guard. It all hurts his brain, and he thought football was for dumb brutes!
At last, Coach McPherson blows three long whistles. Practice is over. The assistant coach gathers the team for another boring speech. Then there’s the druidic circle of team spirit. “Go cowboys!” When the rituals are over, Gideon’s mind tells him to run, but for some reason he lingers. As the guys disperse and chat among themselves, Gideon finds himself walking around, pretending he’s looking for something. Why? Could he actually be feeling a sense of camaraderie with these guys?
Deep within, he feels a glowing ember of something he’s long-suppressed: masculinity. While he, of course, is above the society of jocks, if, out of necessity, he were to lower his standards and find a companion with whom to share his misery, this whole ordeal might be more tolerable. There is that guy, Bula, who seemed friendly enough, but then, Bula probably gives his welcome spiel to every new team member. If Gideon is going to make a real friend – or as close to a real friend as one could have with a jock – he’ll have to do it the jock way: by proving his manly prowess.
A hard fist slams into Gideon’s chest, contracting his ribs, and sending him staggering backward. He impacts against the well-padded back of the towering Koa Kamaka, Hawaiian giant. Koa, with a savage scowl, knocks Gideon in the opposite direction. As Gideon finds himself on his hands and knees, he hears the inane laughter of Kyle Slater, who, no doubt, instituted this senseless violence.
Doug Rock is watching the scene as if it’s perfectly normal. “So, Gid, we’ll see you at Riverside Park tonight?”
Kyle adds, “Unless you’re chickening out.”
Climbing to his feet, Gideon has to breathe hard in order to speak. “Um …” He forgot all about his rash commitment to attend their secret escapade. The way they refer to the mysterious event makes him wonder if they’re going to initiate him into some esoteric fraternity … or just murder him. “Tell me when, and I’ll be there.”
“Midnight,” says Doug.
“But it’s a school night,” Gideon protests. No sooner do the words escape his mouth than he regrets saying them.
Ignoring him, Doug reaches into his duffel bag. “I’m sure this is your first time, so you can borrow some of my gear.” He tosses Gideon two metal pieces of something. Brass knuckles. “And in case you get lost …” Doug hands Gideon something else. “Here’s my card. You’ll find my number on the back.”
Gideon examines the card. Printed in elegant cursive are the words:
Douglas W. Rock, Concert Violinist
“What the …” Gideon looks up, but Doug and Kyle are walking away.
As Gideon walks home, the sky has turned golden, the sun beginning to set. Though the air is chilly, he droops his jacket over his shoulder. His stomach growls. The thought of his mother’s cooking has never seemed more divine. And he deserves it.
Dwight and Wanda are sitting on his front lawn. Beside them are a messy array of bags, burger wrappers, and soda cups.
“Hey,” says Wanda, stuffing a handful of fries into her mouth. She extends an oil-splattered box to Gideon. “We saved you some …” Then she observes the empty contents. “Oh, sorry. I think there’s one more burger at the bottom.” She shuffles through the crinkly wrappers in one of the paper bags. “Wait, never mind.”
Gideon can smell marinara sauce wafting from his house. “Well, I’ll catch you guys later.”
Wanda frowns. “We’re going to Movies 8. You wanna come?”
“But it’s a school … I mean, I’d like to, but I have too much homework.”
Dwight bursts into laughter. “Since when do you do homework? Man, this gray lady’s got you on a leash!”
“It has nothing to do with her, it’s just … if you must know, some of the guys and I were going to meet up for some … extra practice.”
Wanda says, “Wow, you mean you’re one of the guys now?”
Gideon shrugs. “I guess so.”
Dwight says, “I see how it is. You won’t be needing us anymore.”
“Why would you want to hang out with a couple of nerds when you’ve been accepted into the lofty social circles of Doug Rock and Kyle Slater? Soon you’ll have cheer leaders fighting over you and your varsity jacket. Then, my friend, you’ll have to choose between those who love you for who you truly are and those who flatter your vain ambition but will forsake you in the end … the classic conflict.”
Gideon applauds. “That was very impressive. Now will you shut up?”
Dwight bursts into laughter. “You and I both know you don’t have any friends on the football team.”
“Lay off. It’s only my second day.”
“So you’re really going to stick with it?”
“What do you care?”
“Good point, I don’t.”
Wanda cuts in. “Boys, be nice. Honestly, Gideon, I think you’re brave.”
After another whiff of his imminent dinner, Gideon is beyond done with this conversation. He waves goodbye and heads for the front door.
“Gideon …” says Dwight.
Gideon stops, though he doesn’t turn around.
“Remember who you are.” Dwight bursts into laughter until slugged by Wanda.